Teambuilding Tactics

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by Valerie S. Potsos

“Welcome to your NEW dance team! Now, we are all going to get along and it’s going to be great!”

That’s quite an assumption. As coaches with a new team, we want our dancers to get along. But some of us assume that camaraderie will happen overnight. But, YOU CAN influence how your team will function! It won’t happen magically. Well-planned team building activities will ensure a successful season!

Be proactive. Do NOT wait until there is a conflict to implement team building activities. From your first practice to your last game, it is essential that you use team building as an integral part of your program.

If you are a new team or a veteran team, you need to ask yourself, “What objective do I hope to accomplish with a team building activity?” You also need to ask, “How will I assess their progress?” For example, if you are a new team, Icebreakers and Introduction games are essential. Debrief your Introduction/Icebreaker games by asking, “What did you find out about your members?” “What is something unusual or interesting?” Further, you need to assess whether they seem to feel more comfortable and relaxed.

Or, if you are in the middle of the season, and your team is not getting along, try Perception and Communication games. Communication activities help identify ways that we can improve our interaction skills. How we say something isn’t always how it is interpreted. These types of games can help identify our weak areas. Further, Perception games are generally fun for everyone to use. They are designed to see how participants perceive different situations or objects. Participants learn how to use lateral thinking, to look at things in different ways, and to break down any preconceived stereotypes they might be using.

Group Development games are used to improve the relationship of the individuals and subgroups within the team. You should be aware that when you are conducting Group Development exercises, identification of a conflict or problem between different individuals might become apparent. However, you will be able to solve this problem once it is identified. Debriefing your Group Development activity is crucial so that there isn’t any anger or frustration.

Facilitator or Presentation games help members think about how they instruct a group. These types of games can be especially helpful to your choreographers who are teaching dances or captains who lead warm-ups.

Mid-Course Energizer games are important when the team seems to be losing interest or “going through the motions.” The middle of basketball season or after a competition, these games can get your team recharged and motivated again!

Learning games teach us how to organize our thoughts and ideas. If you have members who are having difficulty memorizing routines, using learning games will test their skills and teach them how to organize their thoughts. These types of games are usually brainteaser type games.

Evaluation exercises are for participants to evaluate either themselves or the program. These are usually used at the end of the year, but can be used throughout the year. As a facilitator, you must make sure that these games are used constructively not destructively.

Self-Management games teach individual group members how to use their time-management and organizational skills. Participants will receive a lot of information and new ideas from other members within the group.

Just as a teacher devises a lesson plan, you must also plan your team building activities. Always debrief with your group. That way, they can analyze what they learned and how they can apply it to practices, games and competitions. (Refer to your UDA Handbook for ideas on how to debrief.)

Remember, not every teambuilding activity is a success. But, you need to keep trying! Find out your team’s personality. What inspires them? Use these observations to plan your activities. Most importantly, your activities should be fun and educational. They can be a great way to break the tension at a tough practice! Good luck and enjoy!

1. To make a point
2. To build team morale
3. To trust each other
4. To become more flexible
5. To reinforce cooperation
6. To reinforce creativity

1. Icebreakers
2. Group Development
3. Communication
4. Facilitator/Presentation Skills
5. Energizer
6. Learning
7. Perception
8. Evaluation
9. Self-Management

(These can be found in your UDA Handbook)
1. CD Cover Design – Introduction Game
2. Team Mission Statement – Group Development
3. Balloon Trolleys – Group Development and Communication
4. The Leadership Puzzle – Learning, Perception, and Group Development
5. Drill Downs – Learning and Self Management

Universal Dance Association
UDA is your best resource for team building games. Call your local rep or ask your staff instructor at camp. UDA will have the latest ideas and games for you at summer camp.

Teambuilding Activities for Every Group – by Alanna Jones
The Big Book of Teambuilding Games – by Edward Scannell
Successful Teambuilding (Baron’s Series) – by Graham Willcocks and Steven Morris

Valerie’s credentials include: UDA Advisor-Trainer, Kimball High School Varsity Dance Coach, Kimball Dance Company Advisor/Director, Motor City All-Star Dance Team, Writer for Dance Spirit, American Cheerleader, and In Motion Magazines, Former Captain of the University of Michigan Dance Team.

