Congratulations to Megan Story, Editors' Choice for the Dance Teacher Video of the Month!
While choreographing the class combination “Waiting Game" for her intermediate and advanced contemporary students at the Tennessee Arts Conservatory in Spring Hill, TN, Story wanted to give dancers a chance to let their hair down (literally). Many of her students are serious ballet dancers who are used to slicked-back buns and leotards. She chose movement that would push them outside their comfort zones, using contractions and fluctuating between fluid and sharp motion.
If you ask Stacy Young, her life has been a collection of situations and experiences that paved the way to a perfectly laid plan she never saw coming. Opening a studio, for example, wasn't part of the future she first envisioned. "But dance was always a huge part of my life," she says. "Now, we just celebrated the studio's 10th anniversary."
Although creating well-rounded dancers is a must for any successful dance studio, Young knew from the start that her Auburn, Alabama–based Variations Dance Studio would take training a step further. "I wanted to create a place that supported students professionally but really valued what we call 'heart-shaping,'" she says. What she didn't know was that her original plan—shaping dancers who know the power and importance of giving back—would quickly grow to include a nonprofit foundation, Graceful Gift, that brings dance to the patients of Children's Hospital of Alabama, in Birmingham.
Emmy winner (for NBC's "Smash") Joshua Bergasse teaches frequently at Broadway Dance Center, and his choreography has been seen on national and Broadway stages in productions like West Side Story, Gigi and On the Town. Currently he's working on the Broadway production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, set to hit the stage next spring.
As soon as she hears a song, Chloé Arnold knows if she wants to tap to it. "I'm a very feeling person. I like to feel the rhythm in my soul and feel like I have no choice but to dance," she says. "Tap is music, so it's a dual experience of creating. I hear rhythms in my head all day, and it's about how those rhythms, the tap rhythms, complement the rhythms that already exist in a song."
Like most music streaming services, Apple Music, Tidal and Google Play Music offer new music and artist recommendations based on what you already listen to—making them a great way to discover new tunes. But the paid, commercial-free versions of these services also allow you to save and download any song to listen to offline, mixing your own music library with an unending online catalogue. Plus, you receive access to exclusive content, created by your favorite artists just for the streaming service: live performance recordings, interviews and brand-new music.
Perhaps most important, paid music-streaming gives you the chance to support other artists. By paying for your subscription to services like these, you’re making sure singers, songwriters and musicians receive the royalties owed them for each stream and download.
Jason Parsons began his professional career dancing for artists like Diana King and Celine Dion, for Disney and in countless industrials, but he soon realized his real interest was in the world of concert dance. Since then, he's performed with companies like River North Dance Company and Mia Michaels' RAW, and he has choreographed for Houston's METdance, Rasta Thomas' Bad Boys of Dance and others around the world. Having turned his attention to improvisational studies, he's bringing those experiences to dancers around the country with NUVO Dance Convention.
Need to reenergize your interdisciplinary lesson plans? Try TED-Ed, an online education platform that allows you to create interactive lessons. Select a video (either from the site, a TED Talk or YouTube), and use the editor feature to begin building your lesson. You can include multiple-choice and open-answer quiz questions, discussion prompts and a “dig deeper” section with additional resources for students to explore.
If you need inspiration to get you started, TED-Ed also allows users to customize existing lessons. Some favorites include:
• “The Physics of the ‘Hardest Move’ in Ballet,”which breaks down the science behind the famous fouetté section in Swan Lake
• “The Origins of Ballet,” an animated video that takes you back to the birth of ballet in Italian courts
• “A Tap Dancer’s Craft,” a brief history of tap dance and its ever-evolving role in the world
Once your lesson plan is complete, you’ll receive a unique URL to share it with your students (they’ll need their own TED-Ed accounts to participate). You can monitor the progress of your class and view responses as students submit work.
When Keith Clifton was 18, he booked a Dr Pepper commercial, and his performance career took off. He was part of a number of successful projects, including multiple “Be a Pepper” commercials, the 52nd annual Academy Awards with Donald O’Connor and 42nd Street at the Shubert Theatre in Los Angeles. And when Roland Dupree asked him to teach for Dupree Dance, Clifton became inspired by the other convention teachers. “I immediately knew I wanted to do what these people were doing,” he says. “They were actively changing children’s lives and making a difference in them as people and as dancers.”
He found the transition from performing to teaching surprisingly simple. “When you’re standing in the front of a room or on a stage teaching, you are entertaining,” he says. “You have to be an extrovert and find your niche, almost like a stand-up comedian, to make sure you’re keeping the class energized and excited about learning.”
Now, with a teaching career as impressive as his performance credits (after co-founding L.A. Danceforce and EDGE Performing Arts Center, he opened his own successful studio in 1996), Clifton spends his weekends traveling with DanceMakers, Inc. “Ballet is the foundation of all styles of dance, and to have the privilege and honor to teach it is a huge responsibility,” he says. And musicality plays a big role. “I try to be musical even in the way I speak and count, to encourage the dancers to really feel the music and tell its story,” he says. “It’s about them learning how to phrase their movement and mimic what they hear with their bodies.” DT
Artist: Josu Gallastegui
Album:Measure for Measure
“This album is one of my favorite, reliable choices. From adagio to allégro and plié to pirouette, it is straightforward and easy to count. The artist has a passionate approach to the piano, and his playing is full of character. The arrangements allow me to enjoy the melody and phrasing even after years of use. His other albums are great, too. My Turn is another favorite, because the melodies are luscious and haunting.”
Artist: Jamie Narushchen
Album:At the Movies with Narushchen
“For some truly beautiful music that is arranged for exercise and education, this is my go-to. Narushchen plays pieces that are light, fun, romantic and melancholy. He includes classics like Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag,” but also choices that might be more recognizable to children, like “We’re in the Club Now” from Disney’s Up and “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The melodies are soothing and allow for concentration and focus, but the familiar tunes also keep children excited as they anticipate what song they might hear next.”
Artist: Douglas Schultz
Album:Music from Company Class, Vol. 1
“This album has all the perfect tempos and elements a ballet class needs. His pirouette and waltz tracks are long enough to allow for repetitions when your class is at a size that you need to divide your students into groups. It’s a great album to turn to on days when your creativity isn’t at its highest, and you just need music that’s well-played and will help both you and your students conquer class. His style is very classical.”
Artist: David Plumpton
Album:Modern Melodies Inspirational Ballet Class Music
“He takes pieces from both popular movies and artists and puts them into waltz format. On this album, he meets the needs of a teacher who wants a true ballet class with contemporary music selections that will help keep younger students from running for the door when they haven’t yet gained an appreciation for piano music. He also has beautiful approaches to more classic music for class on other albums.”
Photo by Brien Rich, courtesy of DanceMakers, Inc.