Summer Reading for Dancers!

If this heat wave hasn’t proven this to you already, summer is NOT over!  Which means you still have time left to do some summer reading?  Looking for some recommendations for dance books to read at the beach or the pool? Here are a few of my favorites!

For Children:

Degas and The Little Dancer by Laurence Anholt

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield (and really all the books in this series!)

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees

Of Swans, Sugarplums, and Satin Slippers by Violette Verdy (this was my favorite growing up!!)

Angelina Ballerina series by Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig

Ballerina, My Story by Darci Kistler

For teens/adults:

Dancing On My Grave by Gelsey Kirkland

Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin

Nureyev by Julie Kavanagh

Blood Memory by Martha Graham

So You Want to Be a Dancer by Matthew Shaffer

Maria Tallchief: America’s Prima Ballerina by Maria Tallchief and Larry Kaplan

George Balanchine: The Ballet Maker by Robert Gottlieb

Misty Copeland: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland

These are just a few-there are many many more great reads out there!  ABDC has a few of these books in our library-check out our adorable new bookcase!  Have any favorites to add to the list, or any books you’d like to see added to our collection?  Please comment and let us know!


The Magic of Beginning Ballet

I get asked a lot what my favorite class to teach is, and I can honestly say that I don’t have one!  I love teaching all styles, all ages, and all levels-each one presents its own challenges and triumphs and I love getting to know the students in each and every class.  But every time a teach a beginning ballet class, I feel a little bit of magic.

ballerina collage

Maybe it’s because ballet is the first dance class I ever took (fun fact-I took only ballet until 8th grade) and it’s what made me fall in love with dance.  I love teaching dancers their first ballet class (or maybe they’re coming back to it after a long break and falling in love with it all over again).  Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching all genres of dance, but there is something magical about spending an hour being a ballerina.  Ballet has been such a constant in my life-it’s so dependable in an ever-changing world!


But there’s another reason why I love teaching beginning ballet classes so much-every time I teach them, I as a dancer improve so much!  Teaching those classes, explaining all the nitty gritty details and intricacies of body placement and épaulement, how to use your feet, and the shape of the hands and arms (oh man, ballet is SO detail oriented), makes me re-evaluate all those aspects of my technique.  Let’s face it, sometimes when we’re learning super fast combos and trying to do six million turns across the floor, little things like the angle of your head and the shape of your hands gets lost.  But in beginning ballet,  you have the time to adjust all those little details that make a good dancer into a great one.  I always think it’s interesting when dancers tell me they want to be in a higher level and “more challenging” ballet class, because I actually feel dancers improve most when they take it slow!  Brief story-spring semester my Junior year of college I studied abroad in Northern Ireland.  Melinda had passed away a couple of weeks before I left, and I decided I needed a break from dancing.  That lasted all of about two weeks before I asked the director of the dance department if there was a ballet class I could take.  She told me to take class with the seniors, so I was expecting a class like the kind I took at Skidmore.  Instead I learned the class was taught by a student and was definitely more of a beginning level class than I was expecting.  It was perfect though!  I worked my butt off in every class, and it was a great way to focus on things I wasn’t really working on at home.  I knew what I needed to work on, and I was really able to focus on those things.  It was a lot of fun too!

These are just a few of the reasons why I love teaching this class!  But I’d love to know-what’s your favorite class to take and why?  Please comment and let me know!

Ways to Beat Summer Dance Withdrawal!

Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from dancing!  It can be good for our bodies and our minds to take a break.  But eventually the dance withdrawal sets in!  Here are some ideas to beat the no-dance-blues!

  1. Drop in to June classes!  ABDC has classes running through the end of the month and you can drop in, so come dance with us!
  2. Get out and move!  Even if dance classes are on break, you can take yoga, jazzercise, or just go for a run, bike ride, or walk!
  3. Have a dance party with some friends!  Gather some friends, play some music, and have a dance party!
  4. Watch dance movies!  There are lots of great choices-from documentaries like First Position, to movies like Step Up, Leap or movie musicals!  Pop some popcorn and dance along!
  5. Watch old recital videos!  There’s no better way to get excited about the upcoming dance year.
  6. Even without dance classes at the studio, you can still work on your technique!  I like Kathryn Morgan’s barre videos on Youtube! Grab a chair and get to work on those tendus!  We’ll also be doing some Facebook live videos this summer, so stay tuned for those!
  7. Stretch!!  Too nice to be inside?  Bring your yoga mat outside for an outdoor stretch session!
  8. Go see a show!  There are lots of great performances that will help you get your dance fix.

How long does it take before you are itching to get back to dance?  For me, it’s about 3 days 😛



What does working hard look like?

Hi dancers!

