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Brandi Vickers

Brandi has a strong history in both dance and customer support and blends her areas of expertise in her role as TutuTix’s director of sales for the midwest. Her goal is to take some of the recital-time anxiety off studio owners’ shoulders, and make sure every client has a great experience.
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Dance Competition Tips: Using Adjudicator Feedback

Dance Competition Tips: Using Adjudicator Feedback

So, your dancers completed their first big competition and placed pretty well! When everyone is proud and morale is high, you should start thinking about the next step in the competition process: working through adjudicator responses. Whether your dancers came in first or last, there’s always something to be learned from the judges’ comments and scores. Here are some dance competition tips to help you make the most of this important feedback.

Go Through Comments Alone

Whenever possible, you should take time to go through all the comment sheets alone or with your instructors. Hopefully the competition you attended had adjudicators who were professional and honest, but sometimes you may find comments that are unnecessary or even rude, as one teacher on Dance.net found out the hard way.

If this is the case, you don’t want your students to be upset or lose confidence in themselves. Weed out any unhelpful feedback and present only the useful criticisms to your dancers.

Review Appropriate Feedback Together

Once you’ve read through the commentary, it’s time to present the feedback to your students. It doesn’t matter whether you have another competition in two weeks or are finished for the season – you should always take time to review the performances.

Remember, dance competitions are an opportunity to learn and help dancers grow, and they can’t do that if they’re focused only on a trophy!

Sit down as a team and review both the positive and negative remarks. Work together to come up with strategies to fix the team’s weak spots and emphasize their strengths. Dance Australia explained that judges are generally looking at basic skills, appearance, confidence levels, technique, choreography, costumes and overall performance.

Most competitions will clearly lay out the different areas students were judged on, so work with your students to identify areas in which they need to improve. This way you can better your team as a whole and help individual students learn to critique themselves and grow as dancers.

Contact Organizers when Necessary

Unless otherwise noted, you have the right to feedback after competitions. If you find that the notes you receive are incomplete, inconsistent with scores or of poor quality, you may want to consider reaching out to the organizers. Let them know politely that you were unsatisfied with the adjudicator feedback and recognize ways you think it could be improved.

On the other hand, you may also want to drop a note to let organizers know that their judges gave you thorough and detailed comments.


Download a Dance School Progress Report Template

Do’s and Don’ts of the Dance School Progress Report

If your studio offers mostly low-key recreational classes, chances are that you don’t really need to dole out a regular dance school progress report. However, as you start to offer more pre-professional services and competitive classes, it’s in your best interests to give dancers consistent and thorough feedback on their performance. Many dance studios choose to give students progress reports, but there are certain factors you should keep in mind when setting up an evaluation system.


Since our last post, TutuTix has created a sample dance progress report template that you can download and customize for your studio’s needs. Check out the template by following our link below:

The Dance Progress Report: How to Share Progress

Wanting to keep working on your own progress report? Check out the tips below:

Do: Use a Specific Form

Before you go ahead and hand out midseason evaluations, it’s essential that you create a standardized form to complete for each and every dancer. DanceStudioOwner.com recommended that you use a rubric with sections for social, personal, technical, cognitive, spatial, musical and performance skills. Figure out how you want to rate each, whether it’s on a scale of one to five or with letter grades. You should also leave ample space for comments, as there will often be times your recommendations won’t fit precisely into one evaluation category.

Don’t: Go Overboard on Criticism

Sometimes you may find that instructors focus too heavily on negatives when completing progress reports, and that’s not good for dancers’ morale. Be sure to include a positive comment for each criticism that you provide, and keep your feedback constructive. It’s easy to get carried away providing commentary that you think will help the dancer grow, but you’ll want to point out what students are doing right as well as what they’re doing wrong.

