I get people asking me all the time about how they should go about taking dance classes when they/their parents can’t afford to pay for classes. And luckily, there are ways, and I’ve done most of them, having taken classes as a poor college student. So here’s information on finding classes when you don’t have much/any disposable income. (This is not going to include ways to raise money for classes, such as baby-sitting, selling things, etc. This is studio-focused.)
Many dance studios will offer scholarships, though these are normally reserved for children and young teens. These may be need-based (where poorer students get scholarships) or merit-based (where talented students get scholarships) and may require only paperwork or an audition as well. Contact local studios for information on scholarships.
More ideas after the cut!
Dear Dance Student circa 2013:
Hi, there! This is your dance teacher. Your older dance teacher. Let’s chat.
First, I know you love dance. You want to be great. You want to work. You want people to see all that you have to offer. You are also coming of age in a dance world that is so different from the one I grew up in, and I’m excited to see what develops.
But I’ve seen a lot that concerns me.
You come from a generation that has been empowered like none before in humanity. You have been taught to question authority - to do your own thing — from an early age. Many of you have been raised where “everyone gets a trophy,” and your teachers, parents and coaches, trying to be encouraging, often praised you just because. Furthermore, in the age of the Internet everything is accessible instantly and effortlessly. You want to look up a word or person? Google it. You hear a song you like? You don’t even have to remember the words — just Shazam it. Hell, you don’t even have to push a button anymore; you merely touch a screen.
When you are asked to work at something because that is simply what one does, many of you ask “Why should I? So-and-so made this thing and it went mad viral.” A few people are genuine overnight sensations — results of our spectacle-hungry, media-addicted culture. Most sudden phenoms, however, have been toiling quietly for years before their “moment.”
Success is a process.
Success is also a product of criticism from others and oneself. In dance class, corrections are very public. The teacher cannot always say everything in the gentlest way. With a class full of students, she needs to be concise and clear.
Your teacher’s job is not to make you like her, not to make you want go have coffee or drinks, or to be lifelong or even Facebook friends. Personally, I like it when I become friends with students. But this happens because before anything else the student trusted me — my skills and knowledge as a dancer and teacher.
If you don’t trust your teacher you might find her corrections disrespectful. I tend to get zealous with corrections, going on campaigns and harangues to fix things. My humor tends toward the sarcastic, which can rub people the wrong way. Thus the combination of doggedly wanting to help and a dry wit might offend some students.
If you are one of these students, you need to come talk to me about it.
Don’t rip me a new one via your parents or in your course evaluation.
Certainly there is humiliation, even cruelty in the dance studio. The caricature of the mean teacher or choreographer is based in truth. But when you find a teacher who is going out of her way to correct you, and perhaps getting a little frustrated - to call this teacher disrespectful is wrong. You do yourself a disservice.
It is much easier for your teacher to ignore you, and spend time on someone who makes changes quickly. Only a teacher who thinks you have potential would bother to try to help you. Not disrespectful at all — exactly the opposite.
And that puts the onus on you, to take responsibility for yourself. If you don’t understand why you are getting a correction five times per class or why your dancing is not getting the compliments you’d like, ask!
The teachers who gave me the harshest, most brutally honest corrections are the ones I learned the most from. I didn’t like what they had to say, but in my day, we just went home and cried — never did we accuse the teacher of disrespect. Weeks, months or even years later, I realized how right the teacher was. That said, their corrections didn’t mean I was a) a bad dancer b) never going to dance professionally c) meant to be a Taco Bell employee.
So please, take class mindfully. Work hard. Bring passion into the studio. Be curious about how to get better. Ask questions. And remember, if someone cares enough to work with you day in and day out, if she or he cares enough to get frustrated with you, she’s not being disrespectful, she’s teaching.
You have so much information and technology available to you, and I know you have a lot to say. But a skilled dancing body still counts. Let me help.
When San Francisco Ballet soloist Elizabeth Miner found herself huffing and puffing through David Bintley’s The Dance House, she knew it was time to increase her cross-training. “The piece was nonstop,” says Miner. “Just running it was not enough. I needed to build my aerobic capacity.” In addition to Pilates—which she already did—Miner began using the elliptical trainer for 30 minutes three times a week. She noticed a change almost immediately. “I could finish the ballet and not be completely exhausted,” says Miner. “I felt more in control, able to think about other things onstage, like the music and movement. Being tired is the last thing you want to focus on.”
