Design Dance Featured in Creator Magazine!

Design Dance Featured in Creator Magazine! 

by Debra Giunta

In the Spring of 2016, in partnership with WeWork, the community of creators, we brought our pilot Entrepreneurship in the Arts program to life at Perspectives IIT Math and Science Academy. You can check out more about this project on our case studies page; but our friends at Creator magazine wrote about the innovative program. Check out the full article here! Thanks, Creator Magazine! 



8 Ways Learning to Dance Prepared Me For Running a Business

8 Ways Learning to Dance Prepared Me For Running a Business

by Debra Giunta

When you're a creative type who starts a business, you tend to feel a bit behind. Whether you’re learning how to manage accounting, hire your team, or build your brand, you can’t help but wonder if a background in business would help things run a bit smoother. This year, as Design Dance enters its 9th year in business, I've come to appreciate the ways that learning to dance has prepared me for the challenges of running a company.  

1. Knowing yourself leads to knowing what you want. Dance taught me what I was great at and more importantly, what I wasn't. Over time, I learned to turn my insecurities into opportunities for improvement.   

2. When you’re not sure, improvise. Learning to pivot when life throws you a curveball is one of the most valuable skills I’ve utilized as a business owner. Dance taught me how to connect with my instincts immediately and present authentically in the moment.   

3. Feeling silly builds resiliency. Sometimes dance meant wearing an embarrassing costume or falling when I meant to be turning. Dance taught me how to recover, laugh at myself, and keep going.

4. True confidence comes from balance. Dance taught me the balance between arrogance and humility. I learned that true confidence comes from taking the time to be proud when my hard work paid off, while knowing that there were always opportunities for improvement.

5. It’s okay to redefine “career”. Being part of an artist community taught me that a career doesn't have to feel like "just a job", but can be a fulfillment of ones dream and passion.  My dance teachers were my idols and helped me envision building a career for myself in dance.

6. Be patient with yourself when you’re at the beginning. Dance taught me that it’s okay to feel awkward learning something new. I learned that eventually, muscle memory kicks in and that's when you can begin to make the movement your own.    

7. When life feels overwhelming , take a break and get moving. Dance taught me that childhood and teenage (and adult) anxieties are temporary and that releasing physical energy is sometimes all it takes to completely change your outlook.  

8. Imagination is the best motivator. Dance taught me to visualize something I did not yet have the skills to execute. I spent most of my life visualizing movement to any song I heard on the radio. I'd imagine dancers I'd never met doing steps I'd never learned. Dance taught me to visualize something greater than my own capacity and use my own imagination as motivation.  

As dancers and dance educators, it’s easy to get caught up in the technical details. We want our students to connect to choreography and succeed in reaching their goals. We want them to feel the pride of a great performance and the rush of nailing a difficult skill for the first time. It’s easy to forget that learning to dance leaves students with so much more. They learn to be resilient, empathetic and humbly fearless. Regardless of their performance they build integrity they’ll take with them whether they’re running a rehearsal, a family, or a business.  


Dance + Literacy: A Perfect Pair


Dance + Literacy: A Perfect Pair



Dance + Literacy: A Perfect Pair

By Megan Donahue

“Storytime Dance” sounds like a cupcake of a dance class. “How cute!” people say when I tell them I teach it. They're not wrong—it's adorable. But we're doing big work at Storytime, and that's combining dance activities with an important life skill: literacy. Dance offers a great opportunity for children to interact with books in a vibrant and impactful way.

1. Children learn through moving.

“Research shows that movement is the young child’s preferred mode of learning – and that children learn best through active involvement,” writes movement specialist Rae Pica in Early Childhood News. Listening to a story is one way to learn from it. Moving through the story is another, and one that young children may have an easier time understanding, remembering and internalizing. It turns the story into an experience that can be repeated and reflected on.

2. Kinesthetic activities reach a wide range of learning styles.

Each of us has a preferred way of learning. Some of us are watchers, some are listeners. Some of us need words to make sense of something, while others need to get hands on. Movement activities give watchers something to see, listeners something to hear, and kinesthetic learners something to do. Everybody can get something out of a movement activity.

