"I've been lucky my entire life," the founding dean of dance at Miami's New World School of the Arts told members of the National Dance Education Organization last fall, when he accepted their Lifetime Achievement Award.

Indeed, moving through career passages, Daniel Lewis often came to the next threshold just down the hall. In 1962, his first year at Juilliard, he joined the dance company of renowned faculty member José Limón. Already Limon's assistant, he began teaching at Juilliard upon graduation and went on to become assistant to dance division director Martha Hill in 1984. “I had a very successful career," he says. “But I was bored."


Following a lead from Hill, Lewis visited Miami to interview for a deanship at an arts school that was planned to open in 1986. It was designed after a high-school-to-college model advocated by the late Senator Jack Gordon, who wanted to keep talent in Florida for extended training. When the organizers gave Lewis carte blanche to work out program details, he was hooked. “I've always liked starting things," he says. And in this spirit, Lewis nurtured an unparalleled three-tiered dance program, offering high school, associate of arts and bachelor's degrees in partnership with the Miami-Dade County school system, Miami-Dade College and the University of Florida.

Participants can enter NWSA by audition in ninth or 10th grade, or at the freshman or junior year of college. They can earn college credit while in high school to finish their BFA three years after high school graduation. Not only does this provide an economic advantage, it gives students a sustained knowledge of anatomy and movement right from their initial training. “This extends careers," Lewis says.

As dean, Lewis encountered challenges along the way. “I walked into a neighborhood where there was ballet and some jazz, but very little modern preparation," he says. While bringing expertise in Limón technique, Lewis was determined to turn out students proficient across a broad spectrum of dance. “Pretty much unheard of at the time," he says.

His plan included world dance traditions, with classes in Indian, Afro-Caribbean, and various styles of Spanish and African dance. Lewis has also impressed upon his faculty the need to foster artistic expression in a range of body types. “I've wanted to tear down clichés about what a dancer looks like," he says.

Dance teachers at NWSA judiciously champion these goals, and statistics for Lewis' division confirm its success, with a high percentage of graduates populating various domains of dance, including major companies such as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Representatives of other institutions regularly seek his advice and observe classes. Yet, for Lewis, the measure of accomplishment must take in values beyond the honing of peak-level dance skills.

“We're not just training toward the perfect arabesque," he says, “but leading students to think creatively." Graduates should illuminate tasks in any field, like their classmates in the arts, with bright individuality.

“I'm now on a personal crusade to put dance in every school K through 12," says Lewis, set to retire from his post later this year. NWSA already draws the area's public-school teachers with workshops for professional development. And, throughout the coming months in national speaking and teaching engagements, Lewis will spread his message to engage students in dance at the earliest possible age. He'll also continue to apply emerging technologies to dance and teaching, a long-standing pet project. In 2006, for instance, he collaborated with University of Florida's Digital Worlds Institute to produce In Common Space, a triple-location event uniting dancers and audiences in real time across the U.S. He hopes to bring the International Digital Media & Arts Association convention to Miami, further securing for his home base a place in the orbit of artistic and educational innovation.

Also in “Five Teachers, Five Venues":

Chloe Arnold: Producer

Daniel Lewis: Innovator

Linda Kent: Pioneer

Sue Sampson-Dalena: Builder

Ronald Alexander: Nurturer

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Dance Teacher Tips
At CPYB, students learn from an early age the importance of strong corps work. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy of CPYB

Dancers at the University of Arizona recently performed Jerome Robbins' Antique Epigraphs, an ensemble piece for eight women that requires intricate linear formations and walking in unison. "It was super-challenging for us," says dance professor Melissa Lowe. "Students needed a heightened sense of awareness, or it wasn't going to happen." Lowe asked dancers to use their intuition and aural sensibilities to help determine where they needed to be, when they should be there and how to get to those places—together.

Teaching dancers to work in unison, whether as a large corps de ballet or small ensemble group, is an integral part of their training. It requires teamwork, attention to detail and thoughtful preparation for a successful group effort. Teachers need to provide the right steps and counts to ensure cohesiveness, of course. But how you set the material will also encourage dancers to be in line and in sync—while still allowing them to be individuals.

Make sure they show up

Photo by Ed Flores, courtesy of University of Arizona

University of Arizona students at the end of Balanchine's Serenade

Missing dancers can be disastrous for a group piece. "If it's a studio production, there has to be an agreement up front for students who want to be involved," says Lorita Travaglia, ballet mistress at Colorado Ballet. "When one person is missing and doesn't know what they're doing, it really does affect the whole group." Understanding the importance of commitment is a crucial part of dancers' (and their families') training. "They have the responsibility to everyone, not just themselves," she says.










Showstopper is the nation's leading dance competition. It provides the perfect platform for dancers, teachers, and choreographers to showcase their talents and hard work. Showstopper's environment is inviting, motivating, and above all, inspiring. If you haven't experienced it, now is the time!

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Without any nutrition education and because I was too embarrassed to tell my mother what had happened, I started restricting food and only eating things that contained three grams of fat or less. Clearly, as a young teen, I didn't have the knowledge to safely wade through dieting tips and formulate a plan for myself.

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This weekend, The Maria Torres Emerging Artists Foundation is making the dreams of 12 young girls come true.

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Though a new studio year brings with it its own stressors—class scheduling, orientation, newly sore muscles—you'd be remiss if you didn't also use this opportunity to carefully consider what's been working (and what hasn't) for your studio. Is it time to repaint your lobby? Get rid of that more-trouble-than-it's-worth vending machine? Finally add a social-media clause to your student handbook? August is your chance to roll up your sleeves and give every aspect of your business the mental elbow grease it needs.

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Because I know our readers are dance addicts, too, I thought you might relate to my oh-so-dance-obsessed 24 hours as well. Check out what made the list, and let me know if there are any "MUST-DO'S" that we should have included over on our Facebook page. On your next free day (lol, cute right?) give it a try, and let us know if it's as fabulous as we think it is!

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Booker T. Alum Celeste Robbins and Linda James. Photo by Brian Guiliaux

Linda James, a dance teacher who retired in June from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, Texas, recently wrote for Arts+Culture about her 36 years of teaching.

"I am proud to say that I am a former member of the dance faculty at Booker T. (an affectionate name given to the school by recent alums). In June 2018, I retired from BTWHSPVA—a privileged position that fed my soul. When school resumes in the fall, I know that I will miss the hugs, boisterous clamor and rhythmic outbursts of spontaneous movement as students dart down the halls on the way to class and rehearsals."

She goes on to praise the success of the school's graduates, including the five male dancers in 2016 who were accepted to The Juilliard School, which admits only 10 males each year. She also thanked the local dance schools that have enriched the community:

"Thanks to the outstanding training provided by area dance studios and schools, the skill level of incoming BTWHSPVA dancers has grown steadily. The Booker T. dance faculty eagerly amplify the students' technique and foster the development of their artistry."

For the full story published at Arts+Culture, visit here.

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We asked and you answered! Here are the top 11 things dance teachers wish their students understood. Let us know if you agree with these over on our Facebook page!

Thanks for being fabulous and keeping your students' best interests at heart. We vow to love you all forever and ever! xoxo

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