Jhung, a critically hailed former soloist for the San Francisco and Joffrey Ballets and principal at Harkness Ballet, has taught a devoted following of professional and student dancers since 1972, presented at numerous teacher's workshops and produced a series of instructional DVDs. Tapped to train the original Billys by Nora Brennan, the show's children's casting director (and former Jhung student), Jhung was invited to remain on the job after choreographer Peter Darling and director Stephen Daldry witnessed his impressive methods.

Dance Teacher: What do you emphasize in the boys' training?

Finis Jhung: We have an hour class, three times a week, so every moment counts. Instead of warming up at the barre, I start them in the center—it's the fastest way to warm up, using their entire bodies. I'm also working with them on correct alignment, training them not to force anything and to use their weight and energy properly. And I'm concentrating on their feet to help them gain a better sense of balance, since they dance on a raked stage and must do 16 turns in second position during the show's finale. I tell them to think of their feet as hands and their toes as fingers, and to grab and hold onto the floor when they plié. I am also training them to understand that there's nothing we can't improve.

DT: Our readers are forever curious about training male dancers. Do you have any advice?

FJ: The challenging part is getting boys to understand it's more than the positions—it's about preparation. The male technique demands virtuoso turns and jumps—they need to have strength in the legs and feet to push up in the air and land without injury. I have students do what I call the isometric plié, which uses resistance and opposition to engage the muscles. For the Billy Elliot boys, this is a totally new concept; it's not usually taught this way. They are used to thinking plié means you go down and up, and that's it. But they're grasping my concepts and especially respond to the video clips—actual proof—of great male dancers like Mikhail Baryshnikov, Peter Schaufuss

and Joseph Michael Gatti. That's the key. They have an image and can see themselves doing that. It's about keeping their energy and enthusiasm up, while correcting and making sure they do things properly.

DT: These boys will remember you as a major influence in their dance training. Who influenced your career the most?

FJ: “Mr. C," Willam F. Christensen at the University of Utah, made me realize you're always dancing for the audience. Rosella Hightower emphasized balance, simplicity and internalization. Madame Valentina Pereyaslavec instilled in me a love for movement. David Howard, who as ballet master at Harkness, gave me private lessons for almost half a year and would give me performance notes after every show telling me what I did and didn't need to do.

DT: What do you love most about your career and the path it's taken?

FJ: I see myself all over again in these boys. In the show's dream ballet they dance to the same Swan Lake music I did when I was their age, without a clue that I would ever go to New York. It's been that journey from there to here, plus all the terrific things in between.

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Hightower

The beloved "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and former Emmy-nominated "Dancing with the Stars" pro Chelsie Hightower discovered her passion for ballroom at a young age. She showed a natural ability for the Latin style, but she mastered the necessary versatility by studying jazz, ballet and other forms of dance. "Every style of dance builds on each other," she says, "and the more music you're exposed to, the more your rhythm and coordination is built."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Burklyn Ballet, Courtesy Harlequin

Whether you're putting on a pair of pointe shoes, buckling your ballroom stilettos or lacing up your favorite high tops, the floor you're on can make or break your dancing. But with issues like sticking or slipping and a variety of frictions suitable to different dance steps and styles, it can be confusing to know which floor will work best for you.

No matter what your needs are, Harlequin Floors has your back, or rather, your feet. With 11 different marley vinyl floors available in a range of colors, Harlequin has options for every setting and dance style. We rounded up six of their most popular and versatile floors:

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Insure Fitness
AdobeStock, Courtesy Insure Fitness Group

As a teacher at a studio, you've more than likely developed long-lasting relationships with some of your students and parents. The idea that you could be sued by one of them might seem impossible to imagine, but Insure Fitness Group's Gianna Michalsen warns against relaxing into that mindset. "People say, 'Why do I need insurance? I've been working with these people for 10 years—we're friends,'" she says. "But no one ever takes into account how bad an injury can be. Despite how good your relationship is, people will sue you because of the toll an injury takes on their life."

You'll benefit most from an insurance policy that caters to the specifics of teaching dance at one or several studios. Here's what to look for:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

If you're not prepared, studio picture day can be a real headache. But, if done right, it can provide you with gorgeous photos that will make your students and parents happy, while simultaneously providing you with marketing content you will be able to use for years to come.

Here are five tips that will help you pull off the day without a hitch.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Via YouTube

In its 14 years of existence, YouTube has been home to a world of competition dance videos that we have all consumed with heedless pleasure. Every battement, pirouette and trendy move has been archived somewhere, and we are all very thankful.

We decided it was time DT did a deep dive through those years of footage to show you the evolution of competition dance since the early days of YouTube.

From 2005 to 2019, styles have shifted a whole lot. Check them out, and let us know over on our Facebook page what you think the biggest differences are!

Enjoy!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by World Class Vacations
David Galindo Photography

New York City is a dream destination for many dancers. However aspiring Broadway stars don't have to wait until they're pros to experience all the city has to offer. With Dance the World Broadway, students can get a taste of the Big Apple—plus hone their dance skills and make lasting memories.

Here's why Dance the World Broadway is the best way for students to experience NYC:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo courtesy of Koelliker

Sick of doing the same old stuff in technique class? Needing some across-the-floor combo inspiration? We caught up with three teachers from different areas of the country to bring you some of their favorite material for their day-to-day classes.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Thinkstock

Q: I have a very flexible spine and torso. My teachers tell me to use this flexibility during cambrés and port de bras, but when I do, I feel pain—mostly in my lower back. What should I change so I don't end up with back problems?

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

If you're a studio owner, the thought of raising your rates most likely makes you cringe. Despite ever-increasing overhead expenses you can't avoid—rent, salaries, insurance—you're probably wary of alienating your customers, losing students or inviting confrontation if you increase the price of your tuition or registration and recital fees. DT spoke with three veteran studio owners who suggest it's time to get past that. Here's how to give your business the revenue boost it needs and the value justification it (and you) deserve.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Margie Gillis (left); photo by Kyle Froman

Margie Gillis dances the human experience. Undulating naked in a field of billowing grass in Lessons from Nature 4, or whirling in a sweep of lilac fabric in her signature work Slipstream, her movement is free of flashy technique and tricks, but driven and defined by emotion. "There's a central philosophy in my work about what the experience of being human is," says Gillis, whose movement style is an alchemy of Isadora Duncan's uninhibited self-expression and Paul Taylor's musicality, blended with elements of dance theater into something utterly unique and immediately accessible. "I want an authenticity," she says. "I want to touch my audiences profoundly and deeply."

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox