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Tag: technique

Dancer Flexibility: Improve Your Students’ Développé Extension

dancer flexibility

When performed correctly, the développé is absolutely mesmerizing – just see how long you watch this gif of Maria Kochetkova. Many dancers, though, struggle with the développé, and instead of being a source of beauty and grace, the move is a source of constant frustration. Every dance teacher has likely heard some of their students complain about their dancer flexibility and the développé.

Kochetkova makes the move look easy, but the développé requires several complex muscle groups to work together in perfect harmony. If just one group is underdeveloped, then the movement is failed from the start. A dancer can be able to do the oversplits with ease but lack the core strength to hold her leg over her head, while a dancer with flexible hips that allow for a wide range of movement can have underdeveloped hamstrings that prevent them from holding her leg in a straight line.

The key to stunning développé extension is thoroughly conditioning all the muscle groups that are involved in the move. Here are four ways that dance teachers can help their students improve their développé extension.

1. Work the Iliopsoas

Everyone’s heard of the hamstrings and hip flexors, but not many people are familiar specifically with the iliopsoas. Which is a real shame, because it’s absolutely vital to sky-high développé.

As Nichelle explained in a very informative article for Dance Advantage, the iliopsoas is the group of muscles that enables the leg to move higher than 90 degrees. For many dancers that are incredibly flexible but unable to lift their legs to their heads, an underdeveloped iliopsoas may be to blame. However, they usually aren’t even aware that this is the problem.

Deb Vogel, a neuromuscular educator, shared several exercises for strengthening the iliopsoas that dance teachers should have their students do.

First, sit up straight on a chair, without your back touching, with both feet on the ground. Keeping your pelvis strong and centered, lift one knee up toward the ceiling, then lower it down so your toes touch the floor. Lift your knee back up, and repeat the movement 20 times for each leg.

Sounds easy, but isolating the iliopsoas like that is a real workout. When your students can do this exercise with ease, have them try this next movement:

Sit in a chair with your back leaning against the back of the chair, and bend one leg at the knee while holding the other leg straight. Keeping the extended leg a little turned out, raise it as high as possible and then lower it back down so it’s even with the other knee. Repeat this movement 20 times, then do it on the other leg.

Vogel advised that dancers follow these exercises, or any other ones that focus on the iliopsoas, with lunge stretches. With these two exercises, it won’t take long to strengthen this important muscle.

2. Strengthen the Core

Dancer flexibility gets much of the attention when it comes to working développés, but core strength is also very vital. A strong core supports all the movements of the développé and ensures that the leg can be held up high while the hips and standing leg are stable. Strong abdominals allow the leg to be held up, but as The Dance Training Project explained, they’re also necessary to keep your spine straight, centered and stable. If you spine is not in a neutral position, then the pelvic alignment will be off, which prevents maximum leg extension.

However, contrary to popular belief, crunches are not the answer for a stronger core, according to The Dance Training Project. Making repetitive concentric contractions – like sit-ups – aren’t effective for building the core strength that dancers need. Instead, dancers should focus on exercises that lengthen the abs and other core muscles – known as eccentric training – so that dancers can achieve a greater range of motion. Planks and abdominal roll-out exercises will provide an eccentric workout, but The Dance Training Project put together a PDF that includes great eccentric core exercises for dancers.

3. Embrace the Floor Barre

Practicing floor barre is also a fantastic way to improve développé extension. Dame Lucette Aldous, a ballerina in the Nureyev rendition of Don Quixote, told Dance Australia how she teaches the Boris Kniaseff method of floor barre to improve her students’ développé.

According to the source, floor barre helps increase overall strength, improve body positioning and posture and even boost circulation, which helps expand range of movement.

“When joints are moving, it sends synovial fluid into the joints – it’s like you’re lubricating those joints,” said Aldous in an interview with Dance Australia.

There are different floor bar techniques for dance teachers to explore. Dance Advantage put together a great guide to the different methods here, including the Boris Kniaseff and Maria Fay techniques.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correct the description of the iliopsoas.

