Teaching Tips
Karen Hildebrand (center) with 2019 DT Awardee Marisa Hamamoto and members of Infinite Flow. Photo by Joe Toreno

Every year in our summer issue, we honor four dance educators for their outstanding contributions to the field. Recipients have included studio owners, professors, program directors, K–12 teachers and more, whose specialties run the gamut of dance genres.

We need your help to identify this year's best in the profession. Do you have a colleague or mentor who deserves to be recognized as a leader and role model?

Send your nomination by March 1, 2020. You can e-mail us at danceteachereditors@dancemedia.com with the following details:

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Photo by Sarah Ash, courtesy of Larkin Dance

Ask Michele Larkin-Wagner and Molly Larkin-Symanietz what sets them and Maplewood, Minnesota–based Larkin Dance Studio apart, and they immediately give the credit to their mom. Shirley Larkin founded the school in 1950 and continued to oversee the growing business until she passed away in 2011. "She put Minnesota on the map for dance training and made other local studios step up to the plate to become as strong as we are," Michele says. "A lot of people's lives are better because of Shirley Larkin."

For Michele and Molly, following in their mom's footsteps was a no-brainer. "I knew I was going to be a choreographer and take over the studio," Michele says. To Molly, seven years Michele's junior and the baby out of six siblings, the studio was always a second home. The two sisters trained across genres but had distinct specialties: Michele found her niche in jazz, musical theater and lyrical, while Molly excelled in tap. In the summers, they'd travel for workshops in Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles. While Michele was in class with jazz legends like Gus Giordano, JoJo Smith, Luigi and Frank Hatchett, Molly was taking tap classes with the likes of Brenda Bufalino and Phil Black.

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Photo courtesy of Gandarillas

In Macarena Gandarillas' jazz class at California State University, Fullerton, a sign in the studio reads, "Never underestimate the power of determination." This simple mantra embodies what has made this self-described "danceaholic" such an impactful teacher.

When Gandarillas came to Los Angeles at age 6 with her family from Santiago, Chile, the language barrier was beyond overwhelming—until her mom enrolled her in ballet classes. Gandarillas found an instant love. "There were no Spanish-speaking kids at my school," she says. "But with dance I could communicate with my body. I'd finally found my voice."

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Photo courtesy of Inspire School of Arts and Sciences

It was the morning of November 8, 2018, and Jarrah Myles' first-period choreography students were in last-minute rehearsals for their fall dance concert that evening. "All of a sudden my students' phones started ringing like crazy," says Myles, a teacher at Inspire School of Arts and Sciences, a Chico, California, high school whose dance and theater programs Myles helped establish in 2010. "And once they answered, I saw these tragic faces staring back at me."

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Photo courtesy of Infinite Flow

While taking class in 2006, Marisa Hamamoto felt a tingling sensation in her elbows, then suddenly collapsed to the floor. She was hospitalized and diagnosed with spinal cord infarction, a rare spinal stroke that left her paralyzed from the neck down. Despite being told by her doctor that she may never walk again, let alone dance, Hamamoto miraculously walked out of the hospital two months later.

Since her stroke, Hamamoto has found a new lease on life. She has channeled her indomitable will to overcome adversity into a dance company that marries her love of ballroom dance with her passion for social activism. Los Angeles–based Infinite Flow is the first professional wheelchair ballroom dance company in the U.S. Over the past four years it has become a torchbearer for social change, performing worldwide and offering workshops and school assemblies to educate audiences about accessibility and inclusion.

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PICTURE YOURSELF IN THIS PHOTO. (Here, our 2016 award winners and the DT staff.)

If you're a dance teacher, studio owner, professional dancer or just someone who can bring the funk at a party thanks to your adolescent dance studies, you've definitely encountered a teacher who had a sizable impact on your life. Now's the time to share that teacher's skill and passion with the rest of the dance community! Nominate your favorite teacher for a 2017 Dance Teacher Award. It's very simple: Just fill out this online form. (Alternatively, you can email nominations to rrizzuto@dancemedia.com or send them via snail mail to this address: 2017 Dance Teacher Awards, Attn: Rachel Rizzuto, Dance Teacher magazine, 333 Seventh Ave., 11th Floor, New York, NY, 10001.)

In the past, we've honored a studio owner with an admirably no-nonsense attitude and competition teams that function more like families; a former Rockette-turned-university-professor raising thousands every year to give her students the chance to visit NYC; a ballet teacher with a penchant for playing Led Zeppelin in class; and a high school teacher who helmed an entire 68-student-strong dance program completely on her own.

Nominations close on Wednesday, March 1. DT Awards will be presented at the Dance Teacher Summit. Nominees must be available to attend.

Don't miss a single issue of Dance Teacher.

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Joanne Chapman cultivates excellence and a familial atmosphere at her Canadian studio. Photo by Don Boskovic/Exposé Studios, courtesy of Chapman

Four incredible educators: Joanne Chapman, Claudio Muñoz, Pamela VanGilder and Kathleen Isaac foster their students' love of dance, whether instilling artistry, offering rigorous training or giving special needs students an outlet through movement.

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Hi All,

Karen Hildebrand here, counting down the days to our Dance Teacher Summit next week. We’ve got a great lineup planned! You’ve seen them in the magazine, on the cover and in videos on our website. Next week you’ll see them in the flesh here in New York City—your favorite role models will be leading classes and informal discussions, and answering your questions. Think about all you get in the magazine—the teaching tips; business and career advice; refreshers on anatomy, injury prevention and technique; the latest products and services from respected vendors—and imagine what that might look like in person. It’s three days filled with amazing inspiration, information and connection!

Presenting Denise Wall with the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award at last year's DT Summit

Here at the office, our editors have their own Dance Teacher Summit schedules laid out and we’re carefully planning our attack. Our best advice for making the most out of your DTS experience? Sit or stand next to a stranger at each session and meet someone new. One of the best parts of the Summit is making connections with teachers from all over the country. If you’re attending with your colleagues, split up. You can compare notes later at dinner. And if you’re on Twitter, share the highlights with all of us by using the hashtag #DTSummit.

Can’t wait to see you all here in New York City! Be sure to stop by our DanceMedia booth and grab an “I Am a Dance Teacher” totebag. We’ll have the brand-new edition of the College Guide on sale for only $25, too.

Photo by Matthew Murphy

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