Dance Teacher editors stand with the 2016 Dance Teacher Award winners at the Capezio A.C.E. Awards. From left to right: Rachel Caldwell, Rachel Rizzuto, Helen Rolfe, Joanne Chapman, Claudio Muñoz, Robert Battle, Karen Hildebrand, Kathleen Isaac and Pamela VanGilder

What a whirlwind weekend! It was my first-ever Dance Teacher Summit, and it was awesome! Throughout the weekend’s classes, seminars, workshops, Capezio A.C.E. Awards and the Closing Summit panel discussion, teachers from far and wide shared their wisdom and passion for teaching dance. Here are five things I learned at the Summit:

1.     Studio owners are superheroes. At the studio owners' session on Thursday, studio owners from across the country discussed the challenges they face. My takeaway? These women and men are amazing. Not only do they run a business, teach class, choreograph and manage staff, they deal with problematic parents, fundraising, the repercussions of a constantly changing economy, being a mentor to students and adapting their businesses to the digital age. And that’s not even half of it! I tip my hat to you, studio owners. You are superheroes.

2.     Dance really is for every child. Since seeing the documentary P.S. Dance! last year, I have thought a lot about its prevailing message, “Dance for every child.” I felt that concept very deeply when I attended a workshop titled “Special Needs Students,” led by Rhythm Works Integrative Dance teacher Tricia Gomez. She gave a rundown of sensory issues experienced by students with special needs and showed how different types of cuing (visual, auditory and tactile) can help those students dance. It was fascinating and inspiring!

Talent and innovation were abundant at the Capezio A.C.E. Awards! Among the winners were 2nd runner ups Mark Osborn and Justin Myles for their tap number, Long Train Running.

3.     The competition scene is immense (and intense!). At both the competition/convention panel discussion and Joanne Chapman and Nancy Giles’ seminar, “Competition Teams: Keeping it Smooth,” I was blown away by just how much the comp scene has expanded since I was a studio dancer. Representatives from 15 dance competitions were present at the Summit to field questions. Meanwhile Chapman and Giles shared how they run their award-winning comp teams. One key to their success? Hold every dancer on the team to the same high standards.

4.     Stay positive and good things will come your way. At Kim Delgrosso’s seminar, “Fill Your Cup,” she shared how maintaining a positive attitude and being grateful can impact your life. It’s worked well for her—the mother of 8 and grandmother of 22 has run a successful studio in Orem, Utah, for more than 30 years. From taking the time to connect with the people around you to participating in nondance activities, she had great suggestions for staying grounded and humble in this often chaotic industry.

5.     The future of dance education looks bright. The Closing Summit panel discussion last night was truly uplifting. Summit ambassadors Denise Wall, Joanne Chapman, Kim Delgrosso, Sue Sampson-Dalena, Dance Teacher editor-in-chief Karen Hildebrand and faculty member Deborah Wingert talked with teachers about the future of dance education. More job opportunities for dancers, an increased emphasis on health and self-care and more innovation in the choreographic realm than we know what to do with are all indicators of a bright future for today’s young dancers.

From left to right: Denise Wall, Kim Delgrosso, Sue Sampson-Dalena, Joanne Chapman, Karen Hildebrand and Deborah Wingert

Photos (from top): by Rachel Papo (2); by Helen Rolfe

Don’t miss a single issue of Dance Teacher.

Balagna (in black) teaches her students how to make the most out of the competition experience.

Seen and Heard at the Dance Teacher Summit

Steppin’ Out—The Studio

Lee’s Summit, Missouri

450 students

Phyllis Balagna has been taking her students to conventions and competitions for 25 years, as long as her studio has been open. She has the season down to a science: She and her staff select one or two conventions, three regional competitions and one National to attend each year. Here, she addresses some of the most frequently asked questions she hears about competition.

How do you get your students focused before they compete?

I am a coach at heart, and motivating kids is my forte. I am constantly searching for quotes to inspire the students. One of my favorites is, “The better you get, the nicer you become!” I believe in my program and the work I do with the students. The passion and energy transfers to them, and on “game day,” my dancers are on fire!

Do you allow your students to hear their critiques at competition?