Do: Make Them a Tool

A dance school progress report shouldn’t just be a sheet to tell parents how their child is performing in class. They should be a tool that dancers can use to improve their skills and become stronger performers. Work with your teachers to make progress reports educational and useful. It’s also important to discuss the feedback with your dancers and let them know you’re willing to go over the report one-on-one if they’d like. Keep your door open to both students and parents, and allow them to come to you for clarification or with questions. This can go a long way to keeping your clients happy and furthering the education of your dancers.


Teaching Dancers about Facial Expressions

Dance Teacher Tips

Even if your dancers can execute their routine flawlessly, judges and audience members might still be able to tell that the performers are stressed, confused or frightened. How’s that? Through facial expressions.

Many communication experts believe that the messages we send to other people come predominantly from nonverbal cues. That’s why performers need to spend time working on their facial expressions, which can fundamentally affect the quality of their performance. Here are some dance teacher tips for teaching facial expressions to your budding young artists, as well as a few exercises that may aid your lessons.

Understanding the Importance

After you and your dancers spend hours and hours perfecting a performance, the last thing you want is for the piece to feel uncomfortable because of awkward facial expressions. Dance Spirit magazine explained that genuine nonverbal cues can add a level of authenticity to a performance and elevate it from good to great.

However, sometimes the “right” facial expressions aren’t the ones that come naturally. Many times young dancers are taught to simply put on a big smile. This may be endearing in beginner classes, but it certainly won’t cut it at more advanced competition levels.

“Facial expressions need to come from a real human place instead of being painted on,” Shelly Masenoir, a judge for the StarQuest and Applause Talent Competition, explained to Dance Spirit magazine. “Facial expression is not a costume that you put on. It’s a part of you and how you feel.”

It’s important for students to realize that their nonverbal communication doesn’t just come from their smiles. Dance Advantage noted that mouths, jaws and eyes can all show authentic emotion or a lack of connection. Your students need to exercise the same level of control of their facial expressions while dancing that they do over the rest of their bodies.

How to Practice and Improve Facial Expressions

When it comes time to practice those on-command “genuine” smiles, gather your class in front of a mirror. Demonstrate what judges will consider to be a false smile – lots of teeth and strained muscles – and then have your students practice more natural expressions.

The Rockettes blog recommended having dancers relax their jaws and tongues. If your students are particularly stiff, you might get them to loosen up by making a few silly faces.

Once everyone has relaxed their facial muscles, discuss ways to engage the audience with their eyes. Have them raise their eyebrows slightly, as if they were talking about something interesting. Instruct students to breathe in through their noses and out through their mouths. This will help them to keep a more natural smile with an open mouth.

Depending on the nature of the performance, you may want to tone down the facial expressions or give them a little more pizzazz. As with any dance skill, it will probably take some time and practice to get body language to where it needs to be.

Take a few minutes at the start or end of class to practice those facial expressions and make sure to give your students lots of honest feedback.

After a few lessons on facial expressions, you might want to consider taping a performance for your dancers to review. Watch the video together as a class and give constructive criticism on how the students could improve their nonverbal communication.

Discuss whether the dancers’ body language is appropriate for the mood and tone of the piece and brainstorm ways for the class to improve facial expressions together.


Should Your Studio Offer a Dance Class for Adults?

dance class for adults

When you decided to open a dance studio, your goal was probably to teach young children an appreciation for the beautiful art form. Most studio owners offer classes predominantly for children and teens, but there’s a growing market looking for a dance class for adults. There are a number of benefits that adults can experience from structured dancing, as it’s a low-impact activity. AARP explained that dancing can help strengthen bones and muscles, improve posture and help to ward off illnesses associated with a sedentary lifestyle. There are definitely benefits to offering adult dance classes, but you might not be certain if it’s right for your studio. Consider the following questions if you’re thinking about expanding your class offerings to accommodate an older crowd.

Do you have the right market?