If you would like to email Valerie, you can contact her at

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A Guide to Income Taxes for Professional Dancers

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by Sara Willcutt

Tax season can be frustrating, especially for dancers who work several different jobs throughout the year. As a professional dancer, it is important to keep accurate records of your income and expenses in order to complete your tax return at the end of the year. Record keeping is essential whether you are dealing with a company, pick-up jobs or both.

Employment Forms and Deductions
After you are hired, your employer should give you a W-4 form to complete, which provides a guide in determining what percentage of taxes to withhold from your paychecks.

When you fill out the W-4, make sure you are withholding enough money. Federal taxes should account for at least ten percent of your income. Specific rules differ for each state, but you can find complete federal information by visiting

If you are an independent contractor, you are responsible for paying your own social security tax, which is about 15.3% of your net income minus the allowed deductions, state and federal taxes. If the total of your net self-employed earnings from all businesses is $400 or more, you must pay into the Social Security and Medicare systems by filing Form 1040, Schedule SE.

It is especially important for dancers who work in different states throughout the year to keep records of work locations and be aware of the tax laws for those states. You are responsible for paying taxes to the states in which you have worked regardless of your residency. For example, if you worked in a show in Los Angeles but live in New York, you are still required to pay income tax for the work you did in L.A.

Tax rules are subject to revisions from time to time, but it is your job to stay informed of any relevant changes. Check with the IRS for any updates, and ask your employer if you have questions.

End-of-the-Year Forms
The employer provides a W-2 form at the end of the year, which lists the income and deduction amounts you need to complete your tax return. Your employer has until January 31st of the year after you worked to give you a W-2.

For any jobs in which you were employed as an independent contractor, the employer provides a 1099 form rather than a W-2. However, the employer only provides a 1099 form if you were paid $600 or more in that year. Keep in mind that you are responsible for reporting and paying taxes on income received from employers in yearly amounts less than $600, even though you do not receive a 1099 form.

What to Record
Income taxes can be a little confusing, but just be sure to keep records andreceipts. Keep track of your mileage and other costs that you incur as a dancer. Get an accordion folder or file cabinet where you can keep your records organized. You can keep a small notebook and pen in the car to record your mileage if you are deducting work-related travel expenses.

Keep in mind that there are many rules about deductions. For example, if you teach at a dance studio, you cannot deduct the miles that it takes you to get from your home to work and back. But if you take your team to a competition, you can deduct those miles. For complete rules about deductions, refer to the IRS Web site.

How to File
You can complete your taxes by using commercial software such as Turbo Tax or Tax Cut, or by using the free online program at

Professional Help
Some people may think that using an accountant is expensive, but if you keep accurate records and do most of the prep work, the cost can be minimized. In addition, you can research by asking others which accountants they have found to be efficient but reasonably priced. You can often find rates for accountants on their Web sites or call them directly.

An accountant can provide help from a professional who is familiar with all of the tax rules. If you can find an accountant who has had experience working with performers, they may know about additional deductions of which you were not aware.

If you decide to work with an accountant, choose carefully and understand that even if the accountant completes your taxes, you are still responsible for the content and accuracy of the return.

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Striving or Starving? Dancers and Body Issues

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By Madeline Nyvold

There’s no doubt that many dancers are under constant pressure—the pressure to perform well, the pressure to devote themselves to dance and the pressure to keep their bodies in peak physical condition. These pressures, combined with the scrutiny of coaches, peers and audiences, often make dancers vulnerable to a number of body image issues and eating disorders. According to The National Institute of Mental Health, five to ten percent of girls and women suffer from eating disorders. This is a very real and serious issue, and awareness is the key to prevention.

While no age, race or gender is exempt from eating disorders; adolescent girls tend to be a high-risk group. Ascending Star Dance Team member and high school dance coach Thera Witte agrees.

“In my experience, I have seen more body issue images with dancers as they enter high school. At that age, they are very focused on the physical changes that their bodies are going through and how society says they should look.”

When considering the physical standards set by the media and their peers, along with the pressures of dance, it is no wonder that adolescent dancers are susceptible to eating disorders.

