Studio Owners

Let's Get Physical! Fitness Trends That Dance Teachers Will LOVE Teaching

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If you're a professional dancer or teacher, chances are you might also be a pro cashier, waitress, administrative assistant and all-around hustler. Securing enough teaching positions to make a living can be difficult. Cue the fitness classes.

Dancers have historically turned to popular workouts like Zumba and Cardio Barre that have a performance-like class atmosphere and share similar physical requirements to beef up their dance training. That's why it's no surprise that more and more dance teachers are now becoming fitness instructors to supplement their incomes.

So, let's get physical! Here are six fitness trends that dance teachers and studio owners will love adding to their schedules.


Liquid Motion

This thirsty-sounding technique isn't as much a fitness program as it is a methodology in movement. Through dance theory and sensual movement techniques, participants learn to create true body awareness and floor work with a purpose.

Why Dancers Would Love It: In each class, instructors are expected to do a freestyle sequence demonstrating the moves taught that day. The choreography is not based on counts or musical cues, so instructors are able to truly explore the art and get in tune with their bodies.

Teacher Training: Getting certified to teach Liquid Motion requires completion of a four-day training program for $500, which includes the breakdown of core movements, teaching cues and passing the written and practical exam. www.liquidmotionct.com

Why Studios Should Offer It: According to former dancer and founder of Liquid Motion, Jeni Janover, "It's an open-level class designed to appeal to someone who walks in off the street or even a technically trained dancer. It's the perfect option for high-level dancers who got injured and want to get moving again, or the complete beginner who wants to gain strength, mobility and flexibility."

Pole Dance

This intense workout is more than twisting and twirling around a pole. It's an aerial-based workout that helps improve strength, flexibility and grace. There are several types of pole dance, including art, sport and sexy.

Why Dancers Would Love It: Considering it employs several dance terms and concepts, such as pointed toes, pirouette and pole splits, dancers are drawn to pole because it's not only a fitness class. Many see it as an artform that offers a sense of creativity and freedom with freestyle options and deciding on execution, whether athletic, sexy or artistic.

Teacher Teaching: There are several pole dance teacher trainings available. One of the most popular is ElevatED, a $600 training, which is a three-day course that breaks down cuing, anatomy, alignment and safety guidelines. www.elevateducation.com

Why Studios Should Offer It: "Pole dance is the best of two worlds," says Tara Faulkner-Catalina, fitness instructor, pole dancer and creative director of Jo-Ann's Dance Studio in South Plainfield, New Jersey. "Pole dance allows you to work all the same muscles you are used to in traditional dance class and then some. "

Since adding the pole dance to the studio lineup, Faulkner-Catalina has noticed parents choosing to join pole classes to kill time while their children are dancing.

Doonya

This high-energy dance-fitness class was inspired by Bollywood moves and songs from South Asia.

Why Dancers Would Love It: Like traditional dance class, a portion of the Doonya class is spent breaking down movements before executing them to pre-selected songs.

Teacher Training: A two-phase online training for $500 includes warm-up guidelines as well as the method's basic styles of movement. www.doonya.com

Why Studios Should Offer It: Not only would this class provide a unique cultural experience for everyone, it will also attract a diverse clientele to the studio.

Pound

This cardio workout uses weighted drumsticks known as Ripstix to turn a drumming session into a full-body workout.

Why Dancers Would Love It: For most dancers, each class is a rehearsal for performing. With Pound, each class is the performance. Known as the "Rock Out Workout," teachers and participants are encouraged to let loose as they strike the ground with the sticks in coordination with music. Done either in sneakers or barefoot, the series is filled with wide-legged squats in second position and is reminiscent of a dance class.

Teacher Training: For $249, dancers can attend an eight-hour training that covers class structure, as well as choreography to six tracks. An additional payment of $19 per month provides access to marketing materials and a library of choreography to use for class. www.poundfit.com

Why Studios Should Offer It: "Pound has a great musical dance base that trained dancers would love," says Tara Faulkner-Catalina, Pound instructor and assistant director of Jo-Ann's Dance Studio in South Plainfield, NJ. "You are staying on beat without using heavy weights, so you're not worried about injury or hurting your technique."

