Teaching Tips

(Late) Summer Reading: 6 New Books to Add to Your List

Courtesy Jill Randall

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

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.

Middle School Matters, by Phyllis L. Fagell

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.

How to Land: Finding Ground in an Unstable World, by Ann Cooper Albright

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.

The New Adolescence, by Christine Carter

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.

Perspectives on American Dance, edited by Jennifer Atkins, Sally R. Sommer and Tricia Henry Young

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, The Twentieth Century, contains 13 essays spotlighting a variety of dance styles, artists, concert dance and dance on film. Book two—The New Millennium—captures dance in all of its forms, whether live or on the internet, from pole dancing to flash mobs to sports victory dances.

A Revolution in Movement: Dancers, Painters, and the Image of Modern Mexico, by K. Mitchell Snow

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.

Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Teachers Trending

Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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