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Ballet Terms for Beginners

ballet terms for beginners

It’s normal to feel a little overwhelmed going into your first ballet class. The plethora of poses and positions to learn might have your head spinning, especially since many of their names are in French. But with practice and time you’ll soon be fluent in the language of ballet. And it’s always helpful to have an easy guide with ballet terms for beginners.

To get you started with confidence, here’s an overview of some common terms first-time ballerinas will need to know:

The Five Basic Positions

Understanding the basic positions is a great place to start when beginning your practice, since they make up the building blocks of ballet. As BalletHub noted:

“The five basic positions are usually one of the first things taught in a beginner’s ballet class but are essential to the technique of classical ballet as practically every step begins and ends in one of the five basic positions.”

The basic positions concern the placement of the feet and are aptly named: first position, second position, third position, fourth position and fifth position.

First position: The heels are together with the toes of each foot pointed out toward either side, with legs straight and turned out, following the position of the feet.

Second position: Legs are straight and the feet are turned out to each side like in first position, but the difference is that the heels do not touch and are instead about hip-width apart.

Third position: This position is rarely used, since it can be mistaken for a sloppy first or fifth position, BalletHub noted, but it is still important to learn. Begin in first position, and then slide the heel of one foot so it lines up with the middle of the other foot, keeping both feet pointing out in opposite directions.

Fourth position: Stand with one foot about a foot’s length in front of your other foot. Each foot should be pointing in an opposite direction, and the toes of the back foot should line up with the heel of the front foot.

Fifth position: This position is the most difficult one. It’s like fourth position, but there is no gap between your feet. The toes of each foot should be directly in front of the heel of the other foot, and make sure your legs are turned out and straight.

positionsThe five basic positions are the building blocks of ballet.

Adagio

Adagio is a series of fluid and focused exercises that are performed slowly in order to improve dancers’ balance, strength and lines. It also refers to the opening sequence of a two-person dance that includes one partner lifting the other.

Allégro

Allégro means fast, brisk and energetic movements and is associated with jumps.

Arabesque

An arabesque is when the dancer stands on one leg with the other leg extended behind the body. The arms can be held in a variety of positions. Regardless, the goal of the arabesque is to create as smooth seamless a line as possible with the body, from the shoulders through the arms and down to the toes of the extended leg.

Barre

This is the wooden bar attached to the walls of the classroom, though some barres stand on their own. The dancer holds onto the barre for support, and a sequence of barre exercises is part of every ballet class.

Battement Tendu

This when the leg and foot are fluidly swept across the floor from one position to another. Typically, a “battement tendu” starts from first or fifth position, the leg is extended in the motion, and then it returns to the starting position. The leg should be straight and fully extended so that the foot only brushes the ground during the movement. BalletHub noted that many teachers refer to the move as just “tendu.”

Changements

When a dancer begins in fifth position, jumps up in place and then switches the position of their feet while in the air so that they land in fifth position with the opposite foot now in front.

En Pointe

“En pointe” is when you dance on the very tips of your toes. Pointe shoes, typically made of satin, are used to achieve this. Students begin dancing en pointe only after they have advanced to a higher skill level, Learntodance.com noted. However, on their way to dancing en pointe, students will practice moves and positions in demi-pointe, which is when a dancer stands on the balls of their feet.

Pas de Deux

Pas de deux means “a dance for two people,” and is sometimes shortened to “pas.”

Pirouette

A pirouette is a 360 degree spin made on one foot that is en pointe or demi-pointe, and is frequently begun from fourth position. The move requires strong core alignment and balance, and, as Balletdancersguide.com stated, “are the mastering ballet move which every dancer is undoubtedly always trying to figure out how to improve.”

Plié

Plié means “bent” or “bending,” and is when one or both knees are bent while legs and feet remain turned out, and are done in first, second, fourth and fifth positions. There are two main types of pliés, demi and grand, which George Mason University’s dance department defined as follows:

Demi: This is a small bend of the knees while heels are on the floor which creates a diamond shape.

Grand: A large bend of the knees during which heels are raised off the ground in a motion that mimics a “frog stretch.”

“There are two main types of pliés: demi and grand.”

