Ballet Class Blogging: A Thanksgiving Reflection

I always forget how much students don’t know at the beginning of the year. Especially with young students—what do you mean you don’t remember what first position is? Why is it so hard to stand in line without talking?


I guess this is the fun of teaching dance to children, but I do envy the teachers who get to work with the same students over a few years. It seems as if I have to crunch in as much info as I can in one year, and then start from scratch almost immediately. It’s exhausting! That being said, I love seeing how each student attacks new challenges differently.


This year, I feel the first few classes have given me a chance to figure out my students’ learning styles and preferences; overall, they just want to keep moving. They don’t necessarily care how they look when dancing, or how to do a step “more like a ballerina”—they just want to move and discover how their bodies work. (Unlike my class last year; I could talk to those students about tendu for hours and their interest would remain peaked.) Neither is better, but now I have a jumping off point for shaping the rest of my curriculum.


It is most exciting when students have revelations. In one instance, we were exploring the concept of triplets, and began moving across the floor with “down-up-up” walking steps. “So the first time I do a ‘down’ step, I use my right leg, and then the next time there’s a ‘down,’ it’s on my left foot,” exclaimed one student so enthusiastically, it was like she just discovered ice cream. And it only got better: “Next time we go across the floor, can we go ‘up-up-down?’ And then how about ‘up-down-up?’” I was so happy that she was interested in the class activity—interested enough to reflect on it and be creative. I’m often worried my exercises aren’t fun enough, or my students don’t care about what I’m teaching them and they’d rather be in hip hop or tap. So I’m thankful that there are times like these that provide a little reassurance that I’m getting through and sparking their creative minds.



Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

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.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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Dancer Diary
Claire, McAdams, courtesy Houston Ballet

Former Houston Ballet dancer Chun Wai Chan has always been destined for New York City Ballet.

While competing at Prix de Lausanne in 2010, he was offered summer program scholarships at both the School of American Ballet and Houston Ballet. However, because two of the competition's winners that year were Houston Ballet's Aaron Sharratt and Liao Xiang, dancers Chan idolized, he turned down SAB. He joined Houston Ballet II in 2010, the main company's corps de ballet in 2012, and was promoted to principal in 2017. Oozing confidence and technical prowess, Chan was a Houston favorite, and even landed himself a spot on Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch."

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Mary Mallaney/USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.

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