Tag Archives: Dance Teaching

A great new opportunity for students

6 Dec

I recently found out Peridance Capezio Center in New York City is launching a new pre-professional Certificate Program for serious dance students ages 17 to 28. It is more than a scheduled array of open classes. It basically works as an accelerated four-semester conservatory program to give students the skills and professionalism a dance career requires.

Students can choose a ballet/modern track, which resembles most dance conservatory programs, or a commercial track, for those pursuing a career in commercial dance or musical theater. The program requires a minimum of three classes per day, or 60 classes per month. Each student’s schedule is tailored to address their individual needs. All dancers get performance opportunities, conditioning, physical therapy, discounted or free Peridance workshops, master classes, studio space and personal mentoring from Peridance’s faculty. Find out more at http://www.peridance.com, and learn about other post–high school training options on DanceU101.com.

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Bringing home the win :)

4 Dec

So my students competed in the NRG  Convention today and I could not have been more proud of them! My group choreography for the senior division took first place overall, and three of the solos I choreographed took first place in their divisions. I do pride myself on good choreography, but the girls are the ones responsible for the win. One of the main reasons I love teaching so much is watching the girls get rewarded for all their hard work, and hearing them tell me how good it feels to have a good show. It doesn’t matter how much I had to pull teeth to get them there at that point, because they have learned that performing is about the rush of freedom you get when you dance a number spot on.

Partnering Protocol

1 Dec

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I am working on the Swan Lake Black Swan pas de deux with two students for performance in our holiday show. As many of you know, partnering takes technique to the next level, and requires a distinct maturity and level of trust between dancers. So how do you begin teaching two high school students to trust each other enough to make art? Julie Diana of the Pennsylvania Ballet offers great perspective on how to begin teaching partnering to ballet students in this article from December’s issue of Dance Teacher Magazine.

Theory & Practice: Partnering Protocol

By Julie Diana

Help students get past the awkwardness and start working together.

In a partnering class at the School of American Ballet, Jock Soto teaches his students a lift that requires the boys to lift their female partners by the underarms. Some boys do it correctly, but others hesitate. Seeing this, Soto appeals to their sense of humor: “I’m sure these girls are clean,” he jokes. “So put your hands right in her armpits.” When the giggles subside, the class tries the lift again. This time every boy has the correct hand placement.

Teaching partnering can be complicated. In a class that requires all kinds of touching, students might feel awkward and unsure about physical boundaries. But teachers can ease that tension by emphasizing respect, sensitivity and humor. The following advice will allow you to help your students get past the awkwardness and start working together to develop fruitful partnerships.

First Touches

At first, students may feel nervous or shy because they’re not used to their bodies being in such close proximity. To help them get over this initial fear, teachers can begin the class with exercises that involve little or no physical contact.

Diane Arvanites, a modern dance teacher at the Walnut Hill School, starts with a series of non-touching exercises in which the students mirror each other’s movements. Then they maintain very limited skin contact (touching only the palms of their hands, for example). Eventually the students lean on one another, exchanging weight. By that time, Arvanites says, “They are over the weirdness. They’ve realizedthat physicality is not always a personal thing.”

Similarly, Soto has his students gaze into each other’s eyes for 16 counts or hold hands and simply walk across the studio. William DeGregory, director of Pennsylvania Ballet II, suggests working from the extremities inward, starting class with hand and arm promenades before the boys hold the girls by their midsections. From there, “I have the girl stand on pointe in passé,” DeGregory says, “while the boy leans her forward, back, side to side, to feel her balance. It puts the focus on the process, rather than the touching.”

Setting Boundaries

Partnering should never feel invasive. While students are generally shy about  touching, tending to err on the side of caution, some may take advantage of close physicality in inappropriate ways. Teachers should address this issue at the start of class or at suitable times throughout the lesson to establish a respectful working environment.

For Soto, every step is an opportunity to talk logistics: “At the beginning of each combination, I make sure to tell the boys where to lift—on the waist, under the shoulder blades, on the hip.” With pirouettes, Soto admits that things can be a little tricky: “The girl is usually afraid she’s going to knee him in the crotch. I tell the boys that if they’re close to her, that’s going to happen—make sure you’re not in her way.” But sometimes hands do slip accidentally. Encouraging students to have a sense of humor helps them to better handle these kinds of situations.

In modern partnering, which can be more intimate and physical than ballet partner work, Arvanites discusses with her class the importance of having respect for someone else’s personal boundaries.“Of course,” she says, “you wouldn’t allow a student to touch another student in a personal area. But eventually, even that area becomes a part of the body that’s not personal. It just takes a while.”Once students have developed a level of trust with their partners, you can introduce steps that involve generally “off-limits” areas like the buttocks and groin—shoulder sits and torch lifts, for example. But these lifts should be reserved for advanced students who already understand the difference between what is necessary touching and what is not.

Pairing Up

When students select their own partners, they naturally gravitate toward friends. But this process can make class even more stressful for those who are left out. Instead, DeGregory insists that every boy dance with every girl. “That means there’s always a different energy,” he says. “And shy students won’t feel like they have to break into a social clique.”

