Ballet Class Blogging: Little Girls Say the Funniest Things

At Groove With Me, every class begins in a circle and students have an opportunity to say what’s on their minds or talk about a particular issue. For my two classes of youngsters, circle-time mostly signifies the start of class. They learn that if they want to share something, they better say it then—the rest of class is quiet. This time also promotes self-confidence; girls learn that their ideas are valid and important. We pass around a ballerina doll (recently they've found it hysterical to talk in a high, squeaky voice like it’s coming from the doll) and we share our favorite after-school activities or what we like to eat for breakfast. We always introduce ourselves, and girls must speak in a clear and audible tone.


I find this time especially useful when substituting new classes. It helps to learn names, and more so, it gives me a chance to witness new behaviors. Who pays attention and who fidgets—which students will I have to keep my eyes on? 


Of course, every now and then I get some pretty funny answers. I’ve heard a lot of favorite colors—mostly pink, purple and yellow—but the all-time best response: Sparkly turquoise. Last week I heard another great line while sharing things we liked. I said, “My name is Jenny and I love ballet.” Predictable.

Unpredictable: “My name is Sara, and I like hot tubs,” chimed in a tiny 6-year-old with cute glasses.


Stretching Idea: My co-teacher started the routine of “making a pizza,” and I think it's brilliant. During our warm up stretches, we make a big circle touching our feet together. After we stretch side to side, we each throw an ingredient into the pizza. One by one they toss in (and stretch forward as they do so) their favorite pizza topping. Then, they mimic eating the pizza. The 5–6-year-olds love it.



On Saturday, I brought in a video of Swan Lake. Most girls know the story; they’ve seen either Barbie Swan Lake or the animated Swan Princess. A class favorite is bourree-ing with “swan arms,” but I wanted to show them the real deal. We gathered around the TV, and we watched about 15 minutes of Act II with Dame Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev. They were captivated by the tutus, and I pointed out the passés and arabesques we do in class. Then, Nureyev came on the screen. I expected the usual giggles about men wearing tights—but not this time. One of my quietest girls piped up: “He looks like Michael Jackson!” Why? Who knows—but at least she was watching.





Photo of the DVD I showed: Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev in Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. With the Vienna State Opera Ballet and Vienna Symphony Orchestra.


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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Teaching Tips
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After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

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Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy TUPAC

When legendary Black ballet dancer Kabby Mitchell III died unexpectedly in 2017, two months before opening his Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center, his friend and business partner Klair Ethridge wasn't sure she had what it took to carry his legacy. Ethridge had been working with Mitchell to co-found TUPAC and planned to serve as its executive director, but she had never envisioned being the face of the school.

Now, Ethridge is heading into her fourth year of leading TUPAC, which she has grown from a fledgling program in an unheated building to a serious ballet school in its own sprung-floor studios, reaching hundreds of students across the Tacoma, Washington, area. The nonprofit has become a case study for what it looks like to carry out the vision of a founder who never had the chance to see his school open—and to take an unapologetically mission-driven approach.

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