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Jody Sperling Brings the Magic of Loie Fuller to La Danseuse

Sperling in her Time-Lapse Fantasy (2013). Photo courtesy of Time Lapse Dance
When French director Stéphanie Di Giusto set out to create a film about Loie Fuller, the modern dancer (1862–1928) known for her groundbreaking work with fabric and lighting design, Di Giusto came to Jody Sperling for advice. For the past 17 years, Sperling has made a name for herself as an expert on "La Loïe" by breathing new life into Fuller's work via Sperling's small company, Time Lapse Dance. She and her dancers masterfully re-create Fuller's serpentine, otherworldly style—a process that requires considerable upper-body strength to manipulate voluminous, cape-like costumes.

La Danseuse, which premiered at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival last May, explores Fuller's bon vivant expatriate life in Paris. Granted, says Sperling, the film “takes a lot of license with history," but Di Giusto wasn't interested in a strict retelling. “She didn't want to do a museum piece," says Sperling. “She wanted to tell Loie's story in a way that would speak to a contemporary audience."


Training: BA in dance and Italian from Wesleyan University; MA in performance studies from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts

Performance: Founded Time Lapse Dance in 2000; served as choreographer and consultant for the 2016 film La Danseuse

On training French singer-songwriter/actress SoKo to dance “I worked with SoKo [as Loie] every day but Sunday, between five and six hours a day, for five weeks. She'd never had any dance training before. I'd do my own practice in the morning, and then she'd come in, and I would give her a dance class. She had this spontaneous energy but not the balance or control. She was a fantastic student, very focused and motivated."

Seeing her research on Loie Fuller come to life “I gave a broad range of input for the costuming and the lighting. There's a scene in the movie with charts on the wall, which are basically copied from my notebook—for example, how to draw the costume. And in the movie Loie [the character] tells the costume woman, 'I don't want it to be like number 77. I want it to be like 79.'"

The biggest training surprise “The feet were so important. You think it's all in the arms—the director wanted me to work on SoKo's arm strength—but what's going to make the difference is the mobility in your ankles and the depth of your plié. How you're transferring weight is amplified by the fabric."

The Conversation
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It's February! The month of love (and by extension, the month of pink) is upon us. We are major fans of a good class theme, and dressing lovey-dovey is one of our very favorites! So this month, to keep you on brand, we have a list of our favorite pink leos on the market right now. They're all kinds of wonderful.

Check them out and let us know your favorite in the comments!

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Just for fun
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It's the day after Valentine's Day, and every single one of us is in a chocolate coma scrolling through endless love posts on social media. It's both the best and the worst day of the year 😂. Obnoxiously mushy Instagram captions aside, whether you have a significant other or not, we all know that your studio co-workers are the actual loves of your life.

Check out our five reasons why, and let us know over in our comments if we got 'em right!

XOXO

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Dance Teacher Tips
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Q: Do you have any advice for dividing students into groups?

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In Antoine Hunter's jazz class, students inevitably pick up sign language just by virtue of being his student. Though he doesn't typically incorporate ASL into his class combos, this dynamic phrase, which is one of his favorites, includes four signs: "heart," " re," "gone" and "deaf."

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Dance Teachers Trending
The Big Apple Tap Fest, courtesy of Dee

Debbi Dee took her first tap class at age 5 from vaudevillian hoofer and rhythm tapper Curly Fisher, in Rochester, New York. She studied tirelessly with him in the garage he had turned into a small, makeshift dance studio until she was 13 years old, when he claimed he had taken her as far as he could, and she needed to find herself a new teacher. Instead, she jumped feet first into her professional career, tapping with the Lawrence Welk and Count Basie orchestras on the traveling state fair circuit, on the Bob Hope USO shows, and in nightclubs in Vegas and the Catskills.

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Dance Teacher Tips
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We've all had times when we've failed miserably while trying our best to communicate important concepts and ideas to our students. We are all well-meaning with hopes that our dancers will achieve their dreams and become kind humans along the way. Unfortunately, our delivery may need some honing in order to help them without causing some damage,

Here are four common phrases dance teachers often say, and four ways we can adjust them to make them constructive and productive.

Let us know over on our Facebook page what phrases you try to avoid as a dance teacher!

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Just like your car, your studio needs periodic tune-ups to keep it humming along smoothly. If you take the time to address a few small fixes, your business will stand out. And you don't have to break the bank, either—you might be surprised how low-cost, DIY improvements can make a surprising difference.

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Running a studio can be a major juggling act. It's no surprise, then, that a few things slip through the cracks—costing you money or students. Watch out for two common but often unnoticed mistakes, and you'll find yourself with more time, clients and revenue on your hands.

1. Using online registration as a crutch

If you offer registration via your studio website, make sure you aren't losing clients by neglecting in-person registration. One day Kathy Morrow, director of Dance Du Coeur in Sugar Land,Texas, overheard a front desk staffer directing a new client to the studio's website to register, rather than offering to do it over the phone. "I thought, You had a fish on the hook—why didn't you walk them through it?" she says. "When you register, there are a lot of boxes to check off. Some people want to pay with a check, some to link to a credit card. We can make it easier by answering any questions directly."

2. Not delegating

Have you heard yourself say, once too often, "If I want it done right, I have to do it myself"? Overextending yourself because of perfectionism or a misguided need to control can be counterproductive. By creating choreography, teaching, bookkeeping, cleaning, making phone calls, typesetting, doing payroll, mailings and ordering, you could be leaving no time for the very things that will create your best business. Misty Lown decided to delegate all the teaching at her Onalaska, Wisconsin-based studio, Misty's Dance Unlimited. "Giving up teaching was super-hard," she says, "but it's the best decision I ever made. Whenever I was teaching, it meant I never saw the other five classrooms that were operating during that time. Now I can rotate my time checking on classrooms and interacting with students."

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Working with a 9-year-old student, Alexandra Koltun asks the young girl to face the barre. She reviews fifth position, demi-pointe with the front foot and coupé devant. "I separate all the positions, so the student understands each one," says Koltun, founder and artistic director of Koltun Ballet Boston. She reaches down to shape the girl's foot into sur le cou-de-pied, leaving the heel in front and gently squeezing the toes around the ankle. "This position will equip the foot with more strength," she says.

Depending on a ballet teacher's preference and style of training, sur le cou-de-pied (meaning "on the neck of the foot") may be incorporated into class at different times and in various ways. From steps like pas de cheval to frappé and développé, the wrapped position can be fundamental to a student's technical development. Or it can be used less often and as a supplement to cou-de-pied front and back. Either way, the value of the position remains constant as a tool to mold and strengthen dancers' feet.

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Just for fun

Show your significant other how much you love them through dance! Send them one of your favorite romantic dance videos that best describes your feelings, and they're sure to swoon!

Here are four of our favorites that depict a range of emotions along the spectrum of true love. Let us know over on our Facebook page which one best represents your relationship!

You're welcome in advance!

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Just for fun

The best way to celebrate a holiday in the dance teacher world is to create a class combo that fits the theme! It's a sure-fire way to get you and your kiddos into the spirit of the day! So, Valentine's Day, we recommend some mushy, cheesy, oh-so-wonderful love songs!

Check out these six songs for potential class combo ideas. They're sure to be a hit.

You're welcome!

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When it comes to running a thriving dance studio, Cindy Clough knows what she's talking about. As executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner for more than four decades, she's all too aware of the unique challenges the job presents, from teaching to scheduling to managing employees and clients.

Here, Clough shares her best advice for new studio owners, and the answers to some common questions that come up when you're getting started.

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