Monday, August 30, 2010

Pas de Trois Response: What Is the Most Important Quality In a Dance Teacher

Our answer to 3dancer's most recent question: What is the most important quality in a dance teacher?

Participate in the conversation! Comment here, or on the original post. Or go to the dancing3 blog to read their responses.
The most important quality in a dance teacher?


Passion for understanding the human body and its physiology.

Passion for meeting new dancers and the challenge of different types of learners.

Passion and knowing how far to push without breaking.

Passion for music and its relationship with dance.

Passion for passing the tradition of dance on to the next generation.

Passion brings the element of theatrics to class, transforms the room and focuses dancers on being in the moment. A passionate teacher lives and breathes dance and makes you want to love dance that much more.

A teacher without passion is a like a candle without a flame.

The Internet is Re-Writing the Dance Dictionary

Interesting read on creating and re-writing a Dictionary of Dance. Judith Mackrell write about the effects of the Internet on changing dance vocabulary. (Guardian UK)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Props to Use in Class

A great teacher has the ability to make the repetitive material exciting and new. This is especially a challenge for teachers who teach beginners, elementary school-age classes or preschool classes where a lot of repetition of simple steps is necessary for systematic progression. One way to keep class fresh and new is to bring props into the classroom.

Props help all types of learners retain and discover more about the steps they are learning. However, there is something magical that happens using props for dancers who are tactile learners. When they see a prop, touch it, feel it and use it, something clicks in their brains to help them learn the step or correction.

Finis Jhung, one of the most sought-after ballet teachers, uses props (to the right): he has a square for finding--and maintaining--your center, and his "plum" line is a variation of plumb line, used to show alignment. Many teachers who use vivid descriptions will find that a simple prop will take their teaching that much further.

Suggestions for props:
- Beanbags (balance on body parts, gentle tossing, passing in circle)
- Kickball-size foam balls (roll to different students while stretching in center split)
- Scarves (creative movement, free dance, ballet class)
- Maracas or percussion instruments (make 'music train' with toddlers / with older students-half of the class makes the beat while the other half dances to it)
- Parachute (toddlers)
- Pom Poms (emphasize arm movements)
- Teddy bears / puppets
- Jumprope (create different movement paths on the floor and mimic them with the body)
- Magic Wands (for littles: tip toe walks, bourree turn with them above heads and grant a magic wish while you arabesque)
- Rhythm sticks (teaching musicality and rhythm)
- Tambourines (again, musicality and rhythm exercises, also hold it in front of your creative movement dancers while they learn battements - try to tap the tambourine, with older children you can hold it up high during leaps and have them try to tap the tambourine while leaping)
- Candy canes at Wintertime (hold them long ways while doing dig heel walks. After executing a cramp roll, tap it on the ground 3x. Place end on floor and walk around it)
- Jingle Bells at Wintertime (shake out a rhythm, then match it with your taps)
- Canes (for a Broadway feel combo)
- Long/large scarves (for Arabian type dances during Nutcracker time)
- Chairs (for different movements-seated, stepping up on, spinning on one leg, etc...)
- Wooden suitcases to tap on
- Serving trays with elastic straps on the bottom to attach to your hands (works great for waitress type dances or Be Our Guest)
- Umbrellas

What props do you use in your classes?

Monday, August 23, 2010

New Music Mondays: Using iTunes to Make Class Playlists

As a dance teacher in the twenty-first century, you can carry thousands of songs in your pocket.

However, just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Or in our case - at least organize it!

At my studio, I have many teachers who opt for CDs over iPods because scrolling through hundreds of songs to find the perfect tempo for their tap class wastes time and is too frustrating to deal with during class.

And what happens when you forget to take it off shuffle and dance music suddenly crosses over with your 'personal' music and you have a taste for raunchy hip hop songs or death metal? Not quite appropriate for those Kindergartners you're teaching.

I propose a solution!