Today I wanted to write about hard work!  Working hard is important in all aspects of our life, from school to jobs to relationships.  In dance class working hard is important,  to get the most out of class and to demonstrate to the teacher that you’re ready for another challenge.  Sometimes though, I think that working hard means different things for students and teachers.  To me, working hard doesn’t mean being the best in the class, or showing off your perfect double pirouette when other dancers are still practicing single turns.  Here are a couple ways students show me that they are working hard:

Before Class-

  • I can tell you’re ready for a productive class when you come in to the studio on time and prepared. This means hair done, coat off, dance shoes on, with a smile!
  • Once you’re in the studio, are you showing your teacher that you’re ready for class to begin?  You can do this by standing at the barre quietly for ballet class, or standing in the center if your class starts with a center warmup.  Does your warmup always start standing?  If so, and you’re lying on the floor when I turn on the music, I’m not sure you’re ready to begin.  I love when my dancers greet their friends and teachers at the start of class, but you can show me you’re ready to dance by saving your longer catch-up sessions for later!

During Class-

  • Dancers can show me they are working hard by listening, following direction, and taking corrections.
  • Remember, you are not invisible to the teacher just because it isn’t your turn to go across the floor.  Are you standing on the side being respectful of the other dancers, and listening to corrections the teacher is giving them (they might apply to your dancing too!)?  Are you practicing the combination, or reversing it to do the other side?  I notice these things, and they show me that you’re engaged in class and working hard.
  • Are you abiding by the teacher’s rules?  If the teacher wants you to take sweatshirts and sweatpants off after warmups, are you doing this without asking?  If the rule is no jewelry, are you taking it off without being asked?  Are you waiting for appropriate moments for water breaks?  These are important signals to the teacher that you respect their classroom.
  • If your teacher gives you a correction, it is because he or she wants to help you, and knows you are capable of improving!  Show us that you are going to work on applying that correction by responding “thank you” to corrections that you receive.  Saying nothing makes us question whether or not you heard us, saying “I know” makes us wonder why you didn’t do it the first time, and making excuses indicates that you’re not willing to work on improving.
  • Ask questions!  Teachers love thoughtful questions about the material we are working on!  Now, that doesn’t mean asking “why is the sky blue” when we’re doing tendus, but asking questions is a great way to show us that you are paying attention and engaged.  The only exception?  If I just spent a couple minutes going over the arms for our across the floor combination, and you ask “wait, what are the arms again?  I wasn’t paying attention.”  Uh oh!
  • Answer questions!  Nobody likes to talk to themselves.  If your teachers asks “do you have any questions?” or “should we do that again?” or “do you need to go over that?” pretty please, answer us!  Most of the times, it’s just a simple yes or no.  But when these questions are met with crickets, we’re not sure what to do.  Are you asleep?  So confused you don’t know what to say?  Mad at us?  Answer us, and we can help you.  If you need to go over something again, just say so!  We’re asking these questions because we want to know what is going to help YOU the most.
  • Do your best!  If I ask for 8 pushups, and that’s not where you’re at, that’s okay! But are you showing me that you’re willing to work on it?  Do as many as you can, and then hold a plank.  Do all 8, but as modified pushups if you need to.  Told to work on your split?  Don’t just sit there!  Work on it the best you can!  Ask for advice on stretches or grab some yoga blocks to help you hold it.  Just because you can’t do something NOW doesn’t mean you never WILL.  But trust me, if you’re getting water or asking to go to the bathroom or blowing your nose every single time I know that you know that pushups are coming….I’m on to you.  I’d MUCH rather you do what you can than not try at all.

After Class:

  • Say thank you to your teacher!  Say good job, see you next week, have a good night, etc to your dance friends!
  • Keep up the good work at home by reviewing your choreography!  We know you’ve got a lot of other stuff going on!  But just a few minutes over the course of the week between classes to think about new choreography, formations, or questions you might have for next class makes such a big difference!  And we’re always here for you so if you do think of a question and you see we have a minute to spare-ask!  We’ll be happy to go over something with you.

All of these things translate into all aspects of your life, from school to jobs.  Remember actions speak louder than words-so don’t tell us you’re working hard-show us!

What are you doing to show your teacher that you’re ready to work hard in class?  Comment and let us know!

Fixed vs Growth Mindset

This week, I’d like to share a bit I’ve learned about fixed vs. growth mindsets.  Here’s an image that summarizes the two:


A growth mindset is important for dancers, because most of what Dance asks of our bodies is not natural!  Yes, some people have an easier time with flexibility, balance, etc, but what we ask of our bodies during dance class is beyond what they were built to do.  If we have a fixed mindset, we will be easily frustrated-but with a positive growth mindset we can embrace challenges and learn to work in a smarter way to achieve our goals.  We learn in so many different ways-by watching the teacher or dancers who’s technique or stage presence we admire, by listening to and applying the teacher’s corrections, or through practice and repetition.  If we can embrace a new challenge, try our best, and not give up, there isn’t anything we can’t achieve!

