High Five with Competition Industry Insiders

Five competition industry insiders share their best advice for making the most of the summer scene.


“Focus your time and energy on cleaning your routines. A clean number will always win, no matter what type of choreography. Every move is important at this level. No amount of showmanship can get you top placement if you have deductions for falling out of a pirouette, bent knees or sloppy arms.”

—Desiree Robbins, Tremaine Dance


“Do not give any dancer a combination or trick that is ‘hit or miss.’ It is better for a dancer to execute a terrific double turn than attempt a ‘maybe’ triple. Also stress the importance of good sportsmanship. It is equally important to be a good winner as it is to be a good loser.”

—Nancy Stone,



“Remind your dancers that they will be surrounded by new talent from various parts of the country. Encourage them to be inspired by all they see and to make new friends. Most importantly, remember this is the end of the dance season. It may be the last time each of your dance pieces will be performed, so celebrate your entire season of hard work.”

—Joe Lanteri, New York City Dance Alliance


“Come to Nationals to learn. A true national finals is more than winning a title so you can advertise yourself as the ‘National Champion’ in the yellow pages—it is all about growth. This is your opportunity to join studios from other parts of the country to see different dance styles, costume ideas and a wide variety of new music. Plan activities for your students, have pep rallies and bond. These are the activities that build a real dance family for the following year.”

—David Westerfield,

Showbiz National Talent, Inc.


“Give your dancers the most scheduling information possible, including any meetings or rehearsals you want to call during the event. Since Nationals is often a family vacation time, parents want to know when they are able to get away and take in some family time. Let them know that their dancers will be very busy, and it might be good to come in a day or two earlier or stay later to vacation. And relax! You want to take away happy memories from Nationals, not stressful ones. Tell your dancers to do the best they can and enjoy a great ending to your season.”

—Anne Smith, Hollywood Vibe


Photo: Dancers compete at Showstopper Nationals (courtesy of Showstopper)

Getty Images

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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Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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