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The Big Apple Tap Fest, courtesy of Dee

Debbi Dee took her first tap class at age 5 from vaudevillian hoofer and rhythm tapper Curly Fisher, in Rochester, New York. She studied tirelessly with him in the garage he had turned into a small, makeshift dance studio until she was 13 years old, when he claimed he had taken her as far as he could, and she needed to find herself a new teacher. Instead, she jumped feet first into her professional career, tapping with the Lawrence Welk and Count Basie orchestras on the traveling state fair circuit, on the Bob Hope USO shows, and in nightclubs in Vegas and the Catskills.

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Courtesy of Morgan

To say Lisa Morgan wears more than one hat would be a gross understatement. For starters, she teaches a pedagogy course for dance majors at Colorado State University and heads the dance component of an arts-integration program (BRAINY) for local elementary students. She also runs a professional-development seminar for K–12 teachers who want to incorporate movement into their classrooms. And she teaches movement to music therapy students at CSU. Oh, and she was part of a weeklong summer institute last year to expose high-needs high schoolers to college via integrative dance activities.

It's tempting to say that Morgan, who has been an adjunct professor throughout her 20-year tenure at CSU, is just someone who goes above and beyond her job description. But she avows that it's more about feeling compelled to make her mark in dance education. If that sounds idealistic, it is. "When you're in arts education, you always see the bigger picture—a bigger list of things you want to do and get to," she says. Her bigger picture of late? Working on broadening CSU's dance-degree offerings (currently a BA) to include a BFA, eventually with a concentration in dance education—and teacher licensure. "It's what I'm most passionate about," she says. "It's what I can make the biggest difference in."

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Rose Eichenbaum

Wade Robson was at the height of his popularity and among the dance industry's most respected teachers and choreographers when I photographed him for the cover of Dance Magazine in 2007. At 25, he had already produced an extraordinary body of work that included commercials, music videos, world tours and stage direction for such pop stars as Britney Spears, *NSYNC, Justin Timberlake, Usher and Demi Lovato. He was also creator and host of his own MTV show, "The Wade Robson Project," and had won multiple industry awards, among them two Emmys for his choreography on "So You Think You Can Dance." What his admiring public didn't know was that Robson harbored a secret that in five short years would bring his professional life crashing down.

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Via Steffanina's Instagram

When Matt Steffanina needs music inspiration for his class at Millennium Dance Complex or for a dance tutorial video, he asks his nearly 3 million Instagram followers. "I'll read through the comments of my post, listen to suggestions and pick whatever I'm vibing with that day," he says.

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Dancer Health
Photo by Joe Toreno

At a time when Stacey Tookey's dancing should have been taking off, she suffered two serious health setbacks that almost cost her her career.

First, at 17, she learned she had stress fractures in her shins that were so bad she could have snapped her tibias. She had to recover in a wheelchair and took a year off from dancing. "I had never rested a day in my life and worked through any pain I'd ever had," she says. "It was the first message to myself that I'm not invincible."

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FreeVerse photography, courtesy of Quenga

As a hula instructor at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, Hawaii native Kaina Quenga is committed to sharing the traditional dances and culture of Polynesia with the people of the Big Apple. Through training with famed kuma hula (master teacher) Johnny Lum Ho of Halau O Ka Ua Kani Lehua, Quenga developed a respect for and understanding of the artform that has carried her through the nearly 20 years of her professional career.

In spite of her success as a teacher at 92nd Street Y (she also teaches at Concourse House Day Care in the Bronx and Spoke the Hub Dancing in Brooklyn, and offers free classes in various parks around NYC during the spring and summer), Quenga never anticipated becoming an educator. "I really just lucked into it—I'm not a kuma hula," she says. One can only become an official hula master teacher when their own kuma hula bequeaths knowledge to them through a formal ceremonial ritual after years of training. "But when I came to New York, everyone kept asking me if I would teach classes. There was a need for it. So I started teaching the basics."

