Yesterday afternoon, I had the pleasure of witnessing exciting news in dance education. Teachers College at Columbia University is launching a new doctoral program in dance education to begin fall 2017, thanks to a $4.36 million gift from Jody Gottfried Arnhold and her husband John. The news was announced at a luncheon at the school.

When I arrived, I could feel the excitement as teachers, administrators and advocates from TC and other New York cultural institutions greeted one another. I was happy to see some familiar faces: Kathleen Isaac, a 2016 DT awardee and director of Hunter College’s Arnhold Graduate Dance Education Program; Patricia Dye, one of the five outstanding teachers featured in the Emmy-nominated documentary P.S. Dance!; and Dance Theatre of Harlem artistic director Virginia Johnson, to name a few.

Before speeches got underway, I spoke with Tom James, provost and dean of Teachers College. He told me the program has a three-pronged approach to training master dance educators—offering specialization in teacher education, leadership and policy and movement sciences. There are also plans for collaboration with the art and music departments.

After a warm introduction by Teachers College president Susan Fuhrman, Jody Arnhold took the podium. She gave a rousing speech about the importance of dance education and how TC’s new doctoral program will take it to the next level. Pending state approval, the new program will start in fall 2017. “I look forward to welcoming the first class next year. Maybe I’ll be in it,” said Arnhold, to the delight of her peers.

Kathleen Isaac, art education professor Mary Hafeli and Patricia Dye also spoke, and a trailer for P.S. Dance! was shown. While watching the footage, I remembered what a joy it was to speak last year with Catherine Gallant, one of the five teachers featured in the film. The work she and other public school dance teachers are doing is truly inspirational.

To cap off the celebration, members of Patricia Dye’s Jow-Ile-Bailar Dance Company from Science Skills High School for Science, Technology and the Creative Arts performed an uplifting dance for the crowd, and we all sang happy birthday to Jody Arnhold. What better way to celebrate than to see this new doctoral program realized?

Since the launch of the new program’s website, TC has received more than two dozen inquiries from prospective students. For more information, visit: tc.columbia.edu/danceed.

Jody Gottfried Arnhold (in navy) stands with Patricia Dye, Susan H. Fuhrman, TC trustee Dailey Pattee, TC board vice chair Leslie Morse Nelson and members of Jow-Ile-Bailar Dance Company at the luncheon on October 18.

Photo by Bruce Gilbert, courtesy of Teachers College

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The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Tade Biesinger and Kandee Allen, photo courtesy of Biesinger

It's officially the one month out of the year that's exclusively about gratitude, and there's nothing dance enthusiasts are more thankful for than our dance teachers. They're everything to us!

Case in point: we reached out to Marymount Manhattan freshman and former Billy Elliot: The Musical star, Tade Biesinger, and asked him to write a thank-you letter to his hometown studio owner/teacher Kandee Allen. The result brought tears to our eyes! How Biesinger feels about Allen is how all of us feel about our teachers.

Allen and Biesinger. Photo courtesy of Biesinger

Check out what he had to say, and then write a thank-you message to your dance teachers in the comments of our Facebook page.

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Happy National Princess Day, people! This is a day you were all BORN to celebrate (because you're all princesses obviously). Enjoy this blessed day by watching two of our favorite ballerina princesses light up the stage!

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We've compiled a list of healthy Thanksgiving foods that are sure to satisfy both your cravings and your desire to eat well. Try them out this holiday season and you'll be able to enjoy the best meal of the year guilt-free!

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Dancer Health
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The human head weighs somewhere between 8 and 12 pounds. For many of us, our youngest students included, that comparatively large weight spends on average at least a couple hours a day hunched over a screen. While you may not consider your students as average, there is no denying we spend more hours than ever looking down at handheld mobile devices. "I think of it as 'tech posture,'" says Blossom Leilani Crawford of Bridge Pilates, "when the head is forward and the shoulders are forward. People don't know where their heads are anymore, and you certainly can't turn well with the weight of your head forward."

Forward head posture seems to be the very antithesis of the open chest, lifted spine and presentational sensibility of most classical dance training. But beyond the aesthetics, this misalignment can affect balance and coordination in developing dancers and, at the extreme end, can be associated with nerve damage and pain down the arm.