Soul Body Barre

This one-hour, total-body workout borrows principles from Pilates, yoga and ballet. The series, done primarily at a ballet barre, incorporates props like a Pilates ball and TheraBand to sculpt and elongate.

Teacher Training: The one-day training involves learning choreography, transitions, cuing and following the rhythm of the music to create class sequences. www.soulbodyonline.com

Why Dancers Would Love It: Dancers commonly feel at home at the barre and enjoy teaching the style in smaller, easier to follow doses compared to a typical ballet class.

Why Studios Should Offer It: It's an introduction to fitness and the principals of ballet in a less intimidating way and may draw students into other dance classes.

Yoga

This ancient discipline of combining breathing techniques and various postures creates a vigorous physical and meditative practice.

Why Dancers Would Love It: A better understanding of anatomy and alignment is often developed from yoga.

"While dance instructors may understand the way the body moves, they may not always understand the anatomy, which is commonly translated through yoga instruction," says Cydny Vochovski, yogini and co-director of Next Step Dance Company in Randolph, NJ. Yoga knowledge can also assist with injury prevention in dancers.

Teacher Training: Offered worldwide, yoga certification follows a 200-hour format and typically cost around $3,000 to $4,000. YogaFit and Yogaworks offer teacher training accredited by Yoga Alliance. www.yogafit.com

Why Dance Studios Should Offer It: Yoga is a common go-to for dancers looking to improve flexibility and upper-body strength. Studio owners may also appreciate the meditative aspects of it for their busy dancers. "Teenagers who have a lot going on may feel easily frustrated in their dance classes," says Vochovski. "Yoga helps them focus or gives them more peace, which is helpful in dance classes and performances."

Dancer Diary
Claire, McAdams, courtesy Houston Ballet

Former Houston Ballet dancer Chun Wai Chan has always been destined for New York City Ballet.

While competing at Prix de Lausanne in 2010, he was offered summer program scholarships at both the School of American Ballet and Houston Ballet. However, because two of the competition's winners that year were Houston Ballet's Aaron Sharratt and Liao Xiang, dancers Chan idolized, he turned down SAB. He joined Houston Ballet II in 2010, the main company's corps de ballet in 2012, and was promoted to principal in 2017. Oozing confidence and technical prowess, Chan was a Houston favorite, and even landed himself a spot on Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch."


In 2019, NYCB came calling: Resident choreographer Justin Peck visited Houston Ballet to set a new work titled Reflections. Peck immediately took to Chan and passed his praises on to NYCB artistic director Jonathan Stafford. Chan was invited to take class with NYCB for three days in January 2020, and shortly thereafter was offered a soloist contract.

The plan was to announce his hiring in the spring for the fall season that typically begins in September, but, of course, coronavirus postponed the opportunity to next year. Chan is currently riding out the pandemic in Huizhou, Guangdong, China, where he was born and trained at the Guangzhou Art School.

We talked to Chan about his training journey—and the teachers, corrections and experiences that got him to NYCB.

On the most helpful correction he's ever gotten:

"Work smart, then work hard to keep your body healthy. Most of us get injuries when we're tired. When I first joined Houston Ballet, I was pushing myself 100 percent every day, at every show, rehearsal and class. That's when I got injured [a torn thumb ligament, tendinitis and a sprained ankle.] At that time, my director taught me that we all have to work hard, memorize the steps and take corrections, but it's better to think first because your energy is limited."

How it's benefited his career since:

"It's the secret to me getting promoted to principal very quickly. When other dancers were injured or couldn't perform, I was healthy and could step up to fill a higher role than my position. I still get small injuries, but I know how to take care of them now, and when it's OK to gamble a little."