Just as you (hopefully) evaluated your neighborhood for potential young students, you’ll need to consider whether or not your studio is in a good area to cater to adults. Think about if there are any businesses in the vicinity that would compete with your dance class for adults. This doesn’t necessarily have to be another studio – gyms and community centers often offer dance exercise classes for adults and could take away from your pool of potential students.

If you think that you’re in a good location to attract older students, you’ll also want to consider exactly who those dancers would be. Dance Studio Life explained that you may want to offer different classes for young professionals, middle-aged mothers or senior adults. If you can narrow down your potential student base to a specific demographic group, you’ll be in a good place to target them with marketing and able to design classes suited to their needs.

Do you have the right instructor?

The next important consideration is whether you have the staffing to provide high-quality classes for older adults. When teachers are working with younger children, most will be at the same skill level and progress at roughly the same pace. If there are students who excel, they can always hop up to a more advanced class that fits their needs. However, when you’re working with adults, the teacher must be able to cater to a variety of different skill levels, abilities and potentially ages. Chances are that you’ll start off with just one or two classes, and you might get a mixed variety of students. You’ll need an experienced and dedicated instructor who is able to comfortably lead a dance class for adults.

How can you get people in the door?

Once the logistics have been straightened out, you’ll need to consider the best way to promote these new offerings to your target market. It’s important to realize that while many young dancers are ready and eager to try something new, it might take a little convincing to get adults to step outside their comfort zone. Be sure to note the benefits of dance in your advertisements and promotions, and reassure interested individuals that the class caters to beginners.

If you’re targeting mothers for a daytime class, DanceStudioOwner.com recommended offering a discount for parents whose children already patronize your studio. Once you get a few customers in the door, word of mouth will help you with your marketing. When targeting seniors, you should consider visiting local retirement communities to talk about your classes. You can even offer a trial class at the facility to get residents interested. If you’re hoping to cater to young professionals, consider placing fliers at popular restaurants and coffee shops or offering class coupons on social media or Groupon.


Should You Use Comedy in Your Dance Routines?

When you’re choreographing a new dance routine for an upcoming recital, you might ask yourself, “Should I try to make this funny?” You’ve probably seen some hilarious performances that thrilled the audience, but also some comedic routines that fell a little flat. There’s definitely value in adding humor into a recital – it’s a fresh experience for the audience and your students – but it can be pretty intimidating. If you decide to take the plunge and choreograph comedic dance routines, use these suggestions to help make them a success.

Get the Dancers On Board

You could create the most hilarious dance routines known to man, but if your dancers aren’t invested in the piece, they won’t go the way you planned. Before making a commitment to a comedic performance, talk to your students about it. Make sure they’re comfortable with the idea of a funny routine and are willing to commit to it.

“Dancers aren’t necessarily trained at making themselves appear goofy, nor are they always comfortable owning humor,” Abby Bender, artistic director of the Triskelion Arts and Schmantze Theatre, told The Dance Enthusiast. “If a performer can commit fully to whatever the ‘funny’ in the work is, be it concept or movement, then it will resonate and people will laugh… hopefully.”

Once your dancers are on board, they’ll probably have some great suggestions and be able to help you shape the piece.

Tailor Humor to the Audience

You should always consider your audience when creating a comedic routine. Grandparents probably won’t understand the same jokes as young adults. If it’s a more family-oriented performance, tailor the humor toward the tastes of parents. A piece that’s performed at a school should involve comedy that speaks to your students. You should also take care to make any humor appropriate. Any mature songs, movements or concepts should be avoided. Keep the performance family friendly so you don’t step on any toes.

Schedule a Test Run

No two people have the same sense of humor, so a performance that might leave your students in stitches could be lost on their parents. If you’re concerned about the reception the piece will have, consider inviting in a few people for a test run. Don’t use parents – you don’t want to ruin the surprise! – but instead bring in a few of your friends or other instructors. Listen for their giggles and use any feedback to tweak the performance and optimize the comedic effect.