According to Dr. Marshall Hagins, physical therapist for the Mark Morris Dance Group, there are really two things going on when you see forward head posture. First, the skull is projected forward in front of the body (as in when we look down at a phone). But then, because we are social creatures who want to see and interact with the world in front of us, the head rotates backward on the spine, thrusting the chin up and out. "The muscles in the front of the neck are short and relaxed," he explains, "while the muscles in the back, which are keeping the head from falling further, are lengthened and overworking." The neck muscles have a very high density of proprioceptors and the nervous system feedback is working to fight gravity all of the time, all of which can result in a levator scapulae that is overused and painful.

Hagins offers a tent analogy for balancing the head in three dimensions without simply resorting to a military posture. "All the surrounding neck muscles need to have just the right amount of tension to keep a heavy object, such as the head, balanced atop the tent pole of your spine," he says. "When it leans one way, the corresponding wire becomes loose and the other wires have to pull harder." He notes that it can still be possible for dancers to move in and out of the proper positions even if the resting posture is slouched. However, assuming such a posture for most of the day can lead to injury.

The phenomenon has caused Crawford to modify the abdominal exercises in her mat class. "I sometimes ask for the head to stay on the floor for the single-leg stretch or double-leg stretch," she says. "I call it 'angry turtle' when you work to draw the back of your head into the floor. Once that is understood, it is easier to transfer into lifting the head off the ground properly."

However, both Hagins and Crawford caution that dancers are often hypermobile and prone to overcorrecting, so it is important to focus on good postural habits and incremental changes so they don't move from one misalignment of the head and neck to another. Here are three simple exercises Crawford uses to help students find and feel where proper head alignment is in different planes of movement. They are great on their own, in any warm-up, or can be easily sprinkled into a Pilates mat routine.

Supine Head Float​

Elena Prisco, age 17, student at Lake Tahoe Dance Collective. Photos courtesy of Thompson

1. Lie on your back, knees bent and feet planted, with a yoga block, or prop of similar height, under the shoulder blades. Let your head rest back into this big, chest-opening stretch, with your fingers interlaced, hands behind your neck so that your pinky fingers are against the base of your skull.

2. Float your head up to spine level, chin tucked in, hands helping to
traction your neck long. Use exhales to activate the abdominals and keep ribs heavy and soft while your head is up. Hold for a few counts and then rest back into the stretch.

3. Repeat several times, being careful not to let the chin jut forward.

*If you are ready for more, float the pelvis up to spine level along with the head. Keep the pelvis in a neutral, untucked position.

Studio Owners
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Costumes are one of the most important parts of your annual recital and competition routines, yet the process of choosing what your dancers will wear, measuring them accurately and ordering your selections can be fraught with second-guessing. We compiled your questions and asked the experts—the costume companies, that is—for their frank advice and guidance.

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From left: Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet; Michael Curley, Courtesy Cincinnati Zoo.

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To Share With Students
Cheyenne Murillo and her partner Sasha Altukhov at Millennium Dancesport Championship. Photo courtesy of Murillo

It seems everyone is trying to break into the ballroom scene these days, and we don't blame them—it's ALL kinds of fabulous!

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"In part, I became a teacher because I felt the need to help others dance," says Slattery (center in all black). "Working on this project has been so fulfilling, and I look forward to it each week." Photo courtesy of Orlando Ballet

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Photo by Jacqueline Connor, courtesy of Nowakowski

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Dancer Health
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Last Wednesday was National Stress Awareness Day, and all day we couldn't stop thinking about dance teachers.

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Dance Teacher caught up with a Pacific Northwest Ballet School consulting psychologist Toby Diamond to get some professional advice on how to deal with anxiety. She gave a teacher's seminar at PNB on this subject earlier this year.

Try out some of her tools, and see how they can benefit your health and the health of your students!

Good luck! We're rooting for you!

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Shelby Williams via @biscuitballerina

Fall is arguably the best season of the year, and "Falling Fridays" are arguably the best day of the week on the @biscuitballerina Instagram page. So, we thought it was only fitting that we combine the two "bests" for a fall-tastic post today!

Heaven bless @biscuitballerina for making us laugh day in and day out. SHE. IS. EVERYTHING.

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