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This Creative Movement Teacher Knows How to Keep Kids Engaged With Music

"Music is magical," says Black. "It just transforms kids." Photo courtesy of Black

After 31 years of teaching, Kim Black has mastered how to reach young dancers. Between a studio and private school, she teaches 34 classes per week in Burlington, North Carolina: That's 238 kids from ages 2 to 6 years old. "You have to make them fall in love with dance," says Black. The music, she says, cues this engagement.


Every day, Black witnesses how the simple joy of moving paired with music can light up a young child's face, body and overall mood. "I tell parents to look at the kids when they leave class, not when they show up," says Black, noting the transformation of children, who often arrive for class looking tired. "Happy kids with smiling faces is usually what I see."

Artist: Raffi
Album: Rise and Shine
Song: "Five Little Ducks"

"This is a class favorite. I'll pretend my phone is ringing with a duck sound. I'll answer saying, 'Hello, daddy duck,' and pretend to have a conversation about going fishing. All my 'little ducks' line up behind me (mommy duck) and play out the song. It's an oldie, but definitely a goodie that always brings smiles."


Artist: Various
Album: The Classical Child At The Ballet

"I use this music for stretching and skipping, but I also use it to teach my ballerinas about popular ballets. This album covers Coppélia, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and Les Sylphides."


Artist: Willy Fisher
Album: Running in a Circle
Song: "Running in a Circle"

"I use this song during the beginning of class to get the wiggles out. It is a wonderful way to work on gross motor skills, such as skipping, hopping and marching."


Artist: Dora the Explorer
Album: Dora The Explorer: Party Favorites

"A lot of children's music for my youngest classes is not upbeat enough for me, but Dora does not disappoint. This album is energetic and fun. I specifically use tracks 2, 13 and 14 for my creative movement classes and for fun in my youngest ballet classes."


Artist: Joan Lather
Album: Ms. Puffie Garden Ballet
Song: "Ballet Seeds"

"Joan Lather has been an inspiration to me since I first took a class from her at a convention 30 years ago. Her music is a teaching tool for teachers, as well as the youngest dancers. Her music has inspired my stories, skits and creativity."


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.

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Teaching Tips
Getty Images

After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

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Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy TUPAC

When legendary Black ballet dancer Kabby Mitchell III died unexpectedly in 2017, two months before opening his Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center, his friend and business partner Klair Ethridge wasn't sure she had what it took to carry his legacy. Ethridge had been working with Mitchell to co-found TUPAC and planned to serve as its executive director, but she had never envisioned being the face of the school.

Now, Ethridge is heading into her fourth year of leading TUPAC, which she has grown from a fledgling program in an unheated building to a serious ballet school in its own sprung-floor studios, reaching hundreds of students across the Tacoma, Washington, area. The nonprofit has become a case study for what it looks like to carry out the vision of a founder who never had the chance to see his school open—and to take an unapologetically mission-driven approach.

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