When Rocky Bornstein got accepted into the two-year, full-time, PT program at Hunter College, she thought her life was over. “Initially, the transition was hard in terms of identity,” she says.

So during her first year, she still toured with Yoshiko Chuma and The School of Hard Knocks, and performed in the company’s New York Joyce Theater season. “That was really hard,” she admits. In her second year, she concentrated on school only, as she found it was academically overwhelming. “I had to immerse myself and prioritize,” she says.

Bornstein was born to move, so at age 5 she began training at Florida’s Miami Conservatory of Ballet. “It was the feeder school for the Miami Ballet, and at 14 years old, I was asked to join the company,” she says. But she longed to master different movement styles, so her mom located a Graham-based modern studio, with a performance outlet called the Sacred Dance Company. It was there that Bornstein flourished and became an accomplished technician and performer.

 At 18 she joined Otrabanda Company, a movement-based theater group that traveled the world. She briefly settled in Asia, but eventually headed to New York to focus more fully on her dance career. She hit the city with a bang, dancing for downtown artists like Timothy Buckley, Sara Rudner, and Yoshiko Chuma, and choreographing for theater groups like Otrabanda and the Talking Band.

Though she frequently taught, Bornstein couldn’t imagine life as a teacher. As her two daughters began to grow, she realized it was time to look into career alternatives. “I really wanted to do something that offered financial and job security,” she recalls. “I wanted something mainstream, and that would challenge my thinking,” she says.

Though Bornstein had never been to physical therapy, (she’s remained injury-free throughout her career) being a healthy mover was “the most important thing in my life. I chose physical therapy because I thought I could communicate my passion for movement to other people, and help them move, too. Movement is essential, and doesn’t have to relate only to dancers,” she says.

It took her five years to complete the pre-requisites for physical therapy school, during which time she continued dancing professionally. “I’d go on tour, carrying a heavy anatomy book,” she remembers. “I did it slowly, one class at a time until I finished,” she says. This allowed her to still be committed to her dancing life, without ending it abruptly. “But I was looking to the future,” she says.

One of Bornstein’s school internships took place at Westside Dance Physical Therapy on Manhattan‘s Upper West Side. Says Bornstein, “That’s how I met Marika (Molnar, the founder of WSD) and found out about working with injured dancers and ‘civilians.’ I was hired there when I finished school,” she says.
Bornstein believes that dancers shouldn’t be afraid to enter new professions. “Most dancers retire in their late 30s or 40s, which gives them plenty of time to become excellent at what they do,” she says. “Dancers invest time, energy, and discipline into what they love, and they know how to learn new material.” Says Bornstein, “Never forget that you can use your brain in a different way. All the assets you have as a dancer will help you to achieve other goals.”

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Hightower

The beloved "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and former Emmy-nominated "Dancing with the Stars" pro Chelsie Hightower discovered her passion for ballroom at a young age. She showed a natural ability for the Latin style, but she mastered the necessary versatility by studying jazz, ballet and other forms of dance. "Every style of dance builds on each other," she says, "and the more music you're exposed to, the more your rhythm and coordination is built."

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Burklyn Ballet, Courtesy Harlequin

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No matter what your needs are, Harlequin Floors has your back, or rather, your feet. With 11 different marley vinyl floors available in a range of colors, Harlequin has options for every setting and dance style. We rounded up six of their most popular and versatile floors:

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Photo by The Fleet, courtesy of Lion's Jaw Festival

Growing up in New Jersey, Lisa Race trained with a memorable dance teacher: Fred Kelly, the younger brother of famous tapper Gene. "Fred would introduce our recitals," she says. "He would always cartwheel down the stairs." It wasn't until years later, when Race was pursuing her master's degree and chose to write a research paper on Kelly, that she realized there was a clear connection between her own movement style—improvisational and floor-based—and his. "In this television clip I watched, Fred jumps up to the piano, then jumps off it—he's going up and down and around," she says. "I thought, 'Oh, wow, all this time, I've thought of my dancing as my own, but that's where it started!' Moving upside-down and into the floor. There's a thread there. I rerouted it in different ways, but there's a connection."

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AdobeStock, Courtesy Insure Fitness Group

As a teacher at a studio, you've more than likely developed long-lasting relationships with some of your students and parents. The idea that you could be sued by one of them might seem impossible to imagine, but Insure Fitness Group's Gianna Michalsen warns against relaxing into that mindset. "People say, 'Why do I need insurance? I've been working with these people for 10 years—we're friends,'" she says. "But no one ever takes into account how bad an injury can be. Despite how good your relationship is, people will sue you because of the toll an injury takes on their life."

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It's summertime, which means we're all starting to feel HOT! HOT! HOT!

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Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

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If you're not prepared, studio picture day can be a real headache. But, if done right, it can provide you with gorgeous photos that will make your students and parents happy, while simultaneously providing you with marketing content you will be able to use for years to come.

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In its 14 years of existence, YouTube has been home to a world of competition dance videos that we have all consumed with heedless pleasure. Every battement, pirouette and trendy move has been archived somewhere, and we are all very thankful.

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Photo courtesy of Koelliker

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