In the Magazine

Teachers' Tools: Brigitte Steinken

Steinken emphasizes clarity in the head and arms in her contemporary ballet class.

Brigitte Steinken often sets an intention for her advanced contemporary ballet class at Canyon Dance Academy in Flagstaff, Arizona. “I usually start with a somatic exercise so the students can tune into their bodies," she says. “For example, we'll lie on the floor, focus on the shoulder joint and feel how, when we move our arms, they connect to our sternum and back." She reinforces the day's main concept throughout class so it really sinks in. “I remind them what they noticed in the beginning and then check in with them after class," she says. “I ask them, 'Did anything change for you? What happened in this class? What was frustrating?'"

Steinken uses classical ballet technique as the foundation for building a contemporary vocabulary with her students. She finds that composition is a great way to cover terminology while getting students to think outside the box. “I wrote a list of the body positions and had them create an adagio combination in groups," she explains. “They could create whatever they wanted, but it needed to hit each of the body positions."

As a dance movement therapy and counseling master's candidate, she firmly believes in her students' freedom to make choices. “If a student is injured and asks me to sit out, I'm going to help them discern if they need to, but ultimately it's their call," says Steinken. “If they have layers on at the beginning of class, it's their choice, but I'm going to let them know, 'I can't see what's going on with those pants on.' I encourage students, but I'm not an enforcer." DT

TEACHING ATTIRE: “I keep it simple." Black leggings (shown is Motionwear) and Sansha Pro ballet shoes.

AFTERNOON ENERGY BOOST: “I love a cup of tea in the afternoon. I especially enjoy Yogi herbal teas, which come with tiny quotes of wisdom."

IDEAL DAY OFF: A hike in the morning, yoga in the afternoon and a homemade dinner.

RECOMMENDED READING: The Dancing Dialogue: Using the Communicative Power of Movement with Young Children by Suzi Tortora. “This book discusses the value of the body and the knowledge it holds—something that is so important for young dancers."

NEVER LEAVES HOME WITHOUT: Reusable water bottle (shown is from Discount Dance Supply).

Photos: by Angie Danca, courtesy of Steinken; leggings and water bottle: by Nathan Sayers; Thinkstock

Don't miss a single issue of Dance Teacher.

Introducing and teaching rhythm can seem easy, but in reality it can prove to be a complicated concept—especially for younger dancers to grasp. At Ballet Hispánico's School of Dance in New York City, Los Explorers for 3- to 5-year-olds uses classic salsa and tango music to help kids acquire rhythmic awareness.

Here Rebecca Tsivkin, early childhood programs associate, and Kiri Avelar, associate school director, offer exercises to help youngsters feel the beat.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Buzz
Panelists (left to right): Emily Nusbaum, Eric Kupers, Judith Smith, Deborah Karp and Suzanna Curtis. Photo by Aiano Nakagawa, courtesy of Luna Dance Institute

This past Saturday, I visited Luna Dance Institute in Berkeley, California, to attend the Dance & Disability Discourse & Panel—a discussion with five artists, educators and researchers about access and equity for disabled students in dance education. Here are three statements from the discussion that I found eye-opening.

Keep reading... Show less
How-To
Todd Rosenlieb, left, of The Governor's School for the Arts. Photo by Victor Frailing, courtesy of Todd Rosenlieb

You're setting choreography on your class and most of the students are picking it up. One dancer, though, is having difficulty remembering the steps. You review the material several times, but you fear that this is starting to hold back your more advanced students. Still, you're worried the struggling dancer will be left behind. What is the best way to proceed?

Memorizing choreography is an essential skill for dancers. Fast learners have more time to work on the technique and artistry within a combination, and they are often the first to catch the eyes of directors. Like most skills, learning pace can be improved. Encouraging students to develop their own memorization methods will help them approach choreography with confidence.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Neuromuscular expert Deborah Vogel with Jordan Lazan, right. Photo by Jim Lafferty

By strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot and ankle, a dancer can help prevent or correct existing pronation. Having strong intrinsic foot muscles keeps the arches aligned, preventing them from dropping inward.

Here, Vogel shares three strengthening exercises to help correct and prevent pronation. She advises dancers to include these in their cross-training regimen.

Mobilize your ankles. (Step 1)

For this ankle mobilization exercise, having a TheraBand wrapped around your ankles puts pressure on your feet to pronate. By resisting that action and keeping your feet centered through the relevé, you're essentially training the ankle where center is.

  • Sitting up straight in a chair, with your feet planted on the floor a few inches apart, tie a TheraBand in a loop around your ankles. You can place a yoga block vertically in between your knees to maintain space between your legs.

Next Page
How-To
Photo courtesy of New York Live Arts

Ellen Robbins' modern dance classes for kids and teens are legendary in New York City. Robbins, who has been teaching kids how to dance since the 1970s (and whose pupils included the actresses Claire Danes and Julia Stiles), takes the standard recital model and turns it on its head. Her students—ranging in age from 8 to 18—are the choreographers for the annual concert she produces at esteemed NYC venue New York Live Arts.

If that approach sounds borderline insane to you (we know you're all deep in the throes of recital season right now), consider Robbins' unique teaching philosophy: Improvisation is present in every aspect of class, for every age group. Here are four ways she shapes her youngest dancers into choreographers—almost without their realizing it!

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers & Role Models
Former students of Kelley gather around a cardboard cutout made in his honor at the recent tribute. Photo courtesy of Merritt

Every dancer has a teacher who makes an impression. The kind of impression that makes you want to become a dancer or a teacher in the first place. For Mara Merritt, owner of Merritt Dance Center in Schenectady, NY, and countless others, that teacher was Charles Kelley.

Known as "Chuck" to most, Kelley was born December 4, 1936. He was a master teacher in tap, jazz and acrobatics, who wrote syllabuses for national dance conventions like Dance Masters of America. Growing up in upstate New York, Merritt's parents, both dance teachers, took her into Manhattan every Friday to study with Kelley. First at the old Ed Sullivan Theater and the New York Center of Dance in Times Square, then years later at Broadway Dance Center.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox

Win It!

Sponsored