Editor's Note

When I first became an editor, there was quite a debate about whether or not to use the word “winning” when it came to dance, so I learned to write about competition using phrases like “she was awarded a trophy,” or “she placed first.” Though I understand the perspective held by many in our field—to focus too much on the win can undermine the artistry of dance—I’ve since come to terms with the word. Who, after all, doesn’t want to be a winner?

 

But along with the trophies, let’s not forget the quiet wins that occur in daily class or rehearsal—the aha moments when it’s just you and the mirror, and something you’ve been struggling with suddenly clicks. As choreographers, business owners, educators and competition judges, we all appreciate accolades for work well done. Our wins are worth celebrating.

 

We are pleased this month to celebrate Westchester Dance Academy. Dancers from the studio are consistent finalists at competitions, so when we planned a piece about directors who choreograph their own competition numbers, Kelly Burke was at the top of our list. It was a treat to spend time with Burke and meet her mother and business partner, Sallie, and some of her star students—the tremendously poised young women aged 14 and 16 who are pictured in this issue's “Final Pose.”  Click here to hear more from Burke in an exclusive video interview.

 

In “Bringing Home the Trophy," Burke and other studio choreographers share their strategies for creating award-winning work. Plus we’ve added some tips from “So You Think You Can Dance” celebrities Mandy Moore and Joey Dowling. Be sure to consult the “Competition Guide” as you plan your season. With celebrity teachers, influential judges and a growing emphasis on education, there’s a lot more to consider than geographic proximity when selecting an event to attend.

 

Speaking of winning moments, we had an incredible time this summer with the more than 1,600 teachers who attended the Dance Teacher Summit. The lively conversations and sense of community were very much on our minds as we put this issue together. Want to continue the discussion? LIKE US! on Facebook and join the conversation as we share best practices and debate hot issues on the Dance Teacher discussion board.

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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