The inaugural Choreo-Lab included seven choreographers and a physically integrated cast of 20 dancers. Photo by Misako, courtesy of AXIS Dance Company
Among artists, choreographers have it pretty tough—their art requires not just space, but people. For disabled choreographers, those requirements can be even harder to meet. Is the (probably expensive) space accessible? Do they have access to dancers, disabled or not? Can they afford to pay them? In June, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, AXIS Dance Company gave a group of disabled choreographers the gift of time, space and dancers in a weeklong program called Choreo-Lab. Spearheaded by artistic director Marc Brew, who served as a mentor along with co-facilitator Caroline Bowditch, the inaugural Choreo-Lab included seven choreographers and a physically integrated cast of 20 dancers.
Dance education for preschoolers has many benefits. It exercises the whole body and the mind. It also creates a love for dance that develops into a lifetime desire for being fit. If you have the insight to get your preschool age children to love learning dance, you have taken the first step in establishing a core of students who will be with you for years to come. Preschool age is when you cultivate an early love of dance, and that is a major responsibility. Studio owners should always have preschool teachers that are high energy, creative and love children.
Generally speaking, studio owners are artistic geniuses. You people know your stuff when it comes to quality training, correct technique, effective teaching styles, healthy parent relations, current movement trends, best business practices and so much more.
But when it comes to the minute legal details that come with opening and running a studio, there tend to be a few important tips and tricks that many aren't aware of.
To keep you as informed and prepared as possible, we spoke to lawyer and dance enthusiast Sean Monson. He works at a firm in Salt Lake City, Parsons Behle and Latimer, and is the husband of renowned studio owner Jana Monson, of Creative Arts Academy in Bountiful, Utah.
Whether you're a longtime studio owner or just getting started, check out these best practices to make sure you stay on top of potential legal headaches in the future.
Choosing a dance routine theme shouldn't be a daunting task. With affordable, already designed costumes from Just For Kix, the process is as easy as 5, 6, 7, 8!
Just For Kix has created many costume lines that are perfect for a themed dance. Whether it be a fully themed recital or only a themed dance production, Just For Kix has a costume for you and your studio.
Tuttle (left) with dancer Jessica Einhorn at Mark Morris Dance Center. Photo by Kyle Froman
Shuttling between 25 weekly classes at four institutions in two different boroughs of New York City, Ashley Tuttle gets much of her daily exercise just from the commute. "You live in the city, you have to walk a lot," says the former American Ballet Theatre principal, who also starred in Twyla Tharp's Movin' Out on Broadway.
Tuttle is beloved for her open adult classes at Mark Morris Dance Center, where she encourages even novices to let loose and really dance the phrases rather than just drilling technical exercises. Since 2016, though, she's spent the majority of her teaching hours as faculty at Eliot Feld's Ballet Tech, where she trains pre-professional students from fourth grade through high school. She also leads college classes four times a week at Barnard, and teaches a company class at ABT when the troupe is in town.
Since launching her teaching career a decade ago, Tuttle is frank that her own wellness has not been a priority, and that's something she wants to work on. She talked to DT about her fitness, eating and sleep habits, how she's always striving to take better care of herself, and shared recent advice from Mark Morris.
San Francisco Ballet soloist Koto Ishihara stretches in her warm-up boots. Photo by Quinn Wharton for Dance Magazine.
With cooler weather finally here, it's time to talk warm-ups. And while your dancewear drawer is probably overflowing with oversized sweaters, leggings and enough leg warmers to outfit the whole class, warm-up boots are often forgotten. To keep your feet and ankles cozy in between rehearsals, we rounded up dance warm-up boots that suit every style.
Bloch Inc. Printed Warm-up Bootie
via Bloch Inc.
Created by Irina Dvorovenko and Max Beloserkovsky, this collection comes in a variety of tie dye, floral and even butterfly prints. blochworld.com, $48
As dance teachers, we know we need to take care of our feet—they're basically our livelihood! But in the hustle and bustle of our day-to-day, it can be hard to find the time. If we're feeling wise, we start by wearing orthotics (brilliant!) and staying away from shoes that put pressure on the wrong areas of our feet while outside of the studio (yasss, queen). Most commonly, though, we decide to get a pedicure (hello, self-care 💁♀️). This is suuuuuper-helpful in terms of personal hygiene, but as all dancers know, you can count on dealing with a few headaches that most regular pedi-partakers don't.
Here's a list of things that are guaranteed to happen every time a dancer gets a pedicure. It's sure to make you say "mmmmm-hmmmmm!!!!!"
In your class this year, you have a great group of students eager to learn and explore. But, you only meet once a week. What is the best way to choreograph a final dance for the year, given your limited amount of time together? How best to set up the students, and you, for success? Jill Randall, artistic director for Shawl-Anderson Dance Center in Berkeley, California, shares this advice.