How to Treat Muscle Cramps for Your Dancers

How to Treat Muscle Cramps

How many times have you had a dancer cramp up during class and not be able to continue? Probably too many to count. When students, especially beginners, are pushing themselves a little too hard, their bodies will probably fight back. Muscle cramps, especially those in the feet and back, are painful and sometimes crippling to dancers, so it’s important that you know how to treat muscle cramps for your dancers, relax the muscle during class and prevent the problem in the future.

Quick Fixes for Tight Muscles

When one of your students gets a cramp during class, the first thing you should do is to get him or her something to drink. Individuals should drink 64 ounces of water every day – that’s approximately four bottles of water – and dancers should consume even more. DanceTeacher magazine explained that when students get dehydrated, their bodies aren’t able to keep with the pace of class, leading to cramps. Make sure that your dancers are taking regular water breaks throughout rehearsal to prevent these issues.

The next thing your dancer needs to do is relax the muscle that’s cramped. Have the student take deep breaths and massage the muscle with a foam roller.

“It really helps to breathe anytime you’re dancing and you feel like you’re getting exhausted,” Megan Richardson, a certified athletic trainer at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, told DanceTeacher magazine. “It calms [the] nervous system so those overstimulated muscles relax.”

Once the dancer can walk, have her slowly take a lap around the studio. It might seem counterintuitive, but walking will help leg muscles to stretch out from their contracted position. For foot cramps, encourage your dancer to do a few ankle circles and toe curls to help those muscles relax.

Target Problem Areas with Stretching

To prevent muscle cramps or spasms in the future, show your dancers some preventive stretches and encourage them to designate a little extra time to warm up and cool down. Before class, dynamic stretches will be the most beneficial, as they get the blood pumping with low-intensity movement.

“Even walking or biking to class is an ideal way to get the blood moving and raise the body’s temperature,” Jennifer Gamboa, president of the rehabilitation facility Body Dynamics, told Dance magazine. “Simply put, the body needs movement to get ready to dance.”

Gamboa recommended having your students try leg brushes, arm circles, trunk rotations and traveling lunges to get their bodies warmed up before class. Once the rehearsal is finished, that’s the time to focus on static stretching, where you work on lengthening certain muscles.

Banish Cramps with a Preventative Diet

Your dancers’ diets are equally as important in preventing muscle cramps. Encourage your students to eat foods rich in electrolytes, which will help to replace nutrients lost through sweat. Bananas, kiwi and yogurt are all packed with potassium, which can help to ward off cramps. Some other good choices are whole grains, apricots and avocados for magnesium, nuts and vegetable juice for sodium, and broccoli, milk and cheese for calcium.

“The best time to eat is 30 to 45 minutes after exercise, because that’s when the body is at its prime time to uptake all the nutrients,” Allison Wagner Eble, Cincinnati Ballet’s registered dietitian, told DanceTeacher magazine.

Sports drinks are a good way to replace electrolytes in a pinch, but healthy foods also provide other valuable nutrients that will contribute to overall wellness. Plus, sports drinks often contain high levels of added sugar, which can be harmful to the body when consumed in excess.


The Final Curtain: Saying Farewell to Wendy Whelan

Farewell to Wendy Whelan

The conclusion of “La Sonnambula” by the New York City Ballet on Oct. 18, 2014, was much more than your average closing night. It was also the farewell performance of Wendy Whelan, an awe-inspiring ballerina who danced with the company for 30 years. However, Whelan’s departure from the NYC Ballet is by no means the end of her career, but it does bring to light the struggles that professional dancers face after retirement.

The Rise of a Star

Wendy Whelan, who was born and raised in Kentucky, began training as a professional ballerina at age 8. Her first performance was as a mouse in the Louisville Ballet’s production of the beloved classic, “The Nutcracker.” Her modest start is proof to all dance students that no one immediately puts on pointe shoes and steps into the limelight. It’s a journey that relies on hard work and dedication.

