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dedicated to quality dance education
dedicated to quality dance education


#2TipsTuesday: 2 Tips for Tap Teachers: Choosing Music for Class and Performance

by Thelma Goldberg

Tip 1
Choosing music for tap class doesn’t have to be a constant chore. For a well-organized class that moves smoothly from one activity to another, create a set playlist that complements your lesson plan. For example, I have 10 youth playlists and three adult playlists. Each level’s playlist is different, so my students hear new music each year as they move up, and I only add new tunes if I find better options.

A set playlist benefits both students and teachers. When students know what to expect, they are prepared to dance and connect quickly to the music’s timing, phrasing, and genre. You don’t waste time searching for the right tune or tempo, because the playlist guides the class through each skill series. And when you always have the right tune for the right exercise, you can transition smoothly from teaching one level to another, and from teaching children to teens to adults.

Tip 2
Choosing appropriate music for tap performances can be challenging. Crucial factors to consider are tempo, age appropriateness, genre, instrumental vs vocals, even vs uneven meter, and swinging vs straight rhythm. A long tune can be edited, and occasionally a fast tune can be slowed down—although this can affect sound quality, an important consideration for performance.

To find good tap performance tunes, try categories such as big band, Broadway, children’s dance music, and jazz standards on iTunes or other online music sites. It’s not uncommon for tap to be performed to Top 40 songs, but be careful—the beat and vocals should not drown out the tap sounds. Performance music needs to support and accompany the dancers. Your students’ tap sounds and rhythms are the most important part of the listening experience for your audience.

Thelma Goldberg, teacher and director of The Dance Inn in Lexington, Massachusetts, since 1983, is the author of "Thelma’s Tap Notes: A Step-by-Step Guide to Teaching Tap: Children’s Edition."
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There is one group, however, that is especially close to Susanne Liebich’s heart, and to whom she owes the idea to start Dancing Wellness: adolescent girls. She created her first wellness program, which she named GirlPower!, just for them.

Wanting to offer a different perspective on the coming-of-age experience, Liebich drew on her teaching background to create a workshop to help girls discover their unique voices and make connections in a safe, nurturing, and nonjudgmental setting: an immersive experience that blends expressive dance, mind–body exercises, nutrition, cooking, verbal and written expression, art, and self-care.

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Summer—what better time to think about wellness, the perfect addition to any dance curriculum? Discover GirlPower! workshops that promote well-being in tweens/teens, a revamped Nia practice, and the tap-and-fitness mix of Sole Power. For a cool summer intensive idea, check out the film-and-dance combo at School of Creative and Performing Arts. Then help yourself to our annual list of summertime teacher trainings!

Plus, a program that teaches hip-hop to students with physical and cognitive challenges, and our annual list of summertime teacher training opportunities.

Throughout the month of February, we’ll be publishing selected stories online, with most content available by March 1.

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#2TipsTuesday San Francisco Ballet pianist Nina Pinzarrone offers tips for using music from Les Sylphides in class

On June 2, 1909, in Paris—an auspicious day in ballet history—Serge Diaghilev presented his newly formed Ballets Russes in Michel Fokine’s Les Sylphides in the form we know today. (As Chopiniana, the ballet had premiered in Russia in 1907.)

This abstract one-act is the first ballet to use Chopin’s music, the first in which music provides the movement’s primary motivation, and among the first to use a score built from short pieces originally meant for other purposes. Chopin composed his music for salon concerts, not dance, yet today his work is synonymous with ballet classes and Romantic-inspired ballet productions. Much of his music is composed in dance forms—waltzes, mazurkas, polonaises, etc.—and in even, 16-bar phrases, making it ideal for choreography and class.

An overture—depending on the production, either Polonaise, Op. 40, no. 1, or Prelude, Op. 28, no. 7—begins Les Sylphides. The ballet’s dances are performed to the following:

Nocturne, Op. 32, no. 2 (ensemble). In 4/4 and 12/8 meter; perfect for bourrées, port de bras, and runs on pointe.

Valse, Op. 70, no. 1 (female solo). Lends itself to jetés en avant and grand jetés en tournant.

Mazurka, Op. 33, no. 2 (female solo). A favorite for running exercises.

Mazurka, Op. 67, no. 3, or Op. 33, no. 3 (male solo). I often combine these for slow waltz movements, ronds de jambe à terre, or a waltzy adage in center.

Prelude, Op. 28, no. 7 (female solo). Good for port de bras.

Valse, Op. 64, no. 2 (pas de deux). The “B” section, with its running eighth-note melody, is perfect for relevés on pointe and bourrée combinations.

Grand Valse Brillante, Op. 18, no. 1 (finale). Includes sections perfect for waltz steps, balancés, temps levé sautés from the corner, and jetés.
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Rules = Respect: Teaching classroom etiquette yields good behavior at the studio and beyond

by Debra Danese

All dance teachers know that they’re in the classroom to teach technique—but only some of them know that teaching their students proper dance etiquette is also part of their job.

