Healthy Feet

To keep their precious instruments in top condition (and injury-free), tappers must develop a sound stretching practice that incorporates strengthening exercises, especially for the lower extremities and core muscles—the abdomen, hips, buttocks and lower back areas. “Most tappers’ lower extremity injuries are significantly influenced by the strength of their core,” says Megan Richardson, a clinical specialist and certified athletic trainer at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York City. Stretching on a regular basis—both before and after dancing—will help with overall movement, allowing the smaller muscles to better articulate the fancy footwork involved in tap dancing. “Most importantly, stretching their calf muscles, quadriceps and hamstrings will help prevent stress fractures and overuse injuries,” says Richardson.

It’s also vital for tap dancers to stretch out each foot and set of toes, adds Richardson. Strengthening the feet will help develop extra muscle to cushion each foot while in motion. One of the most beneficial exercises for tappers is “doming” their feet, advises Richardson. To do this exercise, sit in a chair with your back straight and knees and hips bent at a 90-degree angle. Keep bare feet flat on the floor while sliding (or scrunching) the toes back toward the heels, so that the top part of the arches rise into a dome shape. Make sure that your body weight is evenly distributed across the feet and avoid letting the toes curl under. Hold this position for 10 seconds, then release, relax and do five more repetitions. Tap dancers should build onto this exercise slowly until they are able to do 100 reps daily. If done correctly on a regular basis, this exercise will strengthen the muscles between the metatarsal bones and better equip the balls of the feet to absorb forces, says Richardson.

Teachers Trending
Photo by Yvonne M. Portra, courtesy Faulkner

It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

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Music
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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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