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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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Jonathan Hsu

Gesel Mason has serious chutzpah. Eighteen years ago, fresh off a performance career with the Dance Exchange and eager to focus on her own work, she decided to ask some high-profile African-American choreographers—Bebe Miller, Andrea Woods Valdés, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Donald McKayle, David Roussève—if they'd set solos on her. "It was one of those moments where you don't realize what you're asking," she says. "Before I got too in my head, too 'Why-would-I-even-dare-to-ask-these-people?', I just...did." In looking back, she's surprised they all said yes.

That was the beginning of No Boundaries: Dancing the Visions of Contemporary Black Choreographers, an evolving collection of solos meant to show the resilience and diversity of black contemporary performance. "The work very clearly shows that, actually, the boundary of the term 'blackness' doesn't really exist. It's wide and risk-taking and sophisticated," says MK Abadoo, a friend and colleague who has performed with Mason.

Since 2001, Mason—while also creating her own work, directing a company and holding teaching positions at many universities—has steadily amassed 11 solos, embedding herself in these choreographers' processes. Now, No Boundaries is evolving once more. Mason is archiving videos of the solos and extensive interviews with their respective choreographers via an online platform that will go live this spring, as part of her new (as of fall 2018) position at The University of Texas at Austin.

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Photo courtesy of Davis

Tired of the go-to dark and emotionally charged songs popular within contemporary dance, Marinda Davis has recently been choreographing to Broadway musicals and Frank Sinatra classics. "I'm afraid contemporary could easily become a fad, not a long-lasting genre, if we're not careful," she says. "We have to explore other types of music, versus doing what everyone else keeps doing."

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Photo by Jim Lafferty

It's a humid afternoon in New York City, and I'm sitting in a crowded restaurant on 29th Street and Seventh Avenue waiting to interview an artist I've admired since I first started dancing—this is a major fan-girl moment for me.

When Mia Michaels arrives, she enters with the kind of confidence and energy that makes people stop and take notice. She greets me with a warm hello and a tight hug. For an artist with a resumé like hers, I'm surprised by how easy she is to be with. "Do you mind if I get a coffee?" she says immediately. She's going to need it—after our interview, she'll rush directly to her cover photo shoot before teaching a master class at Broadway Dance Center this evening. Tomorrow, she'll be walking the New York Fashion Week runway for the Chromat fashion label, and later this week she'll be on a flight to Chicago for another master class, before finally heading to Tahiti for the first vacation she's had in months. "It's been a very intense year for me," she says.

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2018 was an incredible year here at Dance Teacher, and we can't let it go without one final homage to the cover stories we absolutely loved! Check out these 12 standout features you'll want to read again and again (go ahead, nothing's stopping you!), and let us know over on our Facebook page what your favorite piece of the year was!

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Thinkstock

Hardly anyone writes thank-you notes anymore. But sometimes it's just not OK to send a text, and there are two notes I've been meaning to mail the good old-fashioned way. I know most people say it doesn't matter anymore, but I don't think that's true. What's true is that it is easy to stop remembering what matters.

It's not like I believe there is nothing like the good old days, I don't. In too many ways they weren't. But each day I'm trying (vigorously!) to balance my embrace of change with the unwise choice of embracing too much of it, blindly. But I'm getting ahead of the story here. So let me back up.

I was 23 when I taught my first beginning adult dance class in a rickety room above Dollar's Garage on Water Street in Port Townsend, Washington. It was an effort to keep myself from moving too fast for beginning students, but I enjoyed the challenge. I chose music measured enough for students with less experience to enjoyably make their way through. Except, clearly, it was still too fast.

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Passing dance history on to the next generation is a bit like handing down the family jewels, says Wendy Whelan, seen here teaching. Photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy Whelan.

When I was a young dancer in Louisville, Kentucky, my ballet teacher used to speak a lot about Merrill Ashley. She brought neoclassical technique to exquisite new heights under Balanchine, and as a technician, she famously paved the way for today's balletic whiz kids. (Later, when I was a teenager, I was lucky enough to have her as a teacher.) Today, as I travel around the country giving master classes, I often find myself bringing up the names of quintessential American ballerinas, dancers like Merrill. But now, if I mention her name, I can't help but notice my students' eyes widening as they look to each other wondering who exactly this famous ballerina named Merrill is.

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