Planning Ahead

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 ( 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

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