NYCDA Junior Gala

Attending the New York City Dance Alliance Junior Gala this week as a dance publication editor, I felt a little like Anna Wintour at Fashion Week. Our seats were in the very front row, right behind the judges, and the parade of finalists for National Outstanding Mini and Junior Dancer took place practically an arm’s distance away.

It was such a fun evening! NYCDA always puts on a flashy show that gives young dancers a taste for the New York entertainment experience. Though I watch all the performers with great interest, what I’m really doing is taking notes on the studios where they train. This year I was particularly impressed with Dance Town Dance Studio of Doral, FL, directed by Manuel and Lory Castro. Their team took the Critics’ Choice for both the Mini’s and Juniors categories. The Juniors group salsa number, The Beat, had everyone talking afterward—the dancers were polished beyond their years. As Joe Lanteri of NYCDA said from the stage, “Remember these dancers are only 12 and 13 years old!”

This year’s National Outstanding Dancer award winners came from DanceTown; Tempe Dance Academy (directed by Wanda Manville) in Tempe, AZ; Westchester Academy (directed by Kelly Burke-Fitzpatrick) in Mt. Kisco, NY; and CC& Co. Dance Complex (directed by Christy Curtis) in Raleigh, NC.

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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Teaching Tips
Getty Images

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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Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy TUPAC

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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