In the Magazine

Technique, Technique, Technique

Turns out one of the best ways to prepare young dancers for a professional future may be to show them what that future looks like. That’s the approach teacher Jess Hendricks took with the young Ida Saki (see “Industrial Strength”). Seems that Saki’s reference point for professional dance at the time was the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. While dancers now can see many examples of future possibilities on television and YouTube, I personally believe the screen can never replace the visceral experience of live concert dance. So when the 92Y Harkness Dance Festival announced a program for dance educators to learn how to attend a dance concert with their students, it got my attention. (Look for our firsthand report in June.)

Of course, Saki, who is now a member of Cedar Lake Contemporary Dance in New York (and was featured on the February cover of Dance Spirit magazine!), would not be the artist she is without the intensive training she received at Christy Wolverton’s studio and the Booker T. Washington School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas. Technique is the way dance teachers make dreams come true—and we cover it every month.

In “Head to Toe,” master teachers Finis Jhung, Irene Dowd, Sheila Barker and Pamela Pietro share their best corrections for common dance problems. From jutting chin to splayed ribs to tension in the feet and more, you can help students kiss these bad habits good-bye.

While modern dance has taken a backseat in recent years to its more glamorous cousin, contemporary jazz, “Kid-Friendly Modern Classes” offers some compelling reasons to include modern in your school’s curriculum. For one thing, it’s a great bridge between creative dance and ballet.

And don’t let your students graduate without knowing about the artists who laid the groundwork for contemporary dance in the U.S. This month’s History: Lesson Plan is about Doris Humphrey from the Bennington School era. Her early movement explorations became the foundation for Limón technique. We suggest you post it on a bulletin board in your lobby.

Photo by Matthew Murphy

Dance Buzz

Bobbi Jene is another poignant film to add to this year's must-see list of dance documentaries.

After 10 years living in Israel and dancing with Ohad Naharin's Batsheva Dance, American dancer Bobbi Jene Smith decides to leave the company –and the life she's come to know–in search of finding her own path as a dancer and choreographer.

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Dancer Health
Photo by Jim Lafferty; modeled by Sydney Magruder, courtesy of Broadway Dance Center

"If you don't have strong abdominal muscles, you sag into your lower back, your pelvis usually tips and you're hanging out and slumped into your hip joints," says Deborah Vogel, movement analyst, neuromuscular expert and co-founder of the Center for Dance Medicine in New York City. "It just has this whole chain reaction."

The effects of poor core strength can be dire for dancers: from weak and tight hip flexors, which negatively impact extensions, to lower-back discomfort and misaligned shoulders and necks. "Having well-toned abdominals for your posture is the primary reason why you should do stabilizing exercises," says Vogel. "It will allow you to bring your pelvis into correct alignment and good posture."

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How-To
In Motion's senior company dancers and Candice after a showcase performance in Bermuda, (2016). Photo courtesy of Culmer-Smith

When I was 23, an e-mail circulated among my former college dance classmates at Towson University, regarding a teaching position as the jazz director at the In Motion School of Dance studio in Bermuda. I applied, and after a few e-mails, I got offered the job.

Four weeks later, I packed up my tiny little car in Denver, where I was a dancer for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, and drove across the country to my hometown in Maryland, before flying out for my new life in Bermuda.

Looking back now, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn't have time to think through how I should prepare and what I needed to do to officially apply for a work permit. I was mostly concerned with how I was going to pack all my clothes and belongings into two suitcases. If I could go back, I wish I would've had a more specific guide to what teaching in another country entailed.

In an effort to share my experience, here's what I wish I would've known before I left and what I learned over my 10 years living and working as a dance teacher abroad.

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Dancer Health
At age 12, doctors advised Paige Fraser to stop dancing and have surgery. Instead, she chose physical therapy and team of chiropractors and massage specialists to help work through her condition. She has just begun her 5th season with Visceral Dance, based in Chicago.

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine, when viewed from the back, has one or more curves. The vertebrae are abnormally rotated, which creates twisting and more prominent visibility of the rib cage on one side, and it is most commonly seen in adolescents ages 10 and older. Most cases cannot be reversed, but they can be controlled, for example dancer Paige Fraser who despite suffering from severe scoliosis, has thrived as a dancer. Dance teachers can play an essential role in spotting the condition at an early stage.

“Teachers can help to notice that scoliosis is there in the first place," says Sophia Fatouros, a New York City–based dance teacher and and former professional ballet dancer who has struggled with scoliosis since she was 12. “Parents do not always see their children in tight clothes, like leotards."

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Dancer Health
Sebastian Grubb (right) runs Sebastian's Functional Fitness in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Grubb

From improved aerobic capacity to better reactivity, cross-training can to do wonders for dancers' health and performance. But with the abundance of exercise programs available, how do you get your dancers on the right routine?

Sebastian Grubb, a San Francisco–based fitness trainer and professional dancer, shares three questions to ask as you consider different cross-training options.

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Videos

When choreographer Cristian Faxola learned he had two days to create, develop and shoot a music video as an audition to choreograph for The Squared Division production house, he and his team embraced the challenge.

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Dancer Health
Thinkstock

I have heard you say that tight hamstrings prevent full extension of the knees and that you prefer hamstring stretches in a standing position, rather than on the floor. Can you explain why?

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