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Why We're Honoring Joe Tremaine With Our 2017 Award of Distinction (Spoiler Alert: Because He's Incredible)

Photo by Rose Eichenbaum

In August at the Dance Teacher Summit, we presented legendary choreographer, teacher and businessman Joe Tremaine with the Dance Teacher 2017 Award of Distinction. You may know him as the forward-thinking founder of Tremaine Dance Conventions, innovator of West Coast jazz or a choreographer to Hollywood's biggest stars. For our July 2017 cover story, Rose Eichenbaum photographed and interviewed Tremaine. But these Tremaine Dance Competitions & Conventions #TBT photos of him are just too good not to share—and far too evocative of his jazz classes, which Eichenbaum writes "included...high-powered lightning-speed combinations, which often left everyone dripping wet and in need of an oxygen tank." Scroll through for Tremaine's thoughts on what he's sought in his career and the state of dance today.


"As a dancer I've always needed to be moving, and having a school allowed me to dance whenever I wanted to. You know, we dance primarily for ourselves. But it's also been my passion to help aspiring dancers and choreographers along the way."

"I have two [personal dance heroes]. June Taylor, for waking me up to the world of dance both technically and professionally. And Chita Rivera, for inspiring me and showing me what is possible on the stage. I picture them one on each shoulder guiding me."

"Dance [today] has never been better. More people know about dance today than at any other time in history because of social media. It's a great time for dance as a profession and in terms of what dancers are capable of doing technically and artistically."

"All the kids want to take contemporary now. But often the choreography is not age-appropriate. You have 6- to 8-year-olds trying to show us their angst. Give me a break! Teachers have to know when their students have enough maturity and experience to make a contemporary number work."

"I've been very, very, very lucky in my career. I'd be happy to continue doing what I'm doing—to continue helping as many dancers as possible. I tell them, "If you want to succeed in this business, make it simple. Find the game and get in it. Study your craft and never stop learning."

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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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