In 1981, Whelan got her big break when she received a scholarship to attend a summer course at the School of American Ballet. Within a year, she was a full-time student at the school, and in 1984, Whelan became an apprentice with the NYC Ballet. Slowly, but surely, she climbed through the company’s ranks. She achieved the title of principal dancer during the 1991 spring season.

During her career, Whelan performed as a guest artist with the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden and the Maryinsky Ballet. She also originated several roles in pieces by Christopher Wheeldon, Alexei Ratmansky and more.

Life After Ballet

Unfortunately, Whelan sustained a serious injury in the fall of 2012, when she was 44 years old. According to The Atlantic magazine, she pulled her hamstring and a few months later discovered she had a labral tear in her hip. It took many months for the ballerina to recuperate and led to her eventual decision to retire from the company that had been her home for so many years.

As is the case with many professional dancers, Whelan began to worry about her financial security a few months before her farewell performance.

“We’re not supported federally at all once we leave the ballet,” Whelan told The Atlantic in March 2014. “There is no support whatsoever, financially or insurance wise for dancers in the United States.”

Dancers begin training at such a young age that their education is often put on the back burner. When they retire, usually between age 30 and 40, they have to re-enter the working world, often without a college degree or significant work experience.

Whelan told The Atlantic that she was considering becoming a dance teacher, but it looks like dance students will have to wait a few more years before learning from the legend. The NYC Ballet reports that Whelan has been appointed Artistic Associate at the New York’s City Center for the next two years. She is working with Edward Watson, principal dancer of the Royal Ballet, to develop a program that will premiere in London during the summer of 2015. The collaboration will debut in New York in 2016.

A Lesson for Students

Wendy Whelan’s story, and that of many other professional dancers, brings to light the struggle of transitioning from life on stage to that in the working world. A study from the aDvANCE Project sound that most dancers expect to perform into their 40s, but on average retire in their mid-30s. Further, 98 percent of current dancers claim they are aware of the challenges they’ll face once their career is over, but former dancers admit they weren’t prepared for the transition. Teachers molding the next generation of Wendy Whelan’s might add a little bit of reality to their lessons. Dance students should be educated about the realistic longevity of a professional career and the importance of an education in their life post-dance.


The Dos and Don’ts of Advancing Dance Students

If your studio offers a variety of classes for dancers with different skill levels, you’ll often be faced with challenges on when it’s time to consider advancing dance students to the next level. One of the most notable decisions is advancing ballerinas to pointe, but moving students to a more advanced class in any genre can be tricky. After owning your studio for a few years, you’ll find a method that works best for you, but here are some general tips on advancing dance students.

Do: Set Specific Criteria

Creating a set criteria for student advancement will make your life and the lives of your instructors a whole lot easier. Write up evaluation sheets that outline the skills and techniques needed for each class level. You can even use point systems to evaluate whether a dancer is ready to move up. In addition to technical aspects, you should also consider evaluating the dancer’s attitude, practice schedule and response to instruction, as these all play a crucial role in more advanced classes. Having a structured criteria will make the process fair and logical, and it’ll be a lot easier to explain to dancers and their parents what needs to be done in order to advance.

Don’t: Make Advancement a ‘Right’

There are bound to be dancers who feel that because they’ve completed so many seasons at a lower level, they’re entitled to advancement. This shouldn’t be the case. Advancing dance students who aren’t ready can be dangerous for the student and frustrating for the rest of the class. The dancers who are ready for the challenge will often be held back as unprepared students struggle. Dance Advantage explained that a student becomes a better dancer through dedication and practice, not by completing a certain number of classes. Advanced classes, including pointe, should be reserved for students who take the craft seriously and are 100 percent ready for the challenge, both mentally and physically.

