Dance Teacher Tips
From The Rock School 2019 Showcase. Photo by Catherine Park, courtesy of The Rock School

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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Dance Teacher Tips
Jessica Kubat (center) with her studio staff. Photo by Vincent Alongi, courtesy of Kubat

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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Dance Teacher Tips
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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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Dance Teacher Tips
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.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
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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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Dance Teacher Tips
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Though she loved choreographing, the high school student showcase wasn't quite enough for Julie Deleger, a recent graduate of The College Preparatory School in Oakland, California. The answer for her was an independent-study project during her last semester there. "Choreography is so personal that sometimes you need to take more or less time with it," she says. "Doing it on my own was really helpful. I let the project guide me rather than having to adhere to a specific set of rules."

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Dance Teacher Tips
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Teaching dance is (in our relatively biased opinion) one of the most gratifying careers out there—but that doesn't mean it's easy. Oh, no—in fact, there are more than a few steps that are so difficult to teach, they can make you want to pull your hair out! Of course, we're preaching to the choir here—you guys know EXACTLY what we are talking about.

Recently, we reached out on social media to hear what kinds of things you have found surprisingly challenging to teach, and the result was fascinating. Across genres, there seem to be things that trip up everyone!

Check out 10 of the tricky things the dance-teaching community had to share below, and let us know if you agree with them in our comments!

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Q: What are some ways to stretch your K–12 budget?

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Dance Teacher Tips
For dancing in heels, Quigley (right) prefers high boots. Photo courtesy of Quigley

Voguing will help any dancer sharpen her attention to detail and develop a confident performance quality. In this style, face-framing arm and hand movements are layered on top of different walks. House of Ninja founding member Archie Burnett likes to have students face the mirror and runway-walk forward, emphasizing clarity in every position. Here, he shows a basic phrase with sharp lines and angles. For each new arm position, take a step forward, crossing your legs at the thighs.

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Dance Teachers Trending
Petipa choreographed Swan Lake in 1895, near the end of his career. (Photo by Natasha Razina, courtesy of the Mariinsky Theatre)

When Marius Petipa began his career as a choreographer with Russia's Imperial Theaters in 1847, he forever changed the face of ballet. He made more than 50 ballets, and many are still part of the classical repertory of ballet companies all over the world. His far-reaching influence includes a reimagining of the corps de ballet, which was until then little more than background decoration for the featured dancers. He also pioneered a new structural model for the pas de deux and demanded a higher technical standard from dancers.

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Dance Teacher Tips

In a sunny studio at Gibney Dance Center in New York City, Janet Panetta is gearing up to teach Ballet for Contemporary Dancers. She slips on her signature red ballet slippers while chatting with one of her students. At her feet, a tiny white Maltipoo bounds over to a dancer stretching on the floor. “She has a job," says Panetta about her dog, Lulu. “She does something really nice for people. She relaxes them."

Because her class draws a wide variety of dancers—from contemporary to jazz to burlesque—that sense of relaxation is paramount. “It's not terribly important for people in my class to do six pirouettes. I'm not interested in super-high extensions," she says. “I'm interested in the placement of the lines. I want them to be functional." Panetta's relaxed and supportive atmosphere, emphasizing healthy alignment and efficient movement, is a haven for today's contemporary dancers seeking to maintain their technique.

“When I started the class, it was called Ballet for Modern Dancers," says Panetta. “Then in the '90s, as contemporary dance became a new field, the content of the class changed. Contemporary dancers need something different than modern dancers need." Whereas once she focused on offering supplemental training to professionals in companies like Limón and Cunningham, now she caters to a broader group: dancers of all ages, backgrounds, skill levels and disciplines. “The dancer today doesn't know what kind of dancing they'll be doing," she says. “They really need to have this overall condition of their body that is healthy and functional, and enables them to do the many different tasks being asked of them."

Class exercises are simple, and there is plenty of room for exploration. During a balance in passé at the barre, Panetta has each student shift their rib cage off-center and then back on-center. She then has them hike their working hip up and lower it to feel the difference. “You want them to feel it," she says, “not look in the mirror, but really feel it."

A particular challenge for contemporary dancers, she notes, is working through feelings of inadequacy. “They have a great love for movement, but often, in their past ballet or other technical training, they've been injured. And I don't mean physically; I mean emotionally," she says. “I have to keep saying to them, 'Stop critiquing yourself. This is a small task I am asking you to do.'"

Her positivity never falters—nor does her wry sense of humor. “Often dancers don't know how easy ballet is," she says. “One of the things I like to say in class is, 'Ballet has been around forever. No one would have done it if it was that hard.'" DT

A native New Yorker, Janet Panetta trained at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School before dancing with American Ballet Theatre in the late '60s. From 1973 to 2010, she ran the Panetta Movement Center in Manhattan. Today, she teaches at Gibney Dance Center and The New School in New York City and has an active schedule abroad, at the Brussels-based contemporary dance school P.A.R.T.S and ImPulsTanz dance festival, and serving as a guest ballet master for Pina Bausch's Tanztheater Wuppertal. She received a Martha Hill Dance Fund Mid-Career Award in 2008.

Eleanor Hullihan is a professional contemporary dancer in NYC.

Photos by Kyle Froman

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Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Kyle Froman

With serpentine fluidity, Nijawwon Matthews gives his intermediate contemporary jazz class at New York City's Broadway Dance Center a rundown of his warm-up sequence. His spinal undulations, spider-like finger articulations and seemingly infinite wingspan transform a relatively standard array of pliés, roll-downs, head rolls and stretches into something soulful. "Warming up is like being in a meditative state of mind," he says. "You're working from an internal place out to the external."

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