Ronde de Jambe

Rond de jambe means “round of the leg.” It is when the dancer rests on one leg and makes a circular movement with the other leg. It may be done “à terre,” which means the circle is made while the foot is touching the ground, or “en l’air,” which means the circle is made in the air.

Sauté

Sauté means “jump,” and is frequently used in combination with other moves to signify that they should be done with a jump, Learntodance.com explained. The source gave the example of sauté arabesque, which would mean to jump in the arabesque position.

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Tips for Dancers: Be the Best You

tips for dancers

With all the hours you spend striving to make your technique perfect and the hundreds of videos you watch of your favorite dancers, it can be easy to lose sight of what makes you unique. Every dancer, whether she’s a veteran or total beginner, has characteristics that make her special and set her apart from every other dancer. Truly fantastic dancers aren’t great because they’re technically perfect, but are great because they embrace their strengths and one-of-a-kind personality. They bring passion to the stage, capitalize on what they’re good at and, by doing so, remain in the minds of their audiences long after the show is over. Use these tips for dancers to help you achieve your full potential as a dancer, and while it may seem difficult to do so at first, a little soul-searching, honesty and reflection will help you soar to new heights.

Create a Personal Mission Statement

You may have an idea in your mind about why you love to dance or what you hope to achieve through ballet, but spending the time to sit down and put these sentiments into words will help you identify what makes you unique and will guide your dance journey. Think about what your dreams are, what you most want to accomplish and where you want to be in the future. In her book, “Career Coach: Managing Your Career in Theater and the Performing Arts,” Shelly Field provided the example mission statement, “My mission statement is to use my skills and talent to create a career dancing as a principal in the New York City Ballet.” The mission statement can be whatever resonates with your heart, but it’s important to keep it short, focused and clear. Once you’ve created your mission statement, make copies of it and stick it where you’ll constantly see it, like on your mirror, in your bag or on your laptop.

Play to Your Strengths

Everyone’s body is different and is better adapted to certain skills and movements than others. To be the best you, you should recognize what you excel at and are uniquely talented at, and then devote yourself to getting even better at them. There’s always someone who is going to be better than you, and it’s okay to admire them for their abilities, but beating yourself up for not being as good builds harmful, negative energy. Instead, recognize your unique gifts! For example, Pointe Magazine Online profiled Kathi Martuza, a dancer with hyperextension in her legs. While her condition gives her beautiful long lines, it also causes her knee pain and muscle issues and makes turns difficult. Instead of dwelling on the challenges she faces, she appreciates the things she’s good at.

“Everybody has strengths and weaknesses,” she said in an interview with magazine. “Play up your strengths and show them off. Then work on your weaknesses.”

Embrace your Style

Of course, there are times when you have little control over the choreography or costume, but part of becoming the best you as a dancer is figuring out your unique style and then not being afraid to show it. Create your own choreography for performances and competitions that showcase your spirit as a dancer, whether that means you do a routine full of sky-high leaps and acrobatic moves to powerful music, embrace the classical style with elegant lines and a refined costume or incorporate moves and rhythms from your cultural heritage. Confidently expressing yourself and what makes you unique will help you achieve your full potential as a dancer.

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What Not to Do When Choreographing Your First Dance

What no to do when choreographing your first dance

Congratulations! You finally are given the chance to choreograph your own dance. However, choreographing isn’t as easy as it looks. While you may have watched your dance teacher choreograph your performances with ease for several years, it can be scary to get started on your own. Many dancers experience the same pitfalls when choreographing their first dances. Consider these tips to avoid those issues.

Don’t Over-Choreograph!

When dancers think of beginning to choreograph something, they may get worried about walking into a room full of people who are looking at them for guidance. As a result, they plan out every single step and movement to a tee before even entering the room. While this might seem like a good idea, usually it’s not. When dancers aren’t following your direct lead and mastering every move and breath right away, you may get angry and become over controlling. This could lead to disarray among the group instead of making the practice about having a fun time, which is most important.

Many dancers forget how critical it is to go with the flow when choreographing a dance. As this is such a creative act, people need to listen to their changing thoughts and alter the dance as they go. Otherwise, it might not be as great of a collaboration as it could be.