3. Children make connections through movement.

I'm very interested in two kinds of connections children make when they move with a story—the personal and the conceptual. First of all, it's great to see kids make connections to the things they read with things from their lives. Children are more likely to enjoy reading if stories seem relevant. Conceptually, movement is a great way to explore all kinds of literacy skills—the shapes of letters, sequencing words in a sentence, the role of verbs and adverbs...the list goes on.

4. Dance is social, rather than isolated.

Reading is often a solitary activity, but moving with a group is fun. It gives kids an opportunity to be loud, active, and part of a group while they're working with books.

So if you stop by a Story Time Dance class, whether you see us skipping down Red Ridinghood's path, acting silly on every floor of the house in "There's a Wocket in my Pocket", or just sitting down reading abook, you'll know we're on our way to being strong readers and dancers.


Cross Training: Ballet and Gymnastics


Cross Training: Ballet and Gymnastics



Cross Training: Ballet and Gymnastics

By Monica Carrow

When approached by Design Dance to teach the Ballet for Gymnasts class at Avondale, I was interested right away. I really enjoy introducing dance to kids working in other facets of movement. After 4 months of ballet cross- training, the most intriguing thing to witness in the gymnasts' was thier new ability to understand how one movement, a pirouette for example, can be executed in many styles. Cross-training in ballet has, without a doubt, given each student a larger understanding of movement in her own body.

At the young age of 12, many have already been practicing gymnastics for over half of their young lives.  These young gymnasts have especially strong, large, exterior muscle groups. Young movers, no matter their discipline, will always default to using these larger muscles because they are stronger and easier to find! For example, many of my students under age 12 use the gluteus maximus (GM) muscle to propel a battlement, or high kick. Because the GM is such a large muscle, the body uses it automatically! The problem with using the large GM - it brings the whole pelvis with the kick, rather than allowing a true swinging battlement; it's a powerhouse muscle! The wonderful thing about ballet training is that it allows for the exploration of the smaller muscle groups, making them stronger and more supportive. Eventually the GM will let go, allowing the smaller rotation muscles to take over as the primary facilitator- so the hips stay even and the leg swings higher in the socket for a more beautiful battlement. In addition to the movement becoming more refined, utilizing small muscle groups prevents injury. Strengthening these bone-hugging muscles stabilizes the movement.  I have already seen an immense improvement in stabilization through smaller muscle groups in the gymnasts at Avondale Park.

Performance is a wonderful aspect of ballet and competitive gymnastics that comes up regularly in our class. Of course the girls are wanting to better their skills, but they are also training to win! We talk about dancing with a purpose and looking at our audience and/or judges. I believe good performance quality comes with lots of practice. With the attention we give the concept of performance in class, the gymnasts have shown a greater sense of grace, depth, and coordination in their movement. The body follows the focus of the eyes, making movement feel connected and confident, rather than shaky and wobbly.

Coach Kelly, the lead gymnastics coach at Avondale Park, has seen improvement with the students flexibility, balance, posture and in skill sets like use of turn-out and leaps and turns. These girls are a winning team with many 1st place awards for both their team as a whole and individually. I am looking forward to continuing our cross-training work together. I am sure that because of this exciting partnership between Avondale Park and Design Dance, the team members will always carry with them the discipline, respect, and artistry required by both ballet and gymnastics.



Chicago's own Puzzle League takes 1st at WODVegas

Chicago's own Puzzle League takes 1st at WOD Vegas

by Jonathan Lazatin

On December 5th, Chicago's own Puzzle League took the stage at World of Dance in Las Vegas, NV. Their piece inspired by refugee experiences earned them first place at the competition, and we could not be more excited to see dance used in such a powerful way. Their portrayal of the immigrant experience is thoughtful and moving, depicting an emotional journey of hope, struggle and belonging.

We believe that dance should be used to promote courage, connection and self-awareness, and this piece showcases the importance of those qualities. It took courage for the team to pursue such a bold concept. To perform with conviction, the dancers needed to connect the piece to something within themselves and share that connection with the audience. Each dancer was aware of how their individual story and movements added to the whole picture. Besides being awesome to watch, this winning performance demonstrates how dance can go beyond movement and musicality to create a dialogue, invoke thought and tell story--one that is both important and extremely relevant. 



