In March 2018, Jennifer Knostman got a call from her son, Harrison. When she picked up, all she could hear was sobbing on the other end. After a brief second of anticipation, she finally heard him exclaim "Mom! I got into Juilliard!"


It was everything she could have dreamed of, not just for her child but for her student, as well. "You invest so much into taking your dancers as far as you can—it meant so much to see him reach this goal," says Knostman, the owner of Studio West Dance Center in Fort Collins, Colorado. "For years people told me that I should send him away to train, and I said, 'No, darn it—I get my 18 years! I can continue to challenge him myself.' I knew I could do it, and I didn't want to miss out on any part of his journey."

In 2005, the 40-year-old, stay-at-home-mom of three decided to fulfill a longtime dream and open a dance studio. Her 9-year-old daughter Noel (who recently graduated from Point Park University's dance program) and 5-year-old Harrison were the driving force for the kind of training she wanted to provide.

"They started showing a lot of promise," Knostman says. "By the time Harrison was 8, it became extremely evident that he could go somewhere with this. When he was 13, I knew I needed to expose him and all of my dancers to outside teachers." Knostman says that meeting Joe Lanteri was the turning point in Harrison's future. "He saw Harrison in the back of the room during his first-ever convention class, and immediately came and asked us who we were and where we had been all these years," she says. "I told him we were still a relatively new studio and that I didn't think we were good enough to come to NYCDA before. He said that everyone is always welcome, and from there, doors began opening."

To date, Harrison is a YoungArts 2018 alumnus, the 2018 NYCDA National Senior Male Outstanding Dancer, and an NYCDA Foundation scholarship recipient of $15,000—an amount his mother says has made all the difference. "Harrison would not be at Juilliard today without this scholarship money," she says. "We are a fortunate middle-class family—my husband has always had a good job—but we would not have had the means to pursue a lot of the things that we have been able to without the help of NYCDA. From regional scholarships to Juilliard, they've meant the world to us."

Harrison says he is forever thankful for the training and guidance his mother provided him at her studio. "She is my mom and my dance teacher all in one," he says. "She has watched me dance since I was 3, and to be able to share all of this with her—I'm getting emotional just thinking about it." While he's loving his time at Juilliard, he misses his first-ever dance teacher every day and is always eager for the chance to bring the things he's learned in college back to his hometown studio. "My mom made such an incredible program in such a short amount of time," he says. "She is the reason I am where I am today. No one will ever understand me better—as an artist, and as a person."

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."

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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:

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Studio Owners
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Dance teachers have a lot of strengths (communicating corrections, choreographing gorgeous movement, planning excellent recitals, cleaning technique—just to name a few) but when it comes to interior design—talent isn't exactly a given. So when studio owners remodel or build, worrying about the decor can feel a little overwhelming (you've got just a few too many other things to worry about, don't you?).

No need to fear! In 2019 we have Pinterest, which shows us all the latest trends we should know about. To help you make the best design decisions for your studio, we've compiled a list of public Pinterest pins we think you'll love.

You're welcome!

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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:

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Dance Teacher Tips
Vanessa Zahorian. Photo by Erik Larson, courtesy of Pennsylvania Ballet Academy

At the LINES Ballet Dance Center in San Francisco, faculty member Erik Wagner leads his class through an adagio combination in center. He encourages dancers to root their standing legs, using imagery of a seed germinating, so that they feel more grounded. "Our studios are on the fifth floor, so I'll often tell them to push down to Market Street," says Wagner. "They know that they should push their energy down to the street level." By using this oppositional force, he says, dancers can lengthen their bodies to create any desired shape.

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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:

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Dance Teacher Tips
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After years of throwing summer parties at your studio, you're likely fatigued by coming up with themes and event details. You want your students to have a good time, but you're also up to your eyeballs in choreography and costume decisions.

Never fear! We've come up with party themes and activities to do during the event. Delegate tasks to your teachers and office managers, and voilà! You have a stress-free party ready to go.

Have a blast, people!

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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:

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Dancer Health
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Q: I recently returned to a modern dance class after a long absence. While I didn't feel any acute pain at the end of class, the next morning I could barely walk from the soreness in both my Achilles. What can I do to fix this?

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Studio Owners
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Q: I'm trying to think of ways to maximize studio space and revenue during the summer. What has worked for you?

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Studio Owners
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In 2019, dance parents are more eager than ever to observe their child's progress, and stay up-to-date with the ins and outs of what's happening in the classroom. That means yearly recitals aren't always enough to keep them satisfied—especially if you have rules against visitors observing class from week to week. The solution? Visitor observation weeks. Trust us, the guardians and loved ones of your students will love you for it!

We caught up with Suzanne Blake Gerety, vice president of Kathy Blake Dance Studios and regular contributor to Dance Teacher's "Ask The Experts" column, to hear her tips on how to have a successful visitor observation week.

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Dancer Health
Adequate dorsiflexion mobility is needed to find a supple demi-plié needed to bound into the air and land safely. Getty Images

Dancers are trained to think often about the range of motion, stability and power of their extended lines: the point of the foot, the reach of the penché, the explosion of the sauté in the air. But finding that same mix of flexibility and strength in the flexed foot is just as integral to technique and injury prevention. Without adequate dorsiflexion mobility, it is nearly impossible to find the kind of supple demi-plié needed to bound into the air and land safely.

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