Dance Teacher Tips
The Rhythm Works curriculum helps students improve communication and motor development. Photo courtesy of Rhythm Works Integrative Dance

Terms like "proprioceptive" and "vestibular input" don't often come up in the dance studio. But for Rhythm Works Integrative Dance (RWID) founder Tricia Gomez, they were the "magic words" that convinced a reluctant school principal to give dance a try.

Gomez's hip hop–based curriculum fuses rhythm and dance for students with learning differences. Launch Preschool in Torrance, California, serves children or adults who have autism or other disabilities. Their partnership is one of many that Gomez has built since the program's implementation in 2015. In some cases RWID is delivered in schools that cater to disabled students, such as Launch, but in others, it's used in programs where these students are mainstreamed.

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Dance News

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

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