Health & Body

Ask Deb: How Can Students Best Do Jump Work at Home?

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Q: How can students build jump work into their practice while at home? Should they wear tennis shoes and jump only on carpet?



A: Telling students to jump in tennis shoes isn't a bad idea, especially when you don't know what their flooring is like. I might also suggest a training regimen of tracking their single-leg jumps.

For the first couple of classes, have your students do single-leg jumps in parallel standing between two chairs (or anything that supports either side of them—I often use my kitchen counter and a kitchen chair). Start by doing five single-leg jumps in parallel on each leg, focusing on proper rolling-through the foot on the way up and down. Mark down what they noticed between the two sides and if it was challenging. (Also note whether their heel pops off on either side, etc.) Next, increase the number, letting the weaker side determine the amount. For example, if they found they fatigued at five single jumps on the left leg, then only do five on the right side, as well.

Next they can start doing the single-leg jumps without holding on to anything—in either parallel or turnout. Always pay attention to where they begin to get fatigued. I know it's strange not to do sautés in first position, but it really is an opportunity for them to strengthen their jumping and balance their strength on the two sides. It's such a common pattern to favor one leg as the strong side and subtly shift how you land and push off when on two feet. When on one foot, there is no cheating.

You could put single-leg jumps into some type of combination that doesn't require much space to execute (like jeté temps levé). In a way, shifting out of the regular type of jump sequences is really a training opportunity for them, and they will see faster progressions in strength.

Working on balancing the two sides to have equal strength will mean their jumping will really improve once they get back into the studio.

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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Teaching Tips
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After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

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Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy TUPAC

When legendary Black ballet dancer Kabby Mitchell III died unexpectedly in 2017, two months before opening his Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center, his friend and business partner Klair Ethridge wasn't sure she had what it took to carry his legacy. Ethridge had been working with Mitchell to co-found TUPAC and planned to serve as its executive director, but she had never envisioned being the face of the school.

Now, Ethridge is heading into her fourth year of leading TUPAC, which she has grown from a fledgling program in an unheated building to a serious ballet school in its own sprung-floor studios, reaching hundreds of students across the Tacoma, Washington, area. The nonprofit has become a case study for what it looks like to carry out the vision of a founder who never had the chance to see his school open—and to take an unapologetically mission-driven approach.

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