Where Can Dance Lead Me?

Share with Others

By Ashley Collingwood

Many dancers focus their career on performance, but many young professionals remain unaware of the variety of career choices in dance. With all of the knowledge a young dancer gathers during training in the art form, it can be utilized later on in several ways. Aside from knowing proper technique, dancers should be educated in terminology, the business aspect of dance, the stage, dance criticism, history, anatomy, as well as performance quality. This allows a dancer to be well rounded in the field of dance- opening doors to different career choices in the dance world.

A lot of dancers end up teaching and/or choreographing for a living. These options allow a dancer to be creative and share their love of dance with others. A professional can teach children at dance studios, conventions, or end up choreographing for major dance companies or productions. The insight in terminology, anatomy, and performance quality aids the professional teacher and choreographer to pass information along.

There is always a business aspect behind each job. Managers, directors, talent agents, and dance studio owners are all required. Within manager positions, there are business, company, production, and stage managers. Both artistic and rehearsal directors are necessities for companies to set the artistic direction and keep the choreography pure to the choreographer’s vision. Talent agents seek talent for gigs, while dance studio owners have to be organized and maintain the function of their studio. Although all of these jobs expect knowledge in business and leadership, it is important to know dance as an art form as well.

With every show, there is a behind the scenes crew. Without this crew, a performance would be nearly impossible. The technical production employees are great assets to this industry. Lighting and scenic designers help make a performance possible. With every performance, costumes, hair and makeup top it off. Although some costuming is more elaborate than others, it seems to complete a performance no matter what. Many productions are in need of professional costume designers, hair stylists, and makeup artists to contribute their creativity.

Three other interesting options for careers are in journalism, dance therapy, and massage therapy. When getting into journalism, a dancer can use his or her knowledge to write reviews on performances, trends, or tips. Dancers are creative beings, so writing is a perfect way to express that. Dance therapy, on a completely different line of the spectrum is good for dancers who work well with people and interested in the psychotherapeutic use of movement. A dancer may also be interested in massage therapy. A dancer’s awareness of his or her body, as well as an understanding of anatomy and physiology, can make massage therapy a great career option.

Not all jobs require a degree. However, being well educated is helpful when in the pursuit of different options throughout the dance field. These are just a handful of ideas to look into while determining a future dance career. Ways to try on these options include auditioning, developing leadership skills, experience, and determination. Continue to explore the field of dance!

Share with Others

The Hunt For College Scholarships

Share with Others

by Joan H. Bress, LICSW, CEP

There’s money out there for students headed to college dance programs. Learn how to find it!

With college costs increasing at nearly double the rate of inflation, those of you headed to college have good reason to be concerned. Although the 1997 Taxpayers Relief Act softened the tuition blow for middle-income families and has encouraged saving early for future college expenses, paying for college tuition is still a major issue for most families.

The Total Package
Financial aid is money offered to students to help pay college expenses. It’s offered by both the federal and state governments, individual colleges and private organizations. It may come in the form of grants, which do not have to be repaid; work-study, which is a salary paid in return for work you do while you’re enrolled; or loans, which you must repay after you finish college or stop taking classes. Some aid is based on how much a student needs in order to pay the cost of education and some is based on non-financial factors such as academic, athletic or artistic talent; community service and leadership; contribution to the community in some unique way or membership in a particular group or organization.

Financial aid is given in a “package” that usually consists of a combination of grants, loans and campus employment, often including both need-based and non-need-based aid. At some colleges, as many as 70 percent of students receive aid.

How Do I Apply?
To apply for financial aid, you must complete one or more of the following forms:

•   Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
•   Financial Aid CSS PROFILE
•   College Financial Aid Application
•   Private Scholarship Application

Your answers to the FAFSA determine your eligibility for federal student aid. This form is also used to apply for some aid from the state and college. The majority of financial aid comes from the federal government, so all students applying for aid should fill out the FAFSA. It includes questions about parent/student income, assets and expenses for the calendar year preceding the student’s matriculation. The FAFSA, which may be filed electronically or in paper form, calculates the amount of money the government believes your family should be able to pay for educational expenses. This expected family contribution (EFC) is reported to you and to all of the colleges you’ll be applying to.