Tell us in the comments-which mindset do you think you have?  What are some ways you can swap your thinking in order to have more of a growth mindset?

The role of games in dance class

Sometimes I hear parents mention how many games the students are playing when they are watching their young child’s dance class.  We do play games in dance class, so I thought I’d take a moment to explain why!

Games serve a purpose in dance class-not just because they are fun!  They can break up the class a bit and give the dancers some time to express themselves so they are ready to focus on the teacher again, much like recess in school!  And they also help us teach the dancers.  For example, a popular game is freeze dance, where the dancers dance freely, and then freeze when the music stops.  This game teaches the dancers to listen carefully to the music while dancing, and teaches them to be in control of their bodies so that they can stop instantaneously when the music freezes.  This past week I was working with my younger dancers on pathways, so while the music was on I was giving them directions such as “move in a zigzag pattern” or “move only in straight lines.”  Sometimes during freeze dance we might instruct dancers to dance like animals, or superheroes which sparks their imagination and helps them think about other ways of moving!  Another favorite game of mine is “Late Last Night.”  During this song, dancers are instructed to pretend to sleep, and then dream about having different kinds of shoes on-cowboy boots, space boots, ballet slippers, etc-and then they must get up and dance as if they have those shoes on their feet!  This game also encourages the dancers to be creative and think about ways to move, and also allows us to practice what we’ve learned that day-for instance while they are dreaming about their ballet slippers, I might ask them to show me a step we’ve worked on that class.

Our older dancers sometimes play games too as a special treat!  One game I like to play with my tap classes involves the dancers standing in a circle.  They go around the circle and count, starting from 1.  The only catch is that if it’s your turn and your number would include a 3, 6, or 9, you must make a sound (clap, stamp, etc) instead of saying the number.  You must also keep time and not hesitate or rush when saying your number.  This teaches musicality and focus.  Other games focus on teaching terminology or working on improvisation, which is also very important for dancers.

I also feel like games are an important time for me to make a personal connection with the dancers, without having to instruct or correct them.  Games are a time where I can dance freely with them so that they can see my love of dance and we can just be a bit silly together!  Them being able to tell me their ideas about how a lion might dance, without there being a right or wrong answer or without judgement, builds trust between us which is important in class!

So if you see us playing games in class, don’t worry!  There is a reason for each activity the teacher has chosen, and if you’re unsure what it is, just ask!

Being Brave

When I first set up this blog, I couldn’t resist selecting this template.  Does the cover photo look familiar to you?  It’s a picture of Trolltunga, in Norway, where Andy and I got engaged this past June!  Trolltunga, meaning “troll’s tongue” is a grueling hike in the heart of the fjords, and from the minute we decided to go to Norway we knew we had to go.  I mean, just look at the photo!  How could you not?  Now, as some of you know, Andy is a pretty tremendous athlete.  He was a track and cross country star in high school and college, and he is one of those people that enjoys things like triathlons, Tough Mudders, and any other sort of crazy challenge that make other people cringe.  Sometimes he carries a 50 lb bag of sand in his backpack when he goes hiking-just because.  Crazy, right?  I enjoy hiking but don’t have too much experience beyond some hikes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with my family or Andy.  So here we are, planning to take on this 10-12 hour hike.  And I’m feeling pretty good about it.  And then we get to Norway and the day of the hike is approaching.  We flew into Bergen, and the lady at the car rental said “are you hiking Trolltunga?  They have to rescue a lot of hikers every year with the helicopter, so be careful.” Which was pretty much my cue to go in to full scale panic mode.  Like, ohmygodwhatamidoingi’mgoingtoplummetoffacliffintoafjord panic mode.  I couldn’t eat at all the day before, or the morning of the hike.  I started off with the biggest knot in my stomach, but as we hiked, and hiked, and hiked, it just started to go away.  Thoughts of plummeting to my doom were replaced with thoughts of “oh my gosh!  I’m doing it! I’m doing it!”  After 6 hours we reached the top, and it was there that I got to say yes to Andy, who was by my side the entire time during all the freaking out- cheering me on, telling me to take my time, step here, keep going, you can do it.

