Performance Planner: Mirror Interventions

Students often walk a fine line between a healthy relationship with the mirror and a destructive dependency. You’ve seen it: A beautiful first arabesque distorted due to the dancer—eyes gaping wide—staring at her own reflection. Sure, the mirror can be a great tool when correcting placement and demonstrating complex combinations; but that’s about it. As students advance, they should be able to feel placement and correct alignment without seeing it. This awareness will translate to their on-stage performances; they will develop a greater connection to the audience, other dancers on stage and the space around them.

 

So how to wean them off the mirror? Janette Sullivan, owner of State of the Arts Studio in Westminster, Maryland, pulls curtains over the mirrors. “When we close the curtains, things are exponentially different. The dancers transform not only physically, but also emotionally and mentally by pretending they’re in the theater.” While curtains may be out of the budget, simply re-orienting dancers in the room will do the trick.

 

To kick mirror habits to the curb and find more performance-prep strategies, read “No Peeking,” by Jen Jones.

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 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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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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