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Photo courtesy courtesy of NY Studio of Irish Step Dance

Growing up, Melissa Weigel spent most of her time at Irish step dance competitions. She was a regular at regional, national and world events, representing her hometown studio, located just outside of Chicago. But by the time she graduated from college, she was ready to hang up her dancing shoes. "Dancing beyond college was a full-time commitment, and I wanted to balance my love of dance with my nondance career." She took a step back from competitive performing, pursued a career in conservation investments and enrolled in classes at The New York Studio of Irish Step Dance. She now teaches for the studio one night a week and enjoys the challenges of working with adult recreational dancers in an advanced/championship class, many of whom have backgrounds like her own.

"We have a lot of dancers who used to dance growing up and are looking to get back into it as an adult, as well as some who are picking it up for the first time," she says. "They are all here taking classes to have fun and to get some great exercise."

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Health & Body
Nikki Calonge at Jaya Yoga Center in Brooklyn. Photo by Rachel Papo

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously asserted "Life is flux." Dancers most certainly know this to be true. Whether they are early in their training or seasoned professionals, change is your students' persistent companion. Dancers must nimbly adjust to shifting expectations, choreography and opportunities, as well as to transformation within their very own bodies, the instrument of their art. Physical change occurs, for example, as young dancers come into physical maturity and as adult dancers meet the natural process of aging. Dancers of any age may face change in their bodies due to injury.

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Jennings and her students on set for "We Are the Future." Photo courtesy of Jennings

The harrowing school shooting in Parkland, Florida, this past February evoked an inspiring amount of youth activism as students across the country protested gun violence. Knowing the power dance can have on social issues, and wanting her students to use their talents to spread a positive message, Club Dance Studio teacher Chelsea Jennings choreographed and produced "We Are the Future," a dance video that has gone viral on YouTube. The dancers dressed in orange to honor 14-year-old dancer and Parkland shooting victim Jaime Guttenberg (whose favorite color was orange), and held signs with messages like: "Over 150 children have died in school shootings since 1999" and "I don't want to be another statistic."

"It's important for teachers to educate their dancers on more than just dance, but life skills as well," Jennings says. "I want my dancers to see they are capable of bringing positivity into the lives of others. A simple conversation, a compliment or even just being there for someone can make a difference. This video was to remind people to be kind."

GO-TO ENERGY BOOSTER

"I'm a major coffee addict. I have a double shot of espresso from Starbucks in the afternoon during my typical 10- to 12-hour teaching days. I also have a bag of almonds, a protein bar and fruit in my bag to snack on, while I teach."

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Health & Body
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I have, according my dance teachers, the "perfect dancer body." My legs are hyperextended and I have perfect turnout. If I have the "perfect dancer body," then why does my body hurt so much while I dance?

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Teaching Tips

Oh, socks: What are we gonna do with you? Many dancers—ourselves definitely included—have a love-hate relationship with this unassuming member of the footwear family. On the one hand, they feel oh-so-essential for pulling off endless turns in contemporary class. On the other hand, we've heard our fair share of horror stories from fellow dancers of catastrophic slips that led directly to serious injuries. Then what's a dancer to do? We're so glad you asked.

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Teaching Tips

Showing up day after day to the ballet barre can feel monotonous, at times, tedious. Ohhh, le sigh. But as teachers and students know, daily practice is essential to maintaining strength and technique.

Before you hit class today, take a quick inspiration Insta video break to regain a fresh perspective.

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News

There's no such thing as too much inspiration, right? Right! Here are some inspiring posts to keep your motivation for the year ahead high, flexible and balanced, or whatever your New Year's goals may be.

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Health & Body
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No matter how hard I work to change it, I'm often told that I have a shallow plié. Is there any hope for improving the depth of my plié through special stretches to make it juicier? I'm doing a lot of exercises, but I don't seem to getting any results. Looking forward to reading your advice. Thanks!

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