3 Must-Reads: Hollywood's Dance Director, How Movement Benefits the Aging Body and Your Brain on Dance

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Three books to add to your reading list.

Charles Walters: The Director Who Made Hollywood Dance

By Brent Phillips

University Press of Kentucky; 368 pages; $19.95

Familiarize yourself with Charles Walters, the man behind the magical musical numbers in classic movies like Meet Me in St. Louis, Summer Stock and The Barkleys of Broadway. This first-ever biography on Walters chronicles his work with stars like Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Judy Garland, and how his choreography contributed to the heyday of musical theater.

The Aging Body in Dance: A Cross-Cultural Perspective

By Nanako Nakajima and Gabriele Brandstetter

Routledge; 194 pages; $44.95

The Aging Body examines different perspectives on aging dancers and choreographers. Using modern-dance artists like Anna Halprin, Martha Graham and Yvonne Rainer and butoh founder Kazuo Ohno as case studies, the book's series of essays draw comparisons between youth-centric Western cultures and age-celebrating Eastern cultures.

Thinking with the Dancing Brain: Embodying Neuroscience

By Sandra C. Minton and Rima Faber

Rowman & Littlefield Education; 200 pages; $30

Ever wondered what's going on inside your brain when you're dancing, choreographing or teaching? In Thinking with the Dancing Brain, dance educators Minton and Faber delve into how the brain functions in dance and which processes are used—from problem solving, imagination and memory to observation, engagement and emotions.

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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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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