Though all forms of dance have physical demands, none are as rigorous or precise as those of ballet. A study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders that examined the incidence of eating disorders in members of several North American ballet companies found that fifteen percent of the dancers questioned had anorexia, while nineteen percent of the dancers questioned had bulimia. The physical requisites of ballet have not changed much; however, there is a growing awareness and efforts are being made to recognize and prevent eating disorders. For example, the National Ballet School in Toronto started a program in which its students met in small groups to discuss body image and health issues. After this program was instituted, the incidence of new cases of anorexia and bulimia dropped from approximately 1.6 per 100 girls per year to only one case of anorexia and one case of bulimia during an eight-year period.

The results of the National Ballet School in Toronto’s program demonstrate the important role awareness plays in the prevention and recognition of eating disorders. It is imperative that friends, relatives and coaches of dancers familiarize themselves with the indicators of eating disorders. According to the National Mental Health Information Center, symptoms of eating disorders include unusual or drastically changed eating habits, obsessive exercising or calorie counting, avoiding food or meals or consistently visiting the restroom immediately after eating. Behaviors unrelated to food can be indicators as well.

“A common sign of serious body image issues in a dancer may be always looking in the mirror to check her body,” Ascending Star Dance Team member Trish Gubson said.

Awareness and recognition of eating disorders is very important, but knowing what to do when confronted with them is equally so. Coaches are inoften in a position to intervene, and Witte details the best way to do so.

“Coaches can approach a dancer they think might have an eating disorder by being open and honest with the dancer. It is important to validate and listen to their feelings and not blame or accuse. Coaches should be mindful of all the different body types of their dancers and choose uniforms that all of them feel comfortable wearing,” Gubson said.

Other dancers are often able to recognize behaviors indicative of eating disorders as well and can help intervene. “ [They can do this by] being aware of their peers’ changes in weight, behavior and attitude, and being open and honest and able to talk about body image issues,” Witte said.

In addition, there are resources for those suffering from eating disorders and those who want to learn more about them. The National Eating Disorders Association’s website has information about preventing and treating eating disorders. By cultivating awareness among dancers and coaches, we can all take a step towards eliminating body image issues and promoting healthy minds and lifestyles.

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Starting a Dance Studio

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By Sara Willcutt

There are many new studios opening all the time. Talented people with a passion for dance want to share their vision with others. The competition between all the studios benefits the dance community by providing higher quality instruction. Unfortunately, many new studios close during the first year. Why? The first year of business is the hardest. During the first year, a business owner has to deal with insurance, taxes, accounting, advertising, hiring employees, renting or buying space, trying to recruit dancers to take their classes and running the business.

Are you ready to start? Write down a list of the pro’s and con’s.
Here is a list of things to consider:

•   Business licensing requirements
•   Sales and promotions
•   Legal responsibilities
•   Building client relationships
•   Taxation
•   Budgeting
•   Accounting
•   General ledgers
•   Business and marketing plans
•   Loans and financial obligations

The success of any business depends on planning and preparation. There are a lot of exciting decisions to make, such as designing flyers and choosing a syllabus to teach, but there is more.

It is equally important to think about the business side of things. This can be overwhelming, but allow time to research and study. Take business classes. Many community centers and local groups offer affordable classes. Look around to find one that fits. Some classes are one time only, while others are in a series. Information about starting a business can be found at the Internal Revenue Service website.

Information from the IRS: Small Business and Self-Employed One-Stop Resource.

Read! There are many great business books available. Try the library, bookstores and online sources.

Minnesota Women Venture has great resources and classes, as well as scholarships and savings programs to aid in success.

Another way to learn is from the experience of others. Find a mentor. A mentor is someone who has experience and success in business and is willing to commit long term to help guide you through the initial stages and on to your long-term goals.

Costs can vary. Some mentors will offer free services, while others charge up to $200 per hour. SCORE is a great resource where you can ask questions and get help free of charge. There are offices in many locations.

Mentors do not need to have experience in the dance industry. Basic business skills are much the same from industry to industry. You may know someone successful in business; consider asking him/her to be a mentor.

When making business decisions, remember to research, compare costs and ask questions.

