NDEO's 10th Anniversary Conference

Last month I attended the 10th Anniversary NDEO Annual Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, for several inspiring days of lectures, presentations and performances in the company of all those who strive to provide excellence in dance education. Although at first I felt like “the new kid,” by the end of the conference, I was at ease and even ran into one of my former dance teachers, Michelle Perosi, who was being awarded for her work in the K–12 setting at Ocean County Vocational Technical School in Lakehurst, New Jersey. The event’s theme, “Contact Politics: The Dance of Personal and Public Change,” was a very timely one indeed. As dancers, we’re always changing and continually trying to better ourselves by perfecting our technique. Meanwhile, our country is preparing for a period of transformation, as we get ready to elect a new president this year. Hopefully, the elected administration will be one that supports arts education.

While all of the sessions I attended were interesting, one that particularly resonated with me was a panel of staff members from Washington, DC’s THEARC (The Town Hall Education Arts & Recreation Campus) (www.thearcdc.org), which included Katrina Toews, director of The Washington Ballet at THEARC. THEARC is home to 10 cultural and social service agencies that work together with the common goal of helping underserved children and adults reach their full potential. Amongst its amenities is a 365-seat theater that was built to the exact specs of The Kennedy Center to allow WB to perform in an area once defined by guns and violence. THEARC’s model for supporting the arts is one that many underserved areas of our country could learn from and their work within a severely disadvantaged section of our nation’s capital is a fine example of change and transformation.

If you weren’t able to attend this year’s conference, start planning now for next year, when the NDEO will storm Manhattan June 23–29, 2009. Hope to see you there!

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
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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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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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