If you use iTunes, the software allows you make playlists. Use this feature. LIBERALLY.

Here's how I do it (and you can too!):

1. DANCE MUSIC LIBRARY - Make a playlist for each type of dance you teach. We'll call these your Dance Library Lists. To make a playlist, click File -> New Playlist. In my case, I have a Ballet, Children's music, Jazz, Lyrical, Modern, Salsa, Showtunes and Tap playlist.

Then drag and drop music that fits these categories from your Music Library into the playlists. Each of these playlists will have hundreds of songs. Here is my ballet library playlist - it has 200+ songs and full CDs of ballet music.

2. CLASS PLAYLISTS - Now make a playlist for each class you teach. If I am teaching a combination class of tap & jazz, I will often make two playlists. I label mine by the day and time "Tues. 5 - Jazz" or "Tues. 5 - Tap" or "Adult Tap Class".

Hint: You'll notice I have my playlists labeled with a number in front of them. iTunes organizes alphabetically, so Thursday will come before Tuesday if you just label it by day. I add the number in front of it because I am anal and need my classes to be in order!

These playlists are much smaller and I often re-arrange them each month or so to bring in new music. To get new music, I just have to go back to my Dance Library Lists and pull a few songs from there. Here is my Thursday/Friday ballet class playlist. It has 23 tracks. Enough to get through the class and then whatever piece of choreography we are working on that day is at the bottom:

Hint: For my tap classes, I organize my playlist by the tempo. This way, I can find the correct speed in class quickly.

3. Use the folder feature. To make a new playlist folder, go to: File -> New Playlist Folder

Label it something useful (Example: "Classes" folder and "Dance Library" folder) and drag and drop your playlists into that folder.Hopefully this organization system will help you to use your iPod during class and you will be able to quickly navigate thousands of songs.

Choreography Playlists
> Choreography: All the songs I am currently choreographing. This makes it easy to find when I am out and want to listen to my songs.

> Potential Choreography: Whenever I hear a song that gives me an idea for a piece, I drop it into this playlist. Even if I can't use it right away, it's there, stored away where I can find it.

Hope this has helped you get organized for class!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Follow Friday on Twitter: Bloggers & Dance Magazines

If you don't use Twitter, you don't know what you're missing! Twitter can be an overwhelming onslaught of mini-messages, but it can also be very useful to a dancer looking for audition updates or an inside look at being a professional dancer.

Here are a few of our favorite dance Twitter-ers :)

@DancingThree - Bio: Two guys and a gal discuss dance. Brand new site started by three of our favorite 'tweeters' & bloggers - 4dancers, Ballet For Men and Tights & Tiaras

@EliteDance - Bio: Promoting ballet and dance related digital media with lots of random weirdness mixed in.

@SuzanneGerety - Bio: Editor & Co-Founder, VP of KBDS, writing, publishing, PR, marketing, business development.

@TenduTV - the accompanying Twitter site to the popular dance video site, Tendu TV

And of course, you can find all of our buzz on our Twitter page:

Dance News - Gender & Dance Edition

While females make up about 85% of the dancing population (amateur or otherwise), there are only four female directors of large ballet companies in the United States (large meaning their budget is over $2.5 million). Here are a few articles that touch on this subject that we think are worth a read:

Where Are the Women Ballet Leaders? | Dance USA

Finally, Women Choreographers | Dance Magazine

Where Are the Female Choreographers? | Dancer Universe

Gender In Dance | Bourgeon

For more dance news - search our archives.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Follow Friday on Twitter: SYTYCDancers

In honor of SYTYCD Season 7 coming to its end, here are our favorite SYTYCD Twitter-ers! Per the rules, contestants can't tweet while they are still competing on the show, but the all stars and anyone who's been eliminated can keep in touch.