Instructor Spotlight - Maya Odim

Instructor Spotlight - Maya Odim

by Jonathan Lazatin

We met up with another one of our amazing instructors, Maya Odim, at her Jr. Breakdancing class at Chase Park Community Center. She is a wonderful all around educator who, along with her roles at Design Dance, currently works as a K-3 Science Teacher with Village Leadership Academy and is a Teaching Artist for Poetry at Columbia College Chicago. She started her dance path taking ballet as a kid and graduated into hip hop and jazz. While in College, she focused  on modern and West African and after college she learned how to breakdance.

Thank you, Maya, for making the last four years with us so joyful and for continuing to make an impact on the kids in our communities through all that you do. 



Instructor Spotlight - Katie DeSalvo

Instructor Spotlight - Katie DeSalvo

by Jonathan Lazatin


This week we'd like to spotlight one of our fabulous instructors, Katie DeSalvo, who we caught up with during her Jazznastics class at Chase Park Community Center. Katie has an extensive background in dance and education and we are so grateful to have with us as she unites her passions. She's done everything from performing jazz, ballet, hip hop and musical theater with On Broadway Dancers, working as an activist dancer with Reveries in Motion, to instructing ballroom classes at Arthur Murray

Thank you so much for spreading the your love of dance with us and making a difference in the lives of your students.



Recap: Ivivva Dreams Dance Convention



Recap: Ivivva Dreams Dance Convention

by Jonathan Lazatin

We’re excited to announce that we recently finalized details on an amazing collaboration between Design Dance and Ivivva for a new in-school residency coming soon to Palmer Elementary. Recently, the Ivivva community invited us to check out an event they were hosting with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago for dancers in the Chicagoland area.

In the sunlit Studio A of Hubbard Street, over 80 girls from studios across Chicagoland met for the Ivviva Dreams Dance Convention. Here, they had the opportunity to learn from some of Chicago’s most esteemed instructors in jazz, hip hop, contemporary and ballet. Ivivva and Hubbard Street hosted the convention to promote friendship and camaraderie among girls in the dance community, as well as empower girls to set goals and chase their dreams.

Ivivva (ih-vee-vah) is a word we created meant to embody the strength and beauty in all girls.

Before each session, the instructors shared their stories of struggle, hard work and success. Describing the experience, one dancer said, “Their stories were really inspiring, and they taught me a lot about my life and how my story will be different from them... I just have to work hard and try to achieve my goals.”

At the end of the day, the girls were guided through a Dream Mapping workshop where they were prompted to envision where they saw themselves in five years and what inspires them to continue pursuing their dreams. By identifying their dreams and gaining clarity of near-term and long-term goals, girls can move confidently through life with intention and drive.

The convention also fosters a sense of community among the girls around a common passion--dance. The instructors are selected for their inspiring stories that bring the dancers closer through the shared experience of dance and emotional connection. This community empowers each dancer to design lives they’re excited about and work they love.

We’re excited to grow our community and partner with Ivivva for our in-school residency this coming winter. Ivivva and Design Dance will work together to teach life skills through yoga as well as teach students to be future oriented through our dreams and goals curriculum. To learn more about our programs check out our programs page.



Preparing for the Spring Showcase

The annual recital was always my favorite part as a dancer and it still holds true as I am now a teacher.  All of the hard work the dancers have been putting in gets to be showcased on stage.  However, it can be a bit stressful for parents (and us teachers too!).  The best thing you can do to prepare your child is to plan ahead and be prepared yourself.  Here are some tips for making this showcase a great memory for your little dancer.

Know Your Dates

  • Registration forms and costume deposits are due to your child’s teacher by saturday, march 28.  If you know your student won’t be participating in the showcase, let your teacher know.  We’ve been busy choreographing and if we’re going to have fewer students than we planned, we need to readjust.
  • Tech rehearsal is scheduled for may 6 & 7.  You received a packet from your teacher about dates and times for your child’s rehearsal times.  It is very important that your child be at this rehearsal.  This is the only chance he/she will get to be onstage before the performance and familiarize them with the space.  I remember growing up and being at tech rehearsal for over 4 hours.  Luckily this isn’t the case with design dance!  You’ll be in and out in no time.
  • There are two performance times on saturday, may 9.  Make sure you know which one your student is a part of.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

As a teacher, it makes me so happy to hear from my students that they’ve been practicing at home.  Ask your child’s teacher what song they are using for their performance so that you can practice with your child at home.  This way they’ll be comfortable dancing on stage and will know their dance.  They’ve been working so hard and we want you to see what they’ve learned!  It’s very important for new students this session.  With the showcase being after a short 8 week session and a week off for spring break, we had to jump right into learning choreography.  This can be tough on new students to catch up so practicing at home will be a great help!  Feel free to ask your teacher what skills they could be working on.  We love talking with you about your dancer!

