The Art of Giving Back

There’s something very special about an artist who takes time out of her very crowded professional life to give back to her community. We got to witness an example of this when Camille A. Brown’s childhood dance teacher brought the female high school population of her studio—along with many of their parents—to take class with Brown for our cover shoot. These were well-trained dance students, so it was fun to watch the way they could pick up Brown’s movement quickly—and also to watch their rapt attention when she spoke before class. Brown came from where they are now. And the fact that she’s built a career as an award-winning choreographer with her own company and Broadway theater credits is a direct message to these girls: You, too, can do this—or whatever you set your mind to. This is the foundation of her new outreach project, Black Girl Spectrum, which you can read more about on page 66.

The movement Brown taught that day was part of the program she directed (with E. Moncell Durden) this summer for The School at Jacob’s Pillow. During that two-week social-dance program, dancers explored the African-American folk and vernacular dance that predates the Broadway and concert forms that we think of today as jazz dance. For “Is This the End of Jazz?” (page 82), we asked seven jazz dance artists about the current state of the genre.

We think you’ll find this and much more to be of interest in this Back to School issue. Whether your post-summer return is to a studio, conservatory, college or K–12 setting, our goal is to inspire and inform. We also hope to get to the beach just one more time before September!


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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