3 Teachers We Love With Kids Who Teach (and Also Love)

Debbie Allen, Mia Michaels and Allen's daughter at their studio in Los Angeles. Photo via Allen's Instagram

It's no surprise that many dance teachers have children who go on to become teachers themselves. Countless hours spent teaching—on the road or at the studio—makes the classroom a second home and developing a passion for dance practically second nature. But for some teachers, seeing their kids develop a passion for dance comes as a surprise. Take longtime tap instructor at Chapman University Brandee Lara Barnaby.

"If someone had told me that my kid would end up in dance education, I wouldn't have believed them," says Barnaby, who won the 2015 Dance Teacher Award in the Higher Education category. Her son Dante Lara, who now teaches tap in Southern California, started teaching after graduating from Chapman University. "I had some of the best teachers in the world growing up, starting with my mom, and I owe it to these mentors to be the best dance teacher I can," says Dante.

A young Dante with his mom and tap legend Gregory Hines. Photo courtesy of Lara Barnaby

Here are three other teachers who also had kids who went on to teach.

Denise Wall and Travis Wall

When it comes to the Wall family, the more appropriate point to raise is how could you not become a dancer if your mom and teacher was Denise Wall? But since conquering "So You Think You Can Dance" as a contestant, Travis has gone on to prove he's just as gifted as a teacher and choreographer.


Kim DelGrosso and Ashly Costa

Kim DelGrosso, co-owner of Center Stage Performing Arts Studio in Utah, has taught "So You Think You Can Dance" stars Ashleigh and Ryan Di Lello, and "Dancing With the Stars" pros Chelsie Hightower, Julianne and Derek Hough and Ashly Costa, who happens to be DelGrosso's daughter. Costa has now made a name for herself bringing ballroom class to the convention circuit. Clearly, the apples didn't fall far from this dancing family tree.



Debbie Allen and Vivian Nixon

This mother-daughter powerhouse duo has got it all. The remarkable Debbie Allen needs no introduction, but in case you didn't know, her daughter Vivian, who danced on Broadway in Memphis and Hot Feet, is a also a regular teacher at her mom's studio in Los Angeles. Based on the caption below, it's no surprise Nixon followed in her mother's footsteps.


Teaching Tips
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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Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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Teaching Tips
Getty Images

After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

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