Although The Dance Zone in Henderson, Nevada, attends a large event only every other year and opts for a smaller competition closer to home in alternating years, Nationals is always a year-end extravaganza. Whether making a cross-country journey or a quick road trip, co-owner/director Jami Artiga prepares her 50-member team with passion and professionalism.


How do you prepare for Nationals?

Our last regional competition is at the beginning of May, and then it's recital time at the studio and the comp kids get a break. But literally the Monday after the recital, we take off running with competition preparation. We have rehearsals every other day and technique classes on the alternate days. We look back at how the routines did at regionals and remaster the numbers. It's so important that we focus on keeping up the dancers' technique. Since many Nationals competitions are accompanied by classes, we want our students to feel good in the classes they take. That way they can be recognized in those classes, not just when they're onstage.

We also spend time making sure the dancers are in the right mind frame for competition. We ask them to look back on the year: “Have you worked hard all year? Have you accomplished your goals? Are you ready for the obstacles that will arise next year?" Then we can move forward and make it all happen at Nationals.

What are the biggest challenges you face concerning Nationals?

You have to help your dancers and their families find a balance between family vacations and extra rehearsals for Nationals. The dancers are willing to spend every waking moment in the studio, but if you don't allow for their families to take some time away, they'll get burnt out before the kids. You have to offer the best of both worlds and keep everyone motivated and excited without overwhelming them. It's not easy.

What are your rules and expectations while you're at Nationals?

The more guidelines we give our dancers and their parents, the fewer questions arise while we're at the competition. We give them exact times to show up for certain things, advise how late each group of dancers should be staying up every night and give them a set number of dances to watch at the event. We don't allow parents in the dressing rooms. We put the policies in writing, hand them out early and have a meeting to discuss them. If anyone has a problem with the rules, we can talk about it before we leave for Nationals, instead of mid-competition when stress levels are high.

How do you wind down from competition?

My co-director, Kaydee Francis, and I listen to the critique tapes first to make sure there's nothing on them that might make the dancers uncomfortable. Then, if we have a critique DVD that many competitions now provide, we invite the dancers to come in one evening and we play the DVDs on a projector. They can hear the judges and watch themselves on the big screen. They really get what the judges are saying that way.

How do you handle it when your dancers don't do well at competition?

Some competitions just seem like an uphill battle. A dancer might be off because she's given up on herself, or she might be going through a bad time in her life. You have to be in tune with your dancers. It's all about positive feedback while you're at the event.

When we get back to the studio, we discuss what went wrong. Recently, after a competition where we just couldn't pull it together, Kaydee took the dancers to the park to talk about it. It helps to get them out of the studio. So much is expected of them, from their teachers and from their parents, and dance can get so emotional. It's our job to boost them up and help them feel good.


Dance News
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Dancers are resilient by nature. As our community responds to COVID-19, that spirit is being tested. Dance Teacher acknowledges the tremendous challenges you face for your teaching practice and for your schools as you bring your offerings online, and the resulting financial impact on your businesses.

Perhaps we can take hope from the knowledge of how we've managed adversity in the past. I'm thinking of the dance community in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I'm thinking of 9/11 and how that changed the world. I'm thinking of the courageous Jarrah Myles who kept her students safe when the Paradise wildfire destroyed their homes. I'm thinking of Jana Monson who rebuilt her studio after a devastating fire. I'm thinking of Gina Gibney who stepped in to save space for dance in New York City when the beloved Dance New Amsterdam closed.

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Courtesy Dance Teacher Web

While summer usually sparks dreams of warm vacations in the sun, many dance teachers don't have the luxury of taking a week off to lounge by the pool. But what if a stellar educational opportunity for dance instructors just happened to take place in sunny Las Vegas?

The Dance Teacher Web Conference and Expo, happening August 4–7 and founded and directed by longtime successful studio owners and master teachers Steve Sirico and Angela D'Valda Sirico, gives dance teachers and administrators a chance to learn, network and recharge during a one-of-a-kind working vacation. Here, attendees can rub shoulders with esteemed industry professionals, get inspired by a variety of workshops and even walk away with a new certification or two:

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Business leader Misty Lown convened (remotely) more than 700 dance studio owners to create an action plan in response to COVID-19 studio closures. ICYMI, here are the takeaways:

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At that point, a few virtual class opportunities had emerged, so Disenhof decided to aggregate them on an Instagram account called Dancing Alone Together.

