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.

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.

Talk about it.

"Rules only change behavior to a point," Scott says. Dancers need to have empathy and compassion for one another. "Making space to have a conversation about the 'why' is so crucial to creating a positive culture. If we don't say it out loud, it seems like less of a big deal to break the contract," she says.

It's likely you won't have the expertise to cover all the topics that contribute to a bully-free environment, so don't hesitate to bring in an expert to do a presentation on bullying or related topics like self-esteem, diversity and compassion for others. Purtell's team-building activity "helped turn the mood around" in her studio, she says.

Teach reporting. Give students clear instructions on what to do if they witness or hear about bullying. Teach them to spot the signs. Katie Gatlin, a mental health professional who works as a consultant with YPAD, recommends asking the following questions: Is the behavior intentionally hurtful? Is it persistent? Is it pervasive, meaning it interferes with someone's daily life and studio experience? Tell dancers who to report the behavior to and how.

Additionally, train staff to watch for behavior that may suggest a student is being bullied: often arriving late or early to class, losing personal belongings, complaining of headaches or stomach aches or otherwise avoiding activities—including dance—that are usually fun for them. They could be avoiding a situation that has become stressful because of a bully.

Promote helpful-bystander practices.

Teach students how to respond when they see bullying. There are resources available through YPAD and
stopbullying.gov, where advice includes not "liking" hurtful social-media posts; not laughing at in-person bullying; speaking privately to the bully to let them know you don't like their behavior; reaching out to support the person who has been victimized; and, of course, reporting the behavior to an adult.

Act promptly and with care. Not every case is the same, so it's tough to standardize an approach. Sometimes a parent can be part of the problem, for example, so they won't be helpful in reaching a solution. Generally speaking, however, if you witness or hear about a situation between students, meet separately with the bully and her guardian and with the victim and her guardian. Keep another teacher in the room to avoid conflicting accounts of the conversation. A parent may feel defensive when their child has been accused. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says never ask students to share in front of others what they've seen and not to meet with the victim and perpetrator together or try to force them to apologize to one another on the spot.

In cases when you suspect unreported bullying, Gatlin suggests calling the dancer's school counselor to let them know what behavior you've witnessed, as well as contacting her parents. Privacy laws will prevent a therapist from sharing information about the student, but your tip may align with concerns they share.

Don't overlook the bully. Be careful that a "zero-tolerance" policy doesn't translate to intolerance. According to Gatlin, bullying behavior is shaped by a child's peers, family and environment, in addition to her own tendencies. She could be in school with teachers who ignore bullying, have friends who bully or has been bullied herself, or be facing abuse at home. Look into the reasons for bullying behavior instead of dismissing the bully as a bad person. They likely need help, as well.

Enforce the rules. Depending on how your conversations with students and parents go and whether the behavior changes, you may, regrettably, need to ask a dancer to leave the program. Scott says it's essential you enforce the rules you've established, even to the point of asking a dancer to leave. "Clients look to the owner to follow through and stick to what they say," Gatlin says in a YPAD webinar on bullying (available on YPAD's website, ypad4change.org). The same goes for a leader of any dance program. "Respect and loyalty is gained by maintaining this precedent and standard. People, when they sign their children up for dance, want to know that the environment is safe."

Be a role model. As a faculty member or leader in your community, you have a unique ability to shape the environment. Remember that dancers watch and learn from how you handle conflict, competition and other stressors of studio life. Talk privately about any issues with parents and other teachers to avoid creating an atmosphere of gossip or tension. If you let dancers follow you on social media, never get into public conflicts on those platforms. "Kids are very perceptive," Scott says. Gatlin agrees. "How I talk about others dictates how my students will talk about others," she says. "Kids see that, and they'll emulate that."

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Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Kyle Froman

Unlike a usual waltz, in which the lift and dip would come from the legs, this waltz from Paul Taylor's Cloven Kingdom (1976) requires the up-and-down motion to come solely from the torso. The legs remain in plié the entire time, eating space. (When this piece is performed, dancers traverse the length of the stage using one pass of this waltz.)

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Once competition season ends it may be challenging to keep your dancers excited and involved in dance. Don't let the down time between competition seasons drag on. Dance conventions are an easy and effective way to learn new skills, meet inspiring choreographers, and keep your dancers involved all year long. It is also a great opportunity for your dancers to bond and grow together as a team.

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Dance News
Adam Rose/FOX

At the start of last night's episode of "So You Think You Can Dance," 41 dancers remained. An hour later, we had a Top 20. And then there was a BIG FAT TWIST. (We'll get to that.)