So why am I telling you all this?  I was at NUVO this past weekend with some of our dancers, and it struck me just how BRAVE we have to be as dancers.  It’s incredibly brave to dance onstage in front of three people who’s job it is to judge you.  It’s brave to take a class in a style you might not have ever really studied before.  It’s brave to try a new step that seems scary or completely impossible, and it’s brave to attempt that step in front of your teacher or classmates.  Seriously, these are scary things!  One of the things that I love most about dance is how freeing it is.  Because, we can and should strive to be perfect, but let’s face it-we can’t be perfect.  Someone’s leg is always going to go higher than yours, someone can always do one more turn than you can, someone can always oversplit more than you (ouch!).  But you know what you can be?  You can be brave.  And you can be YOU.  And who can be more perfect at being you than you?  No one!  It’s not possible for someone to be better at being you than you are, right?  So you can be brave and you can be you, and that’s perfect.  That’s enough for me.  You, in all your wonderful, weird, wacky glory, are enough for me, because you are the ONLY you.  So dance full out, even if you have no idea what you’re doing, perform onstage even though the butterflies in your stomach are out of control, hike a mountain, answer a question in class even though you might be wrong, or be like Andy and trek around with 50lbs of sand in your backpack.  Nope, I take that last one back.  Don’t do that, that’s crazy.  But you get my point.  Be Brave, and surround yourself with people who make you feel brave.  You never know where it might take you.

What does a career in dance look like?

This time of year sees a lot of high school juniors beginning their college search!  February and April vacations are often spent touring schools (often with disgruntled younger siblings in tow-I remember those days)!  A lot of students are interested in pursuing dance in college but may be wary-people always seem to want to tell you that careers in the arts are risky and you’ll need a backup plan.  However, you may have more options than you think if you’re interested in pursuing a career in dance.  Dancers are creative, flexible, passionate, hard-working and disciplined, which sets us up for success no matter what we choose to do!

Careers in dance aren’t limited to performing professionally or teaching.  Interested in what goes in to putting together a performance?  Consider lighting design or stage management.  Love to sew and design clothes?  Costume design could be for you!  You can also look into dance photography, dance therapy, physical therapy, becoming a yoga or pilates instructor!  You can also go into arts administration, marketing, or teach dance in a public school.  The possibilities are endless!  Here’s one article with some ideas for you:

ABDC has lots of alumni who have danced in college-whether recreationally or with the goal to pursue a dance-related profession, so if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!  I can put you in touch with someone who might have the same interests as you.

Happy college searching!

You Know You’re a Dancer When…

Being a dancer is unique, fun, and crazy!  Here’s how you know you’re one of the bunch!

  1.  You know you have a million bobby pins, but you can’t find one when you need it!
  2. You relevé to reach things on high shelves and plié to pick things up off the ground.
  3. You say 5, 6, 7, 8 instead of “ready, set go”
  4. People don’t recognize you with your hair down.
  5. You obsess over the length of your toenails.
  6. You own more pairs of black shorts, pants, and leggings than normal pants, and more leotards than shirts.
  7. Every single joint in your body cracks, and you can recognize your classmates by the sound of their joints cracking.
  8. You get asked all the time “can you do the splits?”
  9. Grocery store aisles are for tap dancing.
  10. You have a long list of songs you used to love and now hate because you did a dance to them and have heard them a million times.
  11. You know there is no pain like being whipped in the eye by your hair while turning, kicking yourself in the ankle wearing tap shoes, doing “The Climb” or one of Brittany’s workouts after a school vacation.
  12.  You love showing off during the sit and reach test in gym.
  13. The phrase “one more time” is the reason you have trust issues.
  14. “Oh hey, a new bruise”
  15. There’s nothing as wonderful as a new pair of tights.

What would you add to the list?  How do you know if you’re a dancer?  Please comment and let us know what you think!

The Do’s and Don’ts of Dance Class Etiquette!

The tradition of dance class etiquette is a long one, and at it’s core is about the trust and respect the student has for the teacher!  Here’s a list of the do’s and don’ts of dance class etiquette!


  • Talk while the teacher is talking
  • Turn your back to the teacher or other students
  • Cross your arms, or stand with your hands on your hips while listening to the teacher.  Whether intended or not, this conveys an attitude of disrespect.
  • Talk in between exercises
  • Leave the dance floor during warm up or barre to get water or remove layers.  Wait until a break instead, or keep your water next to you at the barre for a quick sip between exercises.


  • Listen carefully with your arms behind your back or by your sides
  • Watch and support each classmate as they dance (quietly!)
  • Turn off your phone and remove jewelry before class
  • Follow instructions quickly
  • Dress appropriately for class-but please remember now that the weather is colder you MUST wear layers over your dance clothes while outside to avoid injury-even if you are warm after dance class!
  • Enter the studio on time, with your shoes already on and hair already done, and go straight to the beginning of class (standing on a number  or at the barre, etc)
  • Tell your teacher at the beginning of class if you need to be dismissed early
  • Thank your teacher, assistant teacher, and accompanist (if applicable) at the end of the class with a “thank you” and a curtsey or bow.


What do you think ensures a calm, fun dance class experience for everyone?  We’d love to hear from you!