Teacher Voices

To My Beloved Dance Community: In the Most Uncertain of Times, Our Heart and Soul Flourishes

An alumna of Dance Spectrum in Buffalo (now a nurse in Boston) joins a Zoom class led by her favorite instructor in the hospital break room. Photo courtesy of Dance Spectrum

All that I have ever thought our dance community could be, we have become as we have faced the COVID-19 crisis. Thousands of studio owners and dance teachers are carrying on in any way they can. Kids are continuing to dance—even if it's in their living rooms in front of the TV. Our community has not stopped dancing or spreading the joy that it brings to all.

Dance teachers have been called to play an exceptional role right now. We have been challenged to step up to the plate and become the mentors, leaders and teachers required for these times. When the kids gather for their online classes, they want time to "hang out," because what they really need most is to be with those who understand them best. Dance offers them a sense of security and normalcy. How cool is that?

Scrolling through social media this spring, I witnessed some spectacular and moving moments that continue to remind me of the power of dance.

  • I saw a dancer performing on the grass in front of a picture window at a nursing home. The patients all watched with huge smiles on their faces as they witnessed one dancer sharing her passion no matter what.
  • Yesterday, I received pictures from a hospital, where a ballet dancer/nurse was doing her ballet barre with many gathered in the spaces around her, wanting simply to be distracted by the beauty of her art.
  • There are studio owners who are secretly deferring tuition for children whose parents cannot afford it. Invisible donors (i.e., other parents) are picking up the tab for other families' dance tuition.
  • Toddlers are kissing their TV screens because they love seeing their dance teachers.

This, my dance friends, is who we are, and I am so proud.

Most inspiring for me has been to observe egos being set aside. Studio owners who previously had been consistently on guard with each other are now holding Zoom meetings to strategize how they can work together to keep the kids dancing and their businesses alive. Honestly, I see this as a dream come true. I have always felt that it is the unique personality of each of us that attracts our particular clientele. The studio up the street has a personality, too, although it's different, and they also attract the clientele that is seeking their vibe. I love it when sometimes being allied with the studio up the street becomes the very way to survive.

I know that many of you reading this have been struggling and have experienced loss. It may be hard to see the upside—but hang in there. I'm convinced there is a bright light at the end of this tunnel, and that light is the connection we have with each other.

This is no longer about the school that wins the most awards or the studio that brags because they are the largest in the community. I think we need to be done with that for a while. This is about expressing the emotions of life through the art of dance in any way possible. Not only is that who we are, it's what we need for our own personal survival, guaranteed

Dance Teacher Awards

Who knew that a virtual awards ceremony could bring our community together in such a powerful way?

Last night, we celebrated the annual Dance Teacher Awards, held virtually for the first time. Though it was different from what we're used to, this new setting inspired us to get creative in celebrating our six extraordinary honorees. In fact, one of the most enlivening parts of the event was one that could only happen in a Zoom room: Watching as countless tributes, stories and congratulations poured in on the chat throughout the event. Seeing firsthand the impact our awardees have had on so many lives reminded us why we chose to honor them.

If you missed the Awards (or just want to relive them), you're in luck—they are now available to watch on-demand. We rounded up some of the highlights:

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Rambert artistic director Benoit Swan Pouffer had input on the new Rambert Grades curriculum. Photo by Camilla Greenwell, Courtesy Rambert

British dance company and school Rambert has launched a new contemporary-dance training syllabus. Rambert Grades is intended to set a benchmark in contemporary-dance training, focused on three strands: performance, technique and creativity. Moving beyond the Graham and Cunningham techniques that form the basis of most modern-dance training in the UK, it includes contributions from current high-profile choreographers Hofesh Shechter, Alesandra Seutin and Rambert artistic director Benoit Swan Pouffer.

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For Parents
Getty Images

As studios in many areas begin to open up with safety protocols in place, dance students are, of course, itching to get back into class. But just because dancers can go back to in-person training doesn't mean all families are ready for their children to actually do so.

As a parent, it's understandable to feel caught between a rock (your dancer's will to attend in-person class) and a hard place (your concerns surrounding COVID-19). Yet no matter how many tears are shed or how much bargaining your dancer tries, the bottom line is that when it comes to issues of health and safety, you—the parent—have the final say.

Still, there may be ways to soften the blow, as well as best practices for setting or amending expectations. We asked Danielle Zar, a child and adolescent psychotherapist who specializes in parent education, to share some tips for this tricky situation.

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