The 41 still-standing Academy dancers showed up at the Dolby Theater in L.A. ready to tackle three rounds: contemporary choreography with seven-time Emmy nominee and one-time "SYTYCD" contestant Travis Wall; an "epic group routine" with jazz choreographer and La La Land she-ro Mandy Moore; and a last-chance solo showdown. Here's what happened.

The Contemporary Competition

"I'm not looking for robots," SuperTrav immediately explained. He gave the dancers shapes, but from there, each was expected to make the choreography his or her own. Everyone got sweaty and exhausted, and after 90 minutes, it was time to perform in groups of three for Nigel, Mary, Vanessa, and Travis.


Allen Genkin

The ballroom babe struggled during hip hop last week, but (naturally) crushed the ballroom choreography. This time around, the judges still couldn't resist Allen's charm, and he got to stay—though, Nigel said, "We need more."

Cole Mills

Cole has stood out during each round of choreography thus far, and not just because of his full-back tattoo. Travis called him absolutely beautiful. "I don't know where you came from or where you've trained, but I am very excited for you," TWall said. And he made it through.

Tessa Dalke

The pressure was on for this early favorite—and the judges weren't feeling her contemporary performance. Vanessa was expecting more, Travis didn't think she commanded the space with her energy, and Nigel said she needed to step up. But they weren't ready to give up on her, so she stayed for jazz.

Sydney Moss

She stood out, Nigel said, simply. She got to stick around, too.

Hannahlei Cabanilla

All the judges agreed that they couldn't take their eyes off her. Hannahlei made it on to jazz as well.

David Greenberg

The ballet dancer didn't totally crush Travis's choreography, so the judges decided to send him home. "I hate this part," Travis said through gritted teach. (We hate it, too.)

Eddie Hoyt

The judges needed to make cuts, and despite Eddie's awesome personality, the tapper's "SYT" journey ended here. Tear!

Evan DeBenedetto

The other tapping standout in the competition killed this choreo. Vanessa said he rose to the occasion, and he made it to the jazz round.

Bridget Derville-Teer

Nigel told Bridget she lost him today, and Mary didn't connect with the performance. Bridget was sent home—but Nigel hopes to see her again. (Season 16, girl! Be ready to crush it!)

Genessy Castillo

Genessy seemed to lose confidence halfway through the performance, but the judges still adored her, so she made it through.

Emily Carr

Emily was totally captivating in this round. Her jumps were the highest, her expression the fullest, her performance the boldest. Travis thought the competition was hers to lose: "Girl, I can't wait for you to get on the show so I can work with you," he said. Holy ultimate compliment, TravMan!

The Group Production Number

With 33 dancers left, it was time to bring in Mandy Moore for the final round of choreography. Her jazzy group routine featured all the dancers shining in their individual styles, plus a grand finale where everyone came together. "If they can't hang in the group routine, then it is cutsville, buh bye," Mandy said. STONE. COLD.



This routine looked so fun. (Was anyone else standing up, trying to learn it at home? No? Just us? OK.) The high-energy choreography was fairly simple, but there was a LOT of it. Each group got just an hour to perfect their portion of the routine—and to choreograph two eight-counts of the performance themselves. Intense much?

There were so many wonderful moments during the enthusiastic performance. Emily Carr was a standout again. The tappers looked awesome, and Jensen Arnold had undeniable presence. (The entire ballroom group is looking super strong this year, TBH.) The exhausting routine earned a standing O from the four judges, whom we were not envying at that point.



But cuts had to be made, and Tessa Dalke, sadly, was one of them. Other favorites—Alexis Gilbert, Jay Jackson, Gaevin Bernales—were sent home, too.

The Last-Chance Solo Round

The remaining 27 dancers got to perform one final solo before the judges chose the Top 20. Jay Jay Dixonbey's number was powerful, precise, and pretty darn perfect. Chelsea Hough rocked heels for hers. Hannahlei Cabanilla earned a "love. her." from Mary. And Allen Genkin wrapped things up with a booty wiggle, a big smile, and a Magic Mike-esque shirt toss that Nigel called "a little desperate." (AGREE TO DISAGREE, NIGEL.)

Without further ado...

The "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 15 Top 20

THE GUYS

Jay Jay Dixonbey

Cole Mills

Justin Pham

Slavik Pustovoytov

Peyton Albrecht

Dustin Payne

Evan DeBenedetto

Darius Hickman

Kyle Bennett, Jr.

Allen Genkin

THE GIRLS

Genessy Castillo

Magda Fialek

Jensen Arnold

Stephanie Sosa

Dayna Madison

Sydney Moss

Brianna Penrose

Chelsea Hough

Emily Carr

Hannahlei Cabanilla

BUT WAIT. After the reveal, there was another reveal: Turns out only 10 dancers will continue on to the live shows. What is happening?!

