Archive | August 2015

Thoughts OnTeaching Dance

me and gabby acro (2)
At age three, my mom brought me to dancing school. Not to make a career of dance, but because I loved to twirl around the living room while my parents listened to the great movie musicals of the 1950s and 60’s on their Hi-Fi. I danced around to the songs of The King and I with Yul Brenner and Debra Kerr, Oklahoma with Gordon Mac Rae and Shirley Jones and South Pacific with Rossano Brazzi and Mitzi Gaynor. Little did she know that in the year 2015 I would still be dancing!

As a child and into my teen years my focus was to dance on Broadway, but always when I was with my best friend, we would spend time choreographing dances, from as early age as I can remember. We would dance for our class in elementary school at all the holiday parties and chorus concerts. Dances we would make up ourselves in the basement of her house or mine. The two of us were friends from our first day of dance school at three years old and our parents became friends during during those years.

We were close friends all through high school. Still attending the same local dance studio besides attending the New Jersey School of Ballet. We would also go to New York City to take class together at the various different profession studios. Her dance focus became stronger and stronger for performing as mine leaned towards teaching and having my own studio. As we approached our senior year in high school and after we graduated, we went to audition after audition in New York City. Together we passed several auditions that were touring companies of Broadway shows. Needless to say our parents gave us a hard time about leaving home. She eventually became a Radio City Music Hall Rockette, and was able to still live home, being only a short bus ride into the city.

While we were in our Junior year of high school, we began studying for our teacher certification exams for Dance Masters of America and Dance Educators of America. Two of the most prestigious dance teacher organizations of the United States. We both passed our exams and after graduating high school, I began teaching at my teachers’ studios, which at this point, they had three schools. My friend’s mother also found a teaching position open at a local music school who had spare space and wanted to add dance to their list of performing arts. As I dove in head first to this area of dance I grew to love it more and more. Working at all these schools became over whelming and the music school’s dance department began to grow rapidly. I needed to leave my teachers and go it on my own at the music school.

After being married at age 22, my husband and I opened our first dance school, T & C Dance Company, in Bloomfield, NJ . I did the teaching and he took care of all the business. He built the props, helped me order costumes and dancewear, and together we set my childhood dream a float. By age 30 and two children later, we opened a second school, ninety miles away from the first one. At the beginning of the 1990s I had a third child and I also began teaching dance ministry at our church. Those dancers were not only learning to dance but also to worship God in dance.

Through all of those teaching years I have found out that the bond between teacher and student can be a tight one. I am still in contact with students from back in those music school dance days and one of my original teachers from when I was 3. I keep in contact with the dance student that bought my New Jersey studios and my other dancers who went off to open their own studios. My school that I sold in Bloomfield, New Jersey, is still in operation and has just had their 27th show. These bonds are so important to me. I believe that I would never be as happy as a dancer in New York City as I am as a teacher.

Upon moving to New York State, I took on several teaching positions as a staff teacher. I have made more dance friends and more memories, that I could never have made as a performer. I cherish these relationships. And now with the opening of yet a 3rd school, Otsego School of Dance and Performing Arts, I have found a new home and formed new relationships that I call “family”.

Looking back at my life as a dancer, I believe that I chose the right path in the dance profession. The chance to make a difference in someone’s life The height of my leg extensions are not what they used to be, nor is my flexibility, but teaching dance instead of performing dance is much more rewarding…I am leaving a part of me in all my dancers….. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Locating A Dance School For You….

ballet dancers at the barreWith the new dance season coming just around the corner, I thought it would be a great time to discuss how to locate a good dance school…….

The first step to finding the right dance school for you is discovering what you truly want to do with dance in your life. Realize what your goals, dreams and desires are in respect to dance. Do you just want some exercise? Do you just want a social activity? If your focus is purely social and a little exercise, then your journey is much more easier than you thought. Just ask around.

But, if you absolutely love to dance —if you eat, think, sleep and dream dance — and have the thoughts of a professional career, either on stage, as a teacher or choreographer, then your goal is to find a school with teachers who have a focus on those same ideals. A teacher who has your dreams in their heart as well.

Once you know what kind of a dance school you are looking for, it will be much easier to find it. First, talk with the owner of the school. Do the teachers who work for the school have some type of certification or are on their way to one? What kind of experience do the teachers have? Where did they study? Don’t just be impressed with rows of trophies, since to be judged is always just someone’s opinion. Not all schools with rows of trophies have the dancer’s heart first and foremost in their value.

One thing to think about is dress code. Dress codes have multiple benefits for dancers in a class.  Not only do dress codes create uniformity and unity among dancers, it helps in teaching students the beginning basics of discipline and “dressing the part’” that is so important as a dancer.  When dancers wear the same attire, it minimizes distractions for students and creates an atmosphere of focus and energy.  Dress codes are also extremely important in helping instructors see mistakes in a student’s technique and body positioning, therefore allowing for better corrections and education. Dress codes are a form of “dancer discipline”. Is discipline a part of the school’s criteria? It should be. Dance is discipline.
Well rounded dance programs should offer an array of classes with the main focus on classical ballet and ballet technique with possibilities of pointe work in the future. Jazz, tap and modern should be second on the list of classes to search out. All of these classes contribute to the building of a well rounded, well informed dancer.

Does the school offer a graded syllabus where the dancer will progress to a certain level from year to year? This is an important question to ask. Just as you would graduate from grade to grade in school the same should be for dance school.

Does the school know what method of ballet that they offer. You would be surprised that some local dance schools have no idea that there are different methods or the differences between them. I teach the Cecchetti method, but some of the others that are foremost are the Russian Vaganova method and the Royal Academy of Dance method. We will discuss their differences in a future post. It is good for a school to focus one method instead of combining methods as many do. The variations in the syllabus and the technique can confuse a dance student.

Are you interested in an end of the year performance? Are you interested in dancing in a Nutcracker at Christmas time? Although these two aspects of dance school are important for learning stage presence they should not be the focal point of the studio, learning and increasing your dance technique should be the main objective.

Some signs of quality dance training are:
-Proper placement in class and focus on correct fundamentals
-Emphasis on correct execution of steps, with focus on clean lines, strength and stability,.
-Technical proficiency of a majority of students in the school. -Graduating dancers with intent to continue dance.
I am hoping that this dance season will be your best one ever, learning good solid technique, gaining strength, progressing and having fun!