The Russians Are Coming

We have a history of fascination with Russian dancers here in the U.S. It started for me with the glamour and Cold War intrigue of Nureyev (1961) and Baryshnikov (1974) defecting to the West. And now that cultural exchanges go both ways (David Hallberg splitting his time between the Bolshoi and American Ballet Theatre; Keenan Kampa joining then leaving the Mariinsky; and Joy Womack, the first American to graduate from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy), we are privileged to see the fruit of the legendary Russian training more regularly. Diana Vishneva, Natalia Osipova, Maria Kochetkova and Daniil Simkin (who is one of the dancers featured in Dance Magazine’s video series, “Behind the Curtain”), for instance, have all appeared with ABT, either as guest performers or principals.

And of course, with the dancers come the teachers. For instance, when Galina Alexandrova (on the cover) left Russia for the Bay Area, her mother Svetlana Afanasieva followed and quickly established a reputation for training in the Vaganova style. Now Alexandrova operates her own school, and her students are beginning to make names for themselves: The Joffrey Ballet’s Jeraldine Mendoza began her training with Alexandrova, and 17-year-old student Rio Anderson won the silver medal at Youth American Grand Prix earlier this year (see “Pure Vaganova”).

But how does the notoriously strict Russian training fare when exported to American soil? Wendy Perron, who has served on competition juries with several Russian teachers, asked four of them to talk about how they’ve adjusted their expectations and class demeanor (see “From Russia with Love—and Discipline”).

While the Russians may have an advantage when it comes to ballet training, tap dance is pure homegrown American. This month we check in with two of our favorite tap artists. In “Technique,” Katharine Pettit demonstrates how she teaches a five-count riff step, and Ray Hesselink recommends some music for tap class.

Check out the DT Costume Guide. Fall is when dancewear manufacturers unveil their new lines, and style editor Alyssa Marks has curated a sample of new and best-selling ballet costumes (“Costume Preview”) in time for your recital ordering. She also spoke with the designers to identify trends you’ll see this season.

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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