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This Judge Reveals Her Favorite Competition Trends of 2017

Professional dancer and competition judge Lauren Renck leads a master class. Photo courtesy of Renck

When it comes to the competition circuit, each new year brings a plethora of choreographic, music and fashion trends to the dance floor—from dancing in socks to dancing with props. To cap off a great year of dance, Dance Teacher spoke with competition judge Lauren Renck about four of her favorite trends she saw this year.


1. Participating in competition master classes

It's a chance for dancers to connect with other dancers their age. I think it's important to take class with other people who don't go to your studio. If you can take a class during the competition, it changes the experience from just a performance opportunity to another learning opportunity.

2. Using props less and/or more creatively

I think there's been more of a focus on the creation of movement and using different choreographic vocabulary instead of just making it about a prop. Even when props are used, I feel like they're being used in a smarter and more creative way.

Lauren Renck has been a judge for Headliners, I Love Dance, Believe, Elite Dance Challenge, Impact Dance Adjudicators, Nexstar, Step Up 2 Dance and Encore DCS. Photo courtesy of Renck

3. Getting creative with popular music

There are those songs that people dance to every year, but it is always a great thing to see what you can do with a well-known piece of music. Even show tunes or songs that we know choreography to—taking those and putting your own twist on them is wonderful to see.

4. Returning to classic jazz and ballet

I have noticed a return to classic jazz—which I love! And ballet, too, which is also really exciting to see.

For Parents
Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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Teachers Trending
From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

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Higher Ed
Courtesy Benny Simon

It's safe to say that the 2020 fall semester was a learning experience for college dance departments and students alike.

While Zoom and socially distanced dancing had their obvious frustrations, professors met many of them with creative solutions that not only served as satisfactory replacements for "normal" learning, but also gave students valuable new perspectives that will last beyond the pandemic.

Dance Teacher rounded up four of our favorite examples:

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