Next week, each of the Top 20 dancers will be paired with an All Star and a choreographer. See you then for more madness!

Dance Teacher Tips
Photo courtesy of Ballet Next

In 2011, when former American Ballet Theatre principal Michele Wiles departed the company and formed BalletNext, she found an artistic freedom she'd been longing for. Along with new collaborations with choreographers and musicians, she began working with trumpeter Tom Harrell, who introduced her to the multilayered sounds of jazz. "The dancers are another instrument to a jazz musician," says Wiles. Pairing this music genre with her classical foundation has been pivotal in defining her style. "I have this classical facility, but my mind is more contemporary. Jazz is a good intersection for my work," she says.

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Dance News
Photo by Alex Huber, courtesy of YDC

Ballroom dance could be the best form of diplomacy, according to New York City teenagers starring in a new documentary, Taking New Steps—The Dancing Classrooms Youth Dance Company Goes to Israel.

Saturday, members of the Youth Dance Company and their loved ones watched the premiere at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in Manhattan. Produced by SingularDTV, the 18-minute documentary captured individual interviews and sweeping drone shots during the company's 2017 trip to Israel for the Karmiel Dance Festival. Dancers in the audience, now a year older, cheered as they viewed younger versions of themselves on the movie screen.

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Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Favia

After a bad sprain at 19 years old, Talia Favia left L.A. and went home to Phoenix to heal. While she was unable to dance full-out, she began to teach and choreograph. "I realized then that I was meant to be a choreographer and teacher," she says. "When I was auditioning in L.A., I would feel guilty, because I knew there were dancers there who wanted to perform more than I did. It took sitting out for me to realize that I just loved being behind the scenes."

Since then, Favia, 27, has thrived as a choreographer, setting numbers on studios around the country, creating viral dance videos, creating pieces on "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing With the Stars," and receiving the top prize at the 2014 A.C.E. Awards.

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It's just so good. (via YouTube)

Happy Nationals season, everybody! It's that time of year when us lucky editors get to watch so, SO many gorgeous solos by dancers competing for big titles. But even among the insanely gifted artists at the top of the comp circuit, Tate McRae stands out. Just ask anyone who's seen the solo that helped her win Teen Best Dancer at The Dance Awards in Vegas last week.

Choreographed by Travis Wall (naturally), "Woman" is virtuosic both technically and artistically. Are the 180-degree extensions and fluid lyricism that captivated "So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation" audiences two years ago still there? Of course they are. But Tate also approaches the solo with a commitment and maturity that's rare in industry veterans, let alone 14-year-old students.

Planning to spend the majority of your summer sweating it out in the studio? Don't worry, you're not alone. And while you're definitely going to want to save the warmups for the winter, you can still accessorize your studio look without adding bulk, thanks to the always-in-style ballet skirt. From bright florals to washed out pastels and wild prints, we rounded up our favorite short (and a few long!) ballet skirts for summer.

AinslieWear Limoncello Wrap Skirt

via AinslieWear

If you can't spend your summer in the Mediterranean under actual lemon trees, this skirt is a solid backup. Plus, it gives us serious Beyonce "Lemonade" vibes, which will help you feel more fierce and less sweaty-mess in class (hopefully). ainsliewear.com, $50

Nationals is a doozy every summer—ESPECIALLY for dance teachers. You spend the whole year gearing up for one week of pure insanity. Nonstop classes, last-minute rehearsals, costume malfunctions, emotional students, stressed parents, endless awards ceremonies and a fancy gala—this week is enough to kill you. Yet somehow you've survived, and now it's time to detox! To help, here are memes that perfectly depict the five phases of Nationals recovery every dance teacher goes through. You'll die over how accurate they are.

Get ready to laugh!

Oh, and you're welcome 💁♀️.

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Studio Owners
Thinkstock

Running a studio is an enormous undertaking that requires you to wear many hats at once (and with expertise): pedagogy, customer service, business management and beyond. Some owners find they're better off doing the work with a trusted partner by their side—someone to share both the responsibilities and the rewards. But finding the right person to work with isn't easy. You need someone whose personality, strengths and weaknesses complement your own. Here, three sets of successful partners get to the heart of how they make it work.

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Dance News
Misty Copeland with partner Joseph Gordon and Festival director Damian Woetzel. Photo courtesy of Vail Dance Festival

Vail Dance Festival's 2018 season begins this month, and the program is designed to give dancers and musicians the opportunity to experiment in new forms and with new partners. "For the 30th-anniversary season, there is a special obligation to present the essence of who we are as a festival," director Damian Woetzel says. "In that spirit, we have even more new work being developed, even more collaboration and even more new companies taking the stages in our communities."

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