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Dance Teacher University: Going Back to School to Move Forward in the Studio

By Deborah Searle of Dance Informa.

The Dance Teacher Web LIVE Conference and Expo provides a unique opportunity for dance educators. Not only can you attend dance classes, workshops and seminars, and stroll the bustling exhibit hall, but you can partake in a specially designed, intensive university course, giving you teacher certification.

So this past July, I decided to see what all the fuss was about and enrolled in Dance Teacher University…

Dance Teacher Web and faculty from the University of Las Vegas Nevada (ULVN) Dance Department have partnered to create Dance Teacher University, which is open to all dance educators whether from private studios or K-12 schools.

Dance Teacher University (DTU) is an intensive stream of the Dance Teacher Web LIVE Conference program, with university classes for four days accompanied by the opportunity to also take general conference master classes and seminars to pack out the days and evenings with dance, dance, and more dance. With dance performances at night, as well as the full day program and dance expo, one could easily experience a dance overdose – although I’m sure you’d agree with me that there’s no such thing as too much dance!

Spearheaded by the stunning, statuesque Dolly Kelepecz of ULVN, previously of Los Angeles Ballet, Houston Ballet, Nevada Dance Theatre and Zurich Opera Ballet, and power couple Steve and Angela Sirico of Dance Teacher Web and D’Valda and Sirico Dance and Music Centre, DTU was created to take summer teaching intensives to the next level – to not just provide fun classes, but give teachers tangible certified training. In my case, this equated to a brain overload of valuable and interesting information that I couldn’t wait to put into practice in the studio.

Dance Teacher University at DTW

Angela D’Valda Sirico teaching at Dance Teacher Web LIVE.

The program includes a syllabus that discusses safe dance practice and injury prevention, technique development and correction, anatomy, cross training and musicality. Each instructor provides exercises to help build student strength, technique and quality of movement, as well as develop their creativity and expression – and make classes fun for everyone!

There are two levels available. Level One focuses on general teaching methods and ideas for teaching beginner to intermediate dancers, and Level Two is more in depth and empowers teachers to effectively instruct intermediate to advanced dancers. Teachers must complete Level 1 before taking Level 2.

We took classes in ballet, modern, tap, jazz, lyrical, anatomy and early childhood, with plenty of time for group discussion and questions. Some classes were more lecture style and others included us learning and dancing the exercises, and then breaking them down and discussing how and why to teach them.

As dance teachers, we need to stay inspired and keep equipped. This course not only gave me plenty of fantastic material to take back to the studio (we were given documented exercises and encouraged to take notes and record video), but also a deeper understanding of anatomy, student and dance parent psyche and popular teaching methods of the past and today. We learned a little of everything, and we were given a wealth of information.

Dance teacher Dolly Kelepecz

Dolly Kelepecz of University of Las Vegas Nevada.

Dolly’s classes were a challenging mix of ballet, floor barre, weights and Pilates, as she showed us how incorporating different methods can help students engage certain muscle groups and dance efficiently, all the while bringing everything back to anatomy and dance history – as did all of the knowledgeable instructors. We were always given a new perspective on each dance style and technique.

These days I don’t tend to teach the “babies” but the early childhood classes by Simone DePaolo were still really enjoyable. She has so many tools and tips to help young students focus, behave and grasp dance technique, staging and placement. I furiously took notes and realized that I do in fact miss teaching the cute little “babies” even though I will never forget the time that one of them peed in the middle of my class and several burst into tears onstage in the middle of recital…

The DTU classes had such an encouraging atmosphere where we all felt comfortable to ask questions and share experiences, even though teachers came from many different countries and dance backgrounds. We learned so much from not only our instructors but our peers, and the camaraderie grew over the four days, as well as our enthusiasm for dance teaching.

On DTU, Steve Sirico said, “We are thrilled to present a well rounded curriculum that is easily adapted to a variety of teaching styles.The positive feedback from Dance Teacher University alumni has been overwhelming and they report seeing great results with their students!”

I’ve taken many teacher classes and seminars over the years, but the DTU program took it a step further. I left knowing I possessed new valuable information and I felt empowered. I hadn’t just learned some “cool” choreography or some tricks to keep my students in class; rather, I had a toolkit for continued success as a dance educator and the certification from University of Las Vegas Nevada to prove it. It’s nice to be the student again and to experience light-bulb moments that you can hopefully reciprocate in your students. Watch out kids, Miss Deb has just completed DTU and she’s coming for you!

Dance Teacher Web LIVE 2015 is scheduled for August 3-6 at Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut. Be sure to save the date! www.dtwconference.com.

To find out more about Dance Teacher University visit www.danceteacheruniversity.org.

Photo (top): Simone DePaolo teaching at Dance Teacher Web LIVE. All photos courtesy of Dance Teacher Web.

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