Just like foodies pursue their favorite taco trucks, dance lovers can track beloved choreographers and teachers through pop-up events advertised on social media.

"I've stopped thinking of myself as a starving artist," says Natalia Roberts, a Brooklyn-based dancer who has almost 5,000 followers on Instagram. "I am my own business."

Through Instagram posts, Roberts, who has a background in fitness and architecture, chooses off-beat locations to showcase site-specific choreography for events, like this gallery opening at Long Island City's Cigar Factory. Her strong web presence operates as a 24-hour business card cultivating the element of surprise.

Pop-ups rely on the delight of being in the right place at the right time. Such flashes of intrigue have changed the way consumers engage with products and services, according to "How Pop-Ups Took Over America's Restaurants." Because dance itself is built on impermanence, many artists embrace fleeting moments to market themselves on the web.

Below are five suggestions to get you onboard the pop-up train.


Stand on the right platforms.

Snapchat is preferred by audiences younger than 24, according to Forbes. Millennials like Instagram. The platform works well as a branding tool if you have outstanding video and visual content, but there's no good way to add multiple links, other than placing one in the bio section. For promoting events, don't underestimate the power of Facebook, the world's largest social network with more than 2 billion users. Three months ago, New York choreographers Christopher Noffke and Avital Asuleen teamed up to form Combustion Collective, a partnership focused on pop-up musical theater classes in hip locations like Arts on Site in the East Village. They combined their friend networks to build a pool of likely clients. Although Noffke and Asuleen advertised on Twitter and Instagram, their highest engagements came from Facebook, where events pages allowed students to RSVP.

You gotta have a gimmick.

Noffke and Asuleen decided their pop-up focus is for "musical dancers who want to stand out like Cassie" in A Chorus Line. "Our classes are for people who dream of being the star rather than cast in the ensemble," Asuleen explains. Meanwhile, Mikey Cusumano, a former dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, conducts pop-up classes in character as Madame Olga, his Russian female alter-ego. Through Instagram, thousands of followers can learn about Olga's up-to-the-minute teaching schedule, even when she is on the road.

Hash it out.

Hashtags are sorting devices that help strangers find you based on unique keywords. Use liberally on Instagram at the end of your text. The hashtag #popup is a strong general category that includes 2,152,928 posts ranging from burger sales to henna application. Meanwhile, the hashtag #popupdance is more specific, pulling up more than 300 images of choreography from across the globe. Pop-up dance posts include a tender duet performed on a Polish street with Patrycja Wiśniewska and Marc Brewer, who has performed on "America's Got Talent." Another by dancefestuk features women in unusual Victorian garb in an English shopping district during the holidays.

Make friends with videographers.

Natalia Roberts barters her services as a personal trainer with top-notch photographers, some of whom happen to be her fitness clients. Dancers are valuable to videographers who want to add action and excitement to their portfolios. Often, she collaborates with them to perform free fitness modeling and original choreography in exchange for promotional content. As a result, she has developed a cinematic eye and editing chops of her own. Her website stands out with its movie-like presentation of The Bridge, her upcoming show featuring 10 dancers. When one of these cast members mimics a scream, the camera zooms in on her mouth before cutting to a man lying on his back with his arms crossed.

Get legit.

If a student gets injured during your pop-up class, that pupil could sue, according to Merlyne Jean-Louis, a former dancer and principal attorney. "Because liability is a major issue for independent dance teachers [those who are not employed by a studio or dance company], these teachers should consider forming an entity," Jean-Louis says. "If a dance teacher who owns an LLC is sued for dance-related activities, the other party would bring suit against the LLC and not the teacher individually. This is advantageous to the teacher, because the teacher's personal assets, such as a car or home, would be shielded." Other considerations pertain to copyright. Unless an agreement says otherwise, the copyright to a choreographic work created by a teacher and other dancers is jointly owned by all, she adds. For additional legal advice regarding pop-ups and online choreography, visit Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.

To Share With Students
Performing with Honji Wang at Jacob's Pillow; photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy of Jacob's Pillow

Celebrated New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns has recently been exploring collaborative possibilities with dance artists outside ballet. Just this year she was guest artist with Lori Belilove & The Isadora Duncan Company, and performed on Broadway in her husband Joshua Bergasse's choreography for I Married an Angel. This summer she appeared in a highly anticipated series of cross-genre collaborations at Jacob's Pillow, titled Beyond Ballet, with Honji Wang of the French hip-hop duo Company Wang Ramirez, postmodern dance artist Jodi Melnick, choreographer Christopher Williams and more. Here she speaks with DT about the effects of her explorations.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Courtesy Just for Kix

As a teacher or studio owner, customer service is a major part of the job. It's easy to dread the difficult sides of it, like being questioned or criticized by an unhappy parent. "In the early years, parent issues could have been the one thing that got me to give up teaching," says Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a teacher and studio owner with over 43 years of experience. "Hang in there—it does get easier."

We asked Clough her top tips for dealing with difficult parents:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Aidan Gibney, courtesy of Lanzisera

Walking into Millennium Dance Complex in Los Angeles at 11:30 am on any given Tuesday or Thursday, you're likely to find a large group of dancers flocking to take Nick Lanzisera's class. Millennium's staff says his contemporary class is so popular, he often fills their rooms with up to 80 students.

