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!

Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.

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For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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Teachers Trending

From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

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