Few events draw as many of the best of the best as the Dance Magazine Awards. Last night, Dance Magazine honored four amazing women: American Ballet Theatre principal Julie Kent, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater principal Renee Robinson, New York Times dance critic Anna Kisselgoff and the master of all master tap teachers,  Dianne Walker. It was truly a star-studded event with dance celebs galore in the audience, including Paloma Herrera, Suki Schorer, Freddie Franklin, Robert Battle, Hope Boykin, Omar Edwards, Deborah Jowitt, Susan Jaffe and many, many more. And while the entire evening left me completely inspired, a few event moments were particularly touching:

1. Julie Kent wore a dazzling short gold dress with cap sleeves—adorably, but elegantly, matching her daughter’s.

2. In her acceptance speech, Kent reflected on a card given to her by Natalia Markarova before Kent’s debut in La Bayadere. Markarova wrote: “Someone once said that beauty can save the world. So you have a great responsibility.” The gorgeous Kent has certainly lived up to that sentiment over the years.

3. Even though Robinson had gone through the Ailey School and was a member of Ailey II, she had to audition TWICE before being accepted into the main company. (Where she has performed for 30 years.) Tell this story to students frustrated with rejection. It’s especially inspiring considering that Judith Jamison (of all people!) referred to Robinson as the “Queen of Alvin Ailey” during her award presentation.

4. Anna Kisselgoff’s astute declaration that she studied dance from ages 8–14, and when she realized that a professional performance career wasn’t in her cards, she continued to dance until she was 17—because she liked it. What a strong case for supporting and loving your recreational dance students!

5. Before Walker’s award presentation, tap stars Derick K. GrantMichelle DorranceDormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Andrew Nemr, Jason Samuels Smith,Claudia Rahardjanoto and Kazu Kumagai performed an amazing rendition of one of Ms. Walker’s famous solos, “Emily.” And if it couldn’t get any better than that, SAVION GLOVER joined the group for the Shim Sham to close the evening. It was a stunning representation of Walker's influence.

What’s so incredible about Dianne Walker is that I’ve yet to speak with a professional tap dancer who hasn’t, in someway, been influenced by her teaching. Whether they’ve studied with her in Boston, in performance on Broadway or at a festival internationally, students flock to her side. And the love onstage for Walker last night was palpable from even the back row of the audience where I sat.

When I was working with Michelle Dorrance for Dance Teacher’s cover andtechnique story earlier this year, I asked her about her mentors and the teachers who inspire her. She offered this statement about Dianne Walker:

I cannot exist without crediting her. I quote her all the time. She is someone who teaches you even when you’re simply watching her perform. She shares such a generous spirit, and she’s so magical. 

 

Dianne is one of the first few people who threw her arms open wide for me. And she does that for any student who really loves it. Starting in 1992 or ’93, I studied with her every summer, including the years when I was at NYU for college. I’d make it a point to be at a festival in order to take a class with her. Even now, if we’re teaching at a festival and our classes overlap, I’ll give my class a water break and run to watch her class. She means so much to me as a teacher. She’s been a friend and a mentor, and spoke to me with respect and made me feel like an adult before I was one.  I love the spirit with which she approaches teaching, and I aspire to that.

Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine

When choosing music for tap, Jason Samuels Smith encourages teachers to start with classic jazz music. Improvisation, call and response, and syncopated rhythms embedded in the genre and its history, in general, help students to understand the structure of tap, which is different than other styles of dance. "Tap dancers have the responsibility to be more than just a visual artist," he says. "They're an instrument and a sound."

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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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Photo Courtesy of Ballet Next

In 2011, when former American Ballet Theatre principal Michele Wiles departed the company and formed BalletNext, she found an artistic freedom she'd been longing for. Along with new collaborations with choreographers and musicians, she began working with trumpeter Tom Harrell, who introduced her to the multilayered sounds of jazz. "The dancers are another instrument to a jazz musician," says Wiles. Pairing this music genre with her classical foundation has been pivotal in defining her style. "I have this classical facility, but my mind is more contemporary. Jazz is a good intersection for my work," she says.