Yes, because I expose my students to competitions that I know and trust. I send all soloists home with their critique sheet or tape, and I ask them to read or listen to it and jot down the comments. At their next private lesson, we sit down, oftentimes with a parent, and discuss what was said. By including the parent just a little, they feel such a part of the process. For small groups, large groups and lines, we’ll sometimes listen as a group, but I confess that because I produce more than 100 routines each year, I do not take the time out of every class to listen to every critique. After a competition, I’m usually ready to get back into the trenches and do what needs to be done to make each dancer and routine more solid.

How do you motivate your students?

By smiling, having fun and pushing them hard in class. I make it my number-one goal to always do things that will motivate each of my dancers to be the best they can be. I have found that the higher I set the bar, the harder they work. Students love to be challenged, so as a teacher I am constantly trying to find ways to shake it up.

How do you motivate yourself as a teacher?

I surround myself with great people. I also guest teach and serve as a competition judge, which are great motivational experiences. I read countless magazines and articles on coaching techniques, and I am constantly thinking up new ways to reinvent myself as a teacher. Each year I try to have a new approach to teaching and coaching.

Photo by John Beaudoin, courtesy of Steppin’ Out—The Studio

 

Denise Wall teaching alignment at the DT Summit

The Dance Teacher Summit is our favorite event of the year, because it's where the pages of Dance Teacher magazine come to life. With three days of movement classes, business seminars and chances to connect with other educators from all over the world, what's not to love? And don't forget the exciting evening events, like the Capezio A.C.E. Awards finals and the presentation of our 2015 Dance Teacher Awards!

This year, the Summit will be held in sunny Long Beach, California, July 28–30, and we cannot wait to see you there. The full list of faculty—including some exciting new names—will be out shortly, but we can already tell you we’ll be welcoming back plenty of favorites, including Paula Morgan, Denise Wall and the one and only Luigi. Plus, we have four highly deserving teachers lined up to receive DT Awards this year, along with a very special Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

And here’s the best news: We're giving away three full registration passes (a $475 value)! Click here for a chance to win. See you in California!

The DT editorial staff and DT Awards recipients at the 2014 Summit.

Photos from top: courtesy of Break the Floor Productions; by Kyle Froman

You can catch this lady teaching at this weekend's Dance Teacher Summit in NYC! We hope to see you there. Check out Mandy Moore's thoughts on tricks, "floppy anger dancing" and more in her interview with DT:

Moore (right) teaching at JUMP

To her fans, Mandy Moore is a pioneer of contemporary dance. But the “So You Think You Can Dance” choreographer doesn’t think her work belongs under that heading, and she’s not sure anyone knows what does. She says the popularity of dance on TV has created bad habits among dancers when it comes to the trendy but nebulous genre. Between commitments on the convention and competition circuit and her latest gig—creating opening numbers on “Dancing with the Stars”—the outspoken DT Summit faculty member spoke about the contemporary style conundrum and how to create meaningful dance, no matter what you label it.

Dance Teacher: What style best describes your work on “So You Think You Can Dance”?

Mandy Moore: Most of what I do on that show is lyrical. We could debate contemporary versus lyrical, but I was taught lyrical was a mix between ballet and jazz. It has jazz principles—the shapes, the quick direction changes—with beautiful ballet lines. When contemporary came, it was this mixture of shapes that couldn’t really be jazz and weren’t ballet. It became an umbrella for everything you can’t define.

So many people don’t understand what’s going on with contemporary, and rightfully so. We don’t even know, and we’re the people doing it! I feel like a lot of teachers get so confused, thinking, “What am I doing with my kids? Are we just doing a new version of lyrical and calling it contemporary?”

DT: Whatever we call it, what’s the harm in imitating the style?

MM: When people don’t have knowledge about something, they go to what’s easiest. Just because it’s easier to stand in parallel with no muscles engaged and flop your arms around in the air doesn’t mean that’s dance.

Dancers are hypermobile in their hips because of what they see on YouTube and TV—they think dance is about throwing your leg up in the air. They’re soft in their cores because there’s a lack of traditional jazz technique. They don’t have texture or a grounded feeling in their bodies. It feels surface-y, like they’re ice-skating.

