Astaire Awards

The Astaire Awards presentation last night in New York was all about honoring dance in film and on Broadway. But it opened with the tap dancing students of Valerie Harman’s New Jersey studio, Art of Dance. Girls of all ages (and one boy!) filled the stage in sequins and smiles. They looked terrific!

The last time we talked with Harman (for the Winning Ways supplement to Dance Magazine), her 10 and 11 year old tappers had tied for the 2006 Critic’s Award at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals. Their performance on that occasion was anything but glamour and sparkle. In place of top hats and canes they performed in tattered street clothes, sunglasses, and white-tipped canes for the blind.

Oh, in case you were wondering:

Peter Darling, Best Broadway Choreographer for Billy Elliott
Longines Fernandes, Best Film Choreographer for Slumdog Millionaire
Kearran Giovanni, Best Female Dancer for Guys and Dolls
David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, Kiril Kulish, Best Male Dancer for Billy Elliott

Director/choreographer Stanley Donen was honored for his lifetime achievement, best known for Singin’ in the Rain, Royal Wedding, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

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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, 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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