Editor's Note: The Competition Issue

It’s that time of year when those of you who direct competition teams are preparing for the coming season. This issue includes some great tips and advice on everything from choreography to stage makeup to costume ordering, plus the handy Dance Teacher Competition Guide with contact details for all the top events.

 

Whether or not you are convinced of the benefits for young dancers, competition is a growing reality of dance training. There was a lot of discussion about it this year at the Dance Teacher Summit. As many have pointed out, one thing competitions do is increase performance opportunities for students. “Competition teaches kids to be professional,” Mandy Moore said during a panel about judging. “They learn to be on time, to groom themselves, to win with humility and lose with grace.”

 

Our cover this month is another hot topic. With the rising popularity—and notoriety—of “Dance Moms,” we felt compelled to visit Abby Lee Miller in Pittsburgh to find out what happens when a successful studio owner goes public with her business in such a big way. In “Sorting the Reality from the Reality TV," writer Rachel Zar will tell you who Abby was before the show and how she’s faring with her new-found fame. But little did we know that our photo shoot would become part of the spectacle. While photographer Matt Murphy captured Abby in his lens, the “Dance Moms” production crew wired us with mics and turned their cameras on us. It’s easy to forget they’re in the room once you’re involved with your work!

 

Speaking of the Summit, it was the most successful ever. More than 1,800 of you joined us this summer in New York City. We had a great time! Check out the photos in our print and iPad editions.

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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Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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