Starting a business is a process. Stay dedicated and work hard, but give time to prepare before opening. Writing a business plan is a good place to start. You can find guidance on the SCORE website:

•   60-Second Guide to Writing a Business Plan
•   Resources That Give You a Head Start of Business Planning
•   5 Tips for Writing a Business Plan For a Loan
•   Top 5 Business Tips

A business plan should cover every aspect of your business and make sure you are ready to open your studio. Some of the things included in a business plan are:

•   Target market
•   Location for school
•   Planning for growth
•   Staff employment
•   Pricing
•   Cash flow
•   Overhead costs
•   Calculating break-even point
•   Promotions and marketing
•   Product or service description
•   Description of your position
•   Description of employment positions
•   Contingency plans
•   Accounting
•   Organization type: sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, limited liability corporation, non-profit

What are your strengths and weaknesses? How can you emphasize your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses? What opportunities and help are available to you?What is your competition? How would you fill a need in the community?

There are many great software programs designed to help organize and run businesses. Some are listed in the resources section under software for studios.

Also, try the message link boards to get ideas and answers to questions.

With research and planning, along with your passion and talent, you can succeed in business and create a wonderful learning environment for the community.

Rent or Buy? Consider your plans for the next five to ten years. Do you want to start small and save up to move into a larger space? Do you have the capital to start in your ideal space? As you start to look at options, remember to evaluate all the costs involved.

Renting a space that is already set up as a dance studio is good for a small business owner on a tight budget. Renting also provides more flexibility if the studio gains many students and needs to move to a larger space.

Plan Ahead: You need the ability to sublet some or all of the space. If student enrollment grows quickly, you may need to move to a larger space before the lease is up. Read the lease very carefully to make sure subletting will be an option.

Maintenance: When renting space, it is the landlord’s responsibility to provide building maintenance. Find a reliable landlord. Some may get around to fixing things fast, while others take a long time to respond and may be difficult to contact. Find a landlord that you feel comfortable with.

Remodeling: Some landlords will help with the cost of remodeling, especially if they believe it will make the space more profitable in the future or if they have a long term commitment from their renter. Some landlords, however, will not help with these costs.

When deciding about a space, consider how mush remodeling will need to be done immediately. Talk with the landlord to see if they are willing to help with any costs. It they say yes, get it in writing. Business owners should be prepared to modify the space themselves, or work with what is already there.

Rent Increases: One drawback of renting is the potential for rent increases. One option to protect yourself is to negotiate rent increases ahead of time.

Get Help: A commercial real estate lawyer can help you go over the leases and understand its implications. It is great to be excited about your plans and want to move forward. However, it is important to know exactly what you are getting into. There are several organizations that provide free or inexpensive counsel to the arts community.

Buying a Space: Buying is a big commitment. Many business owners start out renting, build up a student enrollment, save capital and then, expand to a larger space or to owning a space as a way to move forward.

Things to Consider: One benefit can be that payment will not increase over time. Also, if you want to sell your, space you can often do so at a profit.

The Capital Challenge: The amount of capital needed for a down payment coupled with remodeling costs can be a real challenge to come up with. Owning a space requires long term planning. Besides the initial investment, owners are responsible for maintenance and property taxes.

Help from the Government: To help small businesses succeed, the US government allows owners to write off the interest on a mortgage as a tax deduction. To find out more about deductions and help in planning your business, go to

The Benefits of Owning: The space you own is yours to change and remodel as you see fit for your establishment. Stable payment amounts help with long term planning for the school. Recognition in the community is very important. When you stay in one location and build a good reputation, you will have a steady enrollment of students.

It can be difficult to change spaces. If you move to a new location, you will probably lose some students just because of the move.

Zoning: Whether you are renting or buying space, you need to find a location that is zoned for a dance studio.

The Type of Space: Some industrial spaces work well for dance studios because they have large open spaces. You may need to take down walls to open up the area needed for classes. Industrial spaces may be available at lower cost simply because they lack the divided areas for office space.

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How to Select a Song

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By Kate Smith

When every dance season ends, dancers take a well-deserved break from the classes, the competitions, the rehearsals, and the recitals. But while their dancers are having fun and relaxing, choreographers and teachers are still hard at work, because when the next season starts, the routines must be prepared for the dancers to learn and rehearse. An important part of the process of routine preparation is the selection of music.

