Dance Teachers Trending
Students in Pulinkala's Cocoon. Photo by Robert Pack, courtesy of Kennesaw State

When Ivan Pulinkala was preparing for his interview at Kennesaw State University to create the school's first dance program, he figured the whole thing would be a lark, at best. After all, the New Delhi–born choreographer had just gotten his green card, which meant he could teach anywhere, and Kennesaw, Georgia (a half-hour outside of Atlanta), wasn't his first choice as a location. But after doing a scan of collegiate dance in Georgia, he began to change his mind. "I thought, 'Wow, if someone starts a big dance program at a public institution, the market's wide open,'" says Pulinkala. "There were some good programs, like Emory University, but they were niche—private and expensive."

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Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by spinkickpictures.com, courtesy of Mitchell

"Popular music has an overall energy that lends itself to the street-jazz style," says Derek Mitchell. But over the last eight years or so, the choreographer, who also teaches contemporary, jazz funk and musical theater, has noticed a lack of great musicality and interesting lyrics. As a result, Mitchell's music searches often gravitate toward the classic hits from artists like Prince and Janet Jackson. "Rarely do I hear a new song that makes me go, 'Oh, I want to dance to that!'"

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Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Shed

In 1992 while studying early childhood education at Texas A&M; University, Lisa Shed decided to make the bold move of starting her own dance studio, Lisa's Dance Connection, 90 miles away in her hometown of Temple, Texas. Three days a week she would make the commute to teach her eight young students, then wake up the next morning at 6 am to make it to her 8 am class at school. Each year the studio would double or triple in size, and by the time she graduated college, she had more than 100 students. At that point she moved back to Temple and invested all of her time and energy into developing her studio. Since then, they've outgrown multiple building locations, and today she has an impressive 500 students and counting.

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Dance Teacher Tips
Gerard Charles, courtesy of RAD

This is a charged question that I have heard debated my entire career as a dancer, teacher and director. So why would I pose such a contentious question? Because good dance teaching is at the heart of the RAD and a core value we need to be able to define. I hope this will also promote healthy discussion between all of you who teach every day.

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Dance Teacher Tips
Photos by Kyle Froman

A few years ago, Mary Ann Lamb got a phone call from Ann Reinking, who was choreographing a production of The Visit starring Chita Rivera. Lamb was thrilled when Reinking offered her the role of Young Claire without even asking for an audition. "And then she said, 'In the first act, you're going to play Chita Rivera when she's a 17-year-old virgin,'" Lamb says, "and I'm like, 'What am I gonna do? I'm like 50 years old!' I started panicking. My dream was to be in the room with Ann Reinking and Chita Rivera, but I was scared to death I was going to make a fool of myself."

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Dance Teachers Trending
YouTube

Every few months we take it upon ourselves to share some of our favorite class videos with you all. Each time, it's a list of combos we literally can't stop watching, and this time is no different.

Check them out and let us know what you think over on our Facebook page. Feel free to include links to some of the combos created in your own studios. We want to be inspired by the work that's being cultivating all around the country.

Enjoy!

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Dance Teachers Trending
Arts Umbrella Dance Company. Photo by Chris Randle, courtesy of Arts Umbrella

Dance students at Arts Umbrella in Vancouver, British Columbia, spend their first week at a remote camp overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The retreat, led by artistic director Artemis Gordon, prepares them to make the most of the next two years of this residential program that is intended to be a bridge between high school and a professional dance career.

Gordon facilitates the week with a boundless curiosity and a tendency to follow every big question with another, even bigger, question. Instead of starting right into their physical practice, Gordon prompts the group of 28 who've come from all over the world to think about such questions as: What is technique? How does artistry interface with technique and are they different or the same thing? Discussions tend to go deep and broad: What is the zeitgeist right now? Culturally speaking, what countries are doing/promoting what? How do economics and politics affect our daily conditions as artists?

In essence, Gordon's organizing principle for her program is to embody the answer to one very poignant question about the future of the art and profession of dance: "What world do we think we are going into and what skills do we need to prepare for that world?"

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Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Rachel Papo

As every educator knows, it's just as important to keep up with your teaching craft as it is for your students to keep up with their dancing. The best way to do that? Teacher-training workshops. Get away for a couple of days to interact with your peers in the industry. You'll not only learn new ideas for teaching technique and movement, but you'll discover new communication strategies, business ideas and ways to manage changes in the industry. You'll return to your studio with a wealth of knowledge to share with your students.

We've compiled a list of three teacher-training opportunities happening later this year that you should have on your radar.

You're welcome!

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Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Lindsay Thomas, courtesy of PNB

For 16 years, Pacific Northwest Ballet audiences had the unique privilege of watching real-life couple Lindsi Dec and Karel Cruz perform together. At 5'9" and 6'4", the two make a striking pair. They met as corps members, married in 2009 and welcomed their first child, Koan, in January 2016. In June 2018, Cruz took his final bow and transitioned into a new role as coach and mentor to private students. Since then, Dec has continued to dazzle on her own as a PNB principal.

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Dance News
Photo by Rachel Papo

When Monica Stephenson was a student at Houston Ballet Academy, she was cast as Lauren Anderson's swan double in Swan Lake. The role was just a few walks in Odile's tutu and a veil as the scene changed, but it was a thrill for the 18-year-old Stephenson. Anderson, one of the few principal ballerinas of color, was the inspiration for Stephenson to attend Houston Ballet Academy.

For the role, wardrobe gave Stephenson a few pairs of Anderson's special-order pointe shoes that were brown to match her skin tone. "That really helped me," Stephenson says. "I wound up wearing her specs my entire career. Sometimes people don't realize when they're impacting a young person."

Stephenson never forgot what it meant to have a role model like Anderson. She knew she'd want to inspire ballet students of color herself someday.

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Dance Teachers Trending
Getty images

Jessy Kronenberg knew she wanted to teach high school dance when she moved back to California from North Carolina, where she'd been certified in math and science. She needed certification to teach in California public schools, but there was no dance credential offered in the state, only physical education. "That was devastating, because I had never even taken a P.E. class," she says. "I always had a waiver because of dance."

Kronenberg took the P.E. certification test and was hired to teach both P.E. and dance. Now the dance program director at El Cerrito High School since 2012, she has helped lead the charge to reinstate the dance-teaching credential—a battle that California public-school dance teachers have been fighting for more than four decades and recently won.

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Dance Teachers Trending
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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Dance Teachers Trending
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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