Sheryl Murakami is living the dream of countless young competition dancers across the country. Ever since the day Beyoncé’s creative team selected Murakami’s demo tape from what must have been a sea of submissions, she has been working with some of the biggest stars in the music video world.

But she didn’t come out of nowhere to nab this celebrity gig. In our cover feature, "Just Dance," writer Jen Jones Donatelli tells how the former comp kid worked her signature sultry moves at the front of Broadway Dance Center classes and performing in rock clubs all over New York before she got her first big break. Her success is as much about courage and persistence as it is about talent.

Every time young dancers get on the competition stage, they’re learning about courage and persistence. They’re building their future—even if it doesn’t include dance.

If you are among those who question whether competition is a good idea, you might be interested in a new book by Harvard scholar Hilary Levey Friedman (see Recommended). Friedman studied teens who compete in dance, soccer and chess and concluded that competition expands the horizons of young people. Those who participate in a win-or-lose culture tend to set their life goals higher than others.

Though it may seem as if Nationals just ended, it’s time to begin preparing for the new season, and this, our annual Competition Issue, has plenty of advice and information to offer, including the “2013 Guide to Competitions,” for your easy reference in the months ahead.

The editors hosted lunch for the 2013 DT Awardees during the Dance Teacher Summit.

Of course, you don’t have to lead a competition team to understand that dance is a competitive field. Every month Dance Teacher shares inspiration and advice to keep you at the top of your game. This month, for instance, studio owners can sharpen their pencils over a cash-flow statement ("Profits Are Up, So Why Can’t I Pay the Bills?”). In Technique, Banu Ogan demonstrates a classic Cunningham step that can inform any style you teach. And History: Lesson Plan is about how Vaganova—never a stellar performer herself—codified a style that became a fundamental ballet training all over the world.

Speaking of inspiration, we’re still on an adrenaline high after the Dance Teacher Summit in August. We had a great time mingling with all those who joined us in NYC to bring the pages of the magazine to life. Mark your calendar for next year, August 1–3, 2014. Until then, Dance Teacher can help you stay connected. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and at dance-teacher.com.

Photo by Matthew Murphy

To Share With Students
Performing with Honji Wang at Jacob's Pillow; photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy of Jacob's Pillow

Celebrated New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns has recently been exploring collaborative possibilities with dance artists outside ballet. Just this year she was guest artist with Lori Belilove & The Isadora Duncan Company, and performed on Broadway in her husband Joshua Bergasse's choreography for I Married an Angel. This summer she appeared in a highly anticipated series of cross-genre collaborations at Jacob's Pillow, titled Beyond Ballet, with Honji Wang of the French hip-hop duo Company Wang Ramirez, postmodern dance artist Jodi Melnick, choreographer Christopher Williams and more. Here she speaks with DT about the effects of her explorations.

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Studio Success with Just for Kix
Courtesy Just for Kix

As a teacher or studio owner, customer service is a major part of the job. It's easy to dread the difficult sides of it, like being questioned or criticized by an unhappy parent. "In the early years, parent issues could have been the one thing that got me to give up teaching," says Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a teacher and studio owner with over 43 years of experience. "Hang in there—it does get easier."

We asked Clough her top tips for dealing with difficult parents:

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Dance Teachers Trending
Paige Cunningham Caldarella. Photo by Philip Dembinski

It's the last class of the spring semester, and Paige Cunningham Caldarella isn't letting any of her advanced contemporary students off the hook. After leading them through a familiar Merce Cunningham–style warm-up, full of bounces, twists and curves, she's thrown a tricky five-count across-the-floor phrase and a surprisingly floor-heavy adagio at the dancers. Now, near the end of class, she is reviewing a lengthy center combination set to a Nelly Furtado song. The phrase has all the hallmarks of Cunningham—torso twists atop extended legs, unexpected timing, direction changes—which means it's a challenge to execute well.

After watching the dancers go through the phrase a couple of times, Caldarella takes a moment to troubleshoot a few sticky spots and give a quick pep talk before having them do it again. "I know it's fast," she tells them. "I know it's a lot of moves. And you're hanging in there! But stick with the task of articulating everything—try to hyper-explore that."

