Shannon Mather grew up in the competition and convention world. She and her brother, Blake McGrath, dreamed of the day when a convention would dance its way through their hometown of Toronto, Canada. When that never happened, they decided to get involved. So in 2007, with the help of Mather’s husband, Josh, Coastal Dance Rage was born.

Boasting a faculty that includes power players Mary Murphy, Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo, Benji Schwimmer, Sonya Tayeh and Stephen “Twitch” Boss, Coastal Dance Rage now tours eight cities. Despite the impressive roster of teachers, Mather advocates for making students the stars at each event, rather than the familiar faces from TV.

What are the benefits for students attending a convention?

Dancers are usually limited to having just a few teachers in their studios. At a convention you can take from someone with a lot of different styles. It helps you become more versatile.

What etiquette do you wish all dancers adhered to?

Don’t skip ballet and tap class! As soon as those classes begin, all of a sudden we have half the people in the room. Even if you’re a hip hopper, you need to take tap and ballet.

It’s also important that dancers respect each other. When you’re watching the others, pay attention, cheer and show your support. It’s a great opportunity to learn from the other amazing dancers in the room.

How can teachers prepare their students for a convention environment?

Don’t let them get in the back of the room and hang out. Tell them to be aggressive, but don’t push their way to the front—that’s annoying! When the combination is broken down into groups, don’t dance on the side. Go for it, even if you’re not comfortable with the style. Explain to your dancers that that’s how they’re going to grow, by taking on a new style they’re not comfortable with. And of course, tell them to look nice. Conventions are big events and you’re working with amazing people—it’s important to look good.

What do first-time convention-goers need to know?

Don’t be nervous! It won’t help you get better. You paid the money to be at the convention, and you deserve to be there. Come in, and take in as much as you can. Don’t be inhibited. You will get so much better from a few days of intensive classes, and you’ll walk away a better dancer. Then take what you’ve learned back to your studio and practice.

Also, take advantage of making friends. When you go out into the world to audition, you’ll be working with those same people you’re dancing alongside at a convention event. Get to know the faculty. In the future when you have an audition it could be with one of our faculty members, and maybe they’ll remember you. It helps!

What shouldn’t dancers and their teachers expect from conventions?

They shouldn’t expect to get a lot of individual attention. That’s not what conventions are about—that’s what private lessons are for. It’s more about working off the energy in the room. Usually it’s a big, crazy environment. The dancers need to accept that and let that push them. There will be at least 150 dancers in a ballroom with you, so go in knowing you can get more feeding off other dancers and teachers than anything else. It’s going to be a weekend of being inspired, getting pushed, meeting new friends and working hard. They should expect to be really tired and a little sore.

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Photo by Kyle Froman

Darla Hoover was at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet's studios running a rehearsal in 2014 with director Marcia Dale Weary. Hoover had just returned the day before from staging a ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia. Jet-lagged, she mixed up her words when giving a correction.

Weary took Hoover's hand and gently said, "Honey, you work too hard."

Hoover, and the students, had a good laugh.

"Are you kidding me?" Hoover replied. "You're the one who made this monster. There is no off switch!"

Weary founded CPYB in 1955, and it quickly became an internationally known school that has produced countless principal dancers. Famous for her high standards and tough work ethic, Weary instilled those qualities in Hoover, who served as associate artistic director at CPYB under Weary, as artistic director at Ballet Academy East's pre-professional division in New York City and as a répétiteur for the Balanchine Trust.

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Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix, has been called the Queen of Fundraising by colleagues. A studio owner and high school dance coach with over four decades of experience, Clough is known for her smart and successful fundraising ideas.

Now, Just For Kix has created a new online tool to help everyone tackle their fundraising goals, whether you're raising money for uniforms, extra classes, or to cover the cost of travel for your dance team's next convention.

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Jessica Kubat's path to becoming a studio owner wasn't typical or glamorous or the product of a family business, handed down. When she opened MJ's House of Dance in Lindenhurst, New York, this past summer, she had just turned 40, was a mom of three, and had worked at two different studios long-term. Over the last two and a half years, she'd painstakingly saved up $25,000 and had gone to the Small Business Development Center at a local college on Long Island for help creating her business plan. Her area was moderately saturated with studios, so she spent considerable time planning what would set her school apart—live musical accompaniment, for one—and hired a marketing director nine months before the business even opened. It was a methodical, careful approach—Kubat calls it "the old-fashioned way"—to opening a studio, and it's paid off: She started summer classes with 75 students and is well on her way to reaching her first-year enrollment goal of 250 dancers. "When I turned 40, I decided that it was time to do something bigger," says Kubat. "I always wanted to own a studio—it was just never financially available to me."

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Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

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From left: Daniel Novikov, Alla Novikova and Mishella Vishnevskiy at Blackpool 2018. Photo by NYC Digital Media, courtesy of Alla Novikova

Alla Novikova began her dance training at a ballroom studio called Edelweiss in Saratov, Russia, when she was 9 years old. She was immediately recognized for her natural talent and work ethic, placing third at the Russian Open just three months after beginning ballroom lessons. The lessons she learned at Edelweiss shaped her career and provided the foundation she needed to open her own ballroom studio: Work hard to prove that you're good enough to be here, and give honor to the experiences that brought you to where you are today.

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Professions across the globe hold yearly conferences, and the dance industry is certainly no exception. Annual conferences exist for dance teachers, dance medicine professionals, dance educators and more. Taking the time out to attend them can be well worth your while for a number of different reasons. Let's take a closer look at four of them.

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Father-daughter dance. Photo by Lisa Lee, courtesy of Dance Academy USA

Your year-end recital is your studio's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not only is it the time for your dancers to celebrate what they've accomplished during the year, it's your opportunity to demonstrate to parents firsthand the value of a dance education. A successful recital can also grant your school an influential role in the local community. Whether a prominent conservatory or a small-town studio, and whether your dancers win competitions or take classes once a week, your year-end recital is the chance for your dancers—and your program—to shine.

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Q: How do you approach gender when teaching in 2019? When I was training, male dancers were encouraged to make their movement masculine, while female dancers were encouraged to keep their movement feminine. Today, gender has become much more fluid, and the line between masculine and feminine performance has blurred. How does that impact the way we should be teaching?

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New York City–based pre-professional training troupe Z Artists Group, along with dancers from eight professional companies in the city, are joining together to combat gun violence with, "DANCERS DEMAND ACTION," a performance aligning art with activism at The Joyce Theater, this Monday, November 11, at 7:30 pm.

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Last week, 2019 DT Awardee Marisa Hamamoto and her partner Piotr Iwanicki brought their boundary-breaking work to the "Good Morning America" stage in a segment highlighting her inclusive dance company Infinite Flow.

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Since she was hired in 2006 to create a dance program at Washington & Lee University in Virginia, Jenefer Davies has operated as, essentially, a one-woman show. She's the only full-time faculty member (with regular adjunct support). Over the last 13 years, she has created a thriving program along with a performance company—at a school with fewer than 2,500 students—by drawing on her admittedly rare strength: aerial dance.

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Savion Glover is one of the biggest names in the dance world, and perhaps the biggest in the tap world. The trailblazing hoofer's hard-hitting, rhythmically intricate style has fundamentally altered the tap landscape.

Glover is also a master teacher. But during his many years on the scene, he's never appeared regularly at a major dance convention. That is, until this season: Glover is now teaching at JUMP Dance Convention, scheduled to appear at approximately 15 more cities on its 2019–2020 tour.

We talked with JUMP director Mike Minery, himself a gifted hoofer, about working with a living legend—and how Glover is already changing the convention class game.

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