Lydia Roberts Coco, a Former Ailey Dancer, Finds Motivation in Music

Horton class at Ballet Virginia International. Photo by Summer Greene, courtesy of Ballet Virginia International

For Lydia Roberts Coco, music is motivation. The former lead dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater opts for percussion music with precise counts when teaching Horton at Ballet Virginia International in Norfolk, Virginia, but she also knows when to pull out all the musical stops. "When I find my students are not dancing with as much life as I would like to see, I teach a more contemporary-style combination at the end of class to music that has beautiful lyrics. My goal is to try to get more emotion and passion out of my dancers."

When Coco isn't teaching modern or ballet, she choreographs for and coaches young dancers preparing to compete in Youth America Grand Prix, a responsibility she enjoys because of the extra time spent focusing on each dancer's unique qualities. “Oftentimes I am first inspired to choreograph by the dancer herself. I simply love creating in the studio, and then enjoying watching it all unfold as a dancer makes it her own," she says.

Coco works hard to build her students into confident, mature performers. “I find that young dancers, especially in the teenage years, become self-conscious and hold back from dancing to their utmost ability in front of their peers. I want them to know when they step onstage that they are there to share their gifts, their beauty. When I was in Ailey, before we went onstage Ulysses Dove would tell us, 'You have nothing to prove, only to share.' I always loved that."

Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Teachers Trending
Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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