Fall may be fast-approaching, but it's never too late to slip in a little summer reading—especially if it'll make you all the more prepared for the perhaps crazier-than-usual season ahead.
Here are six new releases to enrich your coming school year:
A Teaching Artist's Companion: How to Define and Develop Your Practice, by Daniel Levy<p>Reflective as well as practical, Levy shares his 30 years as a teaching artist in this dense volume that explores the intersection of our work and our identities as artists and educators. He frames teaching through the words "view" (our viewpoint, what we believe teaching can offer), "design" (how we craft our lessons and units) and "respond" (reflecting on what actually happens in the classroom and reflecting on artwork with our students). The final chapter offers key information about teaching-artist pay and frameworks from arts education programs around the country.<br></p>
Middle School Matters, by Phyllis L. Fagell<p>Fagell is a middle school counselor; she really gets working with kids and talking with parents. For dance educators, this book is a valuable exploration into the world of middle school children—their priorities, their fears and the ways that we as adults in their lives can create safe environments in dance classes for risk-taking, group work and creative expression.<br></p>
How to Land: Finding Ground in an Unstable World, by Ann Cooper Albright<p>As we navigate this time of pandemic and racism, Ann Cooper Albright's book is a guide for placing our dance work into the larger context of meaning-making and healing. Essays by the Oberlin College professor introduce the idea of movement concepts as metaphor for what we're experiencing in our everyday lives: falling, disorientation, suspension, gravity, resilience and connection.<br></p>
The New Adolescence, by Christine Carter<p>As a parent, author and senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, Carter brings a wealth of experience and research to the topic of adolescence. She unpacks the life of Gen Z adolescents and how we can offer support and structures, and watch out for anxiety and depression, plus foster face-to-face real-time experiences. In an age of constant stimulation and external validation, the dance class setting can offer focus, embodiment and internal understanding.<br></p>
Perspectives on American Dance, edited by Jennifer Atkins, Sally R. Sommer and Tricia Henry Young<p>Originally published in 2018 and now in paperback, this two-volume set is the first anthology on dance in the U.S. in nearly 25 years. Edited by three Florida State University dance professors, book one, <em>The Twentieth Century,</em> contains 13 essays spotlighting a variety of dance styles, artists, concert dance and dance on film. Book two—<em>The New Millennium</em>—captures dance in all of its forms, whether live or on the internet, from pole dancing to flash mobs to sports victory dances.<br></p>
A Revolution in Movement: Dancers, Painters, and the Image of Modern Mexico, by K. Mitchell Snow<p>A deep dive into the dance and visual art worlds of Mexico from the 1920s through the 1960s, this book explores ballet, modern and folk forms in post-revolution Mexico. The author details the shaping of a national identity through dance and highlights collaborations between artists like Diego Rivera and dancers of this time period.<br></p>
Studio owners who've been in the recital game for a while have likely seen thousands of dance costumes pass through their hands.
But with the hustle and bustle of recital time, we don't always stop to think about where exactly those costumes are coming from, or how they are made.
If we want our costumes to be of the same high quality as our dancing—and for our costume-buying process to be as seamless as possible—it helps to take the time to learn a bit more about those costumes and the companies making them.
We talked to the team at A Wish Come True—who makes all their costumes at their factory in Bristol, Pennsylvania—to get an inside look at what really goes into making a costume, from conception to stage.
