Studio Owners
Outdoor class at Lake Tahoe Dance Collective. Photo by Scott Rokis, courtesy of LTDC

With restrictions on large gatherings still in place in many parts of the country, finding a way to keep classes running is very much at the top of studio owners' minds. While hundreds have taken to online platforms like Zoom to stay in business during the pandemic, some are finding that as social distancing guidelines gradually lift, there's another way to keep dancers engaged: outdoor dance classes.

Gathering outside in a small group to dance can be tricky, but these studio owners are finding that the boost in morale at their schools is well worth the effort. Here, they share how they set up their COVID-compliant outdoor dance classes this summer.

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Teaching Tips
Kira Blazek Ziaii (right). Photo by Raunak Kapoor, courtesy of UNSCSA

In a contemporary dance class at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, instructor Kira Blazek Ziaii gives a stationary exercise inspired by Countertechnique, the movement system developed by Anouk van Dijk. By directing parts of the body away from each other in space, dancers learn to work with an ever-changing dynamic balance. To begin, Ziaii asks her students to shift their attention to different areas of their bodies, like jaws and armpits. "It can be illuminating for people to take their mental awareness to those places," says Ziaii. "It may also be helpful bridging the gap to coordination."

Some dancers naturally have a good sense of how to move smoothly and efficiently, while others need help organizing their bodies and connecting movements. Improving coordination can be slow, methodical work that requires a great deal of patience and technique. But giving students both intellectual and physical tools will help them develop a well-rounded approach to movement and dance more cohesively.

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Teaching Tips
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Relocating your work routine from the dance studio to your home can pose some serious challenges (after all, the bedroom isn't exactly the ideal setting for teaching grand allégro). So, if you're struggling to find your groove in the virtual classroom, know that (1) You're not alone, and (2) You're on a steep learning curve right now, so be patient with yourself.

We spoke with three dance educators—Michael Waldrop, the associate artistic director of the jazz & contemporary trainee program at the Joffrey Ballet School; Allegra Romita, a program administrator and adjunct professor in the dance education department at NYU Steinhardt; and Brandon Burnett, a former Dance Theatre of Harlem artist and adjunct dance professor at University of Maryland, Baltimore County—who've picked up a few best practices while teaching online classes from home over the past month. Here are their tips.

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Teaching Tips
Melanie George (right). Photo by Grace Corapi, courtesy of George

Teachers from coast to coast are pushing students to move outside the constraints of popular music. There is a consensus that the earlier you introduce varied musical forms, the more adept and adaptable a dancer's musicality will be.

New York–based jazz scholar and teacher Melanie George notices that many students' relationships to music can be reductive: They may think exclusively about lyrics or accents. But jazz, for example, is about swinging: an embodied comprehension of instrumentation that only comes with musical acuity. "Students are ready for this specificity, even if we aren't giving it to them," she says. When her students understand that there is a technique to listening, it becomes less about going forward, and more about going deeper into the sound and into their bodies.

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Teaching Tips
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It's December, people! That means it's time to put together your wish list for this holiday season. We did some brainstorming and came up with the best possible dance teacher list we could think of. Every dance teacher/studio owner can relate! Let us know what else you're asking for!

XOXO!

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Health & Body
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Q: I've made the transition from ballet to modern and have noticed an alarming decrease in ankle stability when on relevé. I assume this is due to a loss of ankle strength. What kinds of exercises are best for strengthening my ankles to alleviate this problem?

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Teaching Tips
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Q: My 13-year-old daughter has always been flexible, but last year she suffered an acute injury to her hip flexor from an overstretch position. Since then I have told her not to participate in over-splits or other extreme positions. Is that the right thing to do?

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Trending
Photo by Jacqueline Chang, courtesy of Ailey Extension

Marshall Davis Jr.'s introduction to tap dance began at 10 years old at African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, where his father is director, in Miami, Florida. Training began in sneakers and dress shoes that Davis Jr. did his best to get sound out of. "My father was reluctant to invest in tap shoes, because he thought it was likely I would change my mind about dancing," he says. But it didn't take long before Davis Jr.'s passion for tap became undeniable, and his father bought him his first pair of tap shoes. Just one year later, Davis Jr. became the 1989 Florida winner for the Tri-Star Pictures Tap Day contest, a promotion for the movie Tap, starring Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr. Through that experience, a new tap-dancing future was opened.

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