Editor's Note: Reaching for the Stars

Heading into Nutcracker season, we are reminded of how many young dancers grow up dreaming of Sugar Plum Fairies. But with “So You Think You Can Dance” on the scene, Clara and her prince now have a significant rival when it comes to youthful dreams. The TV show gives dancers a high-profile alternative to The Nutcracker as a worthy pre-professional ambition.


This month the two newest “SYTYCD” winners grace the cover of our sister publication Dance Spirit. But here in the pages of Dance Teacher, we’re even more excited about what happens behind the scenes. In our cover story about Stacey Tookey, you’ll get an inside look at how the Emmy Award–nominated choreographer works with the dancers to showcase their stellar technique.


Tookey and other audience favorites from the show are also active in the convention scene, making it a popular pathway to “SYTYCD” success. Not only is the convention floor a great place to be noticed by the likes of Tookey, Mia Michaels, Brian Friedman and Tyce Diorio, but it’s where dancers build the chops necessary to ace an audition in the commercial world. Check out the annual Dance Teacher Convention Guide (available in our print, iPad and Nook editions).


As great as conventions are for exposure, nothing can replace the fundamental training and support a dancer receives in her home studio. That’s why we gave the green light to writer Rachel Berman to talk with past season contestants about their early teachers. Berman, a former dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company, wondered why there is so little acknowledgement of teachers on the show. “They never give the teachers enough credit,” she said when she proposed the story. “These whiz kids did not come from nowhere!” In her story, you’ll meet the hometown teachers behind four “SYTYCD” stars.


And there is much more in this issue to inspire and intrigue. Igal Perry, for instance, demonstrates his method for teaching a développé à la seconde in Technique (click here for the video). And in “Left vs. Right," Pennsylvania Ballet principal Julie Diana shares the advice of master teachers on how to develop a dancer’s weaker side.

Wishing you peace and good health for the holidays!




Photo by Nathan Sayers




Teacher Voices
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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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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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