Do: Take Time to Explain Your Decisions

When you make tough decisions to hold students back, realize how hard it will be on the dancer. The best thing you can do in this situation is sit down and have a conversation about how you came to the decision. Be prepared for tears and bargaining, but stay firm with your choice. Dance World Takeover explained that the best dancers will take criticism and use it to their advantage. Give your students as much advice as possible and be clear about exactly what it will take to get to the next level. After such talks, it will become clear which students are serious about pursuing their dreams and unafraid of hard work.

Don’t: Advance Students to Be With Friends

One of the most common complaints you’ll hear is that a student is being left behind while his or her friends advance. When this happens, you’ll want to acknowledge how the dancer is feeling – disappointed, let down and maybe a little embarrassed. However, explain that it wouldn’t be safe or fair to advance students so they could remain with friends. Make it clear to your dancers that it’s possible to catch up with peers if they put in the time to practice and stay focused during class. You can use this opportunity to light little fires under your students and help them to reach their full potential. Chances are that once they start class next season, they’ll quickly make new friends and focus on their love of dance.


Conflict Resolution for Students

Conflict Resolution for Students

Whether your students are toddlers or pre-teens, you’re sure to have a few conflicts during the year. Dancers who are upset or angry can interrupt the flow and atmosphere of class, so developing strong conflict-management skills is a crucial part of being a studio owner. Implement the following policies in your studio to improve conflict resolution for students and get everyone back to doing what they love.

Teach children to discuss conflict

Make it a studio policy that students talk to each other about problems. Responsive Classroom explained that student-to-student conflict resolution will help children learn how to deal with disagreements in a positive manner and prevent conflict in the future. These skills are extremely valuable, especially for young dancers, and they’ll carry the lesson with them throughout life.

To resolve a conflict, bring the two or three parties into your office for a low-key conversation. Before anyone talks, have the students take a few deep breaths and do a few of their favorite stretches. This will help everyone cool down and prepare them to talk calmly. Let each student say what is bothering him or her, and make sure the other students listen without interrupting (gee, does this sound a lot like parental conflict management or what?). Then work together to brainstorm a solution to the conflict and discuss how the issue can be avoided in the future.

Have a whole-class exercise

If you find that student conflicts are a common occurrence, it might be time to plan a lesson for the whole class. You may think to yourself, “Do I really need to be lecturing kids about problem solving? I’m supposed to be teaching them to dance.” However, if you have professional dance experience, you know that squabbles between dancers persist throughout all skill levels and can cause big problems. If your dancers are serious about pursuing their dreams, interpersonal skills will be imperative to their success.

Discovery Education recommended that you discuss different kinds of hurtful behavior with your class and then work together to develop coping strategies. Set aside 15 or 20 minutes of class time to run this activity. Have your students share a time when their feelings were hurt, either in the studio or in school. If they’re not comfortable sharing out loud, have them write on index cards. Then, work as a class to develop methods for dealing with name-calling, gossip, exclusion and any other problems that come up. You can display these coping strategies on a poster in your studio or have students sign a contract saying they’ll stick to the policies.


How to Communicate Better While Teaching Dance

Teaching dance

Instructors can often get stuck using the same phrases while teaching dance. Saying things like, “that was great” or “don’t slouch” can quickly become a habit and lose meaning to students. It’s a tricky task to figure out what language students respond to, especially when you have a number of different classes.

However, if you can learn to communicate efficiently with your dance students, you’ll grow into a much better teacher and your pupils will leave with the knowledge and skills they desire.

Use Action Language

Dance Teacher Magazine explained that the more descriptive you can be with your instructions, the better students will understand. Phrases like “jump higher” are vague and hard to measure. When teaching dance in class, use a descriptive action to explain what you’re looking for. A good alternative might be, “Imagine you let a balloon float up to the ceiling, then try to jump up to grab the string.”

When students have an action with a goal attached, it will be easier to complete the action. It will also make an impression on your dancers so you won’t have to remind them as often. Similarly, use specific imagery when you’re giving praise. Don’t just tell students their run through was great, but explain exactly what about it was successful.

