The Healing Power of Dance

When I met Tammy DePascal last summer at the Dance Teacher Summit, I knew we had to tell her story in the magazine. She offered her Force Friends class as a model for teaching dance to special-needs children. She herself has a daughter with special needs, so her perspective is unique. "Force Friends" details of the sensitive approach that is surprisingly popular with all the dancers at Creative Force Dance Center in Baltimore.

Likewise, the account of how Martha Eddy designed her Moving For Life class to help with a range of issues experienced by women with breast cancer is hugely inspiring (“Dancing to Heal”). Dr. Eddy is part of a growing trend: dance educators who use their knowledge of kinesiology and anatomy to work with people who might not otherwise set foot on a ballet barre.

March is our annual Health and Wellness issue. To lead off DT Notes, we report on All That Dance in Seattle, where for a full week every year, faculty and students devote their attention to body image and acceptance of self and others. Started in 2005, Love Your Body Week has become an annual tradition that influences the dancers year-round.

These stories are examples of the many ways dance educators make an impact far beyond the dance studio. Whether training artists, helping children develop life skills or easing the effects of mental and physical disease, dance teachers can and do change the world every day. It’s an honor to serve this inspiring population with Dance Teacher. If you don’t already, I hope you’ll connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest and join the remarkable conversation.

Photo by Matthew Murphy

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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Teaching Tips
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After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

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Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy TUPAC

When legendary Black ballet dancer Kabby Mitchell III died unexpectedly in 2017, two months before opening his Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center, his friend and business partner Klair Ethridge wasn't sure she had what it took to carry his legacy. Ethridge had been working with Mitchell to co-found TUPAC and planned to serve as its executive director, but she had never envisioned being the face of the school.

Now, Ethridge is heading into her fourth year of leading TUPAC, which she has grown from a fledgling program in an unheated building to a serious ballet school in its own sprung-floor studios, reaching hundreds of students across the Tacoma, Washington, area. The nonprofit has become a case study for what it looks like to carry out the vision of a founder who never had the chance to see his school open—and to take an unapologetically mission-driven approach.

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