Since July is pretty much considered summer-intensive season all over the country, it would seem a little odd, maybe even a little disloyal, to write about something other than dance this month.

And not only because I dance. Dance studios provide something everyone wants: confidence. Underneath all the classes, costumes, and rehearsals, that's what a studio is, basically. A place to practice confidence.

Though for some of us, it's less of a place and more of a temple.


And I thought I knew what I wanted to say about dance before I sat down, it was only once I began that I could see who, and not what, lies at the heart of my story: Lisa.

Lisa always did know how to get me talking.

I remember the day Lisa found her way to my beginning adult class. After it was over, she looked at me and said, "You don't recognize me do you?"

I looked at her more closely, studied her eyes, and there she was: the Lisa I knew in college! I knew no one at our private girls' college in Boston then and Lisa felt like a safety net, a way to identify with the school and the city and with myself within both. But time passed and we lost track of each other. Neither of us bailed, nothing like that. But we, being young, accepted the truth of friendship for what it was, impermanent. We never told each other we were sorry, we just moved on. Some of us to Facebook comings and goings. Some of us privately. All of us eager to get to our futures pounding at the door.

"I figure I can talk about losing weight all I want, but maybe it's time to actually do something about it," Lisa said. "But I was afraid to come to your class. Because, well, look at me."

"You just need to get back in shape, it won't take long," I said.

"I don't know," she rolled her eyes. "You have the quintessential dancer body and poise. I hate you."

That's when I knew we'd be friends again.

My next thought was how no one had ever called me a quintessential anything before. And that I must be doing a pretty good job at hiding all of my quintessential imperfections and insecurities.

I did sneak a sidelong glance of her body, and something I hadn't seen in class came into focus, a dancer's body, rusty, yes, but visible beneath the Lycra. I imagined her concentration narrowing before executing, absolutely killing, a pirouette. I wanted to say as much. But I decided to wait a few classes, see if she stuck it out.

Wait! My insides protested. Why hold back? My mother was skimpy with compliments. If someone gave me one she'd say something like, "that's going to swell her head to the size of a watermelon."

But I know how one sincere compliment can do wonders for a student's self-confidence.

Lisa looked down at her legs and frowned. "I don't think wearing black hides the pounds as much as people think."

"Do you mind if I ask you something? Did you keep dancing after college?"

"How can you tell? I mean, by the looks of me now."

"I can see it, it's there."

She scooted in a little closer, "I took ballet for nine years before I became a veterinarian."

I pictured her in her a white scrubs top and matching pants, hair pulled back in a ponytail, stethoscope around her neck, a few pounds plumper than she liked in her thirties and then, over time, the pounds adding up because, after a ten hour work day, there is no time left to take class. I instantly feel sympathetic. I know that struggle. I remember those months, then years, of writing under media deadlines, as one of those stages of my life when I was trying to accomplish so much. I'd arrive at the studio dog-tired after nearly talking myself out of class. And I remembered how I had once fallen asleep in the dressing room.

The other students had gathered near me to watch. "Is she asleep?" said the one closest beside me. And I realized, yes, yes I am asleep! And it wasn't long after that that I quit writing journalism. I thought there must be something wrong with me if I wanted out of my mental space so badly I had to fall asleep to find peace, like a soldier in the trenches of war, and how my poet friend said, "well, of course, you want out of that world, you're an artist." And how, after that, I began to know and trust myself in a way I hadn't before. I learned about the need to take good care of my inner life. But I can honestly say now that it could have gone the other way. The exhausted side might have won out if my mantra hadn't been "energy begets energy." The first time I heard the saying was from my old friend Marcelle. She was talking herself into going for a bike ride after a long day of single-parenting and working as a masseuse. After that, I added on to the saying: "Energy begets energy, Mary Lou, it's all up to you."

"I knew it!" I said.

"But I've gained, like, a hundred pounds since then. It's going to be an upward battle," said Lisa.

"It's a battle you can win."

She stood up, stretched her arms over her head, and I noticed that she'd appeared taller to me than she really was. Maybe because she is one of those people who always make you feel like only your best, most sincere, self will do.

I thought how her work had become helping animals and mine helping people to dance, and how we both must have learned at a young age how much easier getting through life would be if we tried to make things better for others along the way.

She didn't say anything for a moment. I didn't either.

But we were both clearly, forwardly, openly there.

Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Tribune

Finding age-appropriate hip-hop music can be a struggle. Choreographer Afaliah Tribune addresses this common dilemma for hip-hop teachers by making her own original tracks on GarageBand. "I love experimenting with live music, and my students think it's fun, too," says Tribune, who is an adjunct professor of dance at New York University. "There are so many ways we can open up our work when we experiment with sound."

Keep reading...
Instagram
Karen Hildebrand (center) with 2019 DT Awardee Marisa Hamamoto and members of Infinite Flow. Photo by Joe Toreno

Every year in our summer issue, we honor four dance educators for their outstanding contributions to the field. Recipients have included studio owners, professors, program directors, K–12 teachers and more, whose specialties run the gamut of dance genres.

We need your help to identify this year's best in the profession. Do you have a colleague or mentor who deserves to be recognized as a leader and role model?