Make a Checklist

I’m a big fan of checklists and this will help keep you organized for the day of the showcase.  There’s nothing worse than getting to the auditorium and realizing you left your child’s shoes, tights, etc. At home.  You will be getting a costume form from us with everything listed that your child needs to bring.  I like to put everything in a large one-zip bag for each dance number with the items listed on the front with a sharpie to know that everything is in one place.  It’s also a good idea to throw in some small entertainment options while they’re waiting to go on stage: books, coloring books, crayons, etc. 

  • Costume (tried on ahead of time at home to ensure that it fits)
  • Dance shoes
  • Tights
  • Props/accessories
  • Makeup: if desired
  •  Hair supplies: hair ties, bobbi pins, hairspray, bows, etc.

Prepare Your Dancer

Dancing onstage can be intimidating for some students.  Let them know ahead of time where he/she is going, what’s going to happen and where you’ll be the whole time.  We have wonderful backstage volunteers to help the dancers but it’s always good to hear it from mom and dad.   Be encouraging and enthusiastic of their performance while keeping it light and fun so that they feel confident.  The most important part is having fun!

We can’t wait to show you everything your child has been working on! 

-Sarah Frye, Design Dance Instructor



Beyond Angelina: Marvelous Picture Books for Little Dancers

Miss Lina’s Ballerinas Series by Grace Maccarone

Full of rollicking verse and wispy pastel illustrations reminiscent of the beloved Madeline books, these sweet stories are a must-have for every ballerina’s library.  Miss Lina’s adventures teach gentle lessons on inclusion, persistence, and grace, and her small flock of dancers provide plenty of laughs.

Suitable for all ages.

Brontorina by James Howe

Brontorina, a giant orange dinosaur, simply does not belong in the ballet studio: she cracks the floor when she plies, punctures the ceiling when she jumps, and absolutely does not have the right shoes. But with the help of a few welcoming friends, brontorina begins to realize that maybe the dance room itself is just too small for dreams (and limbs) as big as hers.

Whimsical and goofy, this body-positive tale is sure to delight the 2-5 crowd, and will probably inspire some outdoor dance parties by its fun and silly conclusion.

Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet by Jane O’Connor

Daring drama queen Nancy is entirely certain she will be cast as a glamorous mermaid in her studio’s spring showcase- so when both she and best friend Bree are given utterly dull parts (an oyster and a tree- gasp!) they are despondent. But thanks to a little creative thinking, a lot of drama, and the wisdom of her mama, nancy learns to love her role (trees can be fancy too, you know).

Nancy’s devotion to all things fancy certainly extends to language- this adorable tale is full of delicious vocabulary not often found in contemporary picture books. Best for ages 4-7.   

Ella Bella Ballerina Series by James Mayhew

By the power of a magical music box, young Ella Bella is swept away into the narratives of classic ballets in this smart and charming series. More sophisticated than most picture books, these lovely explorations of swan lake, the nutcracker, sleeping beauty, and cinderella are best for readers ages 5-8.  

 -Mack Oliver, Design Dance Instructor



The Curse of the W


In every one of my classes I see at least one child sitting in a W.  In case you aren’t sure what I'm referring to, the child sits on his or her knees with their legs splayed out to the side-which looks like a W.  I am often telling my students to not sit like this and to instead sit on their bottom with their legs cross-legged or out in front of them.  Seeing them sit like this makes me cringe and makes my own knees hurt.  

Why is this position so bad?  

While it is easy for children to move in and out of this position during play; it can do damage to their hips and knees and also hinder critical brain/body development.  Possible scenarios include walking pigeon toed, affect balance and coordination, and weak trunk muscles which lead to instability.  The links below can offer much more information to learn more about the problems with w sitting and how you can break the habit.  The next time you see your child sitting like this-help your student’s teacher and have them sit a different way.

