Teaching Tips

How to Keep Your Comp Dancers From Looking Like "Jazzerinas": Don't Let Them Skip Ballet Class


Training versatile dancers skilled in every genre has become the norm in today's studio world. Comp kids are proficient in ballroom, jazz, hip hop, ballet, tap and more. Kids are entering the workforce more versatile and prepared than ever, and it's wonderful. But, there are some downsides to this "jack-of-all-trades" mentality: one being that a dancer's musculature and movement quality can becomes a hybrid of types, rather than fitting a traditional aesthetic. So, even though dancers can perform the technique of the different styles proficiently, the overall vibe can seem to be a bit off. Due to the strict nature of ballet, this problem seems to be especially true in classical work. *Cue the cringe-worthy phrase: "jazzerina."

So how do we solve this problem when so many dancers love each genre and want to have the option to pursue all styles professionally? Other than investing in top-notch classical teachers, the answer is the answer to most questions in dance training—don't let your students skip ballet class.

Seems obvious enough, right? It all starts with you!

Here are three pointers for keeping your kids in ballet each week. Good luck!

1. Never schedule company rehearsals during ballet classes.

As competitions approach or performance opportunities loom, it is often tempting to schedule extra rehearsals during technique classes. Resist this urge. Over time those missed ballet classes add up, and the classical muscles your dancers could be developing will atrophy. Schedule classes at inconvenient times before you even think of touching that daily ballet class. Trust us!

2. Keep firm rules and hold to consequences for missing (or coming late to) ballet.

At the beginning of the year, establish your expectations surrounding attendance and tardiness. Let your students know that it is particularly unacceptable to miss ballet, even if it's for a rehearsal for a different genre. Make consequences clear, and follow through with them.

For example: "Dancers with more than two absences and three tardies that have not been made up will not be allowed to perform their solo at the next competition."

3. Flood their lives with ballet.

Preparing for classical competitions, auditions and intensives will allow your dancers to grow exponentially. Giving them something to work toward will hone their focus and encourage them to develop skills that they wouldn't have otherwise. Make these opportunities just as important as national and regional conventions, and your dancers will begin to develop just as much classically as they do in other genres. Don't just sprinkle their lives with ballet class for maintenance. Flood their lives with ballet.

Getty Images

Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

Keep reading... Show less
Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.