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When it comes to Broadway, Becca Petersen does it all. Not only is she a swing learning multiple roles for Mean Girls on Broadway as well as understudy for the principal roles of Cady Heron and Regina George, but she also plays an administrative role as the assistant dance captain. When she's not onstage dancing one of the 10 different tracks she covers, or acting out two of Broadway's most notorious mean ladies, she's in the audience, taking notes in order to clean choreography in the next rehearsal. "Once the show opens and the creative team leaves, the dance captains, stage managers and associates keep things running," Petersen says. "I help teach choreography to newcomers when there is turnover and make sure the dancing looks good from day to day."

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Dance Teacher Tips
Cheryl Madeux-Abbott, ballet director at the Franklin School for the Performing Arts in Hudson, Massachusetts

There's more to private lessons than one-on-one instruction. Consider these practical issues as you plan for your next session.

Outside Coaching

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Some schools discourage private lessons and outside coaching for fear that these might contradict their training methods and confuse the student.

Deciding a Rate

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Rates range anywhere from $40 to $100 or more per hour, depending on the instructor. Some studios set a flat rate, offer a discounted package or offer need-based scholarships.

Dealing With the Parents

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Parents might ask to observe the lesson, but their presence could actually hinder the child's progress. "Students work better when their parents aren't watching," says Becky Erhart Moore, artistic coordinator at Marin Ballet. If they insist on peeking in, suggest that they only come for the last 15 minutes.

Scheduling

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Scheduling can be tough, especially since most students aren't available outside of school hours. "If I have to turn down a student because of scheduling issues on my end, I refer them to someone on my staff who is available," says Cheryl Madeux-Abbott, ballet director at the Franklin School for the Performing Arts.

Time Management

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Your time is valuable, so encourage students to arrive ready for the lesson. "If they're practicing a variation, they need to have done class before," says Edward Ellison, director of Ellison Ballet. "But if we're working on fundamentals, then we can start at the beginning of barre and get warm as we go along."

Last night I officially kicked off my holiday movie viewing, with the 2003 American classic film Elf. (I am a self-proclaimed Christmas NUT.) I’ll watch many more Christmas-themed movies over the next 10 days—Meet Me in St. Louis, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Muppet Christmas Carol, A Christmas Story, Love Actually, Jingle All the Way, The Shop Around the Corner (and this is just a short list, people)—but I’ll definitely make time for holiday films with pretty memorable dance scenes, like these three:

Sure, White Christmas has some memorable dance production numbers (and “Sisters,” despite its limited actual dance moves, has always been a favorite of my two sisters and me, for obvious reasons), but I think the real gem here is “Choreography.” That’s the number Danny Kaye does with a group of modern dancers who are clearly a stand-in for Martha Graham’s company. Not sure why Kaye wears a beret, but his disdain for the drama of modern dance makes me giggle.

I feel like Martha would be proud:

Then there’s the “Jingle Bell Rock” number from Mean Girls, in all its inappropriate glory. I’m not sure what’s better: That first, unexpected thigh slap, or Amy Poehler doing the routine in the aisle as she attempts to videotape.

But for my money, the real holiday tour-de-force is Fred Astaire’s drunk dance in Holiday Inn. He’s just SO GOOD: His plastered dance moves seem uncannily real, yet he still retains the grace and smoothness we’ve come to associate with his style.

Holiday Inn - Drunk Fred Astaire Film Cip by Flixgr

OK, so what are your holiday favorites? And will you be using any of these numbers above as inspiration for your studio’s holiday performances?

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