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Sponsored by The Studio Director

As a studio owner, you're probably pretty used to juggling. Running a business is demanding, with new questions and challenges pulling your attention in a million different directions each day.

But there's a solution that could be saving you time and money (and sanity!). Studio management systems are easy-to-use software programs designed for the particular needs of studio owners, offering tools like billing, enrollment, inventory and emails, all in one place. The right studio management system can help you handle the day-to-day tasks that bog you down as a business owner, leaving you more time for the most important work—like connecting with students and planning creative curriculums for them. Plus, these systems can keep you from spending extra money on hiring multiple specialists or using multiple platforms to meet your administrative needs.

So how do you make sure you're choosing a studio management system that offers the same quality that your studio does? We talked to The Studio Director—whose studio management system provides a whole host of streamlined features—about the must-haves for any system, and the bonuses that make an excellent product stand out:

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Dance Teacher Summit
Photo by Rachel Papo

Martin Harvey brought a little movie star charm into morning ballet class at our New York Dance Teacher Summit. (His acting credits include Gossip Girls, All My Children, Dirty Dancing, A Chorus Line, Carousel, plus Metropolitan Opera productions of Carmen and Manon Lescaut.) Educated at the Royal Ballet School in London, he danced many principal roles for The Royal Ballet during his 12-year career.

Mark Your Calendar

Join us in Long Beach, CA, July 26–28, or in NYC, August 1–3, for our 2019 Dance Teacher Summit.

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Q: What suggestions do you have for dancers to get their shoulder blades to lie flat on their backs?

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Sponsored by Turn It Up Dance Challenge
Courtesy Turn It Up

With back-to-back classes, early-morning stage calls and remembering to pack countless costume accessories, competition and convention weekends can feel like a whirlwind for even the most seasoned of studios. Take the advice of Turn It Up Dance Challenge master teachers Alex Wong and Maud Arnold and president Melissa Burns on how to make the experience feel meaningful and successful for your dancers:

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Photo by Sarah Ash, courtesy of Larkin Dance

Ask Michele Larkin-Wagner and Molly Larkin-Symanietz what sets them and Maplewood, Minnesota–based Larkin Dance Studio apart, and they immediately give the credit to their mom. Shirley Larkin founded the school in 1950 and continued to oversee the growing business until she passed away in 2011. "She put Minnesota on the map for dance training and made other local studios step up to the plate to become as strong as we are," Michele says. "A lot of people's lives are better because of Shirley Larkin."

For Michele and Molly, following in their mom's footsteps was a no-brainer. "I knew I was going to be a choreographer and take over the studio," Michele says. To Molly, seven years Michele's junior and the baby out of six siblings, the studio was always a second home. The two sisters trained across genres but had distinct specialties: Michele found her niche in jazz, musical theater and lyrical, while Molly excelled in tap. In the summers, they'd travel for workshops in Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles. While Michele was in class with jazz legends like Gus Giordano, JoJo Smith, Luigi and Frank Hatchett, Molly was taking tap classes with the likes of Brenda Bufalino and Phil Black.

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Photo courtesy of Gandarillas

In Macarena Gandarillas' jazz class at California State University, Fullerton, a sign in the studio reads, "Never underestimate the power of determination." This simple mantra embodies what has made this self-described "danceaholic" such an impactful teacher.

When Gandarillas came to Los Angeles at age 6 with her family from Santiago, Chile, the language barrier was beyond overwhelming—until her mom enrolled her in ballet classes. Gandarillas found an instant love. "There were no Spanish-speaking kids at my school," she says. "But with dance I could communicate with my body. I'd finally found my voice."

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Getty Images

Q: Is teaching for an after-school program a good way to find a job in K–12?

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Photo courtesy of Inspire School of Arts and Sciences

It was the morning of November 8, 2018, and Jarrah Myles' first-period choreography students were in last-minute rehearsals for their fall dance concert that evening. "All of a sudden my students' phones started ringing like crazy," says Myles, a teacher at Inspire School of Arts and Sciences, a Chico, California, high school whose dance and theater programs Myles helped establish in 2010. "And once they answered, I saw these tragic faces staring back at me."

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