Since the expected family contribution is calculated by using a standard form prescribed by Congress, the amount you are expected to pay does not vary from one college to another. The cost of attending different colleges, however, does vary. Your need is calculated as the difference between the cost of attending the college and the amount your family is expected to contribute. The more expensive the college, the greater your need. The COST of attendance minus EXPECTED FAMILY CONTRIBUTION equals NEED. Suppose your family has an EFC of $15,000 per year and you are considering two colleges. College A has a cost (tuition plus room, board and expenses) of $33,000 per year. College B has a cost of $15,000. Your NEED for College A would be $18,000 while your NEED for College B would be $0 (see the chart).

College A $33, 000 – $15, 000 = $18,000
Your financial “ need” would be $18,000 per year.
College B $15,000 – $15,000 = $0 you would have no financial need.

Although colleges try to meet the demonstrated need of all students, there’s often not enough money from the government or from the school’s resources, to do this. While it is true that some of the most expensive schools have the greatest amount of money available for financial aid, it’s a good idea to select colleges with a range of costs, including some that are totally within the financial reach of your family.


File the FAFSA even if you believe that you’re not eligible for need-based aid. Some non-need-based programs require you to show that you do not qualify for federal aid.

Apply early. Colleges generally do not have enough of either their own or Uncle Sam’s money to meet the needs of all students who qualify.

Keep track of deadlines. The FAFSA should be filed as soon as possible, after January 1. Each college sets its own deadline for the PROFILE, sometimes as early as December 15.

Be accurate. The time needed to correct errors may cause you to miss out on some sources of aid. Know that you may be asked to verify the information you supply on financial aid forms. Keep copies of all relevant material.

Remember that the best aid packages go to the most desirable students. Keep your grades up and choose your colleges carefully.

The PROFILE is a form used by about 900 schools, as well as some private scholarship programs, to award non-federal aid. Although similar to the FAFSA, the PROFILE asks for more detailed information about the family’s resources and expenses. Depending on the requirements of the schools you apply to, the PROFILE may include two supplemental applications and up to 150 additional questions.

Unlike the FAFSA, it’s not free. It is processed centrally for a $5 registration fee, and reports are sent to colleges of your choice at a cost of $15 per school.

Other colleges may have their own financial aid application in addition to the FAFSA. As this type of form is part of the admission application, there is no additional fee required to file it. Private sources of financial aid also have their own application process, which may include essays, interviews, portfolios and/or auditions.

Non-Need-Based Aid
In addition to need-based aid, schools offer non-need-based aid—often called merit aid—to students whom they want to attract to their school. While need-based aid is likely to be made up largely of loans which must be repaid, merit aid is more likely grant money, which does not need to be repaid. When selecting your colleges, consider some schools that will be eager to have you as a student. The most desirable students can expect the best financial aid package—one heaviest in non-repayable grants.

At some schools, any student who presents a pre-set high school average and SAT score qualifies for merit aid. Sometimes, this award includes the opportunity to take special honors-level classes or to work more closely with professors. Schools may also allocate merit-based aid for students with particular talents, in which case, an audition or portfolio presentation would be necessary (see DS February 2000).

Non-Institutional Aid
Wise students look beyond their college and the government for financial aid. Both need-based aid and merit aid are offered by philanthropic foundations, religious and community organizations, businesses, civic groups and organizations connected to your field of interest. Some of these scholarships are highly competitive and require in-depth applications. You should leave yourself plenty of time to prepare. Online scholarship search engines help students locate appropriate awards. If you’re an academically and artistically talented student, you should look into scholarships offered by the National Alliance For Excellence and the National Foundation For Advancement In The Arts.

Scholarships Of Special Interest To Dancers

•   National Alliance For Excellence, Inc
•   National Foundation For Advancement In The Arts
•   Harlequin Dance Scholarship Program

Online Financial Aid Resources

•  College Board: Information about selecting and applying to college. Includes links to the PROFILE and a free scholarship search.
•   FinAid: The most complete source of online financial aid information. Includes a free scholarship search, information on loans and grants and a calculator to help you project college costs, likely scholarship awards and loan repayment plans.
•   SallieMae: Offers college financing solutions, cost calculators and scholarship and loan information.
•   FastAid: Free scholarship search engine.
•   FAFSA: Complete the FAFSA online and immediately receive your expected family contribution figure.
•   US Department of Education: Information on tax credits, federal and state aid and private funding sources.

Share with Others

Pass the Dance: Reaching Out and Giving Back

Share with Others

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 http://www.colum.edu/dance_center/ or contact Alycia Scott at ascott@colum.edu.

