Health & Body

Ask Deb: How Can I Convince Parents of the Value of Technique Class vs. Learning Choreography?

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Q: How can I help parents understand that time spent in technique class is as valuable as learning choreography for competitions?


A: Parents love to see their children onstage almost as much as students love to perform. That being said, no amount of flashy choreography is going to sustain the long-term development of a young dancer. The rewards of improving technique go beyond winning competition trophies—good form prevents injuries and influences movement quality far beyond teen years.

There's a growing body of research that shows the addition of strength and integration exercises decreases the prevalence of injuries for pre-professional and professional dancers. But what about the recreational dancer who just wants to perform? There isn't as much research available for that group, but in 2013 the Journal of Athletic Training published a study that looked at 569 injured female dancers ages 8 to 16. The most common injuries they found in this group were knee injuries, followed by back, and then foot/ankle. They found knee injuries were often connected with the knee dropping inward (valgus) in jumping, rather than staying in line with the hip and ankle. Back and foot injuries were often associated with hypermobility of the hip and ankle joints (over-turning out at the hip and pronation). These early injuries caused by poor technique can haunt a dancer for years. It's a problem when young dancers focus on flexibility and big tricks over strength.

Perhaps placing some articles on injury prevention around the waiting room or in your studio newsletter will help your parents understand why building a strong technical foundation is so important to the long-term health of their children.

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
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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