Vanessa Salgado Teaches Pre-Ballet

When Vanessa Salgado moved to New York to attend the Ailey/Fordham BFA program, she took on her own classes at The Ailey School's First Steps program. After graduation, she joined the faculties of Ballet Hispanico School of Dance and The School at Steps on Broadway. She joined the Joffrey Ballet School's Children's Program faculty in 2013 and holds a certification in dance education from the Dance Education Laboratory at the 92nd Street Y.

TaKiyah Wallace and daughter Charlie. Photo by Omar Ramos

When professional photographer TaKiyah Wallace posted a casting call on her Facebook business page in 2014, looking for dancers of color, she had no idea that initial photography project would eventually blossom into Brown Girls Do Ballet, a 501(c)3 registered nonprofit with ambassadors throughout the U.S. and Canada, dedicated to assisting young dancers in their ballet training, providing scholarships for dance study and offering grants to studios in low socioeconomic populations. "I thought, 'Maybe I'll turn this into a calendar,'" Wallace remembers thinking after her initial photo shoot in Dallas. "Moms were crying, saying, 'You don't understand how important this is!' I really didn't."

Three years later, Brown Girls Do Ballet is an international organization with a home base in Dallas. Wallace has 43 "ambassadors," or mentees, who are paired with professional dancer mentors. "But the girls, the mentees, do so much more than learn from other people," explains Wallace. For example, the ambassadors, who are ages 10 to 17 and are active on social media, often field questions from other girls seeking advice. "They'll get inboxed, 'I live where you live. Where do you dance? I aspire to be at the level you're at,'" says Wallace. "We empower them to be able to share information. One of the things I preach is, 'Community over competition.'"

Though Wallace knew little about dance before putting her own daughter, Charlie, in classes and forming Brown Girls Do Ballet, she's learned the power of dance firsthand.

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Dance Buzz
The Museum Workout. Photo by Paula Lobo, courtesy of the Met

As you tally up the reasons to be grateful this Thanksgiving, take a moment to reflect on a few of the world premieres that broke new ground this year. Some changed our perspective on dance, and others were just plain fierce, but they all got our attention and inspired our work as dance teachers.

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With Thanksgiving approaching, we're all ruminating on the things we are most thankful for in the world. Of course, as dance teachers, our students are always at the top of our list. They make us laugh, they make us cry and sometimes they make us want to pull our hair out, but at the end of the day, they are the reason for everything we do in the studio each day. To get you thinking about how much you love your dancers, here are five videos of kids dancing that are sure to make your heart happy! We want to see the dancers you're thankful for this season, too, so share your favorite videos on social media, tag us and include #gratitudedance in the caption. Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

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Dancer Health
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No matter how hard I work to change it, I'm often told that I have a shallow plié. Is there any hope for improving the depth of my plié through special stretches to make it juicier? I'm doing a lot of exercises, but I don't seem to getting any results. Looking forward to reading your advice. Thanks!

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Videos

When New York City–based dancer Dan Lai began choreographing Figure 8, he had a specific vision in mind. Inspired by a song by FKA Twigs, he wanted the movement to represent the music's "dark and twisted vibe." "My thought process was to make shapes and phrases that were abstract and unique that complimented the intricate beats of the music," he says.

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Dance Buzz
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Science has proven again, again that dancing is just, well, good for you. And not even in moderation. Like drinking water or laughing, there's no such thing as too much dancing. So, let's rejoice for this new dance perk to add to the list.

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Dancer Health
To make dancers stronger and less injury-prone, Burns Wilson suggest adding floor barre or conditioning classes. Photo courtesy of Burns Wilson

With a career spanning 30-plus years in the dance field, Anneliese Burns Wilson has cultivated a unique perspective on health and injury prevention for dancers. From teaching ballet to teaching anatomy, she then founded ABC for Dance, which publishes dance-teaching materials. Now through research for her next book, which will focus on training the female adolescent dancer, she's delving even deeper into topics many dance teachers have overlooked.

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