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 http://www.nea.gov/

Share with Others

How to Choose the College Dance Program for You

Share with Others

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.

Share with Others

A Parent’s Guide to the World of Dance Education

Share with Others

Anyone can open a dance studio. No license or special training is required. In fact, neither the owner nor instructors even need to know how to dance. This is why it is important to learn as much as possible about dance training before you invest time and money for yourself or your child.

Because of the variation in studios and classes, a child can study dance for years, only to sadly discover when he or she reaches high school or college, that they lack the proper training to achieve their goals. Many people take years of lessons and only learn choreography rather than technique or styles of dance.

However, in spite of the lack of specific licensing or training requirements, there are many outstanding dance studios with talented instructors. By learning what to look for, you can find the quality classes and instructors that will meet your needs. Finding the proper professional instruction is not only the first step in making the best use of your investment of time and money, but also the first step toward achieving your dreams or those of your child.

You are entitled to the best instruction out there, and you can find it!

First, the level of a class can vary immensely from one facility to another. A beginner level class at one studio could be an intermediate class at another.

In general there are six categories:
•   Pre-dance
•   Beginner (no dance experience necessary)
•   Advanced beginner (some dance background)
•   Intermediate
•   Advanced
•   Professional

There are also six different types of studios:

Neighborhood Studio
The local studio is usually found in a strip mall or commercial building. The quality of instruction can vary greatly. Some can be a waste of time, while others can equal that of professional academies.

Make sure you visit the studio, ask questions, watch the teacher during classes, and ask yourself a few questions:
•   Does the instructor keep the class under control?
•   Do you want to dance like the students in the class?

Usually these studios offer class levels from pre-dance to intermediate. Some schools offer advanced classes and talented, well-trained instructors. You just have to check them out.

Academic or Performing Arts Schools
These schools offer both academic education and concentrated dance instruction. Many schools also teach voice and music.

Admission is generally by audition and although there may be some scholarships available, tuition is considerable. Arts schools are for the serious performer.

Competition Studios
Many different levels exist here as well, but there are two main categories:
•   Competition Studios that emphasize technique and excellent training in order to win titles and prepare dancers for their future, which have class levels ranging from pre-dance to professional.
•   Competition Studios that teach routines to win titles. Routines are fun, but in order to learn how to dance, a student must spend time learning the basic movements and dance technique. In a studio like this, a student can spend an enormous amount of time taking numerous classes and learningmany routines, only to get to college and find that they are totally lacking any practical training in dance.

In order to tell the difference between the types of Competition Studios, ask questions:
•   How much class time is spent on learning technique?
•   How much is spent on routines?
•   How many routines do the students learn a year?
•   Do many of the students go on to dance professionally or in college?

You may not currently be thinking about whether you or your child will want to become a professional dancer 15 years from now. But wouldn’t you rather spend time and money toward gaining actual training in the art form of dance?

Competition Studios may have many extra costs like costumes, shoes and entry fees. But don’t get discouraged. Many people love competitions and find them to
be a rewarding experience after they get involved. Just make sure to ask questions so you know what you’re getting into. The studio can provide an approximate cost for being in competitions. Look for items such as costumes, shoes, tights, accessories, entry fees and travel costs.

National Chains and Franchise Schools
Many of these schools teach social dancing and are typically for adults. In general, levels range from beginner to intermediate.

National Chains and Franchise Schools can be a great way to spend time with a partner. However, since partners are not required, they can also serve as an excellent place to socialize.

Some of these schools have expensive contracts, so make sure you check out the time and monetary commitments that are required before signing any paperwork.

Professional Schools
The professional studio is where the serious dancer eventually needs to go. They are usually located in or near major cities, and offer beginner to professional level classes.

The curriculum includes:
•   Ballet
•   Jazz
•   Modern
•   Pointe
•   Tap

Most teachers at these schools are professionals. Many are choreographers and active members in the dance community. However, be aware that talented dancers do not automatically make talented instructors. Always observe the teacher in class or take a sample class before committing to class registration.

Specialty Schools
These studios usually focus on one type of dance. Ballet and pointe are often found at specialty studios. Many of these schools have very knowledgeable teachers and offer classes extending up to the professional level.

Most have their own dance company or are associated with a major ballet troupe.

