When Brittany Purtell heard one dancer was repeatedly bad-mouthing another on her eight-person competition team in early 2017, she knew she had to take action. "We got word about bullying among the team members," she says. "It started at their school and then carried over to the studio." A dancer was spreading rumors about her teammate: "Something along the lines of 'So-and-so is not trying; she's not practicing; she doesn't deserve to be on the team,'" says Purtell, who directs the Senior Elite team at Open Space Studio in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Concerned the bad-mouthing could lead to a serious rift among teammates, she planned a camaraderie-building session, where students filled poster boards with dance compliments about one another—and themselves—and decorated the studio with hearts where they'd penned why they love dance. She's heard no complaints since, but statistically speaking, she likely will face some variation of this challenge again.


It happens to 21 percent of students ages 12 to 18: repeated, unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children, where there is a real or perceived power imbalance. Bullying can be verbal, like teasing; social, like excluding someone on purpose; or physical, like shoving or hitting—and don't forget two of those three can happen online, largely out of sight of teachers and parents. In the most extreme cases, bullying has caused students to hurt or kill themselves.

Whether it happens in the studio lobby or via Instagram after students go home, it's a teacher's responsibility to take it seriously. "The safety of children has to be above profit, awards, ego, likes on Instagram," says Leslie Scott, founder of the nonprofit Youth Protection Advocates in Dance (YPAD). "That needs to be your moral compass." There's no single step-by-step protocol that will work in every scenario with every bully and victim. But there are rules you can put in place and methods you can use to handle the situation in the best way possible to maintain a safe and positive environment for your dancers.

Make it a mandate.

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If you're an owner, have dancers new to your studio go over your student handbook with their parents as part of their orientation. Include a contract about bullying that they must sign before starting class. Detail what behavior you won't tolerate—remind them that bullying comes in different forms, including online—and write down what specific consequences a student can face if she breaks the contract, up to and including removal from the studio.

Regardless of what organization or venue you teach within, you should familiarize yourself with that institution's rules regarding bullying and clearly explain it—ideally in written form—to your students.

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Editor's List: The Goods

Longer ballet skirts are having a major moment. We've seen them popping up in the Instagram studio clips of dance fashionistas around the world—from American Ballet Theatre's Isabella Boylston to The Royal Ballet's Beatriz Stix-Brunell to Berlin State Ballet's Iana Salenko. And with cooler weather on the way, we have a feeling we'll be seeing even more calf-length skirts.

Beyond being trendy, long ballet skirts give any studio ensemble a sophisticated prima ballerina vibe (hi, Natalia Makarova). Try out one of these long skirt options.

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The fun doesn't stop after Showstopper's competition season ends. Join Showstopper this fall and winter for their 2018-19 Dance Conventions. Bring the whole studio or dance solo, but register soon so you do not miss out!

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Dance Teacher Tips

"If I hear another dancer say, 'I don't like to plié,'" says Broadway Dance Center contemporary teacher Tracie Stanfield, "I am going to scream!" This frustration was the inspiration behind Stanfield's progression video, which focuses on level changes. The combination, demonstrated by dancers Gaby Blaney and Lexie Childers, starts with an over-crossed passé and builds into floorwork and landing on the tops of the feet. The series challenges dancers to build strength while staying grounded. "They learn to let the body soften on contact with the floor before throwing themselves from the air to the ground," she says.

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Sequins and sparkles… sure they dazzle on stage, but for some dancers, certain dance costumes can be uncomfortable and invoke feelings of insecurity. We believe dancers should always feel comfortable so they can focus on the joy of dance. We also believe dance studio owners and teachers should have peace of mind when selecting costumes for their dancers, especially those with sensory sensitivities.

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Just for fun

In our not-so-humble opinion, correcting pirouettes can be one of the most challenging parts of a dance teacher's job.

It's the moment in the day you start questioning every decision you've ever made 🤷.

Don't agree? Hear us out!

Here are five reasons correcting pirouettes is a....special challenge.

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In an industry exploding with options where bigger is often billed as better, BravO! National Dance & Talent Competition fills a unique void by putting the focus on what matters most - the performers.

Based in Omaha, Nebraska, BravO! combines a participant, studio, and family-friendly schedule with leading edge competition elements and a staff that is dedicated, accommodating, and friendly. They take the competition experience to new heights for dancers, teachers, and spectators alike.

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Dance Teacher Tips

Check out these dance seminars from experts in the classical, tap and commercial dance fields. They are EVERYTHING you need to inspire your next dance class.

YOU'RE WELCOME, PEOPLE!

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Studio Owners
Photo by Samspel Preston Photography, courtesy of Scheitler

Jessica Scheitler is that rare breed who fully understands both creative and business-minded people. She grew up at Central Dance Academy, a competition studio in Le Mars, Iowa, and studied dance at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City. She worked as an independent choreographer after college and learned how to effectively make money through dance. With arts in her DNA and finances at the forefront of her mind, she minored in arts administration and mathematics and ultimately became an enrolled agent (a federally licensed tax practitioner). Now she owns her own business, Financial Groove, which offers accounting help for performers and studio owners all over the world.

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Dancer Health

Jasmine Challis consults for Dance UK to compile an information sheet on food and nutrition for dancers. "This recipe, which loosely resembles risotto, doesn't have specific quantities, and you can adapt it to your liking," she says.

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Dance News
Pat Birch on the set of Grease, choreographing the legendary Hand Jive scene, with Olivia Newton John and John Travolta. Photo courtesy Birch

Forty years ago, the movie musical Grease introduced audiences around the world to Grease lightning and an iconic hand jive. Would anyone guess now that all those unforgettable rock-n'-roll style dances were choreographed by a former Martha Graham Dance Company soloist? (Was John Travolta actually in a contraction?)

Choreographer Patricia Birch, better known as Pat, says "I was always attracted to Broadway, even when I was dancing with Martha."

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Dance Teacher Tips
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Dancing can do great things for your body. But science is increasingly exploring the many ways it's also good for your brain. A recent study showed that dancers' brains react to music even faster than trained musicians or other people. The author of the dissertation, Hanna Poikonen, observed brain activity in all three groups while they watched dances and found that expert dancers were the quickest to respond to rhythmic changes. She believes creating movement to sound could affect how your brain hears music.

Even among dancers, however, there is wide variation in musicality. Some of your students might be naturally musical, while others might struggle a bit more. But whether or not a dance student possesses this mysterious quality, musicality is an essential skill that can help any dancer perform their best and move forward in their training and career.

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