Ask the Experts: Developing Well-Rounded Dancers

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Q: I have a multi-genre studio and want to develop well-rounded dancers. What's most important?


A: Having a multi-genre studio myself, I can say it's a balancing act. At our studio, we do annual ballet exams, local competitions and year-end performances. Every two years, we do a Nationals.

But I think the most important way to develop well-rounded dancers is to have teachers who are amazing at whatever genre they teach—and who also have a great respect for all dance forms (and encourage the dancers to do the same).

Also, make sure you schedule classes with the all-around dancer in mind. Your studio should offer as many dance subjects as possible in one day—remember that a dancer is more likely to try out a tap class if it follows her jazz or ballet class. I've found that bringing in guest teachers throughout the season keeps the dancers excited about different dance genres, too.

A big part of our studio is our company, with dancers ranging from mini to advanced level. You must be invited into the company, so it's something all our dancers strive for. Those selected study tap, jazz, ballet, hip hop and lyrical/contemporary—at the minimum. We cap our class fees at this level, to make it affordable for the dancers to continue studying so many dance forms.

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Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

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Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

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If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

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