Students vary in height and strength, however, and not all partnerships will be natural physical matches. Show your students ways to compensate for these differences. A short boy, for example, can hold a taller girl by her wrists or forearms instead of trying to take her by the hands. The girl can help, too, by bending her elbows to shorten her arms. Strength issues are trickier, since strength usually comes with experience. DeGregory suggests that when a boy is having a problem lifting a girl, you might ask him to “do a simple mid-level lift, so he can work on establishing strength.” To prevent injury or embarrassment, avoid asking younger students to do full presses or other complicated lifts altogether.

What changes if the pairings are girl/girl or boy/boy? A lot, says Arvanites. “Over the years,” she says, “I’ve found that girls are relatively comfortable dancing with each other; boys are not. It doesn’t matter what their sexual orientation is. Girl/boy pairings tend to be most comfortable because that’s the socially accepted norm of contact.”

Yet all couples in partnering class, regardless of gender, face the same challenge: getting over fear so that they can effectively support each other. “When students can look at their bodies as professional tools, as instruments, they’ll see that the physicality of partnering is not personal,” Arvanites says. “It’s about responsibility for the other person.” DT

The Art of Teaching Ballet

26 Nov

I decided to spend the holiday weekend cleaning out closets and bookshelves in my apartment, and came across one of my favorite ballet teaching books this morning. The Art of Teaching Ballet is comprised of interviews with ten exceptional teachers. They represent different artistic lineages, each have distinctive classroom techniques, and structure a range of varying exercises. Each segment is very is stimulating, combining philosophical discussion and stories with sample classroom exercises.

Buy it here on Amazon

A season of giving back

23 Nov

My dance studio just announced tonight that our annual holiday show will be a charity fundraiser for a local nonprofit organization called Opendance, which is an arts and educational outreach dance company that provides dance classes and programs for children of all ages at schools and community centers throughout the area. This company focuses on giving positive transformation through dance to all students regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, skill level, or body type. This positive influence is so vital to any young person interested in expressing themselves through dance, so I’m so thrilled to be collaborating with them this year!

Opendance

 

Bad stretching habits..and how to break them!

17 Nov

We all have our stretch routines before and during dance classes – but how much of it is really effective stretching? How can you tell when you’re pushing too far? Or not far enough? This is a fantastic article from November’s issue of Dance Magazine about how to turn your stretching habits into the most productive exercises for your muscles possible.

Teach-Learn Connection

Flexibility is a required and admired trait for dancers. But lounging in a split isn’t necessarily the most effective way to stretch. “The more flexible a dancer is, the more adaptable they can be,” says Anneliese Burns Wilson, owner of ABC For Dance, a dance education company, and a Stott Pilates instructor trainer in Dallas, TX. “But flexibility needs to be useful. There is a kind of flexibility where someone else can move the dancer’s limb through a wide range of motion, but the dancer themselves cannot, because they don’t have the strength to support it.” To help you stretch for optimal supported flexibility, DM spoke to Burns; Christine Wright, ballet teacher at Studio 5-2 in New York City, and Vanessa Muncrief, a physical therapist at New York’s Harkness Center for Dance Injuries.

Habit: Stretching to the point of pain

Though a deep stretch can feel intense, some dancers push beyond that sensation to actual pain. “We are a motivated and disciplined group of people,” says Wright. “Plus we want results quickly, so there’s this idea that if you stretch the muscle hard, it will elongate more. But that’s not true! The muscle doesn’t want to tear, so if you go beyond your stretch threshold, the muscle will contract to protect itself.”

Break It:

Learn to distinguish between a healthy stretch and a potentially damaging one. Wilson says that shaking, redness, bruising, or continuous popping are signs that you’re stretching too intensely. Wright adds, “When stretching, you’re asking your muscle to accommodate a different length. But the most intense feeling should dissipate after a few moments. If it doesn’t, you’ve gone too far.”

Muncrief says a change of mindset can be helpful. “Dancers often think, ‘If I just push harder, I’ll get better.’ Even our society supports that path of thought,” she says. “So, I try to bring my dancers some yogic principles of letting go. Get back to the joy of effortless movement. Think, ‘Yes, I need to work hard, but where can I do less?’ ”

Habit: Hanging in a static stretch

At one point or another, you’ve probably lain on your back against the wall, let your legs drop to either side in a straddle—and stayed there for a while. While this kind of stretching was once recommended for dancers, it’s no longer considered beneficial. Muncrief describes it as “gravity pulling on your ligaments, not muscle stretching.” Wilson explains, “An effective stretch works in the belly of the muscle to lengthen the muscle fiber.” When you hang in a straddle, “you’re stretching ligaments, the fiber that holds bones together. Once stretched, ligaments can’t tighten back, and that destabilizes the joint. It’s very harmful and dangerous.”

