Dance Teachers Trending

Baltimore School of the Arts Alumni Surprised Retiring Director Norma Pera With a Special Tribute Performance

Norma Pera, center, with current and former students from Saturday evening's performance.

After 39 years with the Baltimore School for the Arts, Norma Pera announced her retirement this year. On Saturday, her colleagues and students gathered to honor her with a night of gratitude and dance.

The concert was packed with touching tributes, a video of her memorable quirks (aka "Norma-isms"), and an impressive lineup of surprise performances. Jacqueline Green (class of '07) and Courtney Celeste Spears (class of '12), both currently members of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, performed a duet. Complexions Contemporary Ballet company member Doug Baum, who graduated from BSA in '06, choreographed a piece that was performed by current 11th-graders. Roger Cunningham (class of '90) flew in from Switzerland, where he is the director of Cunningham International Dance Center, to set a piece for the performance.

Former student Jaqueline Green, left, with Aubrey Brown. Photo courtesy of BSA.

Pera has taught dance at the school since it opened in 1979. When Sylvester Campbell retired in 1992, she became the head of the department. Teaching upwards of 2,000 dancers, BSA notes that she's been mentoring young black ballerinas and dancers long before there was a movement to do so.

"Norma's expertise in the field has been shaped by the unique and diverse student population that sets our institution apart from other conservatory-style schools," says Iris Andersen Grizzell, class of '96 and a current BSA dance teacher. "She has gone to bat for students who have had no other support system in their lives and guided them to graduation and success," she adds.

Norma Pera. Photo by Mary Gardella, courtesy of BSA

Pera, who danced with the Radio City Music Hall's ballet company, Rudolf Nureyev and Friends, and the Maryland Ballet, had a "no-nonsense approach," says Andersen Grizzell. Pera had a way of simplifying the ballet vocabulary so that it could be better understood, says former student Courtney Spears, who remembers Pera saying, "If you close your fifth position and actually use your arms, you'll get around in a pirouette twice...what a concept!"

Pera with former student and New York City Ballet dancer Kenard Henson. Photo courtesy of BSA.

Her teaching style had a profound effect on so many of her students outside of their dance training.

"With the pressures that come with the academic and artistic demands of a top-notch performing arts high school like Baltimore School for the Arts, I always felt a balance with Norma between her insistence on excellence and her supportive and fun nature. Norma laughed bigger than anyone…and yelled louder, too!" —Nicole Cornell, class of '95

Cornell (left) with Pera. Cornell is currently a manager with the George Balanchine Trust. Photo courtesy of BSA

"Norma Pera took a chance on me. I entered BSA with no training and no idea what I was getting myself into. She was patient with me, encouraging me every step of the way. I have learned so much from her, artistically and professionally. I don't think there will ever be a teacher with such an epic rond de jambe combo." —Jacqueline Green, class of 2007, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Pera (bottom right) with choreographer Hinton Battle and students. Photo courtesy of BSA

"Mrs. Pera made the studio a safe space to ask questions and a judgment-free zone to try all things. She instilled a sense of confidence and drive in my dancing that I will forever be grateful for. She is my foundation and was more than a teacher. She was family and someone that I trust with anything." —Courtney Celeste Spears, class of 2012, dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Hightower

The beloved "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and former Emmy-nominated "Dancing with the Stars" pro Chelsie Hightower discovered her passion for ballroom at a young age. She showed a natural ability for the Latin style, but she mastered the necessary versatility by studying jazz, ballet and other forms of dance. "Every style of dance builds on each other," she says, "and the more music you're exposed to, the more your rhythm and coordination is built."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Burklyn Ballet, Courtesy Harlequin

Whether you're putting on a pair of pointe shoes, buckling your ballroom stilettos or lacing up your favorite high tops, the floor you're on can make or break your dancing. But with issues like sticking or slipping and a variety of frictions suitable to different dance steps and styles, it can be confusing to know which floor will work best for you.

No matter what your needs are, Harlequin Floors has your back, or rather, your feet. With 11 different marley vinyl floors available in a range of colors, Harlequin has options for every setting and dance style. We rounded up six of their most popular and versatile floors:

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Insure Fitness
AdobeStock, Courtesy Insure Fitness Group

As a teacher at a studio, you've more than likely developed long-lasting relationships with some of your students and parents. The idea that you could be sued by one of them might seem impossible to imagine, but Insure Fitness Group's Gianna Michalsen warns against relaxing into that mindset. "People say, 'Why do I need insurance? I've been working with these people for 10 years—we're friends,'" she says. "But no one ever takes into account how bad an injury can be. Despite how good your relationship is, people will sue you because of the toll an injury takes on their life."

You'll benefit most from an insurance policy that caters to the specifics of teaching dance at one or several studios. Here's what to look for:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

If you're not prepared, studio picture day can be a real headache. But, if done right, it can provide you with gorgeous photos that will make your students and parents happy, while simultaneously providing you with marketing content you will be able to use for years to come.

Here are five tips that will help you pull off the day without a hitch.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Via YouTube

In its 14 years of existence, YouTube has been home to a world of competition dance videos that we have all consumed with heedless pleasure. Every battement, pirouette and trendy move has been archived somewhere, and we are all very thankful.

We decided it was time DT did a deep dive through those years of footage to show you the evolution of competition dance since the early days of YouTube.

From 2005 to 2019, styles have shifted a whole lot. Check them out, and let us know over on our Facebook page what you think the biggest differences are!


Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by World Class Vacations
David Galindo Photography

New York City is a dream destination for many dancers. However aspiring Broadway stars don't have to wait until they're pros to experience all the city has to offer. With Dance the World Broadway, students can get a taste of the Big Apple—plus hone their dance skills and make lasting memories.

Here's why Dance the World Broadway is the best way for students to experience NYC:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo courtesy of Koelliker

Sick of doing the same old stuff in technique class? Needing some across-the-floor combo inspiration? We caught up with three teachers from different areas of the country to bring you some of their favorite material for their day-to-day classes.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health

Q: I have a very flexible spine and torso. My teachers tell me to use this flexibility during cambrés and port de bras, but when I do, I feel pain—mostly in my lower back. What should I change so I don't end up with back problems?

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

If you're a studio owner, the thought of raising your rates most likely makes you cringe. Despite ever-increasing overhead expenses you can't avoid—rent, salaries, insurance—you're probably wary of alienating your customers, losing students or inviting confrontation if you increase the price of your tuition or registration and recital fees. DT spoke with three veteran studio owners who suggest it's time to get past that. Here's how to give your business the revenue boost it needs and the value justification it (and you) deserve.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Margie Gillis (left); photo by Kyle Froman

Margie Gillis dances the human experience. Undulating naked in a field of billowing grass in Lessons from Nature 4, or whirling in a sweep of lilac fabric in her signature work Slipstream, her movement is free of flashy technique and tricks, but driven and defined by emotion. "There's a central philosophy in my work about what the experience of being human is," says Gillis, whose movement style is an alchemy of Isadora Duncan's uninhibited self-expression and Paul Taylor's musicality, blended with elements of dance theater into something utterly unique and immediately accessible. "I want an authenticity," she says. "I want to touch my audiences profoundly and deeply."

Keep reading... Show less


Get DanceTeacher in your inbox