A New Breed

 I distinctly remember having a lively intermission conversation at a Youth America Grand Prix gala performance several years ago. We had just had our minds blown by a tiny dancer who performed with a technical ability far beyond his years. And he wasn’t the only one. Several child prodigies debuted that night in an astonishing display of flexibility, musicality and precision. The question several of us in the audience shared was, “Where do these dancers go from here?” When a child reaches the pinnacle of his/her ability before hitting puberty, what is left to aspire to?

Since that night, we’ve watched a generation of prodigies graduate from pre-professional training and land coveted company positions. In “Nurturing the Gift,” writer Caitlin Sims talks with their teachers about what it took to prepare these most gifted students for professional life.

Nick DeMoura (on the cover) is a prodigy of a different breed. A street dancer who hit Hollywood at an early age, he’s made a name for himself in the competitive pop music industry. In “On Top of the World,” he tells Alison Feller what it’s like to choreograph for stars like Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. And we love the images photographer Jino Abad took of DeMoura doing his thing in the studio. It’s clear to us that DeMoura is a big-picture thinker. Though he was extremely busy with preparation for the Ariana Grande tour, he arrived at our photo shoot with a complete vision of how he wanted to present himself—head to toe.

That’s the kind of mindset one needs for keeping goals and priorities in the forefront, while also balancing the many aspects of a busy life. Meditation is a proven tool that can help, and in “Finding Your Om,” we give you some quick tips on how to get started.

One of my favorite stories in this issue is “From “‘Ho Hum’ to ‘Aha’” about some surprising changes that worked out well for three studio owners. Maybe it’s time for you to consider a bold move. If you do, please write and tell me about it. khildebrand@dancemedia.com.

Photo by Matthew Murphy

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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