Congratulations, Teachers Back Home

I attended The Juilliard School's annual "Juilliard Dances Repertory" spring concert on Wednesday evening; this year's performance featured repertory from choreographers "José Limón," Nacho Duato and Ohad Naharin.** When watching the dancers, it's entirely possible to forget they're still students. Their technique, maturity of movement, performance qualities—rival those of professional companies.


My first thought was, "Wow, these dancers are really great." And next, "Well, they do get really amazing training at Juilliard." But then it hit me: Students have to audition for Juilliard. Yes, Juilliard faculty members help students attain unparalelled levels of training and artistry; but there are a score of teachers back home. 


So I'd also like to applaud the educators who laid the groundwork for the Juilliard dancers: The teachers who took the rolley-polley 3- and 4-year olds and molded them into pre-professional artists; the teachers who instilled the students' indefatigable work ethic; and the teachers who taught the kids to stay in line, hop with two feet and clap on the beat.


If you've read my Ballet Class Blogging series, you know I teach students ages 6–8. It's incredibly rewarding, their giggles and hugs at the end of class always negate the challenges and hair-tearing-out moments in the classroom. But the work is also nerve-wracking: Are they getting it? Am I inspiring a lifelong passion for dance? And my biggest anxiety: will my lessons transcend this class?


We all have memories of our first teachers, our second teachers and so on; but what's amazing is that many of their sayings and technical corrections stay with us forever. In Dance Teacher's e-newsletter, editor Kristin Schwab speaks with today's stars in ballet, modern, tap, hip-hop—you name it—and asks what they remember about their first teachers. Each issue, dancers pay tribute to those most influential, and we learn the lessons that have stayed with them throughout their careers.


If you don't already receive our e-newsletter, sign up here. (You also get a sneak peak of what's coming up next in the magazine and a leg up on the giveaways on our site—especially the DVD and ticket giveaways—don't miss out!)






Photo of Genevieve Custer Weeks of the Tutu School in San Francisco, CA, by Andrew Weeks

** (I put Limón's name in quotations because he never completed the work, The Waldstein Sonata, before he died in 1972, and Daniel Lewis "finished" the choreography and staged it for Juilliard in '76.)

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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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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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