Group and Private Lessons
Beginner students should start with group lessons. They need to learn to move in relation to the space and other dancers around them. Beginners can feel intimidated by a one-on-one setting. For beginners who are afraid of being singled out, there is definitely safety in numbers. Groups also build a sense of camaraderie, competition and confidence. Many times it is simply more fun to dance in a group.

Advanced students can also benefit from private lessons. At some point, they may need help in refining their movements and fixing bad habits. Private lessons can be beneficial if the student needs special choreography for an audition or has a particular physical problem. These classes can be expensive so make sure they are needed before making a commitment.

Some instructors give exceptional individual help during group lessons by watching a student’s movements and correcting their positioning and form. Other students in the class also benefit from the individual corrections because they can see what the teacher is talking about with another dancer. They can then transfer that knowledge to self-correct their own form and technique.

Combination Classes
Combination classes can be a way of exposing a child to many types of dance, but can also be more costly and confuse the child. If your child is in a combination class, that may mean more money for shoes and recital costumes.

Each type of dance has its own warm up, movements, apparel and music. When several types of dance are incorporated into one class, the child may spend too much time changing shoes, shifting from one thing to another and starting over with a new type of dance. This may be a waste of time for some students.

Extra Costs
Some studios require a month’s tuition up front. This is the norm and compensates the instructor, should you happen to leave unexpectedly. Some schools also allow students to make up a missed class, but this policy depends on the facility.

Recitals can be pricey and time consuming. Costumes, shoes, makeup, pictures, videos of the show and tickets to the recital can add up. You don’t have to participate in the recital, but if you do not, you or your child may feel left out. The costs can vary greatly, so ask the studio about the exact charges as soon as possible before spending months taking lessons. Recitals can blossom into wonderful experiences and fun memories, but just know what you’re getting into.

Most dance schools host a yearly dance recital. Recitals require a huge time commitment for drilling and perfecting routines, and this leaves little time for actual training. However, there are many chances to perform in addition to the end of the year recital. Check to see what opportunities are available at the school you are considering. Some schools have one recital every other year to allow more focus on technique training. There are studios that teach technique and different styles of dance while also teaching creatively choreographed routines. Again, do your homework and be prepared for exactly what will be offered at a particular studio.

Always ask about special promotions, as some schools offer the following:
•   Class cards that can be used for any class and give you a reduced rate
•   Discounts to professional dancers
•   Discounts when more than one person in your family attends classes
•   Free trial classes or workshops
•   Off-season discounts
•   Scholarships
•   Work study programs

Community centers often have simple, inexpensive dance classes. The levels available are usually beginner to advanced beginner. They may not have mirrors or bars but they can still be a good place to get started. However, be very careful about the type of flooring. You should never dance on concrete!

Where to find dance classes:
•   YMCA
•   Community Center
•   Community Colleges
•   Major Universities
•   Health Clubs

Many health clubs offer hip-hop or funk aerobics classes. This is a great way to get in shape and exercise. Health clubs and community center memberships also come with other perks such as stationary machines and pools. Again, check out the class before signing up for a year. Some hip-hop or funk classes are an excellent challenge for trained dancers, while others are a better fit for beginners. Classes vary greatly by the instructor, and most health clubs allow a free week or trial pass so that before making a commitment, you can check out the facilities and exactly what the club offers.

Dance workshops are invaluable because they expose students to new styles and diverse instructors. Instructors travel all over the country to teach at workshops. It gives dancers from small communities the opportunity to take classes with instructors from Los Angeles and New York, and many different levels of classes are offered.

Workshops vary in cost according to venue, reputations of instructors and number of classes offered. You can find listings for workshops on this website in the directory section. Dance magazines such as Dance Spirit, Dance Teacher, and Dance Magazine are great places to find a multitude of workshops.

Many companies, such as Hollywood Vibe, offer workshops in many different cities. Some combine competitions and workshops for a weekend event. Dancers may complete a day of competition followed by two days of workshops, or they may opt to do just the competition or workshop alone.

Students can go with their studio, team or as an individual. Workshops can be a wonderful opportunity to meet students from different areas, establish new friendships and make great connections. For the serious dancer, the networking can be invaluable.

Workshops also rent space to vendors where you can get new practice wear and keep up with trends.

The Instructor
The dance teacher is the most important factor in getting a quality dance education. Exposure to different instructors and choreographers is also
important. Some studios offer diverse instructors or bring in guest teachers and master teachers.

