Teachers Trending
Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy. Photo courtesy Dance With Me

Listening to Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy riff together makes it crystal-clear why each has mastered the art of partnering in the ballroom—they've long been doing this dance in real life as brothers and business partners.

Along with their "Dancing with the Stars" pedigree (and a combined three mirror-ball trophies between them), Maks and Val (and their father, Sasha) also run Dance With Me, a dance company hosting six ProAm Dancesport competitions annually and running 14 brick-and-mortar studio locations across the U.S.

Last year, the pair launched an online component, Dance & Co. The online video platform offers beginner through advanced instruction in not only ballroom but an array of other styles, as well as dance fitness classes from HIIT to yoga to strength training. "DWTS" fans will recognize such familiar faces as Peta Murgatroyd, Jenna Johnson, Sharna Burgess and Emma Slater, along with Maks and Val themselves.

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Teaching Tips
@jayplayimagery, courtesy Kerollis

In the spring of 2012, Barry Kerollis was abruptly forced into treating his career as a small business. Having just moved cross-country to join BalletX, he got injured and was soon let go.

"I'd only ever danced with big companies before," the now-freelance dance-teacher-choreographer-podcaster recalls. "That desperation factor drove me to approach freelancing with a business model and a business plan."

As Kerollis acknowledges, getting the business of you off the ground ("you" as a freelance dance educator, that is) can be filled with unexpected challenges—even for the most seasoned of gigging dancers. But becoming your own CEO can make your work–life balance more sustainable, help you make more money, keep you organized, and get potential employers to offer you more respect and improved working conditions. Here's how to get smart now about branding, finances and other crucial ways to tell the dance world that you mean business.

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Teachers Trending

Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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Teachers Trending
Courtesy Oleson

American dance educator Shannon Oleson was teaching recreational ballet and street-dance classes in London when the pandemic hit. As she watched many of her fellow U.S. friends pack up and return home from their international adventures, she made the difficult choice to stick with her students (as well as her own training—she was midway through her MFA at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

Despite shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, she was able to maintain a teaching schedule that kept her working with her dancers through Zoom, as well as lead some private, in-home acro classes following government guidelines. But keeping rec students interested in the face of pandemic fatigue hasn't been easy.

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Teaching Tips
Jill Randall

Whether you're in need of some wintertime inspiration or searching for new material for your classes, these six titles—ranging from personal stories, classroom materials, detailed essays and coursebooks—are worthy picks to add to your pedagogy bookshelf.

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Teaching Tips
Getty Images

The day that your class of young dancers learns they're going on pointe can be just as exciting for you as it is for them. It's gratifying to be able to announce that their—and your—hard work has led them to this milestone moment. But what if there's one student who's not as ready as her peers? The one who's not yet strong enough physically or technically, or whose foot structure may make pointework extra-challenging or dangerous? Having to deliver disappointing news is never easy, but there are ways to make the conversation positive and motivating.

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Teachers Trending
Chloe Hamilton, Courtney Schwartz

The first time Courtney Schwartz assisted choreographer Talia Favia at a dance convention, Favia didn't even want her onstage, according to Schwartz. Favia was convinced she didn't need an assistant that week, and had told Artists Simply Human convention staff that Schwartz was welcome to take class from the floor.

Somehow, the message wasn't relayed to Schwartz, who stepped onstage at the top of class and was met with a sharp look from the choreographer. Puzzled, she soldiered on in her standard assistant role, learning the combo for the first time with the class. Then, she heard Favia announce to the students that they should turn their attention to the stage to watch Schwartz do a run-through to the music.

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Teaching Tips
Denise Wall with her assistant, Kieran Macdonald. Photo courtesy NUVO

An assistant is a teacher's secret weapon. They're an extension of the instructor's teaching style, a positive role model for students, and a key to maintaining class structure and order.

But the role requires much more than just being a great dancer. An effective assistant must be highly responsible and creative, possess organizational and leadership qualities, and be able to take disciplinary action if necessary.

"The assistant needs to be someone who's not selfish," says Denise Wall, co-owner of Denise Wall's Dance Energy in Virginia Beach, Virginia. "They need to be someone who pays attention and enjoys helping people."

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Music
Evolve Photography, courtesy Buckley

With the exception of heavy metal, Grace Buckley has choreographed to almost every genre of music—from pop to country, soulful indie rock to R&B.

Buckley, who's been a New York City Dance Alliance faculty member since 2012, describes her tastes as a "mixed bag," with one caveat: She prefers lyrics.

When she first started teaching at her hometown studio in Westchester County, New York, this instinct seemed unfounded and simplistic.

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