Studio Owners

Stock Your Studio With These Anti-Racist Books for All Ages

Getty Images

Making your dance studio an anti-racist space begins with education.

One concrete place to start: Be sure the resources and materials you provide for your students fall in line with your anti-racist values—and educate yourself and your staff.

We rounded up eight age-appropriate books for your students, and four must-reads for you and your teachers.


Educate your students.

Your studio library should include books that feature Black protagonists, and that address race, whether explicitly or implicitly. Bonus points if it's a book about dance!

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist

By Cynthia Levinson and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton; ages 5–10

As the youngest known child to be arrested as part of the Civil Rights Movement, Audrey Faye Hendricks faced loneliness and even solitary confinement in her weeklong jail stay before her release—all done in support of the Children's March in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963.

​Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

By Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Christian Robinson; ages 7–10

Performer and civil rights advocate Josephine Baker made her way from the shantytowns of St. Louis to opera houses in Paris before eventually performing at Carnegie Hall.

​Bunheads

By Misty Copeland and illustrated by Setor Fiadzigbey, ages 5–8; coming in September

Newcomer-to-dance Misty is nervous to take her first ballet class, but she and her fellow bunheads end up putting on a show to remember by the story's end.

​Resist: 35 Profiles of Ordinary People Who Rose Up Against Tyranny and Injustice 

By Veronica Chambers and illustrated by Paul Ryding; ages 8–12

Frederick Douglass, Nelson Mandela, Sojourner Truth, John Lewis, Reverend Dr. William Barber II and the other 30 people profiled in this book have one big thing in common: a commitment to fighting injustice.

​My Story, My Dance: Robert Battle's Journey to Alvin Ailey

By Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by James E. Ransome; ages 5–10

Robert Battle's journey began with a childhood spent in leg braces before he found dance. Battle eventually graduated from Juilliard and later became artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson

By Leda Shubert and illustrated by Theodore Taylor III; ages 6–9

Raven Wilkinson, the first African-American to perform with a major American touring ballet company, encounters racism and segregation in her tenure with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo before joining the New York City Opera.

​This Is It 

By Daria Peoples-Riley; ages 4–8

A young dancer, nervous about an audition, is challenged by her shadow to a dance-off on the streets of New York City.

​Something Happened in Our Town: A Child's Story About Racial Injustice

By Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins and Ann Hazzard and illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin; ages 4–8

Two families, one white and one Black, discuss a local police shooting of a Black man, encouraging children to ask questions about traumatic events in service of learning to identify and fight against racial injustice.

Educate yourself and your staff.

Arm yourself with the knowledge and tools you need to address racism with your students and promote a culture of anti-racism at your studio.

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

By Robin DiAngelo; published 2018

Racism, it turns out, isn't exclusive to "bad" people. DiAngelo argues that white fragility—fostered by an isolated environment of racial privilege in which white people can both "expect racial comfort and become less tolerant of racial stress"—precludes any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. She brings his points home by starting every chapter with examples, pulled from real-life situations, of white fragility in context. Most importantly, DiAngelo offers ideas for how to develop the necessary humility and white stamina required to constructively engage in racial justice work.

​Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race

By Beverly Daniel Tatum; published 1997

Tatum, a clinical psychologist with a specialization in Black children's racial identity development, introduces readers to the idea that in the face of racism, prejudice, discrimination and bias, individuals sometimes seek out others like themselves. It's a way to secure a sense of self, she says, in a world intent on making Black children feel insecure—it's an opportunity for them to flip the power dynamic and find social support. Tatum's breakdown of racial dynamics in classrooms and communities offers strategies for facilitating productive discussions about racial issues.

​How to Be an Antiracist

By Ibram X. Kendi; published 2019

Kendi's memoir-like approach in describing different forms of racism lends support to his main point: Focusing on the concept of racism distracts you from the real enemy—inequitable policy—and instead asks you to focus on the people who are harmed by those policies. It's not enough to not be racist, Kendi says. You must be actively anti-racist in order to successfully undo racist policy.

​The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michelle Alexander; published 2010

Alexander writes that despite the repeal of Jim Crow laws—those that enforced racial segregation in the late 19th century through 1965—Black Americans are still denied racial justice and civil rights. Today's racial caste system, she says, is just designed differently. The U.S. criminal justice system disproportionately puts Black people in prison, which in turn reduces them to a second-class citizenship, one in which they cannot vote, serve on juries or avoid discrimination when it comes to housing, employment and educational access.

Teachers Trending
Photo by Yvonne M. Portra, courtesy Faulkner

It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

Keep reading... Show less
Music
Getty Images

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.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
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.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.