This New York City Ballet Teaching Artist Had Six Classes to Teach Third-Graders in Queens All About The Nutcracker

Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy of New York City Ballet

As a teaching artist for New York City Ballet's The Nutcracker Project, Mari Meade has six 50-minute workshops to introduce third- and fourth-graders of PS 199 Maurice A. Fitzgerald in Queens to the magic of George Balanchine's Nutcracker ballet. By the program's end, these students—most of whom have little to no experience with ballet—will have seen an NYCB performance of the ballet, written a poem and choreographed a dance they'll perform for their fellow schoolmates. Meade kept a journal of her time last winter with the students of PS 199, charting their course from ballet novices to burgeoning dancemakers.

Establishing the Rules

Photo by Rosalie O'Connor

Lesson 1: First things first—I go over the rules. Number one: Have lots and lots of fun. Two: Stay out of bubble trouble. (I explain that we each have our own bubble, and if you get too close to someone else, your bubble "pops.") We want to respect our neighbors, our teachers and our space. Three: Obey the silent fox symbol. If they see me make what looks like a hang 10 hand motion above my head, they must copy the movement silently to show me they're ready to learn. Four: Always raise your hand to speak, and listen to the person who's talking. Five: Sit criss-cross-applesauce.

Then I ask what they know about The Nutcracker. (Not much.) I play parts of Tchaikovsky's score and show them pictures of Balanchine, Lincoln Center and King Louis XIV. (I may have made up that King Louis XIV's favorite color was gold. But the kids love that fact, so...creative liberties? He did put gold everywhere.)

I try to add laughs anytime I can. When I ask them to stand like a soldier, I prompt them by asking, "Does a soldier stand like this?" and slump down. They yell, "Noooo!" Then I ask if a soldier stands like this—slumping further and adding a yawn. They yell "Noooo!" again and crack up. Finally, I show a straight-backed, feet-together soldier, and they follow suit. It's all part of something new I'm trying this year: Instead of correcting them by saying, "Don't stand like _______," I've started saying, "Make your feet like my feet," so that I'm giving a positive directive.

Like many NYC teaching artists, Meade holds several jobs—with NYCB, she's a teaching artist for their seasonal programs, Project Ballet and The Nutcracker Project, and conducts workshops at the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine. She's also a teaching artist with Dancing Classrooms and, once a week, a children's gymnastics teacher. Meade works so many jobs in order to fund her modern dance company, Mari Meade Dance Collective/MMDC.

Next Page
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.