Send your nomination by March 1, 2020. You can e-mail us at danceteachereditors@dancemedia.com with the following details:

Keep reading...
Sponsored by Akada Software
Photo by Jenny Studios, courtesy of Utah Dance Artists

Running a dance school used to involve a seemingly endless stream of paperwork. But thanks to the advent of software tailored specifically for dance studios' needs, those hours formerly spent pushing papers can now be put to better use.

"Nobody opens a dance studio because they want to do administrative work," says Brett Stuckey, who leads Akada Software's support team. "It's our job to get you out of the office and back into your classroom."

We talked to Stuckey about how a studio software program can streamline operations, so you can put your energy toward your students.

Keep reading...
Studio Owners
Getty Images

It's easy to characterize parents as the perpetual thorn in the side of studio owners—they can be demanding, and annoyingly free with their opinions on dance education. But they're also your customers. They deserve not just excellent customer service but an exceptional customer experience, says Annette Franz, head of a customer-experience strategy firm. "What's the difference?" you might ask. "I define customer experience as the sum of all the interactions that a customer has with a brand over the life of their relationship with that brand—plus the feelings, emotions and perceptions about these interactions. Customer service is just one of those interactions," says Franz, author of Cus-tomer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the "Customer" in Customer Expe-rience (and at the Heart of the Business).

Keep reading...
Site Network

Hi there, dance friends. I'm the editor in chief of Dance Spirit and content director of The Dance Edit newsletter. And I'm here with a bit of news sure to excite dancers, dance enthusiasts, and other assorted dance obsessives: The Dance Edit is launching a podcast!

Join me and other editors from Dance Magazine, Dance Spirit, and Pointe for The Dance Edit Podcast, a weekly roundtable discussion of the top stories moving and shaking (not sorry) the dance world. Beginning March 5th, we'll get you up to tempo (also not sorry) in about 15 minutes every Thursday morning.

Keep reading...
Dance Teachers Trending
Barbara Bashaw in Thompson Hall of Columbia Teachers College. Photo by Kyle Froman

Barbara Bashaw has always been a pioneer. Since kicking off her career in education by building a dance program from the ground up at an elementary school in Brooklyn, she's gone on to become an inspiring force in teacher training. Now, as director of the new doctoral program in dance education at Columbia University's renowned Teachers College and as executive director of the even newer Arnhold Institute for Dance Education Research, Policy & Leadership, she's in a position to effect change nationwide.

"The study of dance education is a young field," Bashaw says. "Music and visual arts are far ahead of us, in terms of the research that has been done, as well as the foothold they have in education. Anywhere education is being discussed, we want to put dance on the table—and that means developing researchers and championing research that will push public policy." In a climate where arts education feels both more endangered and more necessary than ever, Bashaw is ready to blaze a trail.

Keep reading...
Site Network
Photo courtesy of Harkness Center for Dance Injuries

When orthopedic surgeon Dr. Donald Rose founded the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital 30 years ago, the average salary for a dancer was about $8,000, he says.

"It was very hard for a dancer to get quality medical care," he remembers. What's more, he adds, "at the time, dance medicine was based on primarily anecdotal information rather than being based on studies." Seeing the incredible gaps, Rose set out to create a medical facility that was designed specifically to treat dancers and would provide care on a sliding scale.

Keep reading...
Dancer Health
Getty Images

It's time to talk seriously about safety in dance education. As the physical and psychological demands put on student dancers escalates—thanks to competitions, social media and ever-evolving choreography—there is a pressing need to consider how we can successfully safeguard young dancers.

Keep reading...
Dance News
Photo by Melissa Sherwood, courtesy of MGDC

Martha Graham Dance Company created The EVE Project to mark the upcoming 100th anniversary of U.S. women's right to vote. The female-focused initiative includes new works, as well as the company's classic repertoire highlighting Martha Graham's heroines and antiheroines. In April, the company is showing the newly reconstructed Circe, Graham's 1963 interpretation of the Greek myth, at New York City Center. Dancing the role of Circe is company member So Young An. Here, she shares thoughts on The EVE Project and how she's approaching her role in Circe, the 57-year-old work that invites audiences to consider pressing conversations about womanhood.

Keep reading...
Dance News
Instead of letting 1920s stereotypes of black dancers define her, Josephine Baker used her image to propel herself to stardom and eventually challenged social perceptions of black women. Photos courtesy of Dance Magazine archives

In honor of Black History Month, here are some of the most influential and inspiring black dancers who paved the way for future generations.

Keep reading...
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Q: I'm having such a love-hate relationship with mirrors right now. They can be distracting, as well as cause emotional distress for my students. At the same time, they're a really useful tool. I know some teachers remove theirs altogether. Is this something you recommend?

Keep reading...
Dance Teacher Tips

Susan Pilarre has been closely tied to the School of American Ballet for nearly her entire life.

From her first class there at age 11 through her 16-year career with its affiliated company, New York City Ballet, Pilarre learned directly from the great choreographer George Balanchine, absorbing the details of his unique style. Sensing her innate understanding of his principles, Balanchine encouraged her to teach; she joined SAB's permanent faculty in 1986. Since then, she has become recognized as an authority on Balanchine's teachings, instilling SAB and NYCB's distinctive speed, clarity and energy into generations of dancers.

Here, Pilarre shares how the specifics that Balanchine insisted upon in class contribute to the strength, beauty and musicality that define his style—and dispels common misconceptions.

Keep reading...

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox