Sick of fouettés!

Q: I'm so sick of seeing other competition teams doing fouetté turns to the same old song, but I worry that deviating from such an obviously successful formula won't translate into competition success. What do you think?


A: I understand exactly what you mean! Although we all have our “tried-and-true" turn series, it is important to keep evolving. Attending dance conventions is the best way to keep up with the latest dance trends in choreography, style, transitions and costuming. Attending regional and national conventions helps keep my staff and myself current and motivated. Think about ideas that inspire you when you start to choreograph. This year, I did a piece called Evolution; it was based on the idea of the evolution of man, a subject that has always fascinated me. Because I was invested in the idea behind the piece, it came together easily. Don't be afraid to go in a totally different direction from what you normally see onstage; daring to be unique will make your choreography automatically stand out.

Try to avoid doing too many tricks in routines. It is important that dancers learn that transitions—even how they walk or run—speak more about them as dancers than the number of leg-pull turns they can execute. I am constantly stressing the importance of strong technique. A développé to second, no matter how high it is, is only impressive if your hips are square, your supporting leg is pulled up and both legs are turned out. Try concentrating on other aspects of performance that often get overlooked in trick-filled competition routines, like expressiveness, clean spacing and épaulement. Your students will mature as dancers, as a result.

Try not to pass up opportunities to educate yourself further in dance; keeping up with our own dance education helps us to continue to teach and motivate our students.

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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