Dance Teacher International: The Program Takes Shape

My heart exploded as I drove up to the school and was greeted with familiar faces of dancers and teachers I’d met last August. I was shocked at how tall some of these kids had become! A year changes a lot—but it did not impact the students’ eagerness to start dancing. For the kids at Los Lojas, the freedom of creative expression is as foreign as the domesticated farm animals loitering at the school’s entrance are to me. Since my last visit I had forgotten what it was like to see herds of cattle walking down the street or baby chickens running through the chain-linked fence to the school’s concrete slab courtyard.


After the initial wave of hugs and high fives, my partner and translator Ana and I went to visit the three classes of students that will participate in this year’s residency.


My goals for my initial classes were to re-establish:

1. A sense of daily ritual

2. Clear expectations for students’ excellence, participation and responsibility

3. A community of trust so students feel safe to explore and express themselves


Taking cues from National Dance Institute, I started the first session with a mixture of sign language, chanting and rhythmic clapping series representing “I go; now you go.” No translation necessary—just a commanding figure and 100 percent commitment. New students were easily initiated into the fold and in less then five minutes we were ready to move.


My residency also infuses American literature and picture books within movement-driven instruction. Today I used the book Perfect Square, written and illustrated by Michael Hall, to teach that things are not always what they appear. Just as a square can be transformed into a bridge or a mountain, we can transform our bodies into any number of incredible things by bending, reaching and turning.


After reading the book as a class, I distributed a square of origami paper to my students and asked them to see the potential of the square in front of them. Just like in the book, they folded, ripped, bent, crumpled or whatever their hearts desired to make something new and unexpected. In no time they were creating whales swimming, stars shining, vases overflowing with flowers, and rain falling over mountaintops.


I asked, “What does this have to do with dance?” One student answered, “we are your squares and your moves will change us!”



Photo of one of my students and his transformed square.


Adam Holms M.A. is director of ballet education for The Performing Arts Center of Connecticut and is a graduate of the NYU/ABT Masters program in ballet pedagogy and teaching dance in the professions. He holds a B.S in secondary education and ballet performance from Butler University. For the past three years, he’s traveled to Guayaquil Ecuador to bring dance education to students, ages 6–18. Dance Teacher asked him to blog about his experiences on this summer’s trip.


Teacher Voices
Getty Images

In 2001, young Chanel, a determined, ambitious, fiery, headstrong teenager, was about to begin her sophomore year at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, also known as the highly acclaimed "Fame" school. I was a great student, a promising young dancer and well-liked by my teachers and my peers. On paper, everything seemed in order. In reality, this picture-perfect image was fractured. There was a crack that I've attempted to hide, cover up and bury for nearly 20 years.

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Getty Images

Though the #MeToo movement has spurred many dancers to come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and abuse, the dance world has yet to have a full reckoning on the subject. Few institutions have made true cultural changes, and many alleged predators continue to work in the industry.

As Chanel DaSilva's story shows, young dancers are particularly vulnerable to abuse because of the power differential between teacher and student. We spoke with eight experts in dance, education and psychology about steps that dance schools could take to protect their students from sexual abuse.

Keep reading... Show less
Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.