Health & Body

Ask Deb: How Can I Convince Parents of the Value of Technique Class vs. Learning Choreography?

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Q: How can I help parents understand that time spent in technique class is as valuable as learning choreography for competitions?


A: Parents love to see their children onstage almost as much as students love to perform. That being said, no amount of flashy choreography is going to sustain the long-term development of a young dancer. The rewards of improving technique go beyond winning competition trophies—good form prevents injuries and influences movement quality far beyond teen years.

There's a growing body of research that shows the addition of strength and integration exercises decreases the prevalence of injuries for pre-professional and professional dancers. But what about the recreational dancer who just wants to perform? There isn't as much research available for that group, but in 2013 the Journal of Athletic Training published a study that looked at 569 injured female dancers ages 8 to 16. The most common injuries they found in this group were knee injuries, followed by back, and then foot/ankle. They found knee injuries were often connected with the knee dropping inward (valgus) in jumping, rather than staying in line with the hip and ankle. Back and foot injuries were often associated with hypermobility of the hip and ankle joints (over-turning out at the hip and pronation). These early injuries caused by poor technique can haunt a dancer for years. It's a problem when young dancers focus on flexibility and big tricks over strength.

Perhaps placing some articles on injury prevention around the waiting room or in your studio newsletter will help your parents understand why building a strong technical foundation is so important to the long-term health of their children.

Teachers Trending
Photo by Yvonne M. Portra, courtesy Faulkner

It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

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Music
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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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