Use “Specific” Language

The DanceExec put together an awesome article talking about how to correct sloppy, floppy dance performance fingers by giving specific instructions.

By being consistent with how you ask dancers to do a certain movement, you can clean up sloppiness and make dancers appear more fluid, controlled, and deliberate.

Accentuate Positives

Try to banish the words “don’t” and “stop” from your teaching vocabulary. Instructions that focus on negatives won’t be as well received as those that focus on positives. Four Dancers suggested that students will respond better to a correction if it’s prefaced with praise.

So instead of saying, “Don’t scrunch your shoulders,” approach the topic from a different angle. Commend the student on keeping their arms flowing while they dance, and suggest they try extending that motion up through their shoulders.

Describing to students what you want is a more productive way to teach than telling students what you don’t want.

Adjust as You Go

Finally, give yourself permission to experiment and try new things. Each class you teach will have a different dynamic, and there won’t be a one-size-fits-all communication style. Just like your students are new to your class, you are new to these students!

Allow yourself a little time to figure out how to best communicate with them – you don’t have to get it right from day one.


The Latest in Dance Choreography News

Dance Choreography News

Behind every amazing dance number is a stellar choreographer! As the owner of a dance studio, you’re probably involved in the creation of each performance, so it’s important to stay inspired. Check out the latest dance choreography news from the industry as you prepare for your next big recital.

New Museum Announces Fall 2014 Theme

To honor the genius of choreographers around the nation, the New Museum in New York City announced its theme for the 2014 Fall season: choreography. The organization hopes to get the public involved in an investigative examination of the art form through numerous activities and workshops. Starting in September, choreography duo Brennan Gerard and Ryan Kelly, known for their exhibition Kiss Solo at the Kate Werble Gallery, will complete a six-month residency at the museum that will include a number of public programs.

Trajal Harrell’s creative process

The inspired mind behind the seven-performance series, “Twenty Looks or Paris Is Burning at the Judson Church,” recently opened up to The New York Times about his creative process. Trajal Harrell is best known for this series that stages an encounter between Harlem voguers and experimentalists from the Judson Dance Theater in 1962. His goal was to offer people a look into a “historical impossibility.”

When he works, Harrell arranges the dancers on platforms 1.5 feet off the ground. He will move the “islands,” as he calls them, around the space and have his performers improvise.

“All of a sudden the body is on a small white space,” Harrell told The New York Times. “I can see very clearly what each dancer is doing. It’s a way to sketch.”

Ryan Heffington’s big VMA win

Pop music fans probably heard that the music video for Sia’s “Chandelier” won the 2014 MTV Video Music Award for Best Choreography. The strange but moving piece features Maddie Ziegler, an 11-year-old dancer who appeared on “Dance Moms,” in a grim abode and was choreographed by Ryan Heffington. Heffington has also worked on projects for Arcade Fire, New York Fashion Week and Sigur Ros.

According to an interview with The Guardian, Heffington and Sia worked together to create a piece that wasn’t too dark for the young performer.

“We didn’t want to extract so much from the narrative of the song: It’s too heavy for an 11-year-old, and it wouldn’t make sense,” explained Heffington. “We actually wanted it to feel like she’s dancing around and has no association to what is happening or where she is.”

The choreographer revealed that fans can look forward to more collaborations with Sia, as well as his own project, KTCHN, which will be shown in New York in 2015.


Benefits of Proper Breathing Techniques for Young Dancers

Breathing Techniques for Young Dancers

To run the best studio possible, dance instructors need to teach more than plies and box steps. Teaching proper breathing techniques for young dancers is just as important as showing them the right moves. As a studio owner, you should make sure that all your beginners are being instructed in proper posture and breathing so they can grow into beautiful and confident dancers.

Benefits of Proper Breathing Techniques for Young Dancers

To new dancers, especially those who haven’t participated in physical activities before, practicing breathing may seem a bit silly. However, there are a number benefits that come along with proper breathing techniques. Live Healthy explained that you can help prevent muscle fatigue by giving your body extra oxygen. Dancers with strong respiratory muscles will be able to dance for longer periods of time and stay alert and focused.

