Teaching Tips

Ask the Experts: What Do I Do When a Dancer Shuts Down Because of a Correction?

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Q: What do you do when a dancer shuts down because of a correction?


A: Many dancers take corrections as put-downs. You need to change their thinking. Teaching dancers how to take a correction is something we start very young at our studio.

Our Mini competitive dancers (5- to 6-year-olds) are taught that a correction is gold. We cup our hands like we are handing them something very valuable and tell them that once they use the gold we give them, we can give them more gold, and they will become better and better dancers. For example, we say, "Sara I am giving you some gold to stretch your feet on your jumps." We find this puts the correction into a positive light.

As dancers get older, we say that corrections are the biggest compliments that a teacher can give them. I explain, "If I didn't think you were capable of making the corrections, I wouldn't waste my time giving them to you." I also try to put a positive spin on what I'm trying to correct. For example, I might say, "Maya, you have beautiful feet and legs on your aerial. If you were to relax your shoulders, it would be perfect."

Finally, when dancers use the corrections we give them, we make a big deal out of it. Everyone—including myself—applauds the dancer and makes them feel special. This makes the correction an opportunity to receive praise from their classmates, and in turn builds self-confidence.

Music
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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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