By Karen Hildebrand

As I’m writing this note, it’s June and summer is still a new bloom. The beach is open, the days are deliciously long, we’re nursing the first sunburns of the season—New York City public schools are still in session. How odd it seems to jump so quickly to summer’s end and the Back to School issue. But that’s the nature of magazines—we’re always planning ahead. And so are you.

Even so, as this issue finds its way into your hands, back-to-school may feel premature. August is the month after Nationals, after summer intensives. August is your opportunity to rest and revive, right? One way to accomplish both goals—to refuel as well as build your future—is continuing education.

“I’ve seen a lot of teachers teaching the way they were taught,” says Abigail Agresta-Stratton, whom we interviewed for “10 Lessons Studio Teachers Can Borrow from the Classroom.” “They went to college, but maybe they never went back, and the teaching stagnates.” Agresta-Stratton has taught in both K–12 and studio settings and makes pedagogy training her top recommendation. “You have to really have an understanding of childhood development, of what is appropriate for each age,” she says. “For instance, you can’t do a class with one hand on barre at 4 years old. Or, what steps should they learn before skipping?”

There are many ways to get this kind of training, including an online professional development option available through the National Dance Education Organization (ndeo.org). Kudos to those of you who are right now kicking off your August by attending our Dance Teacher Summit here in NYC for three days of workshops, panels and networking opportunities, plus an exhibit floor brimming over with the best products and services offered in the industry. It’s a great way to prepare for your fall session and the year ahead.

As is this, the annual Back to School issue. A major focus this month is on noncompeting dancers. We recommend you start with the story of Jason Warley and how he builds the confidence of dancers who don’t make it into the elite competition company. Sue Sampson-Dalena discusses details of her studio’s recreational program. And in “Choosing Not to Compete,” studio directors talk about how that decision impacts their businesses. Whether or not you offer a competition program at your school, you’ll be inspired by these strategies for making dance training a great experience for all.

Photo by Matthew Murphy

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Hightower

The beloved "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and former Emmy-nominated "Dancing with the Stars" pro Chelsie Hightower discovered her passion for ballroom at a young age. She showed a natural ability for the Latin style, but she mastered the necessary versatility by studying jazz, ballet and other forms of dance. "Every style of dance builds on each other," she says, "and the more music you're exposed to, the more your rhythm and coordination is built."

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Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Burklyn Ballet, Courtesy Harlequin

Whether you're putting on a pair of pointe shoes, buckling your ballroom stilettos or lacing up your favorite high tops, the floor you're on can make or break your dancing. But with issues like sticking or slipping and a variety of frictions suitable to different dance steps and styles, it can be confusing to know which floor will work best for you.

No matter what your needs are, Harlequin Floors has your back, or rather, your feet. With 11 different marley vinyl floors available in a range of colors, Harlequin has options for every setting and dance style. We rounded up six of their most popular and versatile floors:

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AdobeStock, Courtesy Insure Fitness Group

As a teacher at a studio, you've more than likely developed long-lasting relationships with some of your students and parents. The idea that you could be sued by one of them might seem impossible to imagine, but Insure Fitness Group's Gianna Michalsen warns against relaxing into that mindset. "People say, 'Why do I need insurance? I've been working with these people for 10 years—we're friends,'" she says. "But no one ever takes into account how bad an injury can be. Despite how good your relationship is, people will sue you because of the toll an injury takes on their life."

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If you're not prepared, studio picture day can be a real headache. But, if done right, it can provide you with gorgeous photos that will make your students and parents happy, while simultaneously providing you with marketing content you will be able to use for years to come.

Here are five tips that will help you pull off the day without a hitch.

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Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

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Just for fun
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In its 14 years of existence, YouTube has been home to a world of competition dance videos that we have all consumed with heedless pleasure. Every battement, pirouette and trendy move has been archived somewhere, and we are all very thankful.

We decided it was time DT did a deep dive through those years of footage to show you the evolution of competition dance since the early days of YouTube.

From 2005 to 2019, styles have shifted a whole lot. Check them out, and let us know over on our Facebook page what you think the biggest differences are!

Enjoy!

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Sponsored by World Class Vacations
David Galindo Photography

New York City is a dream destination for many dancers. However aspiring Broadway stars don't have to wait until they're pros to experience all the city has to offer. With Dance the World Broadway, students can get a taste of the Big Apple—plus hone their dance skills and make lasting memories.

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Dance Teacher Tips
Photo courtesy of Koelliker

Sick of doing the same old stuff in technique class? Needing some across-the-floor combo inspiration? We caught up with three teachers from different areas of the country to bring you some of their favorite material for their day-to-day classes.

You're welcome!

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Dancer Health
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Q: I have a very flexible spine and torso. My teachers tell me to use this flexibility during cambrés and port de bras, but when I do, I feel pain—mostly in my lower back. What should I change so I don't end up with back problems?

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Studio Owners
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If you're a studio owner, the thought of raising your rates most likely makes you cringe. Despite ever-increasing overhead expenses you can't avoid—rent, salaries, insurance—you're probably wary of alienating your customers, losing students or inviting confrontation if you increase the price of your tuition or registration and recital fees. DT spoke with three veteran studio owners who suggest it's time to get past that. Here's how to give your business the revenue boost it needs and the value justification it (and you) deserve.

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Margie Gillis (left); photo by Kyle Froman

Margie Gillis dances the human experience. Undulating naked in a field of billowing grass in Lessons from Nature 4, or whirling in a sweep of lilac fabric in her signature work Slipstream, her movement is free of flashy technique and tricks, but driven and defined by emotion. "There's a central philosophy in my work about what the experience of being human is," says Gillis, whose movement style is an alchemy of Isadora Duncan's uninhibited self-expression and Paul Taylor's musicality, blended with elements of dance theater into something utterly unique and immediately accessible. "I want an authenticity," she says. "I want to touch my audiences profoundly and deeply."

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