On Desmond and Planning for the Summer

What a treat it was to watch Desmond Richardson in action during our photo shoot. He’s the consummate professional, giving the camera his best angles and hitting his mark nearly every shot. (Of course it helps to work with a photographer as talented as Matthew Murphy!) And between takes, we had a great discussion—everything from plans for Complexions Contemporary Ballet to move to Atlanta later this year, to the presence a mature dancer can bring to the stage and what Richardson envisions for his career at midlife. Did you know that in his spare time, the triple-threat artist writes, paints, crochets and indulges his interest in interior design? “But mostly I love to write songs,” he told me. “I’m a singer, so I do like to study my voice whenever I have an opportunity.”

After the shoot, he headed into the ballet studio for the annual Complexions summer intensive. It was the first day of the program, and he set an ambitious pace—scatting the rhythm like a jazz vocalist—tá tikka tá tatá—and snapping his fingers while prowling the room. We’ve got some great shots of class in “The Sharing Part Is Everything.”

You’ll find details and dates for Complexions and a host of other summer intensives in the 2016 Dance Teacher Summer Study Guide. Arranged geographically by state, it gives you and your students more choices than ever. And studio owners, we’ve got you covered at home. In “Three Takes on Summer Camps,” studio directors explain how they keep business active and profitable during the lean summer months.

Photo by Matthew Murphy


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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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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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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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