Whether it’s running, yoga, spinning classes or weight lifting, non-dance exercise can help improve your technique. Marika Molnar, director of physical therapy at New York City Ballet, believes cross-training is an essential part of any dancer’s regime. “I don’t just recommend it, I insist on it,” says Molnar, who has been working with NYCB dancers for the past 30 years. “Because dancers perform the same movements using the same muscles all the time, strength, flexibility and motor coordination exercises help to nourish the body.” NYCB apprentices are offered a full wellness program that includes an individualized workout. “Once they experience how great it is, they make time for it,” Molnar adds.
A physical therapist or trainer can help you find the regimen that will be most effective for your body. Generally, exercises should be done two to three times a week, working to the point of fatigue to build strength while making sure your form is correct at all times.
Problem: Low Extensions
According to Molnar, strength at the end range of your flexibility is crucial to developing higher extensions. “Pilates reformer exercises are great,” she says. “One of my favorites is the single leg circle; it helps to improve abdominal stabilization while strengthening the whole leg through the range of motion.”
Athletic trainer Mike Howard and Pilates teacher James Harren, who both work with Houston Ballet dancers, recommend strengthening and stretching the psoas muscle through slow, deep sit-ups with the abdominal muscles contracted both on the way up and down. “Everything is connected, so extensions are easier with a stronger core,” Harren says. “Because the psoas attaches to the inner part of the thigh bone, it rotates the leg and lifts it.” Add the obliques in by twisting slightly to the left and right. Do two sets of ten three times a week.
Don’t leave out the strength of the standing leg. Harren recommends placing one leg on a medium-sized physio ball while lying down, the other leg in the air turned out and in first position, then lifting and lowering the pelvis in this position.
Problem: Low Jumps
Stretching correctly is the first step to improving your jumps. “Hanging out with your leg on the barre while chatting with friends will weaken ligaments and negatively impact your jumps,” warns Molnar. “Ideally, stretches should only be held for two to three minutes.” Molnar also believes plyometric training (which builds muscle power through quick, explosive movements) is essential to improve the strength, elasticity and activation of the muscles you use to jump. Try jumping with a two-pound weight, or jump on and off a six-inch box. “Have someone put their hands on your waist and push down to provide resistance,” Molnar suggests.
Howard advises strengthening the feet to improve your jumping. Try picking up marbles or cotton balls with your toes to engage the muscles in your arch.
Problem: Weak Port De Bras
Harren has dancers practice port de bras while lying on a roller. “Balancing on the roller will steady the core and build greater sensory motor coordination,” he says.
To strengthen the shoulder joint, stand up and do small shoulder circles with a dumbbell. Have a trainer determine the appropriate amount of weight. Any exercise where you pull something in front of you backwards, like on a rowing machine, will strengthen the muscles of the shoulder blades, creating a strong back.
Problem: Lack Of Stamina
Elliptical training, swimming and biking all offer low-impact ways to increase your stamina. Be sure to set the elliptical on a smaller incline and use light resistance. If you prefer the treadmill, Molnar recommends walking (both forward and backward), not running. “Running puts extreme force on the joints, especially the knees.” says Molnar. She advises staying away from the StairMaster altogether because it’s stressful on the knees and good form is hard to maintain.
In any aerobic exercise, try to achieve 65 percent of your maximum heart rate (you can determine your MHR by subtracting your age from 211). You need at least 15 to 30 minutes three times a week to see a difference in your endurance. “Make sure you are breathing in the lower lungs and not just the upper chest,” Molnar says. You can continue working on your endurance even while dealing with some injuries. Ask a doctor about low-impact swimming or biking.
Article by: Nancy Wozny
Ksenia Solo’s advice to aspiring dancers
Clam Exercise for Turnout and Piriformis Stretch
(also known as demi-pointes, soft pointe shoes, deshanks, and pre-pointes) are recommended by many teachers astraining tools to assist dancers in the transition from ballet slippers to pointe shoes. A dancer’s centre of balance will change and traction on the floor will feel different with the change in sole and shape of shoe. It is easiest to use an old pair of pointe shoes for this process.
SUPER helpful article!