“Song selection is essential for a great routine,” Stoughton Center for the Performing Arts teacher and choreographer Jessica Cseter states. “Hearing a song that makes me want to move the first time I hear it is a good sign I will use it.”

Those instincts are common amongst choreographers looking for the perfect song for their next routine. Professional Egyptian dancer, choreographer, and instructor Jasmin Jahal advises in an article on her website,, “Select a piece of music you really like and which makes you want to move every time you hear it.”

Of course, it is also important to keep in mind the style of dance being choreographed. What works for a lyrical routine might not work as well for a jazz number. “For jazz musicality is key, and I try to choose a song that has music changes,” Cseter states. “For tap, a song with different rhythms and a lot of energy usually works out really well.”

In terms of using popular music, it can be a positive or a negative, depending on the choreography accompanying it. Director and choreographer Michael Bourne states in an online BBC chat that “Generally, I work with famous music, so I need to be true to the music, so I don’t upset people too much. They have feelings and strong ideas associated with the music.” Some songs become popular once they are used in a competition routine. Cseter cites singers such as Imogen Heap and Roisin Murphy as current artists often heard during competitions. “Once a song gets used it usually becomes popular because other people have heard it and will use it and bring it to another competition.”

However, many choreographers are interested in using music that has rarely been used. Cseter often looks to soundtracks when she is looking for something unusual. “Soundtracks usually offer a wide variety of songs from lyrical to hip hop that often aren’t found on the radio.” Of course, once the song is used, it will start to catch on, and the choreographer’s search for music, old or new, fast or slow, continues.

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Self-Marketing for Dancers

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By Sara Willcutt

1) Start with a Dance Resume
Your dance resume should highlight your experiences and accomplishments in order to foster your current dance goals.

The resume will include a cover letter, photos, reviews if you have them, references and for some a video.

Your resume is your advertisement to choreographers or dance company directors.

Do not make your resume an autobiography or list every performance you have ever been in. Try to keep your resume to one page. This may mean that you can’t put down everything. This is where you need to make choices and think about what job you are auditioning or applying for.

Your resume is important and it can set you apart form others.

2) Take Your Time and Do Your Best
Your resume needs to be perfect; getting a job could depend on it. You should make sure your resume is updated and that you always have someone proofread it to check for any errors. If you resume is sloppy, full of errors or confusing, it might imply that you are not motivated to do your best.

A clean well-written resume can give potential employers confidence that you pay attention to details and are professional and serious about your dance career.

3) Do Your Research
Before you create or update your dance resume, be sure to research the company or groups that will be looking at it. This can allow you to personalize your resume and cover letter to be more effective. Make sure you spell the director’s name correctly. Find out where the director has danced and studied. Find out the name of the artistic director.

To Do Your Research:

  • Look in the ASD Dance Directory find links to dance company web sites.
  • Look at Dance Magazine and Dance Spirit magazine to find articles about particular companies.
  • Look for reviews done in the New York Times.
  • Search the company name on big search engines like Google and Bing to see what comes up. You can also search the director’s name.
  • Go to the library and look at Stern’s Performing Arts Directory, which is most likely in your local library. It lists every Dance Company, their addresses and phone number.
  • Look at Cyber Dancer Page which is linked to many dance sites.

4) Make Contact
Call your target companies and ask to talk with the person in charge of public relations. Tell them that you are a dancer that is interested in auditioning for the company. Ask for information on their repertoire for the past five years and the repertoire the company intends to dance this season. Ask where the company is planning to tour, for the director’s biography and to whom you should send your audition materials. Offer your e-mail address so that it might be easier for them to e-mail rather that mail you information.

Try to find a member or former member of your target companies to talk with. You might find them through a find or some contact information on the companies’ website. Ask them questions such as:

•   Who teaches at rehearsals?
•   What are the rehearsals like?
•   What is the director like?
•   How are the dancers treated?
•   What is the range of salaries?
•   What time of year do the dancers return their letters of intent?

A letter of intent is a letter from the artistic director indicating his intent to continue working with a dancer for the next season. The directors then know how many contracts must be filled.

The best time to send your resume to an artistic is when he or she learns that a new dancer or dancers are needed.

Doing research like this means that you are not only prepared to write your best and most targeted resume, but you will also learn about the companies you are
interested in. You may discover that you are excited about a company, or you may find that it wouldn’t the right place for you. You can save a lot of time and energy by only auditioning for companies that would work out for you if you become a part of them.

