Studio Owners
Outdoor class at Lake Tahoe Dance Collective. Photo by Scott Rokis, courtesy of LTDC

With restrictions on large gatherings still in place in many parts of the country, finding a way to keep classes running is very much at the top of studio owners' minds. While hundreds have taken to online platforms like Zoom to stay in business during the pandemic, some are finding that as social distancing guidelines gradually lift, there's another way to keep dancers engaged: outdoor dance classes.

Gathering outside in a small group to dance can be tricky, but these studio owners are finding that the boost in morale at their schools is well worth the effort. Here, they share how they set up their COVID-compliant outdoor dance classes this summer.

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Technique
Christopher Lam and Aria Gerking. Photo by Christian Peacock

In a spacious upstairs room in his San Francisco home, ballet teacher Christopher Lam gently holds on to an ironing board as he pliés, tendus and dégagés in his socks on the wood floor. He is leading students in a virtual ballet class on Zoom in light of the San Francisco Bay Area's shelter-in-place order that has closed the doors of every dance studio where Lam normally teaches. After a particularly speedy and challenging frappé exercise with fondus, he steps up to the camera and says, laughing, "Dancers, I think that one was a bit ambitious for home—juggling the slippery floor and ironing board."

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News
University of Houston dance students outdoors in 2019. Photo courtesy of UH

Since March, hundreds of dance majors have been using platforms like Zoom to continue their educations, dancing from the safety of their homes as coronavirus has swept the nation. What many educators initially hoped would be a temporary setback—a few weeks of online learning before a triumphant return to in-person classes—has turned out to be a new way of life, with distance learning essential well into the summer.

As department heads look toward the fall term, the decision of how and when to return to dancing together is at the forefront of their minds. Here, three dance department heads share how they're approaching the decision.

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Teaching Tips
Janie Carothers (center). Courtesy of Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts

Few life transitions are as radical as going from high school to college. For many students, it's the first time they're living on their own and navigating new-found independence, and the new environment can be incredibly daunting.

But when high school teachers make college preparation a priority, students can move on confidently. Here, three high school dance teachers at different types of schools give their best advice for helping students make a smooth college transition.

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Trending
Nyama McCarthy-Brown leads class. Courtesy of McCarthy-Brown

For the past 20 years, Ohio State University professor Nyama McCarthy-Brown has been advocating for dance pedagogy that embraces students' cultural backgrounds. "When you look at a textbook and all you see is Western-based dances or people moving in ways that point back to a Eurocentric culture, how do you value other cultures?" she asks. "How do we value other cultures when we're not seeing them in every place that we're told is important?"

In her 2017 book Dance Pedagogy for a Diverse World: Culturally Relevant Teaching in Theory, Research and Practice, McCarthy-Brown details her approach, which hinges on researching the cultural backgrounds of the students in the room and teaching with these in mind. Integrating students' cultural practices into dance curriculum, especially in K–12 schools, enables students to be seen and valued, and to have a more positive learning experience.

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Teaching Tips
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With a plethora of activities to choose from, why should an elementary-schooler choose dance? To speak on the topic and continue the discussion about childhood development is Luna Dance Institute teaching artist Heather Stockton, who teaches K–5 students in Oakland Unified School District.

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Teaching Tips
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It's no trade secret that dance is excellent for physical, mental and emotional health. However, there are specific developmental milestones that make it all the more valuable to young children. Whether it's fostering their independence or helping them to develop motor skills, dance can help support children's growth in myriad ways.

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Teaching Tips
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Though she loved choreographing, the high school student showcase wasn't quite enough for Julie Deleger, a recent graduate of The College Preparatory School in Oakland, California. The answer for her was an independent-study project during her last semester there. "Choreography is so personal that sometimes you need to take more or less time with it," she says. "Doing it on my own was really helpful. I let the project guide me rather than having to adhere to a specific set of rules."

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