Music for Dance Class: For when the Nutcracker is driving you nutty...


Do you cringe every time you hear the Waltz of the Flowers? Do the lilting notes of the Sugar Plum pas de deux give you the urge to buy a jumbo pack of earplugs? If you’ve already had a little too much Tchaikovsky this holiday season, now’s the time to switch things up in class. The Harlem Nutcracker, Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s 1960s jazz arrangement is the perfect album for a change of pace without completely losing the joy of the annual holiday ballet. “Dance of the Floreodores” is just close enough to the original to get you smiling, and “Sugar Rum Cherry” goes down much smoother than the classic version. These snazzy rhythms will keep your fingers snapping, and your students will still get a healthy dose of Nutcracker spirit.



Want to go off the Nutcracker path altogether this year? Check out, “Nutcracker Nouveau” for tips on creating your studio’s new holiday classic.


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, 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
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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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