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

Teachers Trending
Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy. Photo courtesy Dance With Me

Listening to Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy riff together makes it crystal-clear why each has mastered the art of partnering in the ballroom—they've long been doing this dance in real life as brothers and business partners.

Along with their "Dancing with the Stars" pedigree (and a combined three mirror-ball trophies between them), Maks and Val (and their father, Sasha) also run Dance With Me, a dance company hosting six ProAm Dancesport competitions annually and running 14 brick-and-mortar studio locations across the U.S.

Last year, the pair launched an online component, Dance & Co. The online video platform offers beginner through advanced instruction in not only ballroom but an array of other styles, as well as dance fitness classes from HIIT to yoga to strength training. "DWTS" fans will recognize such familiar faces as Peta Murgatroyd, Jenna Johnson, Sharna Burgess and Emma Slater, along with Maks and Val themselves.

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Teaching Tips
@jayplayimagery, courtesy Kerollis

In the spring of 2012, Barry Kerollis was abruptly forced into treating his career as a small business. Having just moved cross-country to join BalletX, he got injured and was soon let go.

"I'd only ever danced with big companies before," the now-freelance dance-teacher-choreographer-podcaster recalls. "That desperation factor drove me to approach freelancing with a business model and a business plan."

As Kerollis acknowledges, getting the business of you off the ground ("you" as a freelance dance educator, that is) can be filled with unexpected challenges—even for the most seasoned of gigging dancers. But becoming your own CEO can make your work–life balance more sustainable, help you make more money, keep you organized, and get potential employers to offer you more respect and improved working conditions. Here's how to get smart now about branding, finances and other crucial ways to tell the dance world that you mean business.

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Teachers Trending
Courtesy Oleson

American dance educator Shannon Oleson was teaching recreational ballet and street-dance classes in London when the pandemic hit. As she watched many of her fellow U.S. friends pack up and return home from their international adventures, she made the difficult choice to stick with her students (as well as her own training—she was midway through her MFA at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

Despite shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, she was able to maintain a teaching schedule that kept her working with her dancers through Zoom, as well as lead some private, in-home acro classes following government guidelines. But keeping rec students interested in the face of pandemic fatigue hasn't been easy.

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