She launched the account that Monday, and by mid-week she'd also created a website. Now, just a few weeks later, Dancing Alone Together has 22K followers—and virtual classes are more than just a growing trend, but a phenomenon that has reshaped the dance world at an unprecedented speed.

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Update March 31, 2020: This article was first published in Dance Teacher, February 2009.

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Elizabeth Ahearn never imagined that she'd teach her first online ballet class in her kitchen. Adding to the surreality of the situation: Rather than give her corrections, her student, the director of distance learning at Goucher College, had tips for Ahearn: Turn the volume up, and move a little to the left.

Ahearn, chair of the dance department at Goucher, is among thousands of dance professors learning to teach online in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The internet may be exploding with resources for virtual classes, from top dancers teaching barre to free warm-ups courtesy of the Merce Cunningham Foundation, but in academia, teachers face many restraints. Copyright laws, federal privacy regulations, varying tech platforms and grading rubrics all make teaching dance online a challenge.

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Talia Bailes leads a Ballet & Books class. Lindsay France, Courtesy Ballet & Books.

Talia Bailes never imagined that her ballet training and her interest in early learning would collide. But Bailes, a senior studying global and public health sciences at Cornell University, now runs a successful non-profit called Ballet & Books, which combines dancing with the important but sometimes laborious activity of learning to read. And she has a trip to South America to thank.

In 2015, before starting at Cornell, Bailes took a gap year and headed to Ecuador with the organization Global Citizen Year to teach English to more than 750 students. But Bailes, who grew up training at a dance school outside Cincinnati, Ohio, also spent time teaching them ballet and learning their indigenous dances. "The culture in Ecuador was much more rooted in dance and music rather than literacy," she recalls. Bailes was struck by the difference in education and the way that children were able to develop and grow socially through dance. "It left me thinking, what if dance could be truly integrated into the way that we approach education?"

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Love electronic music? Calming notes of a piano? Smooth, rich trumpet? Want music in clear meters of 3, or in 7? This week is the ideal time to check out musician Michael Wall's abundant website soundformovement.com. I myself have enjoyed getting to experience his music over the past five years—whether to use in a teen class, older-movers class or for my own MFA thesis choreography.

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Dance Teacher Tips
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On Wednesday, March 18, I was supposed to return to Juilliard and teach Pilates after a two-week spring break. Instead, I rolled a mat onto my bedroom floor, logged in to Zoom and was greeted by a gallery of 50 small-screen images of young ambitious dancers, trying to make the best of a strange situation. As I began class, I applied our new catchphrase: "Please mute yourself," then asked students to use various hand gestures to let me know how they are coping and how much space they have for movement. I asked dancers to write one or two things they wanted to address in the sidebar, and then we began to move.

This is our new normal. In the midst of grave Covid-19 concerns, dance professors across the country faced university closures and requirements to relocate their courses to the virtual sphere. Online education poses very specific and substantial challenges to dance faculty, but they are finding ways to persist by learning new methods of communication, discovering untapped pedagogical tools, expanding their professional networks, developing helpful new resources and unearthing old ones.

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As Broadway goes dark and performances are canceled across the country, the financial repercussions of a global pandemic have gone from hypothetical to very real. This is especially true in the dance community, where many institutions are nonprofits or small businesses operating on thin margins, and performers rely on gigs that are being canceled. It's a scary and uncertain time.

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The effects of COVID-19 on college dancers might have been devastating. Performances were canceled, seniors trying to savor every last moment together were left without a graduation ceremony, students were encouraged to go home, and at each moment, a question has sounded: How can a student learn how to become a better performer when they are not allowed to perform?

Here at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music, the ballet department rallied quickly and adapted its programming, choosing to see this hiatus as an opportunity to encourage reflection and self-improvement.

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Q: We always seem to lose the most students after our recitals. How do I prevent post-show fallout?

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