Editor's Note: How Do You Define Success?

When it comes to running a dance studio, what exactly is success? Is it about winning awards? Is it about revenue? Enrollment? Community reputation? Famous alumni? For many, it’s all about watching youngsters blossom in dance class.

Artistic Fusion Dance Academy in Denver seems to have it nailed on all these accounts. When Jennifer Owens and Julie Jarnot (on the cover) first opened in 2000, their company won awards right out of the gate. And if the competition circuit had a congeniality award for studio directors, the sisters would almost certainly bring home the trophy. Turn to “Yin and Yang”—their story puts to rest the myth that nice guys finish last.

Running a smart business while also maintaining high artistic and training standards isn’t easy. We all know of devoted dance teachers who seem almost ashamed to admit that they get paid to do their job. But at Dance Teacher, we advocate for operating a profitable business as the best way to deliver your labor of love. Every issue is filled with expert advice and tips from experienced studio owners.

In this issue:

• Nancy Wozny gets the 411 on all those crowdfunding requests that have been showing up in your e-mail: “Kickstarting Your Dream.”

• We know you have a long to-do list. But what if the item that could make the biggest difference isn’t even on it? “Time for a Tune-Up,” by editor Rachel Rizzuto.

• You don’t have to teach in a public-school setting to take a lesson from the K–12 story this month: “Making a Safe Space for Dance,” by Hannah Maria Hayes.

We love hearing your success stories, so please continue to share. One way is to enter the Dance Teacher Video of the Month contest. Post a short clip (to dancemedia.com) of your students performing their best competition or recital number. Or demonstrate the way you teach an element of technique. If your video is selected, we’ll feature your studio the way we did with Spectrum’s Dance Factory in Jacksonville, FL.

In “Ask the Experts” this month, Kathy Blake and Suzanne Blake Gerety recommend investing in yourself by attending dance conferences or business training. A great option is the Dance Teacher Summit, where the pages of Dance Teacher magazine come to life. August 5–7, New York City. Details at danceteachersummit.com.

Photo by Matthew Murphy

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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