Step, Skip, Leap

I don’t know about you, but I melt whenever I see a toddler in a pink leotard. This issue is filled with them, from Vanessa Salgado’s pre-ballet lesson for Technique  to the roundup of costumes for your youngest dancers (page 48) to Rima Faber’s creative dance class. Watching 4-year-olds awkwardly and adorably explore simple movement patterns, I can’t help but consider the miracle of human development. How exactly do we go from marching in pre-ballet class to mastering 32 fouettés for the Black Swan Pas de Deux?

To answer that question, Faber and a dream team of 10 leaders in the field have recently released new national core standards for dance, which detail the process of cognitive development in children learning dance. We were curious: Why are national standards necessary? After all, dancers have been fine-tuning their bodies as instruments of the artform for 400 years.

“I think about what’s been learned in science and about the body in 400 years—understanding of the body and how to work most efficiently has drastically changed,” Faber told writer Lisa Traiger. “And understanding how the brain helps students learn has equally changed.” In other words, Faber and others who advocate for standards believe it’s time for dance education to evolve from the passing down of steps from teacher to dancer to a more exact science of what it takes to develop artists. In “Standard Practice,” she talks about the new voluntary guidelines, how they work and why studio teachers and pre–K–12 alike will find them useful in preparing dancers for college and career.

Speaking of college, are you up to speed about financial options? How do dancers and their parents finance a college education when average tuition ranges from $22,000 to $42,000 a year? With cash, loans, grants and scholarships making up the college finance pie, how big a slice should go to loans? Will a dance career generate enough cash to make monthly loan payments after graduation? This isn’t a decision your college-bound dancers can afford to leave to their parents. “Let’s Talk About Debt...” will give you some resources to help them make sense of a confusing topic.

Save the date: August 1–3, the pages of Dance Teacher magazine will come to life in New York City. The annual Dance Teacher Summit is an inspiration-filled weekend: technique classes, choreography, business panels and networking opportunities galore. Join us! danceteachersummit.com

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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