Dance Training
Staring down the audience can be a powerful choice when appropriate. Photo by Soho Images, "Nebula" choreographed by Maria Konrad courtesy Next Generation Dance

The most compelling dancers don't just have amazing technique. They also use their focus to draw in the audience and make their performance captivating. Be more confident and engaging onstage by avoiding these mistakes:

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Dance Training
Many colleges today are offering affordable certification for dance students. Photo courtesy JCC Indianapolis

Many of today's savvy dance students are accruing practical skills alongside their bachelor's degrees. In particular, some pursue Pilates certifications to gain a deeper understanding of anatomy and kinesiology as well as the opportunity to earn high wages and work flexible hours. (New Pilates teachers make about $35 per mat class, and master trainers can make more than $100 per private session.) While teacher training at a studio can be expensive and time-consuming, more and more college dance departments are offering deeply discounted certifications.

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Advice for Dancers
Resistance training that strengthens your quads can help improve your jumps. Thinkstock

Why can't I jump as high as my male partner? We both have to perform the same series of jetés in a workshop performance and practicing isn't helping. I'm starting to panic.

—Amy, Cincinnati, OH

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Dance Training
Jealousy is normal—it becomes a problem when it affects your dancing. Thinkstock

A classmate lands the role you wanted. Another dancer is always earning compliments from the teacher you can never seem to please. The dance world is full of opportunities to feel envious—and according to psychologist Nadine Kaslow, that is completely normal.

"To say you shouldn't ever feel jealous is unrealistic," says Kaslow, who works with dancers at Atlanta Ballet. "But when you become driven by it, rather than focusing on doing your best to improve, that's when it turns harmful." Luckily, there are ways to channel this negative emotion into positive growth.

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Advice for Dancers
People with high arches often have a shallower plié due to the structure of their feet. Photo by Bruno Horwath/Unsplash

While I'm lucky to have a high arch, my demi-plié stinks. I keep getting the same correction to make it deeper. Any ideas?

—Foot Challenged, Winston-Salem, NC

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Dancer Voices
"A dancer should not be encouraged to stay in a trainee position for years if it is unlikely that they will move to the next level," says Julie Kent. Photo by Rachel Papo for Dance Teacher

One of the most crucial responsibilities of an artistic director is the development of dancers. Sharing the benefit of my experience through daily class and rehearsals is perhaps the most gratifying part of my work at The Washington Ballet. But artistic leaders also need to help dancers in the broader navigation of their careers.

Whether it involves difficult conversations with seasoned professionals or with teenagers coping with the anxiety of an uncertain career path, advising dancers is personal because our art is personal. Dancers create their art with their own bodies—not on paper, not with instruments made of brass or wood and strings, but with themselves. This highly intimate element of the job cannot be underestimated, and as a result, every conversation about the work essentially becomes about the person. Trust is not assumed nor is it given easily, as only time and shared experiences allow for it to grow.

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Dance Training
Photo by Ali Yahya via Unsplash

Every dancer wants to open their competition score packet and see high marks that sing their praises. But a less-than-stellar score can quickly sour what was meant to be a positive learning experience.

While winners walk away with cash prizes, glistening trophies and scholarships to their dream schools, it can be tempting to let a low score be your one-way ticket to self-pity city. But with the right mindset, even a lackluster competition performance can be made into a constructive rather than destructive experience.

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Dance Training
It's fairly common to get to college and find that you aren't being challenged. Photo by Carlos Funn, courtesy University of Michigan

It's not uncommon for students to arrive at college and find that it isn't as hard as they thought it would be. Maybe they aren't placed in the correct level. Maybe it's an attitude problem. Maybe teachers are reviewing basics before diving into more advanced material. And maybe the program truly isn't challenging enough.

But how can dancers making the adjustment to college sort through all these possibilities? Open communication with faculty members can be key to figuring out what's really at work.

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Dance Training
Krista DeNio (top) says that women should take an integrated, full-body approach to lifting. Photo by Jun Akiyama, courtesy DeNio

Many contemporary choreographers today expect women to be game to do some lifting. However, the partnering training that most female dancers grow up with—if they have partnering classes at all—usually only teaches them to be supported by a man. It's no surprise that being a good lifter requires physical strength, but it may also require a change in mind-set.

