When talking with dancers, I’ve been known to say, “Make your mark, don’t just stand on it!” Allow me to introduce you to a dancer who made her mark and is staking her claim in the world of dance: Sara Anderson is the coach of the Lincoln High School Dance Team in Portland, OR. The Cardinal ladies under Sara’s direction are the proud champions of the 2010 Oregon State Dance Team Championship. Sara began dancing at age six, danced on the Rex Putnam High School Dance Team and performed as a BlazerDancer for the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers for four years. Committed to the community and her passion for dance, Sara interviewed for the dance team coach position at Lincoln High School, and 13 years later she says, “The rest is history.” History is right. Sara and the Cardinals Dance Team have won eight Oregon State Dance Team titles!
Sara is also the owner of Elite Dance Studio (which has been open for seven years), co-coach of the Junior BlazerDancers for the last six years and coordinates competitive teams outside of the studio along with the Cardinals Dance Team. I sat down with Sara to learn about some of the challenges and positives aspects she finds while coaching the team and how she has time to do it all.
“My biggest personal challenge is juggling my schedule," she says. "Between my own family with two kids ages 7 and 4, my demands at the studio and the studio competitive teams schedule, as well as coaching the Junior BlazerDancers, and our rehearsal schedule at Lincoln… Whew... Everyday is a busy one! Thank goodness I’m surrounded by wonderful, helpful and supportive people. There are so many positive aspects I love about coaching. The sense of accomplishment and pride I get when I watch the dancers perform. I love watching them grow not only has dancers but as young women. I am still very close with many of the girls that have gone through my program over the years.”
Sara believes that as a coach you have to “lead by example and bring a strong work ethic and dedication for the program. A united team is a successful team,” she says. Sara creates a positive atmosphere for the girls and says, “We take time for team bonding and do fun activities outside of practice, like bowling, movie nights and team dinners. I remind the dancers we are all here for the same reason, with the same goals. I always try to finish every rehearsal on a positive note. Keeping your dancers inspired and motivated is important not only for the teams’ success but for the overall experience the dancers have in your program. Our team is rich with traditions and the dancers love that! Most importantly, help them believe in themselves, their teammates and their dance.”
After winning eight dance team titles (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010), Sara emphasizes that “your dancers will take cues from you about how to respond after a big win or an upsetting loss. We talk about winning and losing gracefully and we talk about respecting what the judges say and the scores we receive. If we are happy with our performance then we graciously accept the outcome. We talk about the will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win.”
With more than 30 dancers on her team, the audition process can be competitive. Sara suggests that dancers “do their research before auditions. It is always good to come into an audition well trained, but some of my best dancers have started their training later in life. It is all about how bad you want something. If I select a dancer who shows raw potential, I will encourage them to get outside training as well as provide them with more guidance during rehearsals. Before auditions I always remind the dancers to show me how much they love to dance when they hit the stage. I say, ‘I can fix your feet, but I cannot fix your attitude...passion comes from inside!’”
The 2010 Oregon State Dance Team Champions are the Lincoln High School Cardinals consisting of members Alaina, Ali, Alyssa, Amanda, Andrea, Ashley, Aubree, Caroline, Casey, Cassidy, Catalina, Clare, Dorie, Emma, Eri, Hannah, Judy, Kayla, Kristy, Lexi, Lyndsey, Mackenzie, Maddie, Maddy, Maggie, Malia, McKenzie F, Mckenzie T, Natalie G, Natalie M, Rachael, Serena and Shaina. (Head Coach Sara Anderson, Assistant Coach Shelly Misevch and Team Manager Phyllis Zeck). Congratulations, ladies!
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
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Dancers are naturally "in their heads" all the time—but not always in productive ways. Long days of receiving and applying corrections, taking class, and performing can get to even the most composed individuals. What should you do when you feel like your mind is just as busy as your rehearsal schedule? Try meditation. Dance Spirit turned to Adreanna Limbach, a head teacher at NYC-based meditation studio MNDFL, for a breakdown of this highly beneficial practice.
Liz Imperio teaching at Hollywood Vibe, Courtesy of Hollywood Vibe
It's an increasingly common scenario: A talented dancer wins big at a competition, is offered an assistantship with a famous faculty member, and ends up leaving her hometown studio to travel with a convention. Convention-hopping has obvious benefits. Every event generates new content for dancers to post on social media, gives them a better shot at ending up on their favorite choreographers' accounts, lets them learn from the best of the best, and helps them make valuable connections. "Traveling is a great way for dancers to gain admirers around the country," says Jen Jarnot, owner of Artistic Fusion Dance Academy in Thornton, CO. "That's something every dancer craves." So it's no surprise that weekend FOMO has been blazing through studios like wildfire.
But is this jet-setter lifestyle really the most effective road to take? Can weekends of dancing with top talent truly replace the bread and butter of daily work at your home studio? The answer, according to most industry experts, is no. We asked five pros to explain why.