It is important that your instructor participates in continuing education. Instructors who stay up-to-date on changing styles and new trends will ultimately keep their students updated as well. A teacher who constantly challenges him or herself to grow will be a great inspiration for students to do the same.

Look for a bulletin board at the studio where there may be job listings, auditions, workshops and other opportunities. This can be a good indication that the studio and the instructors are involved in the dance community outside of that particular school. Ask the teacher if he or she takes classes, seminars or training programs.

It is essential that an instructor have basic knowledge of anatomy and an understanding of injuries common to dancers. Ask the instructor about his or her background and training. Although this information can be useful for a student who aims to become a professional, it is not essential that an exceptional teacher have formal training or experience. Some instructors may be very talented and accomplished dancers but not necessarily talented teachers. Effective teaching must involve a compassion and patience that is not necessarily present in every instructor. In addition, an instructor who teaches young children must not only love dance, but children as well. A college degree in dance or a professional career is not an essential requirement. Training can be obtained through many avenues such as workshops, classes, reading, seminars and exposure to professionals.

Make sure to observe or attend a class so that you can watch the instructor inaction. The teacher should always have a class do warm up exercises before getting into more active movement.

Length of Class
Classes should be at least one hour long, with the exception of creative movement for young children. Students should have enough time to warm up, do combinations, skills and get corrections.

A talented instructor is the most important part of your dance education. However, there are also some things to look for in the actual facility.

For ballet classes, there should be a bar which can be attached to the wall or freestanding supported bars. Some schools may not have bars if they do not offer ballet classes.

Mirrors are an important tool for learning movement and spacing, as well as learning from other dancers. A mirror will help the instructor see the movements of the dancers even when he or she is teaching a combination while facing away from the students.

The Floor
The best flooring is one that floats on spacers and allows for give upon impact.

Some floors are linoleum laid on top of wood. This can acceptable, as long as it is not too slippery. Other schools use a roll out rubber flooring over existing floors to absorb impact or to protect wood floors when they teach tap classes. This canbe adequate, but students may have a hard time turning on the surface if it is too sticky.

Neither you nor your child should ever dance on concrete floors. Dancing on concrete can cause permanent damage to joints that may not become evident until later in life. Many dancers who started out as children on bad floors find themselves plagued with injuries as young adults. Concrete has no give and can cause shin splints as well as joint and back problems. Some floors are simply concrete with thin wood flooring on top and those floors are also likely to result in injuries.

Make sure to watch for:
•   Open space (the size must be large enough for the number of students in each class to have room to move freely)
•   Clean floors (stretching as a well as many routines include movements on the floor)
•   Windows or a ventilation system
•   Air conditioning or fans for summer classes
•   Watch for pillars or partitions in studio areas (which can cause a collision problem)
•   Clean changing facilities, with separate areas for boys and girls
•   Sound system, some ballet schools will offer live accompaniment (this is not a requirement; however it is a great experience if a school offers it)

•   What are you willing to pay for lessons and the extras that go along with them?
•   What are your immediate and long-term goals?
•   What level of instruction do you need?
•   What type of facility will best serve your needs?

Share with Others

Careers in Dance: Dance and Movement Therapy

Share with Others

By Katjusa Cisar

Like most professional dance/movement therapists, Mariah LeFeber loved dancing growing up. She took the “typical” line-up: ballet, jazz and tap. But when she got to college, she wanted to expand beyond dance. She struggled with what she perceived as the fleeting impact of dance performance and sought out a career that combined her love of dance with her desire to help people.

“There’s something inherently selfish in dance performance. There’s so much focus on me, on my body. Your body is your tool, so you have to be selfish,” LeFeber said. Dance therapy allows “the movement to become accessible to people,” long after the impact of a dance performance has faded in the minds of an audience, LeFeber also said.

LeFeber just finished her graduate degree in dance/movement therapy at Columbia College Chicago, one of five accredited programs in the United States, and is now working with autistic children at Common Threads in Madison, Wis.

Despite so few universities offering certification, dance/movement therapy is a growing occupational field. Membership in the American Dance Therapy Association has grown thirty percent in the last ten years and is attracting many new students, according to an association spokesperson.

LeFeber encourages young dancers to check out dance therapy as a career option, especially for those who want to keep dance in their lives but don’t want to have to struggle financially or wait tables on the side.