The First Big Question
Before launching into a list of strategies and techniques, take 15 minutes and discuss with the director of your school: What is the goal and benefit of a once-a-week class performing in a show? Jot down the pros and cons; consider some great alternatives, including an open class for families at the end of the semester, or your class sharing with another class some combinations a few times a year. Maybe learning a full dance, and performing it onstage, isn't the ideal end-goal. Plus, do you teach on a Monday or on the weekend? How many classes might your once-a-week students miss this semester due to school holidays and family trips? What will happen if a student is absent and you don't see them for two weeks at a time?
If the "pros" on the list are robust, here are seven strategies to leverage your creative skills and support your once-a-week students.
This is a well-known idea from K–12 education. You can call it back-planning or back-mapping. You figure out your goal and your end date. Then, you pull out the calendar and count the number of classes and number of hours to get to that goal.
Decide on the date you want to complete the dance, and determine how many classes are simply about running the dance (not learning new choreography). During spring semester 2018, I taught a once-a-week Level II Modern Dance class for children ages 10 to 12, and I aimed to complete the dance five weeks before the show. This greatly eased the stress, and I already anticipated some absences due to spring school obligations of my students. Plus I taught a Monday class, and I had to factor in the Memorial Day holiday.
Whatever way you describe it, you are parsing out and chunking out the material over the course of several months. If your song is four minutes long, how many seconds of choreography might you accomplish per class? This is an important skill to hone and fine-tune as a teaching artist. Consider 20 to 30 seconds of choreography per class time.
Related to back-planning, determine how much time per class is devoted to the learning of the dance. Be consistent for yourself and for your students. If your class is 60 minutes in length, consider how many warm-ups in the center you want to teach, as well as traveling work across the space. Don't let the warming up and technique fall to the wayside. Consider 15 to 20 minutes per class for the choreography.
Once you start to choreograph, words and phrases can serve as memory devices for you and the students alike. Take notes in your teacher's notebook or on large chart paper on the wall. Take one minute to write down ideas with the students—this will also jog their memory next week. Come up with the words and phrases together. (For example, you might write down keywords for the choreography, such as: "jumping phrase," "zig zag travel," "group shape," "scatter.")
Now with phones and tablets, we have quick and easy technology to capture the choreography. You can review the video clip from last week by gathering around the iPad; you can post the video on Vimeo or YouTube (set up a password to keep the casual rehearsal videos under wraps). Also possibly ask parents to pop into class to take a video for their own child to review at home during the week.
As with the videos, sharing the music will offer another opportunity for students to practice at home and feel the music. Send them an mp3 file or send out the YouTube link.
Setting a Modest Length for the Whole Dance
Maybe choreography averages five minutes at your school, but are those five-minute dances with classes that meet twice or three times a week? Carefully decide on the dance length and err on the side of brevity. If your class meets once a week for 60 minutes, a dance 2 1/2 to 3 minutes in length sounds reasonable.
Squeezing in an Extra Rehearsal
Yes, the class meets once a week. But adding one or two extra rehearsals during the final month of the semester can be highly beneficial for all. Talk with your director about this option. Book the space, message the families and confirm what your extra payment will be for you as the teacher.
The once-a-week class might not be your opportunity for your most original choreography this year. There is nothing wrong with taking the combinations you taught the group over the semester and creatively piecing them together. Simple choreographic tools like formations, groupings and facings can easily spice up the phrases. Maximize concepts like A-B-A form and canon in the choreography.
The once-a-week class poses some unique challenges for choreography. But you can strategize and plan accordingly to make it a great experience for students and teacher alike.
In summer 2009, Tyce Diorio choreographed a contemporary piece for "So You Think You Can Dance" on dancers Ade Obayomi and Melissa Sandvig. The result was one of the most touching pieces on breast cancer that we have ever seen. It was emotional. It was technical. It was beautiful. And it has stuck with us ever since. In honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, we thought we would share this beautiful piece.
It's very common for young dancers to over-rotate their feet in first position. The first suggestion I have is to simply not turn out so far. The dancer should be able to stand in first position with equal weight between the pads of the big toe, little toe and heel. Otherwise she will create a twisting motion at the knees and ankles, which will leave her vulnerable to injuries.
2016 Best Dancer Winners at The Dance Awards (via @thedanceawards on Instagram)
Q: We go to a Nationals event every two years. Two years ago we attended a very strong competition/convention Nationals. We did not win a lot, but we did learn a lot. This year I am getting a lot of pushback from parents to do a more low-key competition-only Nationals, where we stand a better chance of winning. What type of Nationals do you take your dancers to and why?
Demonstrators Claire Crause and Avery Sobczak. Photo by Kyle Froman
This partnering move is all about the weight transfer, say Chris and Lauren Grant. "It's not about Hulk-Hoganing someone," says Lauren. The flyer and base must keep their hips together throughout, so that the weight of the flyer can pour gently onto the thighs of the base, rather than just dumping.