Know any extraordinary dance educators? (We're guessing the answer is yes.)
Nominate them for a Dance Teacher Award! Every year, our sister magazine, Dance Teacher, recognizes excellence in teaching by honoring four outstanding educators for their contributions to the field.
DT is currently accepting nominations for the 2021 Dance Teacher Awards, and they're looking for dance educators who:
Congratulations to the January Cover Model Search Editors' Choice video winner, and our first 2022 CMS semi-finalist, Emily Roman! Watch her solo below, and be sure to enter the Cover Model Search here.
As you may have learned firsthand from your shin splints and furniture run-ins, it's nearly impossible to replicate some aspects of your dance training in a small bedroom or on a concrete driveway. But all is not lost in your quarantined quest to perfect your grand allégro.
Pilates is one of the best low-impact cross-training tools for dancers, thanks to its combined focus on strength, alignment, and flexibility. Taylor Sambola, certified Power Pilates teacher and professional ballet dancer, breaks down four exercises to develop the muscle strength and coordination needed for explosive jumps, without aggravating your joints—or your downstairs neighbors.
Exercise 1: Side Series
Exercise 2: Footwork Series
Exercise 3: Hamstring Curls
Exercise 4: Full Body Overhead
Time to let your artistic skills blossom—but this time, we don't mean on the dance floor. Dancer, choreographer, and artist Amber Pickens has used her quarantine time to illustrate a coloring book that celebrates Black dance history.
The Juilliard graduate, who recently made her choreographic debut, created Blooming in Motion as a fun, educational way to highlight 20 dance legends that have brought vibrance to the dance world. Perfect for Black History Month and beyond!
We got a chance to chat with Pickens (and her dog, Broadway!) about how the idea came to be from seed to soil to full-on sprout.
An Early Love for the Arts<p>Outside of dance, Pickens' appreciation for the arts was fueled by her early fascination with animation and sketching.</p><p>For her, one of the biggest takeaways stemming from this project is the newfound knowledge she's gained on each dance legend. "I wish I would've known more about Janet Collins when I was a little girl, or in college, when I didn't see that representation because I was always in these predominantly Eurocentric environments," she says.</p><p>Growing up with a book like this would've allowed Pickens to be less inclined to compare herself to others. "I think so many of us do that, especially in the ballet world. We see all these images of beautiful white women, and that's great. Their stories need to be told. But everybody's stories need to be told," she says.</p><p>She pondered the notion of giving people flowers while you still can, instead of waiting. Feeding that thought, she considered how flowers are a well-known symbol of gratitude and appreciation—and that's how the title came to be. These ideas naturally tied themselves into the coloring book "because that's what I'm doing: celebrating each one of them and really saying 'thank you,'" she says.</p>
Jacob Norman, courtesy Pickens
A Seed Is Planted<p>Four months into quarantine, the concept started to bloom as Pickens began studying more about the benefits of coloring. She also did a ton of research on mandalas, which inspired the floral designs you'll find complementing the dancers on each page. She wanted the theme of the coloring book to embody blooming and growing, and the concept became easier to build on when she realized that both dance and life are about growing through your journey, "not just doing the motions, but blooming in motion," she says.</p><p>For Pickens, coloring is a big-time mood booster. "It's like a meditation for the day, a break from everything going on," she says. "And it's nice when the images are something to look forward to! It's definitely like a creative getaway."</p>
Receiving Her Own Flowers<p><em>Blooming in Motion </em>honors many legends, but what does it feel like when one of those legends honors you? Pickens felt humbled to receive a review from one of her mentors, <em>the</em> Debbie Allen. As a young dancer, Allen's wisdom allowed Pickens to go through life saying "I'm not just a dancer, and I'm not just an artist. I'm an ambassador of the arts. I have a calling. I can do whatever I want to do."</p><p>"For Ms. Allen to like it, acknowledge it <em>and</em> be so gracious to share a quote with me truly meant the world because I want <em>all</em> of these legends to be proud."</p><p>The selflessness embodied within Allen's teaching made her a trailblazer without question, in Pickens' mind. "And that's how you reach your highest potential—your full bloom," she says. "It's when you understand that your purpose is so far beyond yourself."</p>
Jacob Norman, courtesy Pickens
Current Blooms and Future Seeds<p>It's been less than a month since the release, and one of Pickens' major goals has already been accomplished. The African American Museum in Dallas—which she often visited while growing up—will begin carrying her coloring book. She's proud that this full-circle moment now doubles as an offering to her home community.</p><p>Where does Pickens envision her book in the future? The Smithsonian, of course! When people view this work, she hopes they'll know that they belong. "Especially Black people. I want us to feel safe in the spaces we enter, especially in the dance world, 'cause we still have such a long way to go," she says.</p><p>The creativity doesn't stop here for Pickens. She's currently watering a new seed: a children's book. We'll also see another coloring book somewhere in the future. "Now that I've completed <em>Blooming in Motion</em>, I have a blueprint. It'll still be very challenging, but I look forward to creating many more," she says.</p>
Caroline Waters didn't get into Southern Methodist University's acclaimed dance program after her first audition—or her second. She was accepted to the university, however, so she went ahead and enrolled, making a deal with her parents that if she didn't earn a spot in the dance program within a year, she'd return home to Florida to attend an in-state school. "Growing up, I loved competing and I loved proving people wrong," Waters says. "I really felt like SMU was where I was supposed to be." She auditioned twice more as a freshman, and the fourth time was the charm. Waters is now a senior, double-majoring in dance performance and journalism while minoring in English.
If you've got your heart set on a college dance program, and you aren't accepted, it can feel like your dreams have hit a brick wall. But in reality, you still have a lot of options—and reauditioning is only one of them. Here's how to move forward after an audition setback.
Should You Audition Again?<p><span style="background-color: initial;">If the program you're interested in holds multiple auditions a year, and you're a high school senior with months before </span><span style="background-color: initial;">you have to commit, you really have nothing to lose by trying out again, if allowed. Perhaps you weren't feeling great at the first audition, or your nerves got the best of you. Going in fresh—and with more experience—could make all the difference.</span></p><p>It's trickier if audition season is over, and you have to make a decision ASAP. To choose between your dream school (where you didn't get into the dance program) and a safety school (the sure thing), "think about where your priorities lie," advises Ilana Goldman, BFA program director at <a href="https://dance.fsu.edu/" target="_blank">Florida State University's School of Dance</a>. "Do you feel strongly about being a dance major? Would you be OK attending the same school and not majoring in dance? I would never recommend having the hope of becoming a major be your only reason for choosing a school." If you truly love the university, you could gamble on a late admission to the dance program, as Waters did. If you're determined to major in dance, head elsewhere.</p><p>For 2020 graduate Maria Angelica Garcia, FSU was her only plan. "When I initially wasn't accepted into the dance program, it took a huge toll on me," she admits. Still, she was set on the university, so she enrolled as a psychology major. She ended up auditioning for the School of Dance again at the end of her first semester. That time, she got in.</p><p>Freshman-year success stories like Garcia's and Waters' are inspiring, but they're not the norm. To gauge your chances, ask for feedback from the adjudicators. They can tell you where you fell short—or give you a reality check. "I don't believe in stringing students along," says Christopher Dolder, chair of dance at SMU's Meadows School of the Arts. "If someone's not the right fit, I can recommend another avenue." </p>
Initially, Maria Angelica Garcia wasn't accepted to Florida State University's dance program—but she persevered. (Ryker Laramore, courtesy Florida State University)