Push Factor Co. Class

The familiar pain the day after a strenuous dance class is both rewarding and fatiguing, but a fulfilling class is always worth the after-effects. Jacqui Young, director of Push Factor, taught a company class, which I was fortunate enough to attend. Her unique style blends jazz, in its classical and contemporary forms, with rock music from all ages. In a combination about finding one’s inner ugliness, Young seeks to defy traditional “pretty” lines through abstracting positions so that they are irritating and in fact ugly, thus entertaining her theme.


As a dancer, contradicting a lifelong philosophy of creating strong beautiful positions was not an easy task. I struggled to find a balance between distorting a shape and maintaining a strong core. Even through this one combination, I could tell that Young likes to work in this limbo between strength and deformation.


With her emphasis on high-speed, high-impact athleticism, Young is an expert in the field of leaps and jumps. Perhaps the most meaningful advice for me was her comment on switch leaps. “Release in your hips, “ she said. “ Your flexibility is there, but you grip [upon switching in the air].” A switch leap is more like a breath, where you inhale for the prep and then “exhale through your legs.” I think this feedback is significant for all aspiring dancers who tend to work so hard they can limit their own strengths.

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Photo by Yvonne M. Portra, courtesy Faulkner

It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

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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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Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

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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