Doing your research shows how much you care about the audition and that you are serious. Finding connections with directors and artistic directors is priceless.

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Russian Folk Dance: A Cultural History

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Russia. What can be said about dance in Russia? Aside from the granddaddy of them all in this significantly spacious area of the globe, ballet, what else does Russia have to offer from their culture in the means of dance? Stemming from the depths of the many cultures that inhabit Russia, folk dancing seems to be a huge part as well. With costumes that are designed with intricacy and are quite beautiful, three types of folk dance have sprung up.

A fast dance consisting of expeditious music and Russian squat work or knee bending, called the Barynya is among one of the folk dances that are prominent in Russia. This dance is not choreographed, but consolidates a lot of stomping. This kind of dance was notably used in the musical Fiddler on The Roof. The term Barynya which means “landlady” in Russian is used to address a woman of higher class. Often compared to chastushkas and frenzied dancing, the refrain is often vulgar and humorous, however, more refined versions of the dance exist.

Another dance, originally a Slavic art form called the Khorovod, is a combination of circle dance and chorus singing, similar to the Chorea of Ancient Greece. This dance is mostly performed by women, to adorn the ritual forthcoming or the dying of the seasons as well as celebrating the rotation of life. Khorovod also offers a girls-only dance in which couples would dance in the center of the circle of girls. The dances that took place within the circle were improvisations, men showing off their strength and women displaying their vocal capabilities. Calendar songs which are sung by the dancers while incorporating the words with a variety of actions carried a ceremoniously role for family events like weddings and funerals. In the wedding dances, the girls will run their hands up and down their arms to embellish the beauty and embroidery of their costumes, for pulling the sleeves up during movement is key. The bride who dances with a handkerchief presents it to her husband, who then ties it over her head symbolically.

The final folk dance, which is thought to have been originated in Paris in the time when the Russian tsar army, called the Cossacks were stationed there, is called the Troika. Troika, which means “three-horse team” or “threesome” consists of one man and two women whom prance around like horses pulling a sleigh. Often they would dance in circle together or the man would dance with one female at a time while the other female dances alone. Included in all repetitions of Russian dance ensembles, Troika is similar to other Slavic dances as well as the Polish Trojak. A Cajun dance bearing the same name is also very similar to the Russian Troika.

Russia offers many other alternatives to ballet with folk dancing being very prominent in their culture. Although it doesn’t get as much attention, since ballet dominates the cultural arena with its beauty, folk dance is stepping out from the shadows and making itself known by spreading across the continents. Grace and tutus have become overcast by rambunctious dancing and elaborate costuming as Russian dance troupes form on the American east coast and onward across the nation.

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Broadway Baby: Dancing for Musical Theater

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by Jill Swenby

After graduating from high school, lifetime dancer Laura Leitheiser was concerned about how she was going to earn a living as a professional dancer. She discussed this with her dance teacher, who said that if she wanted to have a successful career she needed to learn to sing. Upon this advice, Laura went on to study at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City.

Since graduating from AMDA, Laura has gone on several national tours including Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Singin’ in the Rain, West Side Story and currently White Christmas at the Armory Theatre.

However, Laura did encounter a few differences. Because of the singing involved in musical theater, choreography must be adjusted to accommodate the movement of performers who are singing as well as dancing.

“Choreographers are working with singers who are moving as opposed to dancers,” says Laura. “It’s a very different environment.”

Similar to other types of dance, the choreography in musical theater is designed to tell a story. The ways in which choreographers tell the story for musical theater are largely dictated by the particular play they are choreographing. For example, Fosse has a very distinct jazz style, whereas classical plays like White Christmas are based more in tap. Like many dance forms, musical theater choreography can be very diverse.

While dancing is not the only skill needed for musical theater, Laura insists that it is very helpful to have a solid foundation in dance. Most ensemble cast members dance quite a bit. Laura says that some men may be able to get by without much skill, but women are often expected to have extensive dancing experience.

She also says it is important for dancers to know the basics. “Always take ballet,” says Laura. “Ballet is number one.”

As musical theater professionals gain experience in the business, they are able to obtain roles that do not require as much dancing. But for beginners, a strong dance foundation gives dancers a crucial edge over their competition.

