Teaching Tips

Ask the Experts: Do You Approach K–12 Classes Differently Than Those at Your Studio?

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Q: Do you approach your K–12 classes differently than when you teach at a studio?

A: When shifting from teaching at a private studio to a public or private school, people need to rethink what the function of their class is. In a studio, the goal is most likely to teach technique, but that is not necessarily the case in K–12. Here, much of the students' days are filled with critical thinking, and my classes offer a chance for creative exploration.

Technique is important, but I need my lessons to speak to a wider range of learners and abilities. Remember that dance in a K–12 setting may not be every student's desired activity, so there are times when I will need to work to win over some of them. I do this by making room in class for students to bring their individual voices out.

Choreography within class is something public- and private-school teachers are particularly good at incorporating into their curriculum. The act of creating helps students with their ability to analyze and synthesize information—something they can apply in every area of their lives. Private studios could take a cue from public schools on this and do a bit more to add teaching composition and choreography to their classes. All teachers strive to have their students think creatively.

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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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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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