Editor's Note: With a Spring in Your Step

If the New York City boys who participate in the Dancing Classrooms Academy are any indication, starting a ballroom program in your studio could be just what you need to boost your male enrollment.

When Dance Teacher editor Jenny Dalzell met the teens (Dancing Classrooms is the program made famous by the award-winning documentary Mad Hot Ballroom, released in 2005), she was surprised that so many boys voluntarily came to the weekend sessions. Yes, they’re learning how to dance, but they see it as a social occasion—and they told Jenny they like it because it’s fun! Heads up—this could be happening in your studio.

Of course, it helps that someone as animated as Broadway alum Alee Reed (on the cover) is onboard to raise the awesome factor of fox-trot and swing for this age group. In Technique, the director of the Dancing Classrooms Youth Dance Company demonstrates a beginning tango move, appropriate for teens.

And should you decide to take our suggestion and recruit a ballroom teacher for your school, you’ll definitely want to check out "Help Wanted" for advice on how to make a successful hire.

National Dance Week is April 26 to May 5.

What better way to celebrate NDW than to honor the man who insisted there must be a School of American Ballet before there could be a New York City Ballet? As of this month, George Balanchine has been gone for 30 years. Thankfully his legacy is alive and well, due in large measure to the efforts of dancers like Francia Russell who restage his work on behalf of The George Balanchine Foundation. Here, the co-founder of Pacific Northwest Ballet talks about the challenges of teaching the Balanchine style to a new generation of ballet dancers.

Also, check out History: Lesson Plan for a concise and easy way to share the Balanchine influence with young dancers in your studio.

Photo by Nathan Sayers

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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