Another useful tip for beginners is to make connections with people who are involved in the musical theater business. Laura cites going to school at AMDA in New York as an important vehicle for transitioning from school into a career. She also says that meeting theater members in school provided her with great connections after graduation.

“I’m not going to say it’s easy,” says Laura. “It’s never easy.”

However, after touring with national plays for the past few years, Laura says she loves her job so far. She has great memories of dancing the original choreography to the opening number in Chorus Line and feeling inspired by the hopeful number as she too was beginning her career.

“I love it. I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” she says, “There’s nothing better than being on stage.”

Helpful musical theater links for dancers:

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Pass the Dance: Reaching Out and Giving Back

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By Rebecca Nieves
Edited by Angie Rentmeester

The choreographer leans forward, as if picking a flower. He executes a pirouette and offers the token to his reflection. Walking in a circle, the man considers his next move and a second later he is sliding on his knees, twisting back up and stepping foot over foot to the right. The choreographer is creating a dialogue, a private conversation. Sweat on his brow, he continues to move, expressing thoughts and feelings without words. This will go on for some time, the choreographer’s real body and mirrored self speaking in the language of dance.

Movement, the dialect of the body, is an ages old tradition of expressing oneself. History tells us that we danced in celebration, in rituals, in battle sometimes. We have always danced. Now, of course, all of these reasons remain though we have expanded. We are entertainers, professionals, competitors, artists. We have taken that thing inside of us that makes us tap our toe or shimmy our hips when we hear music and made it a grand spectacle. Not every one of us is that choreographer in the studio, however. That is where community outreach helps us inspire people and awaken them to the importance of this language.

Two major Chicago institutions, The Columbia College Dance Center and Hubbard Street Dance, make great efforts to step into our communities and engage them in dance. Through their efforts they hope to see a greater appreciation for the value of movement and an improvement in the health of our citizens (physical and mental.) I spent two years as a mentor for Redmoon Theater’s Drama girls. We used dance, drama, art, and music to broaden the girls’ views and help them appreciate the value of self expression. The transformation of these children and mentors alike was priceless. It is as if their eyes were only just then opened to a world of beauty with unlimited possibilities. They no longer had to kick and scream and hold in their emotions, they had a forum in which they could release through song and dance and drama, positivity that came naturally. This outreach is necessary.

The Dance Center of Columbia College’s Community Outreach and Education department offers several programs to the people of Chicago. Alycia Scott is the manager of the department. I was able to speak with her briefly and gather that the Dance Center was very much involved in not only bringing dance into the communities of our city, but also opening its doors and inviting the people in. Through Dance Masters, Family Dance and Community Outreach Events: Public Programs, The Dance Center is reaching countless minds and bodies and gifting them with an opportunity to experience contemporary dance firsthand.

Dance Masters is a program that takes dancers at an intermediate or higher level of experience and allows them the opportunity to meet other artists. Through these classes, which are open to the public, individuals are able to communicate with Columbia’s featured choreographers. What an incredible way to network and pursue the art of dance!

The needs of family quality time are addressed through interactive movement workshops. These are free and usually held on Saturdays. Families engage in dance exercises on stage, feeling what it is like to speak through movement front and center. They are then presented with a piece of a current company’s performance. The family spends an afternoon feeling the work and spirit that goes into creating a piece and becomes a part of a dancer’s story.

The public programs bring the Dance Center out into Chicago’s neighborhoods. Schools, parks, community centers and other such places play host to panels and forums. Dancers and directors from Columbia’s dance center share with the public the power of their work through discussion and interactive workshops. The faces of children often light up when allowed to dance and be “silly”but more so when they see that voice within them solidified into precise movement by a professional.

Being able to visit the Dance Center as an artist, a family, or just an individual with a hobby is without question a tremendous benefit. However, what is done by bringing dance into neighborhoods is, in my opinion, the greatest accomplishment. By doing this, they are reminding us of our roots-our most basic language and publicizing the need for our continued support of dance. One need not be a dancer to appreciate this form and want to keep it alive and thriving. Experiencing the grace of the professional dancer will last a lifetime with the children they are able to touch.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago offers a more educational approach. In their outreach they go directly to the schools of Chicago. They work in classrooms teaching children and offer after school programs. Chicago schools, about 25 at this time, go through an application process with the company to be a part of this program. Teachers are involved as well, taking classes on bringing dance into their classrooms themselves. With help from the National Endowment for the Arts and other organizations, HSDC is able to share with our communities what the choreographer does with the mirror. Body by body stories are told and dance carries on a strong conversation with the world.