Don’t Forget About the Audience

Some choreographers tend to be a little narrow-minded when starting out. They might be eager to start and choreograph, but only have interest to create a dance that pleases them, not anyone else. This is a seriously faulty mistake. When crafting a dance, it’s important to think of the audience along every step of the way. What do they want to see? What music would excite them and cause them to really pay attention? How can you draw them in?

Understanding and answering these questions before you begin creating your dance is critical. If you go into the dance only looking to please yourself, you may create a dance that isn’t interesting to anyone and essentially wastes the audience’s time when they’re watching it.

Don’t Forget About the Learning Curve

You might be the kind of dancer who can pick up a new dance within a day. However, not every dancer is like you. Others need a few practices before they can really nail down a whole song, and even then it might not be perfect. As a choreographer, it’s important to understand the learning curve that comes with dancing.

Even if you’re working with a group of advanced, experienced dancers, not everyone will pick up the moves as easily as you created them. Have patience with your dancers and help them along the way to allow them to understand certain moves better. Don’t get frustrated or upset with your dancers, which can only make the whole process worse for everyone.

Don’t Copy Someone Else’s Dance

Of course, as a dancer there were most likely some dances you watched that you loved, and probably some others that you hated. However, when you look for inspiration, it’s important not to mimic those beloved dances to a tee. While you can pull some moves from them, use your creative spirit to come up with a few new moves or reframe them in a new, refreshing way. You don’t want your audience to see the dance and believe that they’ve seen this routine before.

Instead, you want to wow them with pizzaz and originality and think a little bit outside the box. Look at several dances you like and pull from those to make sure you don’t end up reverting back to one performance you love. If you’re having a creative block, ask your dancers what they think. They might have a favorite dance too that they want to pull from or will suggest a new move they saw that helps take the dance in a new direction, instead of a familiar one.

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Dance Injuries: 5 Common Injuries and How to Prevent Them

Are You at Risk for These Dance Injuries?

Dancers get injured from time to time. It might be due to an overly rigorous practice schedule, an accidental fall, a nutritional deficit, or some other reason. However, when it does happen, it can be immensely frustrating and poorly timed. Dancers may have a big performance in a few weeks or may be looking to audition for a prestigious dance group. Whatever the event is, dance injuries aren’t fun. Consider these five common dance injuries and how to avoid them.

1. Lumbosacral Injuries

If you aren’t a dancer, you might think dancers most commonly experience injuries involving the ankles, hips and knees. While those areas are commonly affected by dance, the spine is also affected. Most often, dancers deal with lower back issues from the amount of movement they do during practice and performances. According to the Centers for Orthopaedics, most spine injuries for dancers are lumbosacral and involve intense pain. This injury can be caused by poor stability, uneven leg length, bad technique, scoliosis and even high heels. According to Dance Teacher magazine, some dancers may have lordosis, which can cause muscle spasms that make them more vulnerable to spine injuries. Following proper dancing techniques, stretching, and building core, pelvic and hip strength can help dancers avoid this common injury.

2. Snapping Hip Injuries

This injury sounds just like its name. Dancers will hear, and feel, a loud popping noise in their hip as they dance. This snap is the illiotibial band shifting over the upper leg bone and snapping. It can be incredibly painful, but there are usually a few warning signs. Most commonly, this happens when the IT band is too tight and hasn’t been stretched or warmed up properly. It can also be caused by weak muscles on the outside of the hips and lordosis. Dancers can prevent this these dance injuries by toning and strengthening all of the pelvic stabilizers, such as the hip flexors, abductors and and adductors, as well as working on the lower abdominal muscles and the core.

3. Achilles Tendonitis

Some people forget about the Achilles tendon and its importance on the body. It’s the longest tendon and connects your calf muscles to your heel bone. Dancers tend to overuse this muscle, which leads to tendonitis. Usually this injury occurs if dancers experience frequent shin splints or lower their arches during warm ups, such as barre exercises. Overtraining, dancing on a hard floor and lack of stretching can also lead to this injury, which can be immensely painful and debilitating when it occurs.

