Matt Dorame Warner's Basic Warm-Up Is More Challenging Than His Students Think

Photo by Ericka Haslam, courtesy of Warner

"I worked my whole life to be a dancer," says Matt Dorame Warner, co-director of Creative Arts Academy's Touring Company in Bountiful, Utah. "I danced more hours than a lot of kids did anything else. So now as a teacher, I expect the same amount of professionalism and respect for dance from my students."

To enhance studio work ethic, Warner says he and his co-directors are candid with their dancers about the effort they're putting into class. "We'll tell them if we feel they weren't present that day, or if we feel that they could do more. We expect a lot from them," he says. That diligence paid off when Creative Arts Academy placed in the top five for Las Vegas Studio of the Year at The Dance Awards last year, and had two dancers earn first runner-up for best dancer in their respective age brackets.

Thanks to his versatile performing career, which includes Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and Season 4 of "So You Think You Can Dance," Warner has developed a hyperfocused teaching style. "My biggest thing is alignment. I have my dancers spend a lot of time in specific positions to make sure they are doing them accurately without gripping," he says. "We aren't just standing in parallel to stand in parallel. We are standing there to work the muscles that will immediately rotate their legs. The movements may seem fairly basic, but after my 45-minute warm-up, the dancers are always shaking."

Allie Burke, courtesy Lo Cascio

If you'd hear it on the radio, you won't hear it in Anthony Lo Cascio's tap classes.

"If I play a song that my kids know, I'm kind of disappointed in myself," he says. "I either want to be on the cutting edge or playing the classics."

He finds that most of today's trendy tracks lack the depth needed for tap, and that there's a disconnect between kids and popular music. "They have trouble finding the beat compared to older genres," he says.

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Courtesy Lovely Leaps

After the birth of her daughter in 2018, engineer Lisa McCabe had reservations about returning to the workforce full-time. And while she wanted to stay home with the new baby, she wasn't ready to stop contributing financially to her family (after all, she'd had a successful career designing cables for government drones). So, when she got a call that September from an area preschool to lead its dance program, she saw an opportunity.

The invitation to teach wasn't completely out of the blue. McCabe had grown up dancing in Southern California and had a great reputation from serving as her church's dance teacher and team coach the previous three years (stopping only to take a break as a new mother). She agreed to teach ballet and jazz at the preschool on Fridays and from there created an age-appropriate class based on her own training in the Cecchetti and RAD methods. It was a success: In three months, class enrollment went from six to 24 students, and just one year later, McCabe's blossoming Lovely Leaps brand had contracts with eight preschools and three additional teachers.

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Courtesy Shake the Ground

Dance competitions were among the first events to be shut down when the COVID-19 pandemic exploded in the U.S. in mid-March, and they've been among the last able to restart.

So much of the traditional structure of the competition—large groups of dancers and parents from dozens of different studios; a new city every week—simply won't work in our new pandemic world.

How, then, have competitions been getting by, and what does the future look like?

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