Teaching Tips

Shaping Sound Star Chantel Aguirre Shares Her Favorite Teaching Tools

Courtesy of Shaping Sound

Whenever she stands onstage at a convention, gazing out at a sea of eager students, Chantel Aguirre is transported back to when she was in their position. She vividly remembers what it felt like to stand in a ballroom seeking growth and approval. Now, she works alongside the artists she used to idolize as a teacher for NUVO Dance Convention, and she knows the impact educators in her position can have on young performers.


"I notice kids being perfectionists while stressing over their craft, and I feel for them," she says. "I often compared myself to other dancers when I was growing up. I hate to see them put themselves down because they don't have the same strengths as the person next to them. I want to use my time to teach them their worth."

In order to instill this confidence in her students, Aguirre works to quickly make a connection with them and create a trusting, honest environment. She begins class by asking the students to stand in first position or parallel with their hands on their waists. Then, she brings their attention to the way their bodies feel that day. She reminds them that each day is different, and that they need to respect where they're at in that moment. She encourages them to focus on their own dancing rather than comparing their flaws to another's strengths. She uses language that is positive and constructive and avoids putting down the dancers.

"My main goal is that my students leave my class feeling good about themselves." – Aguirre Photo by Nick Serian (courtesy of NUVO Dance Convention)

Teaching Tools:

Favorite Teaching Apparel

"Capezio ballet shoes are my go-to when teaching ballet. For contemporary, I love Apollo and Sugar and Bruno socks. They give me the right amount of traction."

Next Page
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.

Keep reading... Show less
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.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy TUPAC

When legendary Black ballet dancer Kabby Mitchell III died unexpectedly in 2017, two months before opening his Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center, his friend and business partner Klair Ethridge wasn't sure she had what it took to carry his legacy. Ethridge had been working with Mitchell to co-found TUPAC and planned to serve as its executive director, but she had never envisioned being the face of the school.

Now, Ethridge is heading into her fourth year of leading TUPAC, which she has grown from a fledgling program in an unheated building to a serious ballet school in its own sprung-floor studios, reaching hundreds of students across the Tacoma, Washington, area. The nonprofit has become a case study for what it looks like to carry out the vision of a founder who never had the chance to see his school open—and to take an unapologetically mission-driven approach.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.