Five years ago, Ashley Daychak of Performing Dance Arts in Toronto set a goal to win The Dance Awards 2018 Studio of the Year. Each year in preparation, she went to Break The Floor Nationals and watched the competition. She watched and learned what worked and what didn't, and asked detailed questions of her peers who had previously earned the honor. She would apply what she learned each season to her rehearsals and technique classes. This past summer in Orlando, she made it happen.


"I was very patient," Daychak says. "I knew what needed to be done. I groomed everyone properly and got the right people into the studio when I needed to. I wanted to go up onstage and show a complete, well-rounded body of work to all of these artists who I admire so much. I feel like we were able to do that."

The development of that well-rounded body of work began with getting everyone's technique on the same level. "From the back to the front we needed to look totally solid," Daychak says. "I didn't want to have to choreograph around anyone who couldn't keep up, and I didn't want to have to break the team up in any way. I wanted to do this as a family."

Her five competition teams (65 dancers total) trained four to five hours a day, every other day of the week, and Daychak says they developed a stamina and focus that was unbelievable, even to her. "By the time we went out there and performed, we were able to just have fun and enjoy the experience," she says. "We had put the work in ahead of time and were totally prepared, so there was nothing to worry about."

GO-TO IN-CLASS TEACHING TOOLS "We use yoga blocks and a series of different weighted Pilates balls. We also use markers to write down counts, daily reminders and diagrams of the formations on the mirrors."

DAILY BREAKFAST "In the morning, I typically have hard-boiled egg whites, an English muffin with peanut butter and at least three cups of coffee before I leave the house!"

FAVORITE FITNESS ROUTINE "I stay in shape by going to the gym two to three times a week. I like to work one-on-one with my trainer, and I try to keep that as consistent as possible. I find that working out is a great way to relieve stress and have some 'me' time."

MUST-HAVE TEACHING ATTIRE "I typically wear Adidas, Aritzia TNA or Lululemon brands. I like to wear leggings or formfitted sweats with a tank or T-shirt, and I'm always layered with a sweater—generally one from our PDA studio."

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Photo by Jerome Capasso, courtesy of Man in Motion

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This fall Hubbard Street Dance Chicago initiates an innovative choreographic-study project to pair local Chicago teens with company member Rena Butler, who in 2018 was named the Hubbard Street Choreographic Fellow. The Dance Lab Choreographic Fellowship is the vision of Kathryn Humphreys, director of HSDC's education, youth and community programs. "I am really excited to see young people realize possibilities, and realize what they are capable of," she says. "I think that high school is such an interesting, transformative time. They are right on the edge of figuring themselves out."

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For some children, the first day of dance is a magic time filled with make-believe, music, smiles and movement. For others, all the excitement can be a bit intimidating, resulting in tears and hesitation. This is perfectly natural, and after 32 years of experience, I've got a pretty good system for getting those timid tiny dancers to open up. It usually takes a few classes before some students are completely comfortable. But before you know it, those hesitant students will begin enjoying the magic of creative movement and dance.

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Listen up, dance teachers! October 7 is National Frappe Day (the drink), but as dance enthusiasts, we obviously like to celebrate a little differently. We've compiled four fun frappé combinations on Instagram for your perusal!

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We've been dying to hear more about "On Pointe," a docuseries following students at the School of American Ballet, since we first got wind of the project this spring. Now—finally!—we know where this can't-miss show is going to live: It was just announced that Disney+, the new streaming service set to launch November 12, has ordered the series.

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Photo by Tony Nguyen, courtesy of Jill Randall

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Misti Ridge teaches class at Center Stage Performing Arts Studio. Photo by Arlyn Lawrence , courtesy of Ridge

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These days, teachers often go a step beyond giving tiny dancers technical and performative bases and make them strong enough to actually compete at a national level—we're talking double-pirouettes-by-the-time-they're-5-years-old type of competitive.

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