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Dance Training
Giphy

Turnout can be a tricky thing. Perfect 180 degrees can make your lines look gorgeous, but gripping, forcing and twisting to get it there can lead to injuries down the road.

"It's a struggle because the demands of ballet positioning, to really do it properly you need to be turned out," says former American Ballet Theatre principal and master ballet teacher Ashley Tuttle. "If your body's not quite as turned out as the steps require then you have to find a way to make it look turned out but not hurt yourself."

While gripping may seem harmless, this bad habit can manifest in a host of different lower-extremity injuries, says Sarah Edery-Altas, PT, DPT, OCS at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at NYU Langone Health.

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Dance Training
Last year, participants in Dancewave's college audition were offered $3.4 million in scholarships. Photo by Linneah Anders, Courtesy Dancewave

Dancing in college is undoubtedly expensive, but these two events allow you to audition for scholarships from multiple programs at once.

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Dance Training
Nadia Khayrallah wishes she'd been told how much dance work is unpaid. Photo by Eric Bandiero, courtesy Khayrallah

Every year it seems to become more financially difficult to get by as a dancer. But are colleges preparing students for this reality? Some programs teach skills like budgeting, grant writing and marketing. But fewer delve into personal finance, and address what it really takes to dance professionally in today's economy.

Part of the problem is how rapidly the dance world has changed. There were far more full-time company positions available 20 years ago, and many faculty members don't have firsthand experience of today's gig-to-gig landscape. Students today take on more student loan debt and face higher costs of living. Dance professors might also have some form of survivor's bias, as recent Columbia University graduate and New York City–based freelance dancer Nadia Khayrallah points out: They "made it" in the dance world, so their tendency might be to tell students that they'll "make it" too.

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Dance Training
Bullies sometimes excuse their own behavior by saying they're just strict. But there's a difference. Photo by Thinkstock

A few months ago, your teacher snapped at you for smiling too much. Today, you're keeping your expression neutral when your teacher abruptly cuts the music and walks over to you, pretending to knock on your forehead. "Hello? Is anyone in there? Your face is always blank." Your classmates look just as frozen as you feel, their eyes darting back and forth between you and your teacher until the music resumes and class goes on.

Being bullied by a dance teacher can be painful—and confusing. You may have more questions than answers. What's happening? Am I just too sensitive? Is this really bullying?

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Dance Training
It can be hard to know where to start when you're in the studio alone. Photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy SFB

Whether you're a dancer, a choreographer, or both, having time alone in the studio allows artists to grow in ways that class or rehearsal simply doesn't. Yet without other people around to tell you what to do or keep you accountable, it's easy to get stuck staring at yourself in the mirror, wondering where to begin.

Here's how to make the most of your studio time and avoid staring aimlessly back at your reflection:

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Dance Training
Courtesy Rachel Hamrick

When Rachel Hamrick was in the corps of Universal Ballet in Seoul, her determination to strengthen her flexibility turned into a side hobby that would eventually land her a new career. "I was in La Bayadere for the first time, and I was the first girl out for that arabesque sequence in The Kingdom of the Shades," she says. "I had the flexibility, but I was wobbly because I wasn't stretching in the right way. That's when I first started playing around with the idea of the Flexistretcher. It was tied together then, so it was definitely more makeshift," she says with a laugh, "But I trained with it to help me get the correct alignment so that I would have the strength to sustain the whole act."

Nearly 15 years later, Hamrick is running her own business, complete with an ever-growing product line and her FLX training method—all because of her initial need to make it through 38 arabesques.

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Dance Training
Being focused on one style eventually gave Al Blackstone more opportunities. Photo by Daryl A. Getman, Courtesy Blackstone

These days, everyone tells you how important it is to be versatile. But what if you're convinced there's just one style that's right for you? It can be tough to balance a deep interest in a single specialty and still meet many choreographers' expectations. Luckily, you don't have to choose between all in or all over the place, as long as you follow your interests thoughtfully.

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