This Dancer Advocates for A Healthier Dance World

"Dancers should know that just by existing and being present, they are good enough," says Matheis. Photo by Christopher Peddecord, courtesy of Matheis

Last summer, Lindsey Matheis, a dancer currently performing in the Punchdrunk theater company's production of Sleep No More, taught a contemporary improvisation and repertoire class at our Dance Teacher Summit. This class was one of two college-outreach classes held during the Summit in which current higher-education students were able to attend for free. The Summit supports the next generation of teachers and gears these classes specifically to their needs each year. —Haley Hilton

Dance Teacher: How can teachers support and nurture the next generation of professionals?

Lindsey Matheis: Be interested in the psychology of your dancers and getting them out of the self-shaming cycle. Teachers often propagate what they've been taught by their own mentors—which is to put fear in the bodies of your dancers in order to get results. This will give dancers anxiety about their body image, talents and potential to be good enough. I believe it's the root of most dancers' issues. Be interested in creating a healing environment where dancers can figure out the answers to the important questions they have about themselves.

DT: How can we as an industry advocate for healthy company environments?

LM: There are times in company settings where things can get anxious because of budget, or politics, and it makes it hard to go with the flow, but during my time with Sleep No More, I have felt totally supported. I don't feel like I need to keep getting the job now that I'm here. They trust that, because they hired me, I am going to do a good job. Dancers should know that when they walk into rehearsal, they don't have to constantly prove themselves to the person sitting at the front of the room. They can deflate the balloon of anxiety that they feel and realize that the director is just as human as they are.

DT: Can studios benefit from emphasizing both commercial and concert dance in their curriculums?

LM: They have more in common than most people think. They both have an attention to detail, an expectation for excellence and demand that you explore yourself internally in order for great work to manifest physically. Teaching dancers to immerse themselves in both will create performers that are more open-minded and well-rounded.

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.

Keep reading... Show less
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.

Keep reading... Show less
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.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.