Break It:

Try this new version of the wall straddle: “Lie on your back with your bottom against the wall, legs straight up,” Wilson says. “Then envision your toes reaching away from each other. Don’t focus on your toes going to the floor. Instead concentrate on your turnout and sending energy to the side walls. If you can’t pull your legs back together, and if they release into your sockets, you’ve relapsed into static stretch.”

“A few-second stretch won’t lengthen the muscle either,” Muncrief points out. Hold a stretch for 30 seconds to a minute, and repeat several times. “Muscles respond to a low load over this period of time.” she says.

Habit: Stretching Cold

Walking into the studio and dropping to the floor to stretch before class is a common routine. “But stretching should actually come later,” Muncrief says. “Think of muscle like silly putty: When it’s warm, it’s pliable. But if you put in the fridge and it’s cold, it snaps! Muscles have the most power in normal resting length, so deep stretching before activity won’t yield the best results.”

Break It:

To warm up, “Do full-body movements, like marching in place or doing a light jog,” says Wilson. “Sweating is a good sign that your body is warm, but don’t try to artificially heat your body with plastic pants or a too-hot room. You haven’t created mobility for yourself. Artificial heat just puts you at risk for injury.” Wright suggests using a ball or foam roller to release muscular tension without over-stretching. Muncrief recommends moving through active yoga poses: “You’re stretching but also working your muscles and building heat.” The best times to stretch are between barre and center, and after dancing, when you can take advantage of the body’s warmth and pliability.

Habit: Stretching “Key” Areas Only

Wright observes that when a dancer identifies a personal weakness, “they will work like crazy to improve that area.” This might mean stretching a certain muscle group over and over. Wilson adds that teachers also sometimes concentrate on a specific area—like lengthened hamstrings for extension—and fail to communicate that the body works as a whole system.

Break It:

Think of the body as one network rather than separate compartments. The fascia is integral to this concept. “Fascia is a continuous band of tissue that wraps your entire body. It connects all the pieces. Think of it as shrink wrap,” says Wilson. “If your fascia gets a kink in one area, it can affect a different body part. You could do something to your right little toe, and you won’t find out until your left shoulder hurts. So if you are working on one area and it’s not getting better, try investigating other body parts, too.”

Schedule a few sessions with a physical therapist to address to your personal stretching needs. “It’s best to work with a PT individually, even just a few times,” Muncrief says. “They can specifically take into account the roles you dance, classes you take, and your cross training activities.”

A fabulous opportunity for students!

10 Nov

As seen on the National Dance Education Organization’s website

 

Contact:      Amanda Stone (chair) 214-882-8967

Pamela Deslorieux – Executive Director, director@thedancecouncil.org
Phone: 214-219-2290 (office) 214-219-2289 (fax)         
Address:
3630 Harry Hines Blvd., Dallas, TX 75219
Website:
www.thedancecouncil.org

DANCE COUNCIL OF NORTH TEXAS PRESS RELEASE

Catch A Rising Star: The 2010 Dance Council Scholarships

WHAT: This year Dance Council of North Texas (DCNT) has 30 scholarships totaling over $27,000 to be awarded to exceptional dancers who demonstrate ability, artistry and passion.

WHEN:   Applications will be available Monday, December 6, 2010. Deadline to submit

application is midnight on Tuesday, February 9, 2011. Recipient notification is March 13, 2011

WHERE:  Apply at www.thedancecouncil.org

PHOTOS: jpg photographs of 2010 scholarship recipients available upon request.

____________________________________________________________________

 

Over the past six years DCNT has awarded 180 scholarships totaling $126,000 to outstanding dancers from age thirteen through graduate school! DCNT scholarship recipients receive funding, tuition waivers or both to attend prestigious summer intensives and workshops that encompass every conceivable dance style. Recipients attend nationally renowned summer intensives such as the School of American Ballet (NYC), Pacific Northwest Ballet (Seattle), Kirov Ballet, Houston Ballet, Alvin Ailey (NYC), American Dance Festival, Debbie Allen Dance (LA), Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Broadway Theatre Project, Arathi School to study Bharata Natyam, East Indian dance technique and more!

 

These incredible learning experiences for rising dance stars would not be possible without the support of generous donors who include the Estates of Nathalie Krassovska and Natalie Skelton, individual donors such as Lynne Richardson, Joe & Ann Briggs Cutaia of the Chaplin Cotillion, Thom Clower, Colleen Kelly Beaman and organizations such as the James & Gayle Halperin Foundation, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Tapestry (Austin), Dallas Summer Musicals, Indian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Third Coast Rhythm Project (San Antonio), and South Dallas Dance Festival/Beckles Dancing Company. Ongoing support from wonderful sponsors, the Texas Commission on the Arts, City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, Town of Addison, and Heritage Auction Galleries also enable the Dance Council of North Texas to advance the education of promising young dancers.

Most scholarship recipients are showcased by DCNT throughout the entire year for the North Texas community to experience, live, these aspiring and talented dancers!

For more information and photos: Amanda Stone 214-882-8967 or Pam Deslorieux 214-219-2290.