Costume ideas can come from anywhere.<p>How is a costume born? At <a href="https://awishcometrue.com/" target="_blank">A Wish Come True</a>, inspiration can come from just about anywhere: A fun movie character, an exciting new fabric, or an idea to ramp up an older best seller.</p><p>Most designs for <a href="https://awishcometrue.com/" target="_blank">A Wish Come True</a>'s 100% USA-made costumes are submitted by a dedicated team of designers, but everyone at the company is encouraged to submit designs if they'd like. Eva Jeanne Tanenbaum, <a href="https://awishcometrue.com/" target="_blank">A Wish Come True</a>'s interactive marketing coordinator, is usually responsible for running the company's social media accounts and updating their website. But recently, she submitted her first design idea—and it'll make its debut in this year's catalogue. </p>
Eva Jeanne Tanenbaum
Courtesy A Wish Come True
Making a costume is a many-step process.<p>Once a design is approved (it has to fall in line with <a href="https://awishcometrue.com/" target="_blank">A Wish Come True</a>'s aesthetic and make sense cost-wise), it goes to a pattern maker, who translates the design from a sketch on paper to a blueprint on a computer, notating how everything will be sewn together. </p><p>Then, a sample is made, and the designer will look at the sample on a dress form and decide on any changes that are needed. Once the design has been developed, a real-life dancer comes into the picture. At this stage, <a href="https://awishcometrue.com/" target="_blank">A Wish Come True</a> photographs the design for the catalogue, using the opportunity to ask the dancers questions about the costume's fit and comfort, in case it needs any further adjustments. Then, once more size samples are created (to make sure that a costume for, say, a five-year-old dancer looks proportional to the same costume in an adult size), and all parts and pieces are accounted for, the costume is ready to be made-to-order for each customer.</p><p>This whole process is made easier at <a href="https://awishcometrue.com/" target="_blank">A Wish Come True</a> because of the company's unique setup: The offices, where the designers and pattern makers work, are under the same roof as the factory, where the costumes are made, allowing for close collaboration between everyone involved. </p>
Courtesy A Wish Come True
Getting them right takes lots (and lots) of planning. <p><a href="https://awishcometrue.com/" target="_blank">A Wish Come True</a>'s 2021 catalogue hasn't even hit the market yet, and they're already working on styles for 2022. That's because the <a href="https://awishcometrue.com/" target="_blank">A Wish Come True</a> team puts so much care into the design and production of each costume. That could mean poring over fabric catalogues "to find a fabric that will scream 'this looks like a pineapple,' " as pattern maker Stephanie Deni says. (Yes, that means we have a pineapple costume to look forward to.) Or, it could be the countless tests to ensure that sizing is consistent across the board. Deni, who has worked at <a href="https://awishcometrue.com/" target="_blank">A Wish Come True</a> for almost 16 years, says that sometimes staff members even take a costume home to wash in their own washing machine, to ensure that colors don't bleed and sequins stay secured. </p>
The set-up is designed to accommodate recital craziness.<p>Ever had a student grow four inches between measurements and costume arrival? Or maybe you've heard the words "My dog ate my headpiece"? </p><p>Though these are nightmare scenarios for dance teachers, they are everyday occurrences at <a href="https://awishcometrue.com/" target="_blank">A Wish Come True</a>. Because the entire company—from customer service to design to production to packaging—is in the same building, it's easy for staff to make last-minute changes to orders. A customer service representative need just walk down the hall to the factory to see if an order could be expedited, or if that barrette is still in stock. </p>
Laura is one of A Wish Come True's customer service representatives.
Courtesy A Wish Come True
Lots of sewing machines are involved—even a dedicated tutu machine.<p>Not all sewing machines are created equal—in fact, <a href="https://awishcometrue.com/" target="_blank">A Wish Come True</a> has a wide variety of sewing machines, all for different purposes, from the single-needle to the double-needle to the binding machine and more.</p><p>But perhaps none are as exciting as the tutu machines, which are custom-made for the <a href="https://awishcometrue.com/" target="_blank">A Wish Come True</a> factory to help seamlessly create tutus with a variety of lengths of tulle.</p>
A Wish Come True's tutu machine
Courtesy A Wish Come True
For every female costume, there can be a matching male costume.<p><a href="https://awishcometrue.com/" target="_blank">A Wish Come True</a> knows that it's no fun for boys to be in boring black pants and t-shirts when their classmates are in exciting and detailed costumes. So they offer a wide selection of costume options for boys—and can make custom male designs to complement any female designs upon request. </p>
It's a surprisingly small operation.<p>Tanenbaum says that many people have the misconception that <a href="https://awishcometrue.com/" target="_blank">A Wish Come True</a> is a huge company, when really it's a mom-and-pop family business, operating more like a dance studio than a corporation. "We have a marketing team of three people, and we also do the graphic design," she says. "So we're just like dance studio owners, who have to be an owner and a teacher and a costume manager and a mom. I love helping customers realize that we're a small business, and we're here to help their small business." (And for Tanenbaum, <a href="https://awishcometrue.com/" target="_blank">A Wish Come True</a> is <em>literally</em> a family business: Her father has owned the company for over 10 years.)</p><p>Though they are small, they are mighty: During their busiest season, Tanenbaum says they can produce thousands of costumes a day, and production team members need to know how to create up to 700 different styles (not including colors!) at a time. Recently, the <a href="https://awishcometrue.com/" target="_blank">A Wish Come True</a> team took on a new challenge: Creating masks for their local hospital during the height of the pandemic. <br></p>
