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.

Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Teachers Trending
Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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