A Call to Arms

It is, by now, a familiar story: When budget cuts loom, dance programs brace for the worst. Factor in a struggling economy, which means more budget cuts, and you’re in for a long fight. In Florida, for example, a budget shortfall of $3.7 billion for fiscal year 2009 has its universities scrambling to trim programs. At Florida International University, one of those targeted for elimination is dance.

With FIU’s board of trustees scheduled to decide the program’s fate on June 12, Dance Department Chair Tom Hagood is rallying the troops. In an e-mail sent earlier this week, he asks members of the dance community to write letters urging the university to preserve the program. If you'd like to help out, you can find contact information, helpful talking points and facts about FIU’s dance department here.

Florida isn’t the only state struggling to compensate for severe budget shortfalls in the next fiscal year. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a total of 27 states and the District of Columbia are facing deficits. You can read more about that here.

As Tom said in his e-mail, “[I’m] hoping you will consider this, as I will do the same for any and all, should the grinding axe of budget and limited vision come your way. I do think we will all need to act more frequently in these matters to help preserve programs across the nation over the next months and years.”

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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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