Editor's Note: Building the Future

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

Technique
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.

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Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Teachers Trending

Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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