4. Neck Strain

Many dancers forget about the stress they can put on their necks when they dance. However, a common dancing injury is neck strain, especially for dancers who do a lot of varied choreography. Dancers can prevent from straining their neck by lengthening it and elongating the spine when they move, instead of collapsing it.

5. Rotator Cuff Injuries

Most dances involve plenty of arm movement. If dancers continuously use their arms during practices and performances, they may end up with an overuse rotator cuff injury. This overuse can cause tendons to strain and tear, leading to intense pressure in the shoulders. Teachers should discuss proper form with students as well as the mechanics of movement. If a dancer is able to understand where the scapula is, he or she is less likely to point an arm in that direction.

As with any injury or health issue, please consult your physician. These tips are meant to be informational only, and should never replace the advice of a licensed medical practitioner.

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Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Improv Dance Moves

Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Improv Dance Moves

Dance improvising can be a tricky art to master, especially when dancers are starting out. However, once you’ve got certain skills down pat, it will be easy for you to break out improvised moves pretty much anywhere, whether you’re in a street competition or looking to impress people during a dance audition. Have you ever improvised a few dance moves before? If you haven’t, don’t worry. Use these five starter tips to help you improve your improv dance moves anywhere you go.

1. Don’t Be Scared

Most dancers starting improvised dance moves may not know where to begin, especially if they’ve been given complete guidance and structure on how to dance until now. Dancers might be worried that they will look foolish or weird in front of their colleagues. However, it’s just the opposite! Most dancers don’t realize they have natural rhythm and beat from years of practicing choreography. Have fun with it and have confidence. Improvised dancing can be challenging, but it’s a way that allows people to let loose and express themselves. Regardless of what move you come up with, it will have some structure and flow.

Beginning improvised dance is also a great time to get to know your body and find out what kind of dance you really like. You’ll learn how your body naturally moves and what types of dancing you appreciate most, whether it’s modern or old school. If you’ve already done a little choreographing, improv dance will help you become a better teacher. You might come up with a few moves you really like and learn how to be more creative on the fly, allowing for more original dances.

2. Begin With a Frame

When you’re starting out, it’s good to have a little structure in your improvising. If you’re taking a dance improvisation class, it might be focused on one part of dancing, such as fluid movement, dancing gleefully or even working on space. Regardless of what the prompt is, don’t watch others around you. Instead, watch the instructor and listen to yourself. What do you think of when you picture fluidity? How do you express glee? Starting with your own emotions and feelings is a great way to help guide yourself through the process.

3. Go In With An Open Mind

If you enter an improvisation class and feel embarrassed or judgmental from the get-go, it’s not going to go well. You’ll constantly be judging your moves in the mirror or might be too focused on what others in the class are doing instead of what you are expressing. If you act this way, you won’t allow for any creative energy to develop. Only practice improvisation with an open mind and remember that it’s all about having fun.

If you look a little silly, so what? Every move helps guide you toward a better rhythm and motion. Going in with an open mind helps you stay in the moment and move freely instead of thinking about what’s coming next. Once you’re doing this, you’re improvising dance moves! Then you can work on which moves you like and can perfect them.

4. Follow Others, But Not Too Much

If you’re taking a dance improvisation class, your teacher might ask your class to show each other your moves. When this happens, look at other peers in your class and see what moves they’re creating that make their dances interesting and original. Of course, don’t copy these moves yourself, but notice what works within a dance piece and what doesn’t.

Watching others dance may open your mind to new types of dance that you didn’t initially consider in your own set of moves. If you’re really struggling and finding it difficult to create your own segment, perform in front of a few friends and see what they think. You can also watch tutorials and how-to videos on the best ways for improv dance to help inspire you.

5. Go Outside Of Your Comfort Zone

Improv dance is all about exploring new things. If you have a couple of regular moves you always go to, or there’s a certain type of dance you like, leave it at the door. Instead, go outside of your comfort zone and try new types of dance, even if you’re not familiar with them.

