All That Jazz

SMU students in Buraczeski's "In the City"

Every year, Southern Methodist University jazz dance professor Danny Buraczeski (DT, March 2002) greets a new crop of students who don't know anything about jazz dance or music. "Ninety percent of them come from competition schools--they can do fantastic tricks, and they dance to lyrics," he says. "And every year I find it takes a little longer to sink in that jazz dance is one of America's greatest contributions to our culture."

In response, he created the Teaching Jazz Dance Symposium in 2012--a three-day event of classes and presentations devoted to the relevance of jazz dance, this year held at SMU, June 16–18. "I thought it was important to get everyone who loves jazz dance and music together to have an in-depth conversation about what we're doing--what's working, what's not working," says Buraczeski. "It's pretty much for our survival."

Cathy Young, The Boston Conservatory dance division director, will lecture on jazz dance pedagogy, and Bob Boross of Shenandoah Conservatory will teach a technique class in the style of jazz legend Matt Mattox. Participation will be capped at 25.



Photo by Kim Ritzenthaler Leeson, courtesy of SMU

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Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy. Photo courtesy Dance With Me

Listening to Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy riff together makes it crystal-clear why each has mastered the art of partnering in the ballroom—they've long been doing this dance in real life as brothers and business partners.

Along with their "Dancing with the Stars" pedigree (and a combined three mirror-ball trophies between them), Maks and Val (and their father, Sasha) also run Dance With Me, a dance company hosting six ProAm Dancesport competitions annually and running 14 brick-and-mortar studio locations across the U.S.

Last year, the pair launched an online component, Dance & Co. The online video platform offers beginner through advanced instruction in not only ballroom but an array of other styles, as well as dance fitness classes from HIIT to yoga to strength training. "DWTS" fans will recognize such familiar faces as Peta Murgatroyd, Jenna Johnson, Sharna Burgess and Emma Slater, along with Maks and Val themselves.

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@jayplayimagery, courtesy Kerollis

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As Kerollis acknowledges, getting the business of you off the ground ("you" as a freelance dance educator, that is) can be filled with unexpected challenges—even for the most seasoned of gigging dancers. But becoming your own CEO can make your work–life balance more sustainable, help you make more money, keep you organized, and get potential employers to offer you more respect and improved working conditions. Here's how to get smart now about branding, finances and other crucial ways to tell the dance world that you mean business.

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Courtesy Oleson

American dance educator Shannon Oleson was teaching recreational ballet and street-dance classes in London when the pandemic hit. As she watched many of her fellow U.S. friends pack up and return home from their international adventures, she made the difficult choice to stick with her students (as well as her own training—she was midway through her MFA at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

Despite shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, she was able to maintain a teaching schedule that kept her working with her dancers through Zoom, as well as lead some private, in-home acro classes following government guidelines. But keeping rec students interested in the face of pandemic fatigue hasn't been easy.

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