Strong Foundations

It’s official. Ballet is big on the competition circuit. Our trend watchers report that pointe shoes and tutus made an impressive showing at Nationals this year. Of course, as educators, we know that a strong ballet foundation is essential for all styles of dance. But we can also understand why youngsters with “SYTYCD” stars in their eyes might consider it a chore.

There are ways to make your jazz, hip-hop and contemporary dancers look forward to ballet class. And who else to gather the great advice you’ll see in “It’s Not a Popularity Contest," but frequent DT contributor Julie Diana, retired principal of Pennsylvania Ballet. Diana is taking her own ballet foundation into another realm this fall. She and her husband, fellow principal dancer Zachary Hench, are now directors of Juneau Dance Theatre in Alaska.


In the 2015 Competition and Convention Guide, we’ve gathered the essential details for 112 of the best events of the coming season. And in “The Ultimate Front-Row Dancer,” you’ll hear about participation in this vital scene from a slightly different perspective—the teaching assistants who demonstrate for convention teachers. These are the dancers your students emulate. You’ll want to know what this path requires and whether or not to encourage your star student to go for it.


The editors presented the annual Dance Teacher Awards at our Dance Teacher Summit in Long Beach this year. From top: Karen Hildebrand, Rachel Rizzuto and Alyssa Marks.

We’ve been feeling inspired recently by those who take their dance training into public schools. This month we talked to movement therapist Jessica Zippin, who stole our hearts at The Astaire Awards earlier this year with a presentation featuring some of her special needs students. You’ll understand why, once you read Lauren Kay’s story, “The Power of Dance.”

I hope your fall season is off to a great start!

Photos by Joe Toreno

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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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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, 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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