Chan, wearing grey pants and a grey one-sleeved top, partners Jessica Collado, as she arches her back and leans to the side. Other dancers behind them are dressed as an army of some sort

Chun Wai Chan with Jessica Collado. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, courtesy Houston Ballet

On his most influential teacher:

"Claudio Muñoz, from Houston Ballet Academy. The first summer intensive there I couldn't even lift the lightest girls. A month later, my pas de deux skills improved so much. I never imagined I could lift a girl so many times. A year later I could do all the tricky pas tricks. That's all because of Claudio. He also taught me how to dance in contemporary, and act all kinds of characters."

How he gained strength for partnering:

"I did a lot of push-ups. Claudio recommended dancers go to the gym. We don't have those kinds of traditions in China, but after Houston Ballet, going to the gym has become a habit."

On his YouTube channel:

"I started a YouTube channel, where I could give ballet tutorials. Many male students only have female teachers, and they are missing out on the guy's perspective on jumps and partnering. I give those tips online because they are what I would have wanted. My goal is to help students have strong technique so they are able to enjoy the stage as much as they can."

Music
Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.


"I like to give dancers a phrase of music and choreography and have them reinterpret it," she says, "to be thinkers and creators and not just replicators."

Osato learned this approach—avoiding the natural temptation of the music always being the leader—while earning her MFA in choreography at California Institute of the Arts. "When I was collaborating with a composer for my thesis, he mentioned, 'You always count in eights. Why?'"

This forced Osato out of her creative comfort zone. "The choices I made, my use of music, and its correlation to the movement were put under a microscope," she says. "I learned to not always make the music the driving motive of my work," a habit she attributes to her competition studio training as a young dancer.

While an undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine, Osato first encountered modern dance. That discovery, along with her experience dancing in Boogiezone Inc.'s off-campus hip-hop company, BREED, co-founded by Elm Pizarro, inspired her own, blended style, combining modern and hip hop with jazz. While still in college, she began working with fellow UCI student Will Johnston, and co-founded the Boogiezone Contemporary Class with Pizarro, an affordable series of classes that brought top choreographers from Los Angeles to Orange County.

"We were trying to bring the hip-hop and contemporary communities together and keep creating work for our friends," says Osato, who has taught for West Coast Dance Explosion and choreographed for studios across the country.

In 2009, Osato, Johnston and Pizarro launched Entity Contemporary Dance, which she and Johnston direct. The company, now based in Los Angeles, won the 2017 Capezio A.C.E. Awards, and, in 2019, Osato was chosen for two choreographic residencies (Joffrey Ballet's Winning Works and the USC Kaufman New Movement Residency), and became a full-time associate professor of dance at Santa Monica College.

At SMC, Osato challenges her students—and herself—by incorporating a live percussionist, a luxury that's been on pause during the pandemic. She finds that live music brings a heightened sense of awareness to the room. "I didn't realize what I didn't have until I had it," Osato says. "Live music helps dancers embody weight and heaviness, being grounded into the floor." Instead of the music dictating the movement, they're a part of it.

Osato uses the musician as a collaborator who helps stir her creativity, in real time. "I'll say 'Give me something that's airy and ambient,' and the sounds inspire me," says Osato. She loves playing with tension and release dynamics, fall and recovery, and how those can enhance and digress from the sound.

"I can't wait to get back to the studio and have that again," she says.

Osato made Dance Teacher a Spotify playlist with some of her favorite songs for class—and told us about why she loves some of them.

"Get It Together," by India.Arie

"Her voice and lyrics hit my soul and ground me every time. Dream artist. My go-to recorded music in class is soul R&B. There's simplicity about it that I really connect with."

"Turn Your Lights Down Low," by Bob Marley + The Wailers, Lauryn Hill

"A classic. This song embodies that all-encompassing love and gets the whole room groovin'."

"Diamonds," by Johnnyswim

"This song's uplifting energy and drive is infectious! So much vulnerability, honesty and joy in their voices and instrumentation."

"There Will Be Time," by Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal

"Mumford & Sons' music has always struck a deep chord within me. Their songs are simultaneously stripped-down and complex and feel transcendent."

"With The Love In My Heart," by Jacob Collier, Metropole Orkest, Jules Buckley

"Other than it being insanely energizing and cinematic, I love how challenging the irregular meter is!"

For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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