Teaching Tips

Ask Deb: How Do I Get Students Prepped to Go Onstage?

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Q: Do you know of any strategies teachers could use to get their students confident, focused and ready to go onstage?

A: Something you can try with your students before the next performance is a power pose. It's based on research by psychologist Amy Cuddy that looks at the connections between power and body language (you can watch her whole TED Talk about it online). She found that when she placed someone in a power pose for two minutes, their testosterone levels went up, and their cortisol, a stress hormone, went down.

A power pose is open and strong, and can be done either standing or sitting down. Think of how runners cross the finish line—hands up, chest open with a smile on their face. Have your students try standing with their feet slightly apart and hands on their hips—I like to call this a Peter Pan posture. When they're in their power pose, tell them to feel confidence radiating from their heart like sunshine, to feel their energy and body expanding. Continue encouraging them to get present and strong in their energy as you keep an eye on the clock—it only takes two minutes to change their body chemistry.

Encourage them to use this technique even when they are by themselves. It's particularly powerful if a person does it in front of a mirror while telling their reflection "You've got this!" Use the power-pose trick whenever you or your students need an extra boost of confidence.

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Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

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Robbie Sweeny, courtesy Funsch

Christy Funsch's teaching career has taken her from New York City to the Bay Area to Portugal, with a stint in a punk band in between. But this fall—fresh off a Fulbright in Portugal at the Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa, School of Dance (ESD), teaching and researching empathetic embodiment through somatic dance training—Funsch's teaching has taken her to an entirely new location: Zoom. A visiting professor at Slippery Rock University for the 2020–21 academic year, Funsch is adapting her eclectic, boundary-pushing approach to her virtual classes.

Originally from central New York State, Funsch spent 20 years performing in the Bay Area, where she also started her own company, Funsch Dance Experience. "My choreographic work from that time is in the dance-theater experiential, fantasy realm of performance," she says. "I also started blending genres and a lot of urban styles found their way into my choreography."

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Courtesy Meg Brooker

As the presidential election approaches, it's a particularly meaningful time to remember that we are celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, when women earned the right to vote after a decades-long battle.

Movement was more than a metaphor for the fight for women's suffrage—dancers played a real role, most notably Florence Fleming Noyes, who performed her riveting solo Dance of Freedom in 1914 to embody the struggle for women's rights.

This fall, Middle Tennessee State University director of dance Meg Brooker is reconstructing Dance of Freedom on 11 of her students. A Noyes Rhythm teacher and an Isadora Duncan scholar, Brooker is passionate about bringing historic dance practices into a contemporary context.

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