News: Free Dance Classes for All

At the NORDC/NOBA Center for Dance, there are no prerequisites—except for an interest in moving. The collaboration between the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission and the New Orleans Ballet Association provides free dance programming to local residents, and it has grown since its inception in 1992 to cover three parishes, 11 satellite locations and over 400 students/semester ranging from ages 6 to 80-plus.


“We want to level the playing field—it’s all about accessibility,” says Jenny Hamilton, executive director of NOBA. While the original goal was to offer classes to school-age children, Hamilton stresses the need for senior citizen outreach since Hurricane Katrina.


NORDC/NOBA’s mission lends itself to an array of technical abilities. Students are split into two divisions: open, which is filled on a first-come, first-served basis, and pre-professional, with admittance by audition. While open track stick to a ballet, tap, modern and character curriculum, pre-professional students take additional classes in improvisation and other styles and can learn repertoire from professional choreographers (students will work with Ballet Hispanico faculty this summer).


On May 22, participants will come together in a free performance at Tulane University’s Dixon Hall. While the concert is able to name notable guest artists and successful alums who have moved on to prestigious college programs and professional companies, its main goal is to expose a community to the benefits of dance—working with others, building relationships and developing a sense of respect and discipline.


“A young student said at a previous performance, ‘It’s about celebrating each person and their individual talents—there are no boundaries when it comes to that artform onstage,’” says Hamilton. “And I think a child making a connection like that is incredible.”


Photo: Teaching artist Aline de Souza (by Jeff Strout, courtesy of NOBA)

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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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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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