A pediatric physical therapist explores w-sitting
What’s wrong with w sitting in children?
Pediatric Services

-Sarah Frye, design dance instructor



Ballet Through the Years

With all the aesthetic changes occurring in the world of dance including how different styles have morphed and absorbed one another, I found this photographic timeline  of ballet through the years to give a very interesting perspective on how ballet has evolved.  Lines have changed, shoes, costumes, and styles have grown so much through the years in order to arrive at the beautiful and interesting aesthetic they’ve achieved today.

As an active member of the contemporary ballet and modern dance community I've always held a special place in my heart for the art of classical ballet and where it developed from.  I always draw on my experiences with my own ballet training and try to share with my students just how beautiful the small act of pointing your toe can be.  Growing up I had the opportunity to perform in many different story ballets all of which were exciting to perform but around the holiday season I am always happy to joyfully recall my numerous performances of the nutcracker.  The connection to the music, the costumes, and the holiday spirit, have always been so special to me.  Even though the art of ballet has changed so much, the nutcracker has a spirit of timelessness that I love. All the photos in the article have had, and continue to have a beautifully significant impact on the world of dance.  I strive as a teacher to stress the importance and beauty. Behind the tradition of classical ballet while also incorporating the new adaptations of present day dance.  The pictures create a very beautiful story of the continuous life of dance.

-Shannon Brodie, Design Dance Instructor



'Tis the Season of "The Nutcracker"


With thanksgiving only a week away and christmas following right on its tail, it’s that time of year again when snowflakes and sugar plum fairies flit and fly across the stage.  I’m talking of course about the beloved story of the nutcracker.  This classic tale has enchanted audiences for centuries, but do many of us know how it came to be? 

In 1816, e.T.A. Hoffman published the nutracker and the mouse king, which was an adults-only frightening tale.  Later, alexander dumas, père worked his magic to make it a child-friendly happy tale.  The russian imperial ballet decided to turn this tale into a balled and commissioned peter ilyitch tschaikovsky to score the music many of us can identify today.  The first performance was held in russia in 1892.  George balanchine choreographed is own version of the ballet for the new york city ballet where it premiered in 1954.  Ever since, the ballet production has become an annual holiday tradition. 

Seeing the nutcracker for the first time with your child is a magical experience for both. I still remember the first time my mom took me to this performance and we’ve been back several times since.  A few years ago I had the privilege of seeing a dance student of mine that I had trained perform the lead role of clara.  I was so proud to see her shine on the stage in her dream role.  Ballet companies across the country perform this classic during the holiday season and should not be missed! 

Don’t forget about design dance’s own nutcracker drop & shop at chase park dec. 20th! You’re invited to get your last minute shopping done while we take your child on a journey through the nutcracker! Students will spend the morning learning dances from the classic nutcracker ballet, making holiday crafts and preparing a short showcase for parents.  Register online starting november 17!

Here’s a list of companies in the chicago area performing the nutcracker with links to their ticket information:

Joffrey Ballet

Ruth Page Civic Ballet (Special Tea With Clara Opportunity!)

Moscow Ballet in Rosemont

More Suburban Performances

Source: www.Nycballet.Com

-sarah frye, design dance instructor



Contemplations on Graduating with a Dance Degree

This past May I graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BA in dance. After spending three years vehemently defending my choice to major in dance and fending off the inevitable “what are you going to do with that degree?”, I found myself rapidly nearing graduation and asking myself the same question. What are you going to do with that degree? 

I want(ed) to dance, make dance, and dance some more, all desires that do not easily coincide with capitalism's demand that I make money, pay rent, eat. In a theoretical sense, columbia had me well prepared for the financial hardship that is being a dancer, but on a personal level I was not ready. My need for a steady income became mixed up in my artistic desires. Should I take the first job that comes my way to land some stability? Or should I hold out for the job that is more fulfilling? Can my artistic goals ever align with a job that gets the rent paid?

