Dance As Activism
Students at Loco-Motion Dance Theatre for Children have tackled issues like race, police brutality and immigration. Photo by Jennie Miller, Courtesy Loco-Motion

More and more, students are speaking out about the issues that matter to them, whether that's climate change or gun violence. For young dancers, the studio or stage can be the perfect place to express these interests. But if you're a teacher who has never tackled difficult topics in the classroom, getting started may feel daunting. Here's how to introduce activism in a way that is safe and age-appropriate.

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We Tried It
Harry Shunyao Zhang, Courtesy Movement Research

A quick scroll through Instagram will tell you that astrology and all things witch-y are all the rage. "There's a lot of people speaking about magic," says dance artist iele paloumpis, who teaches a class at Movement Research called Witchcraft - A Corporeal Practice. "It's more in the public consciousness again."

But for paloumpis, who has taught some form of the class since 2011, these practices have been a part of their life from an early age, having grown up in a family of "witches and mystics." They chose to use the word witchcraft in the class title "as a feminist, queer reclamation of the idea of being a witch."

We took paloumpis' class for our "We Tried It" series to see how witchcraft can be relevant to dance artists:

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Training
Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy Mark Morris Dance Group

You know compelling musicality when you see it. But how do you cultivate it? It's not as elusive as it might seem. Musicality, like any facet of dance, can be developed and honed over time—with dedicated, detailed practice. At its most fundamental, it's "respect for the music, that this is your partner," says Kate Linsley, academy principal of the School of Nashville Ballet.

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Breaking Stereotypes
Lindsay Martell at a class performance. Courtesy Martell.

More than once, when I'm sporting my faded, well-loved ballet hoodie, some slight variation of this conversation ensues:

"Is your daughter the dancer?"

"Actually," I say, "I am."

"Wow!" they enthuse. "Who do you dance with? Or have you retired...?"

"I don't dance with a company. I'm not a professional. I just take classes."

Insert mic drop/record scratch/quizzical looks.

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Training
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You did it: You landed the job, a spot at the pre-professional school of your dreams or at the best-of-the-best university dance program. And that first year was hard, and exhilarating. But since then, the shiny new has worn off, and the patina of the everyday has left you in a rut.

The sophomore slump hits hard. Whether it is literally your sophomore year or you have just become a mainstay within your company or school, the funk can be difficult to shake. "The 'sophomore year' is really the test of your passion for dance," says Brian T. Goonan, a psychologist who works with dancers in Houston. But with the right mind-set, you can find your groove again.

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Training
New York City Ballet's Ashley Bouder is known for her buoyant jump. Paul Kolnik, Courtesy New York City Ballet

Jumping might seem like something you're either a natural at or that you'll never master. "She's a jumper," you might hear someone say about another dancer with a beautiful grand jeté—and assume, in turn, that you're not. But how high you leap—and how quickly and easily you do it—is actually a skill that you can build with practice.

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Breaking Stereotypes
Collier (right) with Natalia Romanova, one of her teachers from the Russian Ballet International program at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. Courtesy Collier

Working in corporate America can be a grind, so, for many, vacation is a welcome opportunity to relax and unwind. But for Jane Collier, it's a chance to ramp up her ballet training.

Though she's based in Chicago, where she works in global sourcing for Walgreens Boots Alliance, over the last several years she's attended summer intensives at American Ballet Theatre in New York City, the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow and, most recently, the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen.

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Training
Bill Hebert, Courtesy Francesca Harper

If you were asked to create a dance with a vacuum cleaner, what would you do? That's the task University of Michigan professor Amy Chavasse gave her college students during the creative process for her work, Swimming the English Channel. "One student did a raunchy, hilarious solo with the vacuum, and ended singing The Beatles' 'With a Little Help from My Friends,' " recalls Chavasse.

Though some dancers take to it immediately, for many, their first encounter with experimental work is awkward or even terrifying. An open mind can help dancers embrace the unfamiliar.

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Training
Robin Worrall via Unsplash

Social media has made the dance world a lot smaller, giving users instant access to artists and companies around the world. For aspiring pros, platforms like Instagram can offer a tantalizing glimpse into the life of a working performer. But there's a fine line between taking advantage of what social media can offer and relying too heavily on it.

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Rant & Rave
Hamid Hamido/Unsplash

As a young dancer, I was taught that falling out of a relevé, even during class, was not an option. I was told to never, ever give up on it. "Die for it," my ballet master used to say.

I used to love, even dream, of being immersed in dance every day. But after 10 years of pushing myself beyond my limits as a full-time dancer, something started happening to me internally. My vision would get blurry, my body felt like I was spinning, and my ears would ring.

I did what I always did—I ignored the warning signs and pushed through it. I never wanted to look weak or incapable as a dancer, even if I was in a lot of pain. Even if I felt like I was going to pass out.