Its especially fun to see behind-the-scenes pics of the dancers, like this post from Ade.
ADEEVERYDAY: @mmraw (mia michaels) so fun being a part if something way bigger than just this routine. We love you mama mia
Hands down, my favorite from Season 7 was Alex Wong.. before he got injured and kicked off the show :( But he is such a goofball - love reading his tweets... like this one from a few weeks ago:
alexdwong: Will my dreams of being on Glee be shattered if I look like this after rehab? Haha :D
Here's where you can find your favorite SYTYCDancers Twitter-ers :)

Season 7 Contestants
SYTYCD7 - for contestants still on the show
Billy Bell
Alex Wong
Jose Ruiz
Alexie Agdeppa
Melinda Sully
Does anyone know Lauren's twitter account?

Kathyn McCormick
Lauren Gottlieb
Ade Obayomi
Allison Holker
Courtney Galiano
Neil Haskell
Comfort Fedoke

And of course, you can find all of our buzz on our Twitter page:

Check out last Follow Friday's post: Bloggers & Magazines on Twitter

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Choreographer's Roots: Dee Caspary

In our Choreographer's Roots feature, we take a quick look back at where they started to help understand where they are today. We've been on a SYTYCD kick lately, so today we'll look at Dee Caspary as they are affectionately known.
See other Choreographer's Roots posts here

Mark this past week's pillow dance (anyone have a link??) as another one of my favorites from this season.

So before he was choreographing on SYTYCD where was he? We'll take a chronological look at Dee Caspary's accolades:

> Danced in Paula Abdul's videos at age 16
> Toured with New Kids on the Block and Tiffany
> Began choreographing with EDGE and toured with West Coast Dance Explosion, Los Angeles Dance Force and LA Underground, winning many choreographic awards
> Guest teacher/choreographer at Broadway Dance Center
> Currently works with Shake the Floor, Pacific Coast Dance Fest, Jump, Edge Performing Arts
> Opened his own company, IV Dance Company, in LA

Sources: IMDB, Break The Floor, Broadway Dance Center

Guerrilla Dancing In New York City

Arianna Bickle on Madison Avenue | Photo by Jordan Matter Photography

I had to repost this awesome article / photo series by Jordan Matter.

According to Telegraph UK, Mr. Matter was "thinking about the recession and what that meant for talented people who may have lost their jobs. Are you still a dancer if you are not paid to perform? Or are you still a chef when you don't have a kitchen to cook in? It is about people who walk the streets with this incredible skill who could just advertise their ability any time they wanted. Dance is always a part of them and they are always dancers."

Very cool series - take a look!

Monday, August 9, 2010

New Music Mondays: SYTYCD

Because I only have until Thursday to be obsessed about this season of So You Think You Can Dance, this week's New Music Monday is all about the music featured on the show.

if you're looking for an original song you won't hear anywhere else, SYTYCD pretty much guarantees you won't find that. You can safely bet that a song used on SYTYCD will be overused on the competition circuit this upcoming season. BUT it is a great place to find new artists!

The other option is to use a song that isn't used in a dance, but is used during a montage or other part of the show. SYTYCD seems to unearth good songs by little-known artists.

How To Find Your Song
So - you're looking for a song and didn't catch the split-second subtitle or you missed this week's episode. What to do? Go to the Fox website? Not much help. If only there was someone who tirelessly reviews each episode and posts a comprehensive list each week... Enter PureSYTYCD!

This blog, which is all about SYTYCD all the time, had a great list of music posted after each episode. If the song is available on iTunes, she even posts the link directly to the iTunes store!

You are our SYTYCD music savior! Thank you!

Our Favorites From Season 7
Here are our favorite new artists we discovered this season thanks to SYTYCD:
Florence + The Machine (basically the whole album "Lungs") Lungs
Lissie ("Everywhere I Go")Lissie
Black Gold ("Shine")Shine
Christina Perri ("Jar of Hearts")Jar
Janelle Monae ("Tightrope")Janelle

More New Music Monday posts

Studio Owner Buzz: Negotiating a Lease

Studio Owner Buzz is a series of posts on useful tips for Studio Owners. Costume catalog reviews, business tips, and more. Click here for past SOBuzz articles
Most studio owners got into the dance business from their love of teaching and of dance, not their love of contracts, business management and administrative details. However, being a studio owner also means being a businessperson and often that means negotiating with business people who have been in business much longer than you and will not be afraid to throw some punches.

