Editor's Note

As we celebrate Mother’s Day this month, I can’t help but think of studio mothers—the influential educators who give children their first dance experiences. Some do double-duty as both biological and studio mom. That’s the case with M’Liss Dorrance, who co-founded The Ballet School of Chapel Hill in North Carolina, where her daughter Michelle Dorrance (featured on the cover and pictured here with her mom) got her start. Today Michelle (“How I Teach Tap”) is both an exciting performer and a passionate teacher.

 

I don’t remember my first dance teacher’s name, but I have an indelible memory of tap and baton twirling as a preschooler in her basement studio. Those routines are a far cry from the age-appropriate developmental activities of creative dance teachers like Mary Seidman, who shares her approach in “Baby Steps," yet the experience instilled in me a lifelong passion nonetheless.

 

May is a busy month on many fronts, with the school year winding down, rehearsals for spring recitals, competition regionals—and National Tap Dance Day, May 25! But it’s hard not to be distracted with thoughts of summer. I’m curious—when you plan your vacation, do you look for dance-related activities, or something completely different? And on the dance-related side, do you prefer technique class, pedagogy-based training or the chance to see your favorite dance companies perform?

 

A summer dance festival can offer something of all three—as well as a little bit of dance heaven. In DT Notes, we point out the 2012 highlights of four prominent festivals that will appeal to both you and your students (pick up an issue or order one here for the full story). And the annual Lifetime Learners supplement included with this issue is filled with continuing education opportunities exclusively for teachers.

 

Here at DanceMedia, all new episodes of “Dance212” launch May 21. In Season 6, the popular online video series follows five dancers as they train at the School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theatre’s JKO school, the Ailey/Fordham BFA program, Broadway Dance Center and STEPS on Broadway. (The new season stands on its own, but you can view all past episodes at Dance212.com.) This is what it’s really like to dance in New York City!

Teacher Voices
Getty Images

I often teach ballet over Zoom in the evenings, shortly after sunset. Without the natural light coming from my living room window, I drag a table lamp next to my portable barre so that the computer's camera can see me clearly enough. I prop the laptop on a chair taken from the kitchen and then spend the next few hours running back and forth between the computer screen of Zoom tiles and my makeshift dance floor.

Much of this setup is the result of my attempts to recreate the most important aspects of an in-person dance studio: I have a barre, a floor and as much space as I can reasonably give myself within a small apartment. I do not, however, have a mirror, and neither do most of my students.

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Music
Allie Burke, courtesy Lo Cascio

If you'd hear it on the radio, you won't hear it in Anthony Lo Cascio's tap classes.

"If I play a song that my kids know, I'm kind of disappointed in myself," he says. "I either want to be on the cutting edge or playing the classics."

He finds that most of today's trendy tracks lack the depth needed for tap, and that there's a disconnect between kids and popular music. "They have trouble finding the beat compared to older genres," he says.

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Teachers Trending
Courtesy Lovely Leaps

After the birth of her daughter in 2018, engineer Lisa McCabe had reservations about returning to the workforce full-time. And while she wanted to stay home with the new baby, she wasn't ready to stop contributing financially to her family (after all, she'd had a successful career designing cables for government drones). So, when she got a call that September from an area preschool to lead its dance program, she saw an opportunity.

The invitation to teach wasn't completely out of the blue. McCabe had grown up dancing in Southern California and had a great reputation from serving as her church's dance teacher and team coach the previous three years (stopping only to take a break as a new mother). She agreed to teach ballet and jazz at the preschool on Fridays and from there created an age-appropriate class based on her own training in the Cecchetti and RAD methods. It was a success: In three months, class enrollment went from six to 24 students, and just one year later, McCabe's blossoming Lovely Leaps brand had contracts with eight preschools and three additional teachers.

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