Dancers of New York Gives an Unfiltered Look at Artists’ Lives

Sophie Lee Morris, a Dancers of New York subject, at the Astoria Ditmars Blvd stop on the N,Q line

When Sofie Eriksson first moved from Sweden to New York City to study at Broadway Dance Center, she lived in a hostel, where she shared a three-bedroom apartment with 13 other people. Broadway performer Kim Faure says she moved six or seven times during her first year in Manhattan before getting her first role, in Anything Goes. Tales of wild living situations are just a small part of what performers share on the new photo blog Dancers of New York (DONY).

Following the formula of the popular blog Humans of New York (HONY), photographer James Jin posts pictures of and interviews with dancers on social media and on DONY’s website. He uses subway stations as backdrops, because, according to the site’s About section, the train is metropolitan dancers’ primary mode of transit to classes, auditions and gigs. There are shots of dancers on pointe outside of elevators, posing on railings and doing layouts on underground platforms. Like HONY, the most engaging parts of the DONY Facebook page are the interviews and, as the blog grows in popularity, followers’ replies.

Jin talks to each dancer he photographs about where they grew up and trained, how they got to New York and what they’re doing now. For pre-professionals considering a move to New York City, this can be valuable information. And the interviews delve deeper. Dancers reflect on sad memories of rejection and share their feelings of insecurities about body type, as well as offering advice for fellow artists. Readers respond with commiseration, encouragement and compliments: “Nice kick!” For dancers going through the inevitable ups and downs of their training and careers, DONY, if it continues in the footsteps of HONY, could be a supportive social-media community of artists. With plans to show one dancer at every subway station (468 total ) on the NYC map, DONY is on track to tell enough stories to strike a chord with every dancer.

Photo by James Jin, Dancers of New York

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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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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.

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Higher Ed
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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