Peridance's Suzana Stankovic Unifies Diverse Dancers With This Simple Trick

Stankovic teaches adult-beginner ballet in New York City. Photo by Terry Mathis, courtesy of Peridance Capezio Center

Unifying a diverse group of dancers in a drop-in class can be a challenge, but Suzana Stankovic takes it in stride in her open adult-beginner ballet class at Peridance Capezio Center in New York City. "I get all kinds of students," she says. "That's one of the reasons why I love teaching open adult classes." To accommodate everyone, from the first-timers to professionals, she offers modifications for the combinations, like double frappés or doing the exercise on relevé. If she sees a beginner struggling, she'll stand in front of them at the barre and do the combination with them.

Before pliés even begin, Stankovic likes to start with a breathing warm-up that centers the mind and the body. Students sit on the floor with the soles of their feet together and their eyes closed, and then she cues them with simple commands as they breathe deeply: "Lift the heart, soft shoulders, soft neck, soft belly and a really long spine." Sometimes she tells them to pick an anchor word like "strength," "grace" or "authenticity," to focus on throughout class. "For the next 90 minutes that you're dancing and being challenged, you can always come back to your anchor word," she says.

Stankovic likes to start with a breathing warm-up that centers the mind and the body. Photo by Terry Mathis, courtesy of Peridance Capezio Center

To maintain a nonjudgmental atmosphere, Stankovic frames her feedback in the form of questions. "Throughout the barre I'll ask them: 'Are you gripping the barre? If so, why?' 'Can you soften your hands?' 'Can you soften your shoulders?'" she says, noting that dancers often come to her with a lot of embedded self-criticism. "Everything is a question. It's not a demand. It's not a judgment."

Teachers Trending
Courtesy Lovely Leaps

After the birth of her daughter in 2018, engineer Lisa McCabe had reservations about returning to the workforce full-time. And while she wanted to stay home with the new baby, she wasn't ready to stop contributing financially to her family (after all, she'd had a successful career designing cables for government drones). So, when she got a call that September from an area preschool to lead its dance program, she saw an opportunity.

The invitation to teach wasn't completely out of the blue. McCabe had grown up dancing in Southern California and had a great reputation from serving as her church's dance teacher and team coach the previous three years (stopping only to take a break as a new mother). She agreed to teach ballet and jazz at the preschool on Fridays and from there created an age-appropriate class based on her own training in the Cecchetti and RAD methods. It was a success: In three months, class enrollment went from six to 24 students, and just one year later, McCabe's blossoming Lovely Leaps brand had contracts with eight preschools and three additional teachers.

Keep reading... Show less
Courtesy Shake the Ground

Dance competitions were among the first events to be shut down when the COVID-19 pandemic exploded in the U.S. in mid-March, and they've been among the last able to restart.

So much of the traditional structure of the competition—large groups of dancers and parents from dozens of different studios; a new city every week—simply won't work in our new pandemic world.

How, then, have competitions been getting by, and what does the future look like?

Keep reading... Show less
Getty Images

Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.