Using Props

While waiting for a National Dance Association class to begin at the AAHPERD convention the other day, I asked the woman next to me if she was going to participate. "Absolutely," she said. "It's the only way to go." It was in that spirit that I got up early today for Sanja Korman's 7:30 a.m. demonstration of the use of props. Sanja not only demonstrated, but had us working hands on with jump ropes, hula hoops, balls, and ribbons--just the way she does with her high school students in Bellaire, Texas.
I was amazed at how, by concentrating on making my ribbon twirl into a spiral, I could easily and unself-consciously do an arabesque turn at the same time. Sanja pointed out that the use of props helps children learn kinesthetically how to do more than one thing at a time--and here we were discovering for ourselves exactly how that works. That's what I love about teachers--their willingness to put themselves in the shoes of their students. Even the young male P.E. teachers in the class (AAHPERD members include health, recreation, and phys ed teachers as well as dance educators) were gamely trying all the moves.


For more about Sanja who was honored with two educator awards in 2008 (both NDA and Dance Teacher), see the April issue of Dance Teacher, where on page 54, Sanja shares her favorite music for high school dance class.

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Photo by Yvonne M. Portra, courtesy Faulkner

It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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