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.


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Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Teachers Trending
Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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