Teachers Trending

Nick Silverio Is Turning #DanceTeacherProblems Into TikTok Gold

Christian Hopkins, courtesy Silverio

Commercial dance darling Nick Silverio has taken his talents to TikTok during the pandemic, and his videos (along with the rest of #DanceTikTok) are helping the dance industry laugh through the pain.

His content—which has garnered over 2 million likes—covers everything from stereotypical dance moms, mind-numbing-judging-days, dance-teacher-panic-cams, shameless-compkid-bragging and more. For dance teachers, there's nothing more #relatable.

Silverio grew up as a competitive dancer with Elite Academy of Dance in Shrewsbury, MA. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied business and commercial dance management. One year in, he decided to explore the professional dance world in NYC, and put his formal education on pause.

Silverio signed with Clear Talent Group and started working immediately on opportunities like "America's Got Talent" and Elf: The Musical. Then, in 2015, he returned to school and finished his degree. "It was the best decision ever," Silverio says. "Taking time off showed me I really could have a professional career, so when I returned I felt confident in working hard and having a wonderful collegiate experience. There is flexibility on everyone's path—you don't have to do what everyone else is doing."

Now, he works as a professional dancer (he's appeared on "Saturday Night Live" and "So You Think You Can Dance," and was in Billy Elliot: The Musical at the Goodspeed Opera House), a choreographer, a senior master coach at [solidcore] and a competition judge (at StarQuest International). Dance Teacher caught up with Silverio on going viral, the teacher who shaped his career, and the worst advice he's ever received.

On creating viral content:

"I lost my mind during the shutdown. I always said I would never get a TikTok, but I got one to make people laugh. The experience you have growing up as a dancer, whether it's rec or comp, is so unique. We go through these things that, if you take a step back, are absolutely hysterical. I love sitting in my living room and brainstorming what I did my junior year of high school that could be great on TikTok."

The worst advice he's ever received:

"Once, a teacher told me that if I wanted to work as a dancer I would need to be more strong and masculine. While that does ring true for a lot of gigs in the industry, there is huge power in embracing femininity and masculinity as an artist regardless of your gender. The same goes for body type. My body made me really insecure, and I compared myself to others for a long time. The second I started to balance [femininity and masculinity], I was so much more confident."

His dance education turning point:

"When I was 16 I grew 10 inches in one year. (I grew so quickly that I broke my pelvis.) Dancers and puberty have such a complex relationship—how we grow into our new frame is different for each person. After my growth spurt, I trained much more productively because I was finally in the body I'm supposed to have. That's when I could see results in the studio."

His most influential teacher:

"Lauren Mangano, the owner of Elite Academy of Dance. She is truly the reason why I have been able to pursue a professional dance career. She taught me technique and performance like every other studio owner, but she also taught me how to be a good person, how to take care of myself, professionalism and how to be responsible. I think of her whenever I am in an audition or class."

The most helpful correction he's ever received:

"When I was 16 I was getting really into contemporary and living for it. I would get very emotional and my mouth would open. I got a critique from a teacher to close it. It looked like I was catching flies or eating the air. I see that a lot in dancers as a judge now."

His advice for teachers in 2020:

"Teach your students to keep every option open. There is no set path for a professional dancer. Dancers have ownership of that and it should be exciting. Keep an open mind and go with your gut."

Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.

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For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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Teachers Trending

From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

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