There's a wall—yes, a wall—of sequins.<p>And it's 20 feet tall. "It makes you happy just walking by it," says Deni.</p><p>There's also, unsurprisingly, lots of rhinestones, says Deni, which some staff members use to decorate denim jackets to wear to trade shows.</p>
The famous sequin wall
Courtesy A Wish Come True
Some costumes are made by former dancers and current dance parents.<p>A number of <a href="https://awishcometrue.com/" target="_blank">A Wish Come True</a>'s designers and pattern makers are former dancers, says Tanenbaum. <a href="https://awishcometrue.com/" target="_blank">A Wish Come True </a>also makes colorguard costumes, and a few staff members are colorguard coaches on the side.</p><p>But it's the several dance parents who work at <a href="https://awishcometrue.com/" target="_blank">A Wish Come True</a>, including Deni, who get to truly see the full life cycle of the costumes they create at their own children's recitals. Deni says she's become the unofficial costume guru at her daughter's studio. "Seeing something go from lines on a paper to someone wearing it and dancing in it is just phenomenal," she says. "It is the most rewarding thing."</p>
Jana Belot's 31-year-old New Jersey–based Gotta Dance has six studios, 1,720 students and, usually, 13 recitals. In a normal year, Belot rents a 1,000-seat venue for up to 20 consecutive days and is known for her epic productions, featuring her studio classes and Gotta Dance's pre-professional dance team, Showstoppers. Until March, she was planning this year's jungle-themed recital in this same way.
When the pandemic hit, Belot soon decided to do a virtual recital instead. Due to the scale of the production—300 to 500 dancers performing in each of the 13 shows—postponing or moving to an outdoor venue wasn't practical. (Canceling, for her, was out of the question.)
Unsurprisingly, Belot's virtual recital was just as epic as her in-person shows—with 10,000 submitted videos, animation, musicians and more. Here's how it all came together, and what it cost her.
Going virtual: Investments in staff and payroll<p>By the time her local public-school districts shut their doors on March 16, Belot had spent a week preparing and training staff in Google Classroom and Google Meet, so her 190-plus classes could continue virtually.</p><p>"It cost us significantly more to have virtual classes," she says. "We had an office administrator running the classes behind the scenes and an additional administrator texting class and camera reminders to dance families. On top of that, there was no change in normal operating expenses such as rent, electricity, telephone and insurance." Belot also chose not to discount tuition for virtual classes in an effort to avoid furloughing staff or cutting teachers' pay. Gotta Dance did experience a 10 percent drop in enrollment with the shift to online classes.</p><p>Coordinating a process for video submission for the recital was also labor-intensive. Gotta Dance sent out detailed instructions to families on how to film their dances at home and submit them to designated Dropbox folders.</p><p>Another challenge: Figuring out how to make videos of individual dancers look like one cohesive class. Belot came up with a system for students to dance along with a video of their teacher while filming.</p>
Part of the instructions Belot sent to her families.
Photo courtesy Belot
Distributing costumes: $15,500<p>Normally, dancers pick up their costumes at the studio. But during the height of the pandemic in New Jersey, Belot decided that mailing costumes would be a safer option. Between packing, packaging and mailing, this cost Gotta Dance $15,500.</p>
Other expenses: Trophies, marley and more<p>Belot also took on costs for items normally covered by annual concert fees, which she refunded in full, and unexpected COVID-related expenses. This included roughly 800 trophies, marley for Showstopper pointe dancers, computers for teachers with out-of-date equipment, green screens and lighting setups, animation, musicians and more.</p>
Video production: $26,000<p>To keep Gotta Dance's movie-style recital up to par with her usual live shows, Belot decided it was crucial to hire a production company, which cost approximately $26,000.</p><p>Same Day Productions synchronized and edited the 10,000 submitted videos, checking to make sure each was submitted correctly and developing a system to make sure the videos were perfectly aligned.</p>
Gotta Dance's recitals included animation.
Photo courtesy Belot
The viewing experience<p>Once all videos were submitted, synced and edited, Gotta Dance livestreamed the 13 performances at the same times as the previously scheduled live performances.</p><p>It was important to Belot to ensure that families could watch the recital without experiencing technical difficulties. Gotta Dance sent out a Dropbox link with the show, in case families had trouble with the livestream, and set up a "Genius Barre" (a play on Apple's Genius Bar) of college-age alumni to help families troubleshoot any issues in setting up their television or computer. (The "Genius Barre" was also available to families who needed help filming or uploading their videos to Dropbox.) Belot did not charge families anything to watch the livestream.</p>
Photo courtesy Belot