Contestents on “SYTYCD” perform a Moore routine to “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”

DT: How can teachers end this trend?

MM: Kids think emoting is floppy anger dancing. I’ve done that, and I understand why it would feel good. But as teachers, we need to explain that’s just one piece of the pie. There are so many other ways to move. And if students could learn to move from a place that’s connected in their centers, when they did movement like that it would have a whole new meaning.

DT: As a competition judge, how do you suggest a teacher create a so-called contemporary number that’s evocative without being “floppy anger dancing”?

MM: Think about what you are saying, and what I [the judge] am supposed to get from the number. If you pick a song that means something to you, why would you put a random fouetté section in the middle of it? Why have your dancers flopping to their knees doing something you saw on “So You Think You Can Dance” last week when there’s nothing that supports it musically or story

wise? I’m up for all of it as long as it’s done with tact, integrity and knowledge.

DT: But aren’t tricks required to score well in competition?

MM: I get it. You’re like, “I have to put 55 things in a number.” That happens on “So You Think” all the time. Our producers tell us we have to put in more tricks, so I try to find the best, most authentic way to do it, because I’ll feel like an idiot choreographer if I don’t at least give it a transition or a build. I’m often asked to do these ’80s love ballads on “So You Think,” so usually there’s a great build in the music. I try to match it and give [the trick] a good in and a good out, so it doesn’t feel like, “Abort the mission. Stop dancing and do a trick.” It’s a challenge to transition into and out of something spectacular. It takes a lot of thought.

Photos from top: courtesy of Break the Floor Productions; by Adam Rose/FOX

Our Dance Teacher Summit gets started tomorrow afternoon with a special studio owners roundtable before classes and seminars begin on Friday. Here's are some recital ticketing tips from Danie Beck, just to get you excited. Beck owned Dance Unlimited for over 40 years. She and our other ambassadors will be on hand this weekend to share their best business advice.

Danie Beck speaking at the 2012 Dance Teacher Summit; below: Dance Unlimited competition students in performance.

Danie Beck

former owner, Dance Unlimited

Miami, FL

400 students

Danie Beck has seen her students go on to study dance in college and perform in national Broadway touring companies. A Dance Teacher Summit ambassador for three years, Beck has recently sold Dance Unlimited to a former student.

Dance Teacher: Over the years, you’ve had as many as 500 students performing in just one yearly recital weekend. How do you organize ticketing for such a high-volume event?

Danie Beck: For many years we went through the “waiting in line at 4 am with a lawn chair” routine, so by the time the parents got into the studio, they were so aggravated it was like dealing with a tiger! And when they got to the auditorium for the show, the grandmother would be saving six seats with a sweater, a purse and an umbrella and people got annoyed.

Something had to change. I couldn’t go through this horrific mob scene every year, so we started a lottery for requesting tickets. There’s an open period of about a week when parents can come in, draw lottery numbers and fill out ticket request forms for each show. At first the office would be mobbed on the first day, but people have learned it really is strictly luck of the draw, and it doesn’t matter when they come. They have an equal chance of getting the seats they want whether they arrive on the first hour of the first day, or right at the end.

DT: How do you assign tickets once you have the ticket request forms?

DB: I do it. I can do about one show an evening, going through the ticket forms, filling each request the best I can, starting with the lowest lottery number. It works well, it’s organized and everyone is polite about it. They understand it’s luck of the draw. One year you might draw number 9; the next year you might draw 99.

I also use the lottery to encourage early registration. If you register early, before April, you draw from a lottery bag of 1–50 instead of 1–100. So it’s useful as an in-house tool for registration, as well.

DT: Did you get a lot of pushback from parents when you made that change?

DB: I was lucky that the lottery worked right off the bat. When you make a big change, you have to believe in it, and you have to show that you do. You go in with a positive attitude. “It’s going to be so much better, you’re all going to be happier,” and so on. Then, once you’re made the change, you work with what you’ve created. You can expand it, or if it’s not working the way you’d hoped, you can adjust it, but you don’t need to announce that. You don’t say, “It wasn’t working like I wanted.” Always stay positive, because if people doubt the way you’re thinking, then they’re going to question every move you make. You simply say, “Yes, that worked well, but I think this will work even better.”