Controlled breathing also helps to relieve tension dancers may be carrying. This can relax muscles and loosen movements. According to Live Healthy dancers who are stressed are more prone to injuries. Practicing breathing exercises will help young dancers to move more fluidly and give a better performance, all while preventing physical harm.

Practicing Better Breathing

Take a few minutes in each of your novice classes to practice some breathing exercises with the students, and make sure your instructors are doing the same. An article on teaching proper breathing from the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing recommended you encourage students to breathe deeply from their diaphragms by focusing on expanding their ribcages. Proper breathing techniques for dance includes heavy utilization of diaphragmatic breathing.

There are a couple of easy exercises to help dancers become accustomed to this potentially foreign practice. Live Healthy suggested you start by having students lay with their backs on the floor with their palms on the lower abdomen. Take deep breaths to the count of four, and have everyone watch their hands rise. Exhale and focus on tightening the abdominal muscles. Another option is to practice a few easy yoga poses, like upward salutes and forward folds. Everyone should inhale as they raise their arms up and exhale as they bend forward to touch their toes.

Slowly Progress to Rhythmic Breathing

Once your students get the hang of these exercises, Dance Teacher magazine suggested you move on to rhythmic breathing. To practice, play a song that you’ll be using during rehearsal, and have the dancers pace their breath to the tempo. This exercise will help prevent stiffness and tension when performing and make the dance appear smoother and more effortless.

This article was updated at 2:22 p.m. on September 17, 2014.


Use Yoga for a Fun Dance Warm-up

Yoga as a Dance Warm-up

If you’re looking for a way to switch up the dance warm-up for your class, consider incorporating some yoga poses into your routine. Yoga is great for flexibility and balance, and it also relieves stress and helps kids to focus. Here are some of the benefits dancers can gain from practicing yoga and some of the best poses to warm up with.

Why dancers should be yogis

Almost every type of dancer, from ballet to hip-hop, can benefit from regular yoga practice. ISport explained that one of the biggest gains will be in flexibility. Yoga can help young dancers target their problem areas and keep those muscles lean. It’s a great practice for impatient young dancers, because yoga poses can gradually stretch muscles and prevent tears. ISport also pointed out that yoga is a great way to build upper body and core strength. Warming up with yoga is helpful in teaching students proper breathing techniques as well. Yoga emphasizes deep breaths from the diaphragm that won’t alter the alignment of the spine and ribs.

Best poses for warm up

To best incorporate yoga into your class warm up, start with some deep breathing exercises. Encourage your students to relax and focus on their breathing. This will help them to shake off distractions and release stress they’re carrying. You’ll probably want to move through a few basic poses – forward bends, downward dog, plank – to get them started. Once you feel everyone is ready, try these poses together.

    • Big Toe Pose: In this variation of a forward fold, you’ll keep your legs as straight as possible and grab your big toes with the index and middle fingers of each hand. Have students alternate between pressing their chest to their thighs and stretching up into a table-top position. YogaWiz explained that this is a great exercise to stretch the hamstrings and calves.


    • Triangle Pose: Begin with your feet about three feet apart, with one foot facing forward and the other perpendicular to it. With arms outstretched, move your torso toward the front-pointing foot, then reach down with your front hand and rest it on the floor or your calf, and extend the top arm toward the ceiling. You’re stretching the front and back of your legs with this pose and also opening up your hips and chest, according to YogaWiz.


    • Tree Pose: This is a great balance exercise that kids will enjoy. Stand with your feet together, then draw one leg up and place the sole of your foot against your inner thigh or calf – getting your leg up high isn’t super important, but don’t place your foot on or near the knee. If you want an extra challenge, raise both arms above your head. Make sure to switch legs to optimize the stretch and open your hips.