How to Beat the Post-Nutcracker Blues

While many productions of The Nutcracker, traditional or unconventional, are still going strong across the country, this weekend also saw countless Claras and Maries waving good-bye to the Land of Sweets for the very last time this year.

And let's be real here: the post-Nutcracker blues are a struggle like no other. We know your studio could be full of distracted, listless or just plain exhausted bunheads. One way to spark enough energy in your dancers to finish 2016 strong? Bring some holiday cheer into the classroom with seasonal music picks!

We asked Ballet Chicago co-directors Patricia Blair and Daniel Duell for some favorite holiday tracks. Their top picks come from the album Christmas Music for Ballet Class, recorded by the late School of American Ballet accompanist Lynn Stanford.

  • Track 4, 2/4: "Lynn's version of 'Jingle Bells' is utterly charming, with wonderful bounce in it, and a great tempo for petit allégro, or jetés and frappés at the barre." —Patricia Blair
  • Track 14, 3/4: "Lynn's 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas' is an all-time favorite for grand allégro. Lynn's joyful energy infuses the dancers with the same, and there's a great feeling of release that sets the tone for soaring in-class performances." —Daniel Duell
  • Track 17, slow 6/8: "Lynn's 'Silent Night' is a perfect finish for class, a beautiful révérence. It brings the dancers to a calm focus before or after a performance." —PB

How do you keep dancers motivated and energized after the thrill of Nutcracker is over?

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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

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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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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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