Don’t Throw Old Pointe Shoes Away: Creative Ways to Use Them: After hours of rehearsal, classes, private lessons, and performances, the pair of pointe shoes you’ve got are probably worn out.. But before you chuck them in the trash, consider turning them into useful 7 decorative items, especially with Christmas approaching. Here are 10 creative ideas.
1. Potpourri Pointe PotsDead pointes can be a bit smelly, particularly if you’ve worn them a lot. Solve two problems at once by taking an inexpensive bag of dried potpourri and filling your shoes with it. You can also pick flowers from your yard. Then tie the ribbons together in a simple bow and hang them from your closet door, ceiling, door knob, bedpost, or anywhere else you can think of. Change the potpourri every couple months. You’ll have a gorgeous, romantic holder for your sweetest scents.2. De-shank & ReuseTalk to your teacher about the benefits of using de-shanked pointe shoes in your technique classes. If (s)he approves, go home and rip the shanks out of your dead pointe shoes. Use a hammer. If you’re a younger dancer, make sure a parent helps you. Hang on to the sole lining, as you’ll have to put it back in after removing the shank.When you’re done, just put them on and voila: Brand new flat shoes with strengthening abilities! Even without the shank, the toughened canvas of pointe shoes will force your feet to point harder.
3. Dramatic Décor
If you’re feeling crafty, maybe try to paint and decorate your dead pointes. Use floral sprays to lay down base colors. Then sew on sequins, ribbons, or pearls for decoration.Feeling risqué? Use a spray adhesive to attach some playful feathers to the vamp. You can keep the shoes, or maybe give them as gifts.
4. Ballerina Bouquet
For a classic and timeless aesthetic, try placing your pointes in a vase. Different arrangements can make different shapes; get creative and you may even find ways to make your shoe bouquet resemble a floral one! For added flair, line the bottom of the vase with spare lamb’s wool or old ribbons. Another creative touch (if you have the time), is to decorate the vase itself with ballet themed accessories. Think about items such as white faux-feathers or glittery appliqués. This could also apply to holiday themes.
5. Frame the Fame
Add an adorably saccharine touch to your favorite ballet photo by taking a large frame and super gluing a pointe shoe to either side. This can turn even the most simple and cheap frames into custom designed ballet themed memory holders. For an added flair, embellish the shoes with writing inscriptions, such as the date of the show in the frame or the dancer’s name.
6. Shadow Box
Since even dead and worn out pointe shoes are still beautiful, try putting them in a shadow box to hang on your wall. Placing shoes in these 3D frames display all their beauty — but with none of the post-rehearsal scent. Ambitious ballerinas (who own a lot of pointes) should make murals out of their shadow boxes. Place different pairs of shoes in various positions. Create a line of shadow boxes along a wall.
7. Shoe Death as Art
Ballerinas with artistic interests aside from dance can use dead pointe shoes as studies in visual art. Pile up pairs and snap some artsy photos. Try a variety of arrangements, and consider making sculptures. Working on drawing? Set up pointe shoes for a still life sketch. The way light reflects off satin can make for an interesting artistic endeavor.
8. Wonderful Workouts
If you’re in the mood to shape up your feet and do some reps with your Theraband, try wearing your dead pointe shoes. This eliminates the need to de-shank shoes for strengthening exercises, while still making use of the toughened box. The shoes will make your feet work harder as well as provide a good, sticky grip for your Theraband.
9. Knock, Knock
Think about wrapping pointe shoes around your doorknob. Or maybe nail the ribbons to the outside of your door to create a personalized knocker. Tie a fairly tight knot in the ribbons to minimize the amount of swinging the shoes can do when you open or close the door.
10. Stuffed Shoe-Bear
Being ballet obsessed can lead to cuddly toys. Try making a stuffed animal by cutting the satin off your dead shoes and stitching it together in the shape of a bear or bunny (or whatever else you like).
Whatever you decide to do with your dead shoes, remember that the sky is the limit! Get creative, and try to think of more things to do with your dead shoes. X
A helpful french twist video for those like me with very long hair (helpful tip given around 2:45)
Summer Intensives: Let’s Do the Numbers
Dancers discuss picking summer programs and the benefits of choosing the right one
“How-To”: Lengthen and Strengthen the Psoas
Presented by: Antolino Alvarez, Dance New Amsterdam Simonson Technique Faculty
The Psoas muscle is vital for extension!