News: "Today Show" Lends a Hand to New Ballet Ensemble and School

In June, Al Roker and NBC’s “Today Show” presented Katie Smythe with a seemingly bottomless truck full of donations for her dance studio, New Ballet Ensemble and School. As one of five recipients in the show’s annual “Lend a Hand” donation series, the Memphis, Tennessee, school was chosen because of the large number of students who receive financial aid. About 40 percent of 200 students are on scholarship, and the school receives funding from sponsors to donate performances and residencies in local schools to seek out talented kids and spread the word about dance. But Smythe, founder, CEO and artistic director of New Ballet, never imagined word would spread this far. “We don’t seek out things like this,” she says. “We are a very mission-driven organization. We just keep working, and that gets us noticed.”


Included in Roker’s truckload were $75,000 in dance apparel and footwear from Capezio, $20,000 in studio equipment from American Harlequin and $20,000 in cash that will go toward scholarships. Other donations came from Kool Aid, Ace Hardware, General Motors Foundation, United Airlines, Expo Dry Erase Markers and many other organizations. But the gift that topped all others, says Smythe, was awareness. “We’d love to reach a lot more children,” she says. “But we’ve been warned that anything that grows too quickly runs the risk of burnout. I want to be able to sustain the program, so we’re going to deliberately grow very slowly. Everyone at New Ballet—the students, the parents, the teachers—is really happy, and I hope it remains that way despite this new publicity.”




Photo: Ballet II class at New Ballet Ensemble and School (by Amie Vanderford, courtesy of New Ballet)

Teachers Trending
Photo by Yvonne M. Portra, courtesy Faulkner

It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

Keep reading... Show less
Getty Images

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.

Keep reading... Show less
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.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.