“I can bring myself as an artist into dance therapy,” she says.

So what exactly is dance therapy? Therapists at the Hancock Center for Dance/Movement Therapy in Madison, Wis., where LeFeber was a graduate intern, are quick to stress that a dance therapy session is not a lesson in dance technique.

Rena Kornblum, executive director of the center, boils the philosophy of dance therapy down to this: “The way that we hold and move our body indicates how we feel. If you change how you move, that change will affect your emotions.”

“We look at body, space, time and force: how the person relates to the space with their body, how they assert themselves through space and what their natural rhythm and attitudes are,”Robyn Halsten, who has been working as a dance therapist for 20 years, 14 at the Hancock Center, said.

Halsten facilitates sessions with groups of women who are survivors of sexual abuse. Many of these women “have come to realize that sitting and talking about their problems has only been able to bring them so far,” Halsten states.

Most of the women she helps “feel cut off from their body. They live in their head and carry around this thing called their “body.”

Each group therapy session is different and caters to the needs of the individuals in the group, but Halsten says that for many women, even being seen doing simple movements together in a nonjudgmental environment is a powerful experience.

Ann Wingate, another long-time therapist at the Hancock Center, uses “lots of props, scarves and streamers” to help groups of autistic teenagers relate to one another.

“In Western psychology, there’s been a real split between mind and body. Dance therapy weaves together the intellectual, the psychological and the spirit. I think it works more quickly because you’re integrating the different parts of the person that makes them whole,” she says.

The Hancock Center’s therapists also conduct group sessions with kids at area elementary schools. This is where Bessie Cherry, mother of a six-year-old daughter, first discovered dance therapy. Her daughter, then five, had started having all kinds of behavioral problems, possibly triggered by a cross-country move.

“She tried to poke out my eyes. She was a loose cannon and very angry. She didn’t know how to calm herself down, and I was at the end of my rope,” Cherry said.

Within a month of going to group and private dance therapy sessions, Cherry says her daughter had learned techniques to help control her own behavior and was well on her way to being her old self, “a happy-go-lucky, sweet, well-behaved kid.”

“It worked like a charm for her. She became more aware of her body’s reactions and how to turn them into positive movements,” says Cherry, who admits being skeptical of dance therapy at first, thinking it was just another “frou-frou hippie granola thing.”

Now she says she wishes more people knew about it: “It’s not what people think. It was an eye opener.”

Share with Others

Hidden Clues To Your Perfect College Match

Share with Others

By Johanna Orca

When it comes to picking the right college, you’ve heard it all: look for small class sizes, modern facilities and the right college population to fit your personality. However, with a dancer’s unique talents comes the need for an equally distinctive education. So put onyour thinking caps, lace up your dancing shoes and open your eyes to a few of the lesser known collegiate clues that can help you reach your perfect educational choice.

What A Girl Wants
As muses of dance, your educational needs are very different from those of your less movement-minded classmates. Your best tool is to recognize those desires are and decide how you want to cultivate them, whether through a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) or a BA (Bachelor of the Arts) degree.

A BFA is best suited for dancers who know exactly where they want their dancing shoes to take them. This program requires more credit hours than a BA and is more structured and training-intensive. A BFA doesn’t leave much room to explore other avenues of study outside of your dance focus and is targeted at dancers aiming to turn their art into their profession. Don’t let the stern tone of this degree fool you into thinking that a BFA will limit your career opportunities; dancers earning this degree can go on to teach, choreograph, get their MFA (Master of Fine Arts) degree and, of course, dance professionally.

Like a BFA, a BA is a precursor to a MFA. However, a BA is aimed at students who may not be ready to make the commitment that a BFA requires. A Bachelor of the Arts degree allows students more flexibility in their class schedules. It is aimed at dancers who want to pursue additional majors or minors or who desire a more well-rounded college experience. Keep in mind that while many colleges have both BFA and BA programs, some may only offer one or the other or may not have a degree program in dance at all. For extra credit, find out if your college is a member of the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD) or if any of the instructors have been DMA (Dance Masters of America) or DEA (Dance Educators of America) certified. These organizations are independent firms ensuring quality and excellence in dance education, and the NASD is recognized by the United States Department of Education.

