Ask the Experts: Starting from Scratch with Technology

Q: I have just been given a budget of $500 for technology to use in my dance classes. But what should I do with it? I’m starting from scratch.

A: I would recommend just two purchases: a tablet and a projector. You can get a generic Android tablet for under $75 these days, but I would recommend an iPad mini ($299 with 16GB of memory). Though more expensive, Apple offers the most apps, its devices are easy to use and the products have fewer bugs. Also, Apple products retain their value far longer and have a good resale price, for when you want to upgrade later. As for a projector, $200 gives you a variety of options. If portability is your number-one issue, then you might try a pico projector that is small enough to fit in your pocket. These tiny projectors aren’t very bright, though. If you can handle a normal-size projector, you can easily get something midsize that’s bright and high definition on that budget.

With a tablet and projector, you can do a lot. The obvious benefits are video projection and a video-ready camera (I recommend getting a wide-angle lens), but the Apple App Store gives you the tools to do much more. You can use the tablet to store and play your music; augment it with an app to control the tempo of your music and even add a metronome. You can store all of your lesson plans on a tablet, via apps like Evernote or Google Drive—which you can also access on any device with an internet connection. With a tablet and a projector, you can really craft how you introduce material and demonstrate. SMARTBoard’s Notebook app, ShowMe (an interactive whiteboard) and MorrisCooke’s Explain Everything app allow you to easily create dynamic presentations to introduce concepts to your students.

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.

Photo courtesy of Barry Blumenfeld

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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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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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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, 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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