Photos from top: courtesy of Break the Floor Productions; courtesy of Dance Unlimited

According to Caldwell, a great lyrical piece begins with the music.

Our Dance Teacher Summit kicks off on Friday, and the full schedule has been posted online. This year we welcome some new faces to the teaching roster, including tWitch and the one and only Twyla Tharp!

Keep reading... Show less

Gregg Russell teaching at a workshop in Jackson, MS

Our Dance Teacher Summit is less than two weeks away! Check out this interview with Gregg Russell, then catch him in class next weekend:

As b-boying gained popularity in the early 1980s, Gregg Russell was a child, training in tap and, later, jazz. He picked up a few breaking moves from friends and TV, but just for fun, he says. That attitude changed when he met Frank Hatchett, whose street-dance–infused jazz classes drove him to explore hip hop and jazz more seriously. Today, Russell is best known as a master tap teacher with Co. Dance convention, but he also specializes in teaching hip hop to recreational dancers and classically trained students.

Dance Teacher: What should hip-hop novices know about the style?

Gregg Russell: In jazz or ballet, we tend to work from the outside in. We rely on the visuals to make it feel good. If I look in the mirror and I’m pulled up and look good, I think, OK, that feels good. But hip hop is more from the inside out. It’s a feeling first and then we clean it as we go. That helps trained dancers know they might not look so good right away. But if they have the feeling, their teachers can help them clean up the look.

DT: How do you address the stereotype that hip hop has to be sexy?

GR: Recently in my class I taught “Vogue,” because I had the pleasure of learning the choreography from Oliver [Crumes], who was one of Madonna’s dancers. We went across the floor and did a “Vogue” combination, and some of the girls went crazy. They thought it was the coolest thing in the world. And it made me excited because they forgot about popping their booty for a couple minutes and enjoyed something else that’s part of the hip-hop community.

It’s important to show students there’s more to hip hop than one step they see in a video. But there’s a way to do it without being condescending or making them wrong for liking that. Every generation has their steps that make the older generation say, “I can’t believe they’re doing that.” It’s our responsibility as mentors and teachers to show them everything.

DT: What is the greatest challenge you face with hip-hop beginners?

GR: Teaching kids not to give up. I know it’s always happened, but I’ve seen it a lot more in the last five years. It surprises me, because [when I was training] I’d just get mad and keep trying until I got it. But kids get something wrong and they’re like, “Well, I just can’t do it.” So training them not to do that is a big thing. That’s why I do break dancing in class—just the basic footwork, six-step, three-step, freezes. It takes them longer to get a result, but when they get it, they feel awesome. It’s an accomplishment because they know it’s a skill that is not easy. They build up that confidence of working through a problem.

Photo courtesy of Gregg Russell

Though she sold Dance Unlimited in 2011, Danie Beck has 55-plus years of experience, and she remains involved in the industry, providing consulting services to other studio owners. She freshens up her business knowledge each year at the Dance Teacher Summit, where she’s been an ambassador for four years. She spoke to DT about coming into her own as a business person.

Dance Unlimited student Brielle Thomson

Danie Beck

Former owner, Dance Unlimited

Miami, FL

350 students

Dance Teacher: What was the most surprising question you heard at this year’s Summit?

Danie Beck: Some of the new studio owners who had been in business under five years seemed afraid to make changes. A lot of it had to do with money—I’d suggest adding on a fee for competitions or for late payments, and they’d say, “Oh I’ve never done that.” That’s OK, though! We all go through that. You can’t be afraid to step out of the original four-corner box you created when you opened; you have to change with the times. Approach it in a positive way, and understand you can’t please everybody. You have to do what’s best for your business and the majority of your clientele.

DT: When you first opened your studio, what did you struggle with most?

DB: I was raised in the trade, so I struggled with forming my own identity. My mom was a studio owner and I remember saying, “Mother, someday you’re going to be known as Danie Beck’s mother instead of me being known as your daughter.” Since I grew up in the studio, I had that experience backing me, and I saw it all around me, but I had to build that confidence. It’s about knowing what you’re capable of and know that what you’re teaching your students is correct.

Photo courtesy of Danie Beck

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