Mission Possible
Although they may look like innocuous blocks of text, a school’s mission statement can tell a lot about its underlying philosophies. For example, the University of Michigan’s Department of Dance “draws upon the legacies of 20th century American modern dance and ballet, embracing the abundant theoretical, historical, and interdisciplinary resources available on campus and in the community,” whereas the Denison University Dance Department aims “to physically challenge students in several movement experiences ranging from traditional dance…to modern dance…to contemporary.” In short, mission statements can reveal the very different artistic objectives held by different colleges. Marshall Anderson, chair of the Theater and Dance Department at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, recognizes that “most, if not all, prospective students never look at a department’s mission statement and don’t even know that one exists!” Knowing what a school has in mind for you can help you decide if you want to invest in its particular brand of song and dance.

Hit The Road, Jack
Picking a college dance program is one of those rare choices where you can test-drive your decision! Through summer workshops, you can get the classroom experience without the collegiate commitment. Participating in these seminars gives you a well seasoned taste of a school’s teaching methods, instructors and class structure. If the schools you are most interested in don’t offer summer workshops, touring the facilities and speaking with instructors are great ways to “test the waters,” Anderson says. He also suggests meeting teachers, sitting in on classes, and speaking to current students: “[College] websites are nice, but don’t tell the whole story – a personal visit is a must.”As dancers, you know that preparation is key, and this guideline applies to your perfect performance on not only the theatrical, but also the collegiate stage.

Share with Others

The Fine Art of Balancing Dance and Academics

Share with Others

by Johanna Handyside

As a college graduate, I can appreciate the fine art of time management. However, while my English major afforded me portable practice in the form of text books and The Canterbury Tales shoved into the deepest regions of my backpack, collegiate dancers cannot hone their skills in such tight spaces.

So how can a college dancer keep her head on straight in class and during a pirouette? Lauren Baker, president of the University of Minnesota’ s Student Dance Coalition, shares some tips on how to stay at the head of the class and ahead of the chorus.

Planning Makes Perfect

For those freshmen who think that life just isn’ t busy enough to call for a day planner, wait a year.

Baker, a Bachelor of Fine Arts Dance major with a minor in Journalism and Mass Communications, acknowledges that “since my second year [of college] and the years then after my brain can’t keep track of all of the things I need to do. If I physically see what my schedule looks like for the day, week, etc. I can plan when I can sit down and veg.”

As you progress through college your courses, course loads and an increasing list of extracurriculars will require more and more of your time.

However, having the ability to visualize your day cannot only help you plan time for homework, practice, and social life, but it can even help you be better prepared for the unexpected.

Baker brings up another important point: the importance of making time for you. “A day planner isn’ t just for assignments; it can also help you find time for yourself away from the demands of dance and school. College is a time to push yourself academically and physically, but your body and mind also need time to rest and heal,” she said.

Knowing how to manage your time effectively is a skill that will serve you well both in college and in life and can lead to a happier, healthier you.

Say “Yes” to “No”

College is an opportunity to test new waters and immerse yourself in things that you are passionate about. But while diving right in may be an effective method of experimentation for some, don’ t be afraid to gently test the waters first.

While Baker encourages students to “take any professional opportunity” because “you never know when those opportunities will come around again,” she is also realistic about the feasibility of this feat.

“It’s very important to say ‘ no’ to some things,” she states. “It’s my opinion that younger dancers who are enthusiastic about being involved (I include myself in this category) want to do as much as possible. This however, is impossible.”

Ambition is a necessary trait for collegiate dancers, but you also have to know and respect your personal boundaries. A day planner may let you know whether you have enough time to add another activity to your schedule, but only you and your body can tell whether you can physically and mentally handle one.

Have a Support Group

The continued existence of cheerleaders and pep rallies illustrate the importance of having an enthusiastic support system. Not just for athletes and big games, having strong support can make the difference between having the world on a string and feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders. Although your grades and assignments are ultimately under your control, don’ t forget that there are many other students out there with similar feelings who can easily understand where you are coming from.

“My friends are my support,” said Baker. “Most of them are fellow dance majors so they know exactly what I am going through because they are dealing with the same things.”

Friends are there for the good times and to “knock [sic] some sense into your head after a break down.”

The Fresh Prince bemoaned the fact that “Parents just don’ t understand,” but friends are friends because they can sympathize, empathize, and just as easily slap some much needed sense into you when things get tough.

So before the semester starts get your day planner, grab a towel, and call your friends because with these tips you’ re heading for the top of the class, the front of the stage, and the top of the phone list.

Share with Others