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

Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Teachers Trending
Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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