My first year of owning my own studio, I was 22 and had no official "business" experience. Walking into a meeting to "negotiate" a lease with my future landlord, I might as well have been a lamb being brought to slaughter. I had no idea what I was talking about, and probably came off nervous and lacking experience... which I certainly was. Sure I had done my research, but that's not the same thing as actually negotiating. I ended up signing the lease for 2 years more than I had wanted to, but got more square footage out of the deal so I felt somewhat accomplished.

But you! You're smart! And are doing even more research so you can learn from my mistakes and be ready to negotiate with the big dogs.

First, let's learn about commercial leases.
Read more after the jump

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Choreographer's Roots: Napoleon & Tabitha D'umo

In our Choreographer's Roots feature, we take a quick look back at where they started to help understand where they are today. We've been on a SYTYCD kick lately, so today we'll look at Napoleon and Tabitha, or "NappyTabs" as they are affectionately known.
See other Choreographer's Roots posts here

The husband and wife team are often credited with developing the style of hip hop dance known as "lyrical hip hop", but they started with humble beginnings until their paths met!

> Grew up in California where he learned breaking, locking & popping
> Joined the military and was stationed in Germany for a while
> Attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, studying dance (including jazz & modern) and molecular biology!

> Grew up in New Jersey
> Took jazz classes and was a cheerleader, but loved watching hip hop videos
> Attended the University of Nevada for communications, where she met Napoleon

> Began teaching hip hop classes together at the Las Vegas Athletic club
> Joined the dance company "Culture Shock" (future members of Jabbawockeez) and danced, choreographed and eventually became Artistic Directors
> Married in 1998 and moved to Los Angeles and started teaching at The Edge Performing Arts Center (where they still teach today!)
> Worked as back-up dancers for Beyonce, Missy Elliot, Toni Braxton, Timbaland and more
> Choreographed for NBA and NFL dance & cheer teams
> Joined Monsters of Hip Hop and teach master classes
> Assistant Directed Christina Aguelera's and Ricky Martin's tours
> Tabitha created a fitness DVD "Drop it with Dance"
> They have been supervising choreographers for ABDC and have choreographed for SYTYCD, where their choreography "Bleeding Love" was nominated for an Emmy

Now they have started their own clothing line (NappyTabs) for hip hop dancers, started working with Circque du Soleil, and Dancing with the Stars and continue to expand their brand.

Sources: Dance Plug, Wikipedia, Twitter,

Monday, August 2, 2010

New Music Mondays: Sunny Choi

We have a fun way to spice up your ballet class! Today's New Music Monday is all about the piano artist, Sunny Choi.

Sunny plays classical piano covers over Top 40 hits and many are available on her Facebook page for FREE download. Not all will work for ballet class because of changing tempos and unusual phrasing, but here are a few of our favorites:

"Why Don't We Just Dance" (Josh Turner) - use for: Tendu, Degage, Frappe, Petite Allegro

"Alejandro" (Lady Gaga) - use for: Ron De Jambe / Tendu / Petite Allegro

"Temporary Home" (Carrie Underwood) - use for: Adagio

"Your Love Is My Drug" (Ke$ha) - use for: Petite Allegro

"Haven't Met You Yet" (Michael Buble) - use for: Degage, Frappe, Pique turns

From her Facebook page:
"Sunny Choi...has a rare gift called “perfect pitch” and this talent allows her to play almost any musical selection that she hears without the aid of written music. Sunny has spent the last decade fine-tuning her gift and has developed her business “Sunny Choi Music” around her love of music and powerful talent."
Now go and enjoy the free downloads!
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