Technique, Technique, Technique

Turns out one of the best ways to prepare young dancers for a professional future may be to show them what that future looks like. That’s the approach teacher Jess Hendricks took with the young Ida Saki (see “Industrial Strength”). Seems that Saki’s reference point for professional dance at the time was the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. While dancers now can see many examples of future possibilities on television and YouTube, I personally believe the screen can never replace the visceral experience of live concert dance. So when the 92Y Harkness Dance Festival announced a program for dance educators to learn how to attend a dance concert with their students, it got my attention. (Look for our firsthand report in June.)

Of course, Saki, who is now a member of Cedar Lake Contemporary Dance in New York (and was featured on the February cover of Dance Spirit magazine!), would not be the artist she is without the intensive training she received at Christy Wolverton’s studio and the Booker T. Washington School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas. Technique is the way dance teachers make dreams come true—and we cover it every month.

In “Head to Toe,” master teachers Finis Jhung, Irene Dowd, Sheila Barker and Pamela Pietro share their best corrections for common dance problems. From jutting chin to splayed ribs to tension in the feet and more, you can help students kiss these bad habits good-bye.

While modern dance has taken a backseat in recent years to its more glamorous cousin, contemporary jazz, “Kid-Friendly Modern Classes” offers some compelling reasons to include modern in your school’s curriculum. For one thing, it’s a great bridge between creative dance and ballet.

And don’t let your students graduate without knowing about the artists who laid the groundwork for contemporary dance in the U.S. This month’s History: Lesson Plan is about Doris Humphrey from the Bennington School era. Her early movement explorations became the foundation for Limón technique. We suggest you post it on a bulletin board in your lobby.

Photo by Matthew Murphy

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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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