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Photo by Rachel Papo

Our Dance Teacher Summit in New York City was an inspiring three days of technique classes, seminars and networking with incredible educators! Our favorite part is always the evening of the Capezio A.C.E. Awards Competition, when we present the Dance Teacher Awards. This year's awardees included Julie Kent, Djana Bell, Rhonda Miller, Sue Samuels and Stephanie Kersten.

Check out the winning Capezio A.C.E. Awards' winning number, Not for Picking, choreographed by Mary Grace McNally, below.

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Photo courtesy of Davis

Watching Marinda Davis teach at NYC's Broadway Dance Center, you'd never guess that she's battling eight different autoimmune diseases and taking more than 25 medications a day. And though she's unsure of how many years she has left, Davis never lets it show—her hands-on teaching style is as encouraging as it is enthusiastic, and her passion for dance is evident in her interactions with students.

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Photo by Joe Toreno

This past weekend was a busy one for us at DT—we've been in Long Beach, California, attending our Dance Teacher Summit, which included honoring our DT Award winners Award winners (best acceptance speech of the decade goes, hands down, to the fabulous Joe Tremaine) and the Capezio A.C.E. Award champions on Saturday night. It was a big evening: The overall winner of the A.C.E. Awards goes home with $15,000 to use towards the production of a future show. Here's who scored the top three spots:

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Photo by Jeremy Davis, courtesy of Blackstone

Al Blackstone only recently found his true stride in the dance world. Growing up taking class at his parents' studio and going to competitions, he loved nothing more than performing. But now, whether he's teaching a room full of professional-level dancers in New York City, a group of kids at a convention or at the Dance Teacher Summit, his true passion is sharing his process of creating and clever choreography with students and other teachers around the country.

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How does a $15,000 production budget toward your own performance in New York City sound? Capezio’s Award for Choreographic Excellence competition is officially underway, and entering is as simple as uploading a video of your best group choreography.

After the May 28 deadline, Dance Teacher’s staff will help Capezio choose 15 finalists to compete on August 1 at the Dance Teacher Summit in New York City. There, a panel of judges will select three award recipients. Past first-place winners include Travis Wall, Peter Chu and, most recently, Erica Sobol.

Visit for full contest details and to enter. Hope to see you in August!

At this year's Dance Teacher Summit, contemporary choreographer Erica Sobol walked away with first prize at the Capezio A.C.E. Award Competition, winning $15,000 to produce a show in New York. Sobol, who has her own Los Angeles-based company, collidEdance, took a moment to talk with DT.

Sobol's all-male cast performing
Black Flies/Heavy Skies at the DT Summit

How does it feel to win the A.C.E. Awards?

Winning first place is a dream come true for me. I told my dancers, before they went onstage, to leave nothing in their pockets; to be unafraid; to be generous; to take care of each other and tell their story. When they performed, I was totally relaxed. Winning was a bonus.

What went into the creation of this piece?

A lot of love, heartbreak, long hours and sweat! This dance actually began as a class combination. Six months ago, I set the finished piece on a beautiful group of dancers in Australia. It began as a mixed-gender piece, but it was lacking oomph. I've been working with mostly men lately, and I'm really enjoying it. In my experience so far, men are full of wild, silly energy but low on drama and eager to be physically challenged. Their unbridled, uninhibited energy really helps tell my stories at full volume.

The awards ceremony

Did you have any challenges?

When I first created the work in Australia, I had three days to make the entire thing. I hit a wall around 2 am on the last day before my dancers would perform it. We took a short break and then resumed, wrapping up around 4 am. In those two hours, I created some of my favorite moments.

What was going through your head as you waited for the winner announcement?

My head was spinning. I was just so proud of my guys and myself. When they called my name, I had to be reminded to look out at the audience and take a bow. The first thing I saw when I looked out was Mia Michaels sitting at the judges' table, smiling at me. I have looked up to Mia for as long as I can remember.

Erica Sobol

Do you have any plans for your full-length show?

I don't know exactly what it will look like, but I know it will be story-driven, emotional, moving and full of real love, great music and very special dancers. I'm over the moon to be presenting my work in New York.

Photos from top: by Kyle Froman; by Max Bronner

Karen Hildebrand, here. I can’t believe our 2013 Dance Teacher Summit is over! We had a great time, and like all of you who joined us here in NYC earlier this week, we’re brimming over with ideas and inspiration.

We are already delving into many of the hot topics that were discussed, so if you missed the DT Summit this year, stay tuned for coming issues of the magazine. And thanks to our partner/producer Gil Stroming of Break the Floor Productions, and conference director Katy Malone, for making the event our best yet.

One of my favorite parts of the DT Summit every year is the night we honor five teachers for their contributions to the field. Here is Sheila Barker presenting Frank Hatchett with the Dance Teacher Lifetime Achievement Award.

And there’s nothing like the excitement onstage when the newest A.C.E. Award winners are announced.

Big congratulations to Erica Sobol on her first-place title for “Black Flies/Heavy Skies.” She won a $15,000 production budget toward her own show in NYC next summer.

Runner-up awards went to:

Andre Kasten for “Family Matters”

Lindsay Nelko for “Awakening”

Jacob Jonas for “In a Room on Broad Street”

If you’re an emerging choreographer, mark your calendar for the 2014 contest entries:

Here is the video Erica sent that got her picked as one of the 16 finalists:

Photos by Kyle Froman

Photo by Jeremy Davis, courtesy of Al Blackstone

Shifting between hard-hitting jazz and gooey contemporary movement, borrowing modern dance's bare feet and layering character portrayals as bold as those found on Broadway, Al Blackstone's choreography samples several techniques. “I always like to tell the story that my mom, dad and sister were truly my teachers because they surrounded me with the different styles of the dance world," says Blackstone, who literally grew up at his mother's Denise Daniele Dance Studio, then attached to their house in New Jersey. “My mother would take me to see a Broadway show, my dad taught me ballroom and my sister was training at Ailey."

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