Though I’m still in the throes of this particular struggle, I have becoming increasingly thankful for my job as a dance teacher. It is reassuring to know that classes will continue this week and the next, that my schedule remains steady and reliable. Teaching also challenges my creativity in a way I don’t find in any other aspect of my dance life. A room full of energetic three year olds will always offer me a chance to think differently about how the body and brain work together to create movement. As I continue to find my footing in the dance world, I will continue to be grateful for the many challenges and rewards that teaching offers.

-Jaime Corliss, Design Dance Instructor




This is one of my favorite quotes! This is exactly what got me into dance. Growing up, dance became the place where I could escape and forget about it all whenever I had issues in my family or personal life. It was the place I could put my emotions into moves and express my feelings through the music. I glided across the floor with a huge canvas as my floor and me as the pencil. Dance let me move people while I told a story. Find what makes you happy. Find what makes you you. Find what takes you away from all the bad in the world. Dance is my freedom!

-Jessica G, Design Dance Hip Hop Instructor



Design Dance at Haas Park


As a lifelong dancer I am always grateful I had the opportunity to explore movement from a very young age and the design dance program at haas park allows me to share the same opportunity with today's generation. The leed certified gold building is clean, bright, and beautiful providing a lovely environment for teaching/learning dance. The design dance program at Haas offers young students in the Logan Square area an opportunity to try many different styles of dance including ballet, hip hop, tap, and jazznastics (tumbling and jazz dance). No matter the style of dance, each class is also an opportunity to hone important listening skills, build spatial and body awareness, participate in a group environment, make new friends, build community, and have fun!

-Kate Puckett



Family Fun

Take a look at the suggestion below for some family fun from one of our instructors, Tiana Sakona!

Hey parents!  Looking for some fun dance activities to do with your little ones?  Check out the Family Dance Matinees at the Dance Centre of Columbia College Chicago.  Enjoy a 30 minute work shop with the professionals and see excerpts of their repertoire in a show geared towards families.  It’s a fun afternoon, a great way to start seeing live performances, and free for children under 12.  Check out the link below for more information



Reflections on the Death of Maria Tallchief

As a young dancer, pre internet, I used to scour the local library in my little Ohio town for any and every ballet and dance book. I ordered and inter-library loaned whatever I could get my hands on.

Of course, the ones with the pictures were best. I would photo copy my favorite ballerinas’ pictures and plaster them all over my room. They were my heroes. Dead or alive, they inspired me.

I can’t pretend that I was obsessed with Maria Tallchief, but she was up there. A black and white portrait of her as the white swan sticks in my mind. She was a balanchine ballerina, she was a pioneer, she was beautiful.

About a year ago I was paying a regular visit to my dentist and was having a garbled conversation about dance in general when he remarked that maria paschen was in the room next door. He would introduce me but he was afraid it might be a bit much for her.

Maria Paschen, Maria Paschen, why couldn’t I place that name? She was, he described, elegant and always pointed her toes while she reclined with clean teeth, just like I was doing now apparently…. Maria Paschen….

When I got home I did some googling, and low and behold Maria Paschen was Maria Tallchief’s married name! I became a child again. We had the same dentist! How an ordinary, everyday routine suddenly became a spectacular brush with beauty! Idols get their teeth cleaned too! I kicked myself for not being more in awe at the time.

I was saddened today when I heard of her passing, despite the fact that she lived a long, full life. Ballet has lost a legend and now my dentist visits will be ordinary again.

Article of Maria Tallchief’s Death

-Kristina Edwards



Being Brave

One of the benefits that dance has to offer young children is an opportunity and encouragement to be brave, step out of their comfort zone (some for the very first time!), and learn that they will be just fine in a new environment.

Many preschoolers (especially 2-3 year olds) have anxiety about joining a class for the first time.  It’s a natural part of life.  Though I hate to see a distraught child as much as anyone, I believe that the brief separation from a parent and the chance to experience a new setting, meet new friends, and learn about themselves through interactions with their teacher and classmates is truly beneficial for your child (and the transition is, in fact, a necessary one that must be made at one point or another!).  In my experience, most shy or hesitant students end up enthusiastically participating in class after a lesson or two.

Do not fret if your child seems hesitant or clingy at the beginning of class.  Here are a few things you can do to support and encourage your child.