The choreographer leaps and lands, his body crouched, head down. He throws arms and head back and hears the applause. Only this time he is surrounded by the company that will follow the steps and share his message. They will be witnessed by an audience. The audience will tell their friends how they were moved. And communities will continue to dance and tell stories and speak with their bodies.

For more information on the Dance Center you may visit or contact Alycia Scott at

Hubbard Street Dance at
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Education & Community Programs
1147 W. Jackson Blvd. Chicago, IL 60607
t: 312-850-9744
f: 312-455-8240

National Endowment for the Arts at

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How to Choose the College Dance Program for You

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By Christina Herrmann

Senior year is finally here. Outfitted with some trendy new clothes and a fresh haircut, you feel ready to rule the school! This year, though, you must also take on your future. Somewhere between pep-rallies, extra-credit projects and dance class, you will decide where to spend your next four years. Grab a pal and take a moment out of your crazy schedule to get started with this informative personality quiz!

  • You are late to ballet (again), and Madame Joubert looks annoyed. You:
    a. Invent an entertaining story to explain your tardiness. Ballet is a little too stuffy anyways.
    b. Shrug it off. Dance is great, but it’s not the most important thing to you.
    c. Apologize profusely. Your studio has rules for a reason, and it’s disrespectful to show up late.
    d. Log an extra hour at the barre after class. Dance is your passion, and your determination knows no bounds.
  • Tomorrow is Friday night. What are you and your best friend up to?
    a. We’re leads in the school musical, and Friday is curtain call!
    b. After I spend some time with my family, we’ll cruise the party circuit.
    c. Hosting a themed slumber party. We’ve been planning for months!
    d. Re-watching “The Westside Story” DVD with a bucket of popcorn. The choreography is inspiring.
  • It’s time to catch up on homework! Which assignment do you tackle first?
    a. Your art project. You are creative and love to express yourself.
    b. The assignment due soonest. You enjoy most subjects and don’t play favorites.
    c. Whichever assignment requires the most work. You are organized and methodical about your homework, which you always hand in on time.
    d. None. You put off your homework until the last second so you can rehearse those new dance figures a couple more times.
  • Your favorite teacher is amazing. He/she really enables you to:
    a. Be yourself.
    b. Explore every possibility.
    c. Reach your full potential.
    d. Dance well.
  • What is your ultimate dream?
    a. Pioneering a new dance technique. You already have some fresh, radical ideas!
    b. Open a dance studio. You’d love everything about designing a successful studio, from hiring teachers to interior decoration.
    c. Becoming an acclaimed dance master. You’d select only the most dedicated students who would respect your strict standards.
    d. Captivating the Lincoln Center’s packed audience as Clara in “The Nutcracker.”

Free Spirit (mostly A’s):
An exciting person with a wide dramatic streak, you require a program with tons of creative liberty.
» Consider Hollins University (GA), which offers courses in “Imaginative Thinking, Moving and Crafting,” and encourages independent study.

Jack-of-All-Trades (mostly B’s):
Your interests stretch far and wide, and you seek to balance dance with other pursuits such as school, family, friends, and hobbies. Liberal arts colleges with strong dance programs are perfect for you!
» Mount Holyoke College (MA) is one of several colleges that will give you the rounded education and quality dance instruction you want. /

Perfectionist (mostly C’s):
Far from being a bad thing, your perfectionism makes you a great student. You need a dance program with plenty of structure to make sure you reach your full potential.
» Boston Conservatory (MA). Their well-designed dance program will guide you to excellence.

Star (mostly D’s):
You have the talent and single-mindedness to make dance your life. Only the most prestigious programs in America will do for you.
» Julliard (NY) is the natural pick, but don’t overlook lesser-known competitive options, such as The Hartt School of Dance (CT). Though most of America has never heard of these schools, the dance community definitely has.

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