Lanzisera, whose professional credits include The Oscars, The Grammys, the MTV Video Music Awards, High School Musical 2 and 3, Fame, Footloose and more, got his teaching start as a substitute for one of his mentors, Erica Sobol, at Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio. Though he didn't expect to become an educator until later in his career, Lanzisera enjoyed the experience so much that he began to sub in regularly. One of those classes was attended by a manager at Millennium, who invited him to teach their new contemporary class, and he has maintained the same Tuesday/Thursday slot for nearly eight years.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Dean College
Amanda Donahue, ATC, working with a student in her clinic in the Palladino School of Dance at Dean College. Courtesy Dean College

The Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College is one of just 10 college programs in the U.S. with a full-time athletic trainer devoted solely to its dancers. But what makes the school even more unique is that certified athletic trainer Amanda Donahue isn't just available to the students for appointments and backstage coverage—she's in the studio with them and collaborating with dance faculty to prevent injuries and build stronger dancers.

"Gone are the days when people would say, 'Don't go to the gym, you'll bulk up,'" says Kristina Berger, who teaches Horton and Hawkins technique as an assistant professor of dance. "We understand now that cross-training is actually vital, and how we've embraced that at Dean is extremely rare. For one thing, we're not sharing an athletic trainer with the football players, who require a totally different skillset." For another, she says, the faculty and Donahue are focused on giving students tools to prolong their careers.

After six years of this approach, here are the benefits they've seen:

Keep reading... Show less
To Share With Students
Photo by Tony Nguyen, courtesy of SAYE

The Shawl-Anderson Youth Ensemble, a key component of Shawl-Anderson Dance Center's youth program in Berkeley, California, strives to develop the whole person, not just improve dance technique. And its caliber of performance has made SAYE visible and respected in the San Francisco Bay Area over the past 13 years.

As a pre-professional, audition-based, modern performance group for ages 14 to 18, SAYE has its dancers co-create at least six pieces with professional choreographers each year. These dances explore relevant topics for teens, like bullying, coming-of-age and claiming identity.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Risa Steinberg (center); photo by Alexandra Fung, courtesy of In the Lights PR

In an adult ballet class, Kimberly Chandler Vaccaro noticed a woman working so hard that her shoulders were near her ears. "I was going to say something about her tension, but I didn't want her awareness to go there," says Vaccaro, who teaches at Princeton Ballet School. Instead, she told the dancer to remember that breathing muscles are low, below her sternum. "Then we talked about moving from the shoulder blades first, and how they're halfway down your back. She started this lovely sequential movement, and it eventually solved the problem."

Drawing attention to symptoms, such as tense shoulders, might create more issues for a dancer if the cause of the problem remains unaddressed. Simply saying "shoulders down" might compromise alignment as the dancer tries to show a longer neck or forgets to breathe, jeopardizing movement quality. Teachers can be strategic and communicate information in a way that doesn't aggravate the situation. "Dance will never be easy," says master teacher Risa Steinberg, "but it can be easier if you're not folding new problems on top of old ones."

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Lindsay Martell at a class performance. Photo courtesy of Martell

More than once, when I'm sporting my faded, well-loved ballet hoodie, some slight variation of this conversation ensues:

"Is your daughter the dancer?"

"Actually," I say, "I am."

"Wow!" they enthuse. "Who do you dance with? Or have you retired...?"

"I don't dance with a company. I'm not a professional. I just take classes."

Insert mic drop/record scratch/quizzical looks.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Any teacher who works with little ones knows that props can make class time run much more smoothly. That said, it's often difficult to find the right mix of tools that will both capture a child's attention and are manageable enough to carry around from one location to another—or pack up and store easily. Anything too big or too heavy is out, and some of the props you love to use with little ones may not be the most practical choice if you're a freelance teacher traveling to multiple studios throughout the week.

We asked two experienced teachers to share a couple of their favorite tips for easy-travel props for those who teach young ones. Here are five solid suggestions you can choose from, to incorporate into your overall teaching plans.

Keep reading... Show less
Instagram
Paige Cunningham Caldarella. Photo by Philip Dembinski

It's the last class of the spring semester, and Paige Cunningham Caldarella isn't letting any of her advanced contemporary students off the hook. After leading them through a familiar Merce Cunningham–style warm-up, full of bounces, twists and curves, she's thrown a tricky five-count across-the-floor phrase and a surprisingly floor-heavy adagio at the dancers. Now, near the end of class, she is reviewing a lengthy center combination set to a Nelly Furtado song. The phrase has all the hallmarks of Cunningham—torso twists atop extended legs, unexpected timing, direction changes—which means it's a challenge to execute well.

After watching the dancers go through the phrase a couple of times, Caldarella takes a moment to troubleshoot a few sticky spots and give a quick pep talk before having them do it again. "I know it's fast," she tells them. "I know it's a lot of moves. And you're hanging in there! But stick with the task of articulating everything—try to hyper-explore that."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Thinkstock

Q: What tips do you have for creating end-of-year performances that teachers, students, parents and administrators will all be happy with?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Savion Glover instructs students in rehearsal for NJPAC's revival of The Tap Dance Kid; photo by Yasmeen Fahmy, courtesy of NJPAC

Tony Award–winning tapper Savion Glover is giving back to his hometown community in Newark, New Jersey, by directing and choreographing New Jersey Performing Arts Center's revival of the Broadway hit that launched his career, The Tap Dance Kid.

September 13–15, you can see the group of young dancers Glover handpicked from throughout the New Jersey and New York areas, as they bring the 1983 story to life in a new and modern way. Here, Glover shares a bit about creating movement inspired by the show's original Tony Award–winning choreography by Danny Daniels, as well as what it's like to revisit the show that changed his life.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Via YouTube

For all the time we spend talking about feet, we think it's time we did a deep dive into toes. Those little piggies bear a lot of weight, endure painful blisters and help your students soar across the classroom day after day.

So, to show our toes the love they deserve, here are five exercises that are all the self-care you need this week.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox