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Confessions of a Dance Mom: Thank You Dance Teachers

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Dear dance teachers,

As I gaze at my daughter's first tiny pair of ballet shoes and reflect on all the memories that come with them, I'm flooded with mixed emotions. Choosing to put her in dance was one of the best decisions I made. At the time, we didn't know it would become her second home and bring with it a lifetime of warm, wonderful and joyous memories. As she takes the stage for her last recital, her smile will tell the world how much she loves to dance. There are not enough words to express my gratitude, but I'll try.


Thank you for taking my shy little girl and teaching her to dance. She broke out of her shell and grew into the young lady she is today. Dance taught her to put her heart into whatever she does.

Thank you for teaching my girl how to use her passion, work hard all year long and reach her personal best. As a dancer in the competition troupe, she learned what it really means to be a member of a team. I watched her gain tenacity, strength and humility. She learned how to get back in the game—after some tough moments—and how to appreciate the journey, which are lessons she'll take with her everywhere.

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Thank you for supporting her every day in the studio, at competitions and conventions with long, long hours, while stranded in hotels during snowstorms, or when we're having the time of our lives at Hershey, New York City and Disney. These are memories that will remain with us forever.

Thank you for becoming our extended family. The dance family and friends are like no other people in the world—they've been some of the most special people to walk into our lives. The dance teachers who have shared their talents with her will always hold a special place in our hearts.

Mere thank-yous for 13 years of gratitude certainly do not seem enough. My girl is a beautiful dancer today because of you. It was worth every costume, crazy hairstyle, dance step and penny to be a part of this beautiful story of dance. As she takes her final bow, she will represent all of the hard work, courage and strength it took for you to get her to this special moment.

With love and gratitude,

Cindy Lutz—forever a dance mom

Technique
Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

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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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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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