It would be difficult to find a teacher or studio owner who didn’t want their students to represent their studios in a positive manner. Here’s how to teach students to present themselves in a way that will do you proud.

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January 2017: A World of Dance
Volume 22 Issue 1

Every January we wander the vast and varied world of dance, in which each culture puts its own spin on the art form. Travel along with us this month as we take a backstage tour of college bhangra competitions, uncover the spirit and wisdom of flamenco, visit a high school’s world dance classes, and explore the intersection of traditional and contemporary hula.

Plus, we take a look at studio vending machines and options for leasing vs buying, teaching classroom etiquette beginning with the youngest students, and more.

Let’s go!

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"Going Global: World Dance program at San Francisco School of the Arts breaks new ground in public education" by Bonner Odell

The bell rings at Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts (SOTA), signaling the end of lunch and the start of afternoon arts classes. I am standing in the high school’s large, quiet dance studio when the door bursts open and a group of teens files in, talking and laughing. This is the inaugural class of SOTA’s World Dance program, and the students are here for their West African dance class, which meets three times a week. High-energy recorded music suddenly fills the space, and a female student strides to the front, unprompted, to lead the warm-up. Every few minutes a different student assumes the role; all exude an easy confidence leading their peers. The World Dance program is only a month and a half old, but clearly this class has hit its groove.

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Igniting the Soul: Students young and old connect with the style and spirit of flamenco

by Joseph Carman

When flamenco artist Carlota Santana demonstrates her snaking arms, articulate fingers, fiery footwork, stalking strides, and laser-like gaze for observers at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, she evokes the ancient echoes of Gypsies in Andalusia. The pride and passion of her flamenco moves ignite the soul. Santana has produced numerous flamenco symposiums at Duke University, but they represent only a fraction of her efforts to share the technique and cultural aspects of this art form through performance and instruction.

In 1983 Santana formed her company, Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana, with Roberto Lorca (now deceased). Since those early days, there are few states in the union in which Flamenco Vivo hasn’t danced. Santana has always placed educational outreach at the top of her priorities. “When we started the company, we began with arts and education work in New York City,” she says. “We went to schools with a boom box. Over the years, that grew tremendously.”

The New York State Council on the Arts gave the company grants through its Arts Education Program. “Spanish dance seemed to be perfect,” Santana says. “It had language and geography and a lot of cultural background. We started building on that and creating teacher curriculum manuals.” Educational outreach still constitutes a large portion of Flamenco Vivo’s activities.

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Also from our columnist Samara Atkins, here are our #2TipsTuesday tips for hip-hop teachers: "Essential Moves: Kick Ball Change" tips.

Tip 1
Make sure your students have the kick ball change (also called kick cross step) in their hip-hop vocabularies. This move is fundamentally about shifting the weight.

Start with feet shoulder-width apart, weight balanced evenly between the feet. Kick the right foot out in front and then cross it over the left leg. Bring it to the floor in a cross-legged position with the weight on the right foot. Step out with the left foot to the left, uncrossing the feet; now the weight should be on the left foot. Tell students to make this move look as casual and effortless as possible.

Now reverse it: rock the weight back onto the right foot, kick the left leg out, cross it over the right, step onto the left foot to shift the weight, then step out with the right leg and shift the weight back to the right foot. Give the kick ball change a three-beat rhythm (kick step step), repeating on “1&2” and “3&4.”

Tip 2
Once your students have the feel of the kick ball change, add a little variation to give the move more power and style. For example, have students kick out the right foot with enough force so that they have to hop backward on the left foot. Complete the move, ending with the left leg out, but this time, rock the weight immediately back over to the right foot, freeing up the left in order to switch sides seamlessly. Give this version a four-beat rhythm (kick step step switch), repeating on “1&2&” and “3&4&.” To help students get the rhythm, say “Kick, step, rock back, switch, kick, step, rock back, switch,” as they repeat the move from side to side.

Browse our large library of "2 Tips" for dance teachers:
Tips for Ballet Teachers:
Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers:
Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers:
Tips for Tap Teachers:
Music Tips for Dance Teachers:
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Check out this video profile on Vimeo of our hip-hop tips writer Samara Atkins and her Mix'd Ingrdnts Dance Company .

"Mix’d Ingrdnts is a multi-ethnic and diverse collective of female artists who work together as an all styles dance company, with the intent of cultivating a stronger community of artists of all ages through urban performance, dance education and connection. Mix’d Ingrdnts exists to empower women to express themselves and to hold platforms to help facilitate the community speaking up and out for the greater good. Mix’d also strives to empower youth through knowledge and dance in order to impact their lives so that they can impact others and their communities. The company does this through forums, school assemblies, festivals, and various events around the Bay Area, that promote social change and/or entertains the community."
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