Ballet Class Blogging: Pre-Recital Panic

Recital day is upon us—Saturday June 4—and I have the jitters. Are my girls prepared? Many of my Thursday evening girls (ages 7 and 8) could use two or three more weeks; I'd say half are stage-ready. I know they'll all look adorable in costume; smiling from ear to ear and full to the brim with backstage excitement. But when the time comes to dance by themselves on stage, I'm not exactly sure what will happen. Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely proud of each student—they've worked so hard this semester and have all grown as dancers and people. Yet despite their successes in the classroom, I suspect there have been some obstacles working against us.


-- Time. We meet once a week and class is at 6:00 on Thursday evenings. And by the time we start practicing their routine, it's 6:30. They are tired, unfocused and although well-behaved, they're antsy after a long day. 


-- Unforeseen absences. While attendence is usually terrific, girls do get sick or have after-school activities and miss class.


-- A few weeks into the semester, I had to change my music—and thus most of the routine—because another class was using the same minute of Tchaikovsky. I highly suggest planning ahead and double checking that everything's a go. This change threw many of my students for a loop.


-- (I admit, this one's on me.) I taught the routine facing the mirror, because I thought it would help some girls learn the material, but I did not turn them around soon enough. The mirror has become a crutch.

(Tip: Instead of taking the mirror away late in the game, teach the choreography without the mirror from the start. Another instructor at the school told me: "This year, I taught every routine facing the wall, and it could not have worked out better. One of my students even thanked me.")


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Photo by Yvonne M. Portra, courtesy Faulkner

It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

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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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