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Sponsored by Dean College
Amanda Donahue, ATC, working with a student in her clinic in the Palladino School of Dance at Dean College. Courtesy Dean College

The Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College is one of just 10 college programs in the U.S. with a full-time athletic trainer devoted solely to its dancers. But what makes the school even more unique is that certified athletic trainer Amanda Donahue isn't just available to the students for appointments and backstage coverage—she's in the studio with them and collaborating with dance faculty to prevent injuries and build stronger dancers.

"Gone are the days when people would say, 'Don't go to the gym, you'll bulk up,'" says Kristina Berger, who teaches Horton and Hawkins technique as an assistant professor of dance. "We understand now that cross-training is actually vital, and how we've embraced that at Dean is extremely rare. For one thing, we're not sharing an athletic trainer with the football players, who require a totally different skillset." For another, she says, the faculty and Donahue are focused on giving students tools to prolong their careers.

After six years of this approach, here are the benefits they've seen:

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Dance Teacher Tips
Thinkstock

Q: What tips do you have for creating end-of-year performances that teachers, students, parents and administrators will all be happy with?

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Dance Teachers Trending
Savion Glover instructs students in rehearsal for NJPAC's revival of The Tap Dance Kid; photo by Yasmeen Fahmy, courtesy of NJPAC

Tony Award–winning tapper Savion Glover is giving back to his hometown community in Newark, New Jersey, by directing and choreographing New Jersey Performing Arts Center's revival of the Broadway hit that launched his career, The Tap Dance Kid.

September 13–15, you can see the group of young dancers Glover handpicked from throughout the New Jersey and New York areas, as they bring the 1983 story to life in a new and modern way. Here, Glover shares a bit about creating movement inspired by the show's original Tony Award–winning choreography by Danny Daniels, as well as what it's like to revisit the show that changed his life.

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Dance Teacher Tips
Via YouTube

For all the time we spend talking about feet, we think it's time we did a deep dive into toes. Those little piggies bear a lot of weight, endure painful blisters and help your students soar across the classroom day after day.

So, to show our toes the love they deserve, here are five exercises that are all the self-care you need this week.

You're welcome!

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Sponsored by Alternative Balance
Courtesy Alternative Balance

As a dance teacher, you know more than anyone that things can go wrong—students blank on choreography onstage, costumes don't fit and dancers quit the competition team unexpectedly. Why not apply that same mindset to your status as an independent contractor at a studio or as a studio owner?

Insurance is there to give you peace of mind, even when the unexpected happens. (Especially since attorney fees can be expensive, even when you've done nothing wrong as a teacher.) Taking a preemptive approach to your career—insuring yourself—can save you money, time and stress in the long run.

We talked to expert Miriam Ball of Alternative Balance Professional Group about five scenarios in which having insurance would be key.

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Dance Teacher Tips
JP Tenuta with Monika Knickrehm in a Level 6 class at The Academy of Movement and Music. Photo by Mike Dutka, courtesy of The AMM

The culture of your dance studio should be a major consideration when it comes to hiring new instructors. After all, teaching experience isn't the only thing that matters! You'll also want to make sure an interviewee fits with your overall philosophy when it comes to interacting with students (and parents!) and teaching dance. Here are some great tips that can help you find the right match.

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Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

A bow can mean a lot of different things in the dance world. Bowing after class as a group is a sign of respect, an individual bow or curtsy to your teacher before leaving is a sign of gratitude, a bow at the end of a performance is a way to honor the audience for their time that evening, and an encore bow—well, that might be about giving ourselves a pat on the back for a job well-done. No matter what your dancers are trying to convey through them, bows are an important part of dance etiquette that they will need to master.

Check out these three tips for teaching bows that will have your dancers and their manners looking fab!

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Sponsored by Turn It Up Dance Challenge
Courtesy Turn It Up

With back-to-back classes, early-morning stage calls and remembering to pack countless costume accessories, competition and convention weekends can feel like a whirlwind for even the most seasoned of studios. Take the advice of Turn It Up Dance Challenge master teachers Alex Wong and Maud Arnold and president Melissa Burns on how to make the experience feel meaningful and successful for your dancers:

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