1. Talk about dance class all week long!  Preschoolers do not have a developed sense of time, and a week can seem like a month to them.  Remind your child that they will be going to dance class and talk about how much fun it is!  Practice dancing at home with your child and encourage them to dance on their own as well.  Talk about how brave they are when they are in dance class and how proud you are of them.


2. After each class, ask your child to tell you their favorite activity from dance class.  Ask them what they danced about that day, or what steps they learned.  Young children love showing off and it gives them a chance to be excited about what they are learning in class!

3. One of my 3 year-old students wears a special “brave shirt” to each class.  It helps her to remember how brave and strong she is for taking a class all by herself.  What a wonderful idea!  I’ve seen such a transformation in this student– and although she had the strength and confidence in her all along, she just needed a little reminder (don’t we all, sometimes?).  Let your child wear a special shirt or headband that will empower them to be brave.  I also permit my young students to bring a stuffed animal or doll into class with them if that gives them comfort (only catch: the stuffed friends must sit on the side and “watch”!).

4. Talk to your child’s instructor.  They can tell you what your child is working on and doing well at.  They may also have some tricks up their sleeves for dealing with shyness or separation anxiety.

Usually, all it takes is time.  Your little dancer will come out of their shell eventually, and dance is such a wonderful way to help them unfold into their best little self.

-Johanna Thompson



Reflections from a Two City Midwest Fringe Festival Tour

While on tour with Core Project Chicago this summer, I had the opportunity to explore two new cities: Kansas City and Minneapolis.  We performed “the dust” for the KC and Minneapolis Fringe Festivals. We spent two weeks in Kansas City, where we stayed with the incomparable Whitakers, followed by two weeks in Minneapolis staying with Peg, the veritable definition of ‘Minnesota nice’. Here are some highlights and observations from my experience as a touring dancer…

1. The reader: two weeks in a city is quite a stretch. I began to miss my thursday reader pick-up, chock full of interesting articles and things to do in Chicago.   

V. The Pitch: KC's free ‘newspaper’ mostly consisted of ads and bar specials. No real journalism and not much on the local arts, music, and culture.

V. Citypages: Minneapolis fares better than KC in the arts, music and culture content. Citypages, however, is still ad heavy and mostly ‘fluff’ articles.

Verdict: the reader wins easily. I never realized how much information and entertainment I got from Chicago’s free paper!

2. Art museums: Chicago has all sorts of great places to engage with art and I was happy to find that our neighbors to the west (at least these two neighbors) are making art accessible as well.

Nelson Atkins Museum in KC: It’s free! All the time! And it’s full of great art! There is also a large sculpture garden perfect for a game of tag, frisbee, or a lovely picnic.


Walker Art Center in Minneapolis: also available for free but only on Thursdays thanks to target. It’s an impressive contemporary art center with another lovely sculpture garden. However, what excited me most was the merce cunningham exhibit. Cunningham is one of the founders of modern dance. His is also one of my favorite techniques to practice. The exhibit featured some of his innovative sculptural costumes, video of performances dating back to the early 1950s, and video of interviews with his dancers from throughout his career (1953-2009).

Cunningham 1

3. Local shops: being on tour requires discipline, self reliance and frugality. I tried not to drop precious grocery money at big chain stores but these local shops deserved every penny of my budget they received.

Artist and Craftsman Supply Store: KC a great little shop in a cool area of town called crossroads. I wound up with a couple of lovely postcards for family and friends as well as a nice little sketch pad.

Boneshaker Books: MNPLS wow this place is impressive. Down the street from a fringe festival venue this little shop had tons of interesting titles. The best part of this clean, bright, inviting store is the nook of independently published treasures. I took home a little collection of drawings by Britta Anderson called Black Hole Zine. 

Black Hole Zine

Design Collective Minneapolis: Cool stuff all made by local Minneapolis folks. In general the uptown neighborhood where this place lives has pretty neat stuff happening–lots of independently owned shops, restaurants, and performance venues.

4. Performance Venues: In both fringe cities we (CPC) were honored with amazing spaces to share our dance work.

Todd Bolender Center: This is the new home of the Kansas City ballet and boy is it beautiful! The studios are huge and flooded with natural light. The largest studio on the first floor is also a 180-seat studio theater, a performance dream space! Check out this virtