Ask the Experts: Apps That Replicate SMART Boards


Q: I don't have a SMART Board at one of the schools I teach in. Are there apps that will allow me to do basically the same things?

A: Dance educators teach in so many different types of environments—we can't always count on there being a SMART Board in the room (or even just a plain old whiteboard). Still, if you can get a projector, you can get comparable functionality out of a few free apps and a tablet. I've used Explain Everything when I didn't have an interactive board. With this app, it's easy to create dynamic presentations with pictures and text. You can also insert a live web browser into your presentation and manipulate or annotate any of the web page's content.

ShowMe is another iPad app that's pretty much a whiteboard. You can use it in front of your students and also record what's happening to share later, making it a great flipped classroom tool. TES Teach with Blendspace isn't really a whiteboard, but the app lets you combine all of your digital materials into a presentation, so you don't have to keep clicking from window to window. You can easily drop YouTube videos, web pages, pictures and just about anything else you can think of into a slide. A nice feature is that you can share your presentation with your students. You can even embed interactive questions in the lesson, if you send it home with them.

I know it takes extra prep time to learn to use apps like this, but remember, once you've made a presentation or lesson plan, you'll have it anytime you need it in the future.

Barry Blumenfeld teaches at the Friends Seminary in New York City. He is an adjunct professor at New York University and on faculty at the Dance Education Laboratory of the 92nd Street Y.

Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.

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For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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Teachers Trending

From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

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