I began feeling this way every day. From what I can remember, that was when I started blacking out while I was dancing.

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Training
University of Maryland students are encouraged to take outside classes. Photo by Geoff Sheil, Courtesy University of Maryland

As graduation day looms, college seniors might find themselves reeling with both excitement and dread. "They have to navigate this tender moment where they're opening their wings and about to jump out of the dance department and wondering if the ground is going to catch them," says Courtney Harris, interim chair of the dance and choreography department at Virginia Commonwealth University. Today's job market is no cakewalk, but there are meaningful steps that students can take throughout college to make the transition easier.

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Training
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By the Sunday evening of a long convention weekend, you can expect to be thoroughly exhausted and a little sore. But you shouldn't leave the hotel ballroom actually hurt. Although conventions can be filled with magical opportunities, the potential for injury is higher than usual.

Keep your body safe: Watch out for these four common hazards.

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Training
Matthew Murphy

Perfect turnout may be the Holy Grail of ballet technique: It's that forever elusive treasure we all seek but never seem to find.

No matter how much rotation you currently have, you could likely find more—if you use the right strategies. We dug into the Dance Magazine archives to round up our best tips from master teachers and dance medicine experts to help you reach your maximum turnout potential.

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Training
Kayla Kalbfleisch teaching at 24 Seven Dance Convention. Photo courtesy 24 Seven

Conventions can offer myriad opportunities, from making connections to landing college scholarships. But how can a dancer stand out in a sea of talent? We turned to some of our favorite convention faculty to find out.

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Training
Karl Rabe, Courtesy Bard

Though the first dance degree was awarded more than 85 years ago, the focus of dance programs in higher education has stayed, for the most part, pretty much the same: Western dance forms dominate curriculums across the country, with ballet and modern classes reigning particularly supreme.

Over the last several years, however, some colleges have begun thinking critically about what kind of dance they're teaching—and how they teach it. They're ushering in a new wave of dance in higher ed, with the hope that their approach—bringing African diaspora and urban forms to the fore, forging connections with other fields, degendering ballet—might be a catalyst for others.

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Training
Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

Alexandra Wells can always tell when a dancer hasn't read her summer intensive information packet. Sometimes, says Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's director of artist training, there's a quick fix for the lack of preparation. "You can go and buy a long-sleeve shirt after you burn your shoulder really badly in that first floorwork class," she says. But not bringing enough of your special-order pointe shoes? "That's really dire."

Between reading the fine print, shopping for necessities and ramping up physically, getting ready for a summer intensive takes more than just dancing a lot. We broke down a step-by-step timeline:

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Advice for Dancers
Photo by Ali Müftüoğulları, Courtesy Unsplash

Whenever I'm cast in a solo role, I'm consumed with thoughts of everything that could go wrong. Please help.

—Isabella, Philadelphia, PA

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Training
Irina Kolpakova in the studio with Katherine Williams. Photo by Quinn Wharton for Pointe.

Being coached by a treasure like former Kirov prima Irina Kolpakova is an experience most dancers only dream of. But company members at American Ballet Theatre have been the lucky beneficiaries of her wisdom since 1990. Thanks to Instagram, where pros like Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside share snippets of their sessions with Kolpakova, any ballet lover can be a fly on the wall during rehearsals with the famed ballet mistress.

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Training
Point Park students have been hired after performing in New York City. Photo by Katie Gling, Courtesy Point Park

College faculty want to help you build a bridge to the working world. So it should be no surprise that they sometimes invite in artists who could potentially hire you someday. "At NYU Tisch, opening night is typically open to alumni, many of whom are working choreographers, and we invite artistic directors to the final night of the run—each one gets a press kit with the graduating dancers' bios, and we host a reception afterward," says Seán Curran, chair of that dance program. "We're not agents, but with a little help, many of our students make their own chances."

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Health & Body
Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Summer intensives can be incredible experiences, but they also bring challenges. As a former dancer and current nutritionist for dancers, I recall a common scenario: Mornings of classes and afternoons of rehearsals increase the demands on your energy, but with little time for breaks, food becomes less of a priority than new combinations and new repertory.

Busy schedules make it easy for students to unintentionally under-eat. If a dancer loses weight in the process and teachers or directors positively affirm this weight loss, it can increase the risk of developing disordered eating habits. These restrictive dieting behaviors, as a dancer attempts to follow strict rules regarding food choices or daily calorie intake, can stem from a drive to be "healthy" or from a desire to control one's weight. Yet obsessive tendencies can turn harmless intentions into unhealthy habits.

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Training
Courtesy CalArts

Four years of lectures, exams and classes can feel like a lifetime for college dancers who have their sights set on performing. So when a professional opportunity comes knocking, it can be tempting to step away from your academics. But there are a few things to consider before putting your education on hold.

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