Jacqulyn Buglisi has a flair for drama. To encourage the students in her intermediate and advanced Graham classes at The Ailey School to open their sternums in a high release, she tells them to stretch “like a flower came out of your heart." When attempting to convey the weight of a hand gesture, she explains that they must “pull the hem of heaven from the sky." During the extensive warm-up sequence, she reminds them that this is no time for complacency: “We don't do positions. We dance the series." Despite her penchant for the Graham dramatics, Buglisi is equally quick to curb any excess of melodrama in her students. “No Swan Lake with the arms," she admonishes one whose wrists are limply crossed.


Buglisi's authority on the Graham technique is formidable—she was a principal dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company for 12 years. Soon after the birth of her son in 1988, as her association with MGDC was winding down, Denise Jefferson approached her and offered a teaching position at Ailey. Buglisi fondly remembers Alvin Ailey himself taking time to stop in and watch her classes. Within two years, she became the chair for The Ailey School's Graham-based modern department.

Though most of these students have been studying Graham technique with her for three or four years—as professionals, international, certificate or Ailey/Fordham BFA students—there is conscientiousness on every face: Buglisi has carefully imparted that there are always deeper understandings of the familiar pulses, flexed wrists and energized spirals to explore. Her own attentiveness and investment mirrors that of her students—she calls one who is perpetually in the back row to the front, apparently per an earlier agreement to encourage confidence.

For students who are new to Graham technique, the biggest hurdle can be to find the connection to their centers. “Understanding contraction and release requires such awareness," says Buglisi. “Once they recognize their centers, that's really the beginning." She devotes moments in her class to stillness and introspection, encouraging her students to appreciate their own beauty and potential without getting caught up solely in the mechanics of the movement. “It's OK to smile!" Buglisi occasionally reminds her class. “Be happy with the image in the mirror."

Jacqulyn Buglisi is a born-and-bred New Yorker who trained at the High School of Performing Arts, where she studied Graham technique. After performing and teaching in Europe for several years, she returned to New York to dance for Pearl Lang and Joyce Trisler. She was a principal dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company for 12 years. In 1993, she co-founded Buglisi Dance Theatre with fellow Graham dancers Donlin Foreman and associate founders Terese Capucilli and Christine Dakin. She is the chair of the Graham-based modern department at The Ailey School, where she has been teaching for more than 25 years.

Courtney Celeste Spears, 20, is a sophomore Ailey/Fordham BFA student.

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Here's "The Twelve Days of Christmas" dance teacher style! Try your hand at writing your own lyrics to the song, and share it over on our Facebook page.

You may even want to sing this at your studio's holiday party this year—it's a smash, if we do say so ourselves 💁.

You're welcome!

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Dance Teacher Tips
via Youtube

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Photo credits, clockwise from bottom left: Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet; Jayme Thornton; Jochen Viehoff, Courtesy Stephanie Troyak; Karolina Kuras, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada; Natasha Razina, Courtesy State Academic Mariinsky Theatre; Kim Kenney, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet; Jim Lafferty; Arian Molina Soca, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet; Altin Kaftira, Courtesy Dutch National Ballet; Scott Shaw, Courtesy Shamar Wayne Watt

Every year we love to see Dance Magazine's coveted list of the dancers, choreographers and companies that are on the verge of skyrocketing in the field of dance. This year's picks are nothing short of exceptional.

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Photo by Gez Xavier Mansfield on Unsplash

The start of a new calendar year—smack dab in the middle of the studio year—often brings its own challenges, issues and focuses. Here are two big questions on the minds of studio-business leaders as they head into 2019.

Are we giving our students what they really need? After taking some senior dancers to college dance auditions, Dale Lam noticed how they struggled with the modern portion. "They did fine in ballet," she says, "but then when it came to the modern part, they were fish out of water."
Her approach Lam hired a modern teacher for Horton and Graham techniques at her South Carolina–based studio, Columbia City Jazz Dance School & Company. She could see the difference in her dancers after only a few months. "I feel like I'm actually getting them more of what they're going to need—providing them the education they'll need after competitions."

What to do about the demand for instant gratification? Suzanne Blake Gerety and Kathy Blake have noticed a disturbing trend with parents new to dance at their Amherst, New Hampshire, studio. Gerety calls it push-button mentality: "They think, 'If I can get Amazon to ship my package overnight, why can't I get my kid to take class just once a week and get them on pointe?'"
Their approach "It's communicating to parents how it works at our studio, how you progress here and what the benefits of dance are," she says. They hold informational sessions at parent nights, including details of intensive and competition track options. They also invite alumni to help run recitals and assist with summer intensives as a way to demonstrate what studio graduates look like.

Studio Owners who try TutuTix for their Spring 2019 Recitals can get a $222 Visa Gift Card. Click here to learn more.

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Performing Dance Arts dancers at The Dance Awards in Florida 2018 (via @performingdancearts Instagram)

Needing some inspiration for how to celebrate the holidays with your dancers? We've got you covered. Check out how Performing Dance Arts (The Dance Awards Orlando 2018 Studio of the Year), of Toronto, Canada, brings dancers together and strengthens studio bonds throughout the Christmas season.

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The holidays are here, and as everyone knows, the real best way to spread Christmas cheer is serving your community and helping those in need. Luckily for dance teachers, dance studios are the perfect backdrop for the start of some seriously awesome service projects. Your dancers will learn the value of helping others, and you will all feel warm and fuzzy inside!

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Eva Stone directs The Stone Dance Collective, shown here in Eve, reconsidered. Photo by Rex Tranter, courtesy of The Stone Dance Collective

Unlike the majority of my students and colleagues, my journey in dance has been unorthodox. At age 14, I enrolled in modern dance at my high school, and something about the large open studio with room to move thrilled me (and still does). I immediately set out to impress my dance teacher with my complete repertoire, a solo interpretation of "Bohemian Rhapsody" created in my living room, infused with several badly self-taught ice-skating moves. In that moment, an awareness of the power of movement, music, space and performance aligned, and I instinctively knew I was someplace special.

My high school dance teacher was smart. Knowing that she did not have the time to mold us into technically proficient dancers, she introduced us to the craft and skill of making dances. I spent four years opening the door to my creative voice, becoming a confident choreographer. As a dance major in college, however, I quickly realized I was lacking something very important: actual dance training. So I began an intense regimen of studying, analyzing, copying, stealing and emulating every movement language, quality and nuance with which I could connect. Later, I completed a master's degree in choreography and choreological studies, formed a small dance company and set out to fund my artist's life with teaching.

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Photo by Allef Vinicius via Unsplash

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