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5 Ways To Perfect Your Dance Makeup On A Budget

dance makeup

Many dancers know that a great performance takes more than just dance skill. It also includes makeup, costume, hairstyle and even facial expressions. If one of these areas is even the slightest bit off, it could hurt your score with the judges. However, many dancers don’t have the time – or the money – to constantly worry about perfecting their hair and dance makeup to a tee. Buying new dance makeup for every performance can cost tons of money. So what is a dancer to do? Consider these five tips on how to perfect your dance makeup on any budget.

1. Start With Show-Stopping Eyes

One look to the judges can really wow them, right? Right. That’s why it’s important to find a couple of affordable pieces of quality dance makeup for your eyes.

Let’s start with the mascara. On stage, most dancers want their eyelashes to look full and dramatic, no matter what type of dance they are doing. However, it’s also wise to get a product that doesn’t clump your lashes together or make them look overdone. Consider getting Maybelline New York Full N’ Soft mascara, priced at an affordable $8 at most drugstores. According to Real Simple, this mascara is tried-and-true – it really gives eyelashes fullness without causing them to be weighed down or clumpy.

Most dancers also prefer a little eye shadow to help boost the effects. Try L’Oreal Paris High Intensity Pigments Concentrated Shadow, which costs $8, to help give your eyes an extra pop with a collection of colors to choose from. Finish the look with Wet n’ Wild eyeliner for $1.50, which comes in 12 different colors so you can change when you want to.

2. Follow With Stand-Out Lips

Some lipsticks can fade over time, especially after eating or drinking. Dancers don’t always have a minute to reapply between performances. What can dancers do? Try a moisturizing lipstick that holds longer. Or, if you have a beloved color you can’t go without, add a little Vaseline to your lips to help it stay.

If you’re looking for a cheap yet lasting lipstick to complete your look, try Revlon ColorBurst Lipstick for $9, Elle recommended. This lipstick comes in 20 different colors, so you can match it with any outfit. It also contains almond oil to keep your lips moisturized and your lipstick on without issue.

3. Create A Full, Even Complexion

You want to glow when you’re on stage, so use your concealer and bronzer to help. Begin with L’Oreal True Match concealer for a mere $9, which helps hide any blemishes or dark spots and reduces redness. Try out the L’Oreal Paris True Makeup Foundation, $11 at drugstores, that comes in a variety of shades so you can blend effortlessly.

To add color and shape to your face, try an easy blush, such as Almay Touch-Pad Blush for $10 or Physician’s Formula Multi-Colored Bronzer for $13. Try both or just one depending on what type of look you’re aiming for. To help keep your complexion from smudging, test out Coty Airspun Face Powder, which costs $7 and is light enough to change the color of the foundation, blush or bronzer on your face.

4. Give Yourself Some Color

If you’re worried you might look washed out under the bright lights while on stage, don’t fret and run for a darker pair of tights. Instead, keep your color looking natural with spray tan. Sometimes spray tans can come out streaky or turn a different shade than you expected.

Luckily, that’s not the case with Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs, priced at $10. This spray-on formula goes on easy and smoothly so you don’t have to worry about discolored legs or stripes. It also dries fast so you can apply even if you’re in a hurry. If you’re looking for the most even coverage, ask a friend or fellow dancer to spray you down.

5. Consider the imperfections

While you might try your best, not everything can go perfectly all the time. You might accidentally smudge your lipstick, your mascara may smear or you could forget you’re wearing blush and leave an outfit with makeup marks. That’s when it’s wise to have backup. Always bring along a pack of Q-Tips and even a few makeup remover wipes to help you get rid of those errors as soon as they happen.

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Summer Dance Intensives: How Dancers Can Make the Most of Them

Summer dance intensives

If you run a pre-professional dance school, chances are that some of your budding ballerinas will soon be heading off to one of the many summer dance intensives. It’s an experience that’s often invaluable for dancers when it comes to honing skills, building influential relationships and becoming all-around better performers.

Before your students ship off to their summer dance intensives, give them some advice on how to make the most of their time.

Keep a Positive Attitude

Half the battle of having a good time at a summer intensive is keeping a positive attitude. If your students go into the program worried, wary or above it all, they probably won’t get as much from the experience.

Coach your dancers on how to keep an open mind when it comes to summer classes, meeting new people and taking constructive criticism. These skills will all come in handy when they enter the world of professional dance.

A positive attitude is essential during summer programs. A positive attitude is essential during summer programs.

Write It All Down

One way that dancers can retain everything they learn over the course of an intensive is to keep a journal. When they write down notes after each class, jot down tips and tricks shared by experts and document contact information of new friends, they’ll be able to refer back to their experiences later.

If you want to send your students off with a special journal, consider purchasing some inexpensive notebooks with your studio logo on the front! It’s a small gesture that will mean a lot to your dedicated dancers.

Don’t Only Focus on Skills

Yes, summer dance intensives are great places to learn new skills and techniques, but that’s not all these programs offer. Explain to your students that the relationships they make during the summer can serve them throughout their careers. Networking with instructors and other students is an important part of the intensive experience, so don’t neglect it!

Dance Spirit magazine offered some tips on how students can build and maintain friendships while they’re away from home.

When your dancers follow these tips, their first summer intensive experience will be especially great and they’ll be ready and willing to go back in years to come.

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How To Improve Posture in Dance: 5 Ways

How to Improve Posture in Dance

Nothing ruins the beautiful lines of a ballerina than slumping shoulders. However, studies have shown that up to 40 percent of kids have poor posture, whether as a result of heavy backpacks, too much TV time or just a general disposition toward slouching. As you teach your young dancers, it’s essential that you work with them to maintain proper posture. Not only will this help them to appear graceful and elegant, but it will also mitigate their risk of back injury. Here are five suggestions on how to improve posture in dance.

1. Use a Visual

Many dancers need to see concepts demonstrated to fully understand them, which is why instructors are always dancing along with their students. The same principle holds true with learning proper posture.

“Most dancers learn visually, so they’ll try to mimic proper body position, but often they don’t understand the roots of where it’s coming from,” Chelsie Hightower, a performer on “Dancing with The Stars,” explained to Dance Spirit.

For this reason, it’s often helpful to show your students pictures or videos of proper posture. You may want to consider showing them an old recital video where a few dancers had really good posture and others were slouching. Another option is to use a TV episode, like one from “DWTS” or “Dance Moms,” where the dancers worked on posture.

2. Stretch it Out

One way to effectively and safely realign trouble areas is stretching. Search the Internet for corrective stretches, or use these ones suggested by Best Health magazine:

  • Chest and shoulder stretch: This activity is often helpful for dancers who slump forward. Have them lie on their backs with their arms stretched outward and elbows bent into a bench-press position. Instruct your dancers to squeeze their shoulder blades together without arching their backs. Hold the position for 10 seconds, and repeat 4 times.
  • Butt bridge: Another area of the body that can get misaligned is the hips. To help dancers strengthen their mid-section, ask them to lie on their backs with their knees bent and feet on the floor. Have them squeeze their butts and push their hips toward the ceiling. Hold this position for 10 seconds, and repeat four times.

3. Try Core Exercises

Exercises that strengthen the abdominal muscles can also help to improve posture. You may want to work a few Pilates exercises into your classes. These can be as simple as a few sets of crunches, but they can go a long way toward straightening out dancers’ lines.

4. Help from Props

On a Dance.net forum, some dance teachers explained that they work on posture during class by using props. A small ball or bean bag can serve as a physical reminder for dancers to keep their arms straight or shoulders back. Get creative with your use of props for a fun lesson that will work wonders for your slouchers.

5. Practice Makes Perfect

Unfortunately, your dancers will continue to struggle with their posture if they forget about it the minute the leave the studio. Holding yourself upright is a full-time job, and they’ll need to be conscious of their posture throughout the day if they want to improve their dance skills. Brainstorm ways that your students can remind themselves to sit up straight in class, stop slouching in front of the TV and relax those shoulders during meals. Maybe they can set a reminder on their phones or enlist a friend to monitor their position throughout the day.

If your dancers follow these five easy steps, they’ll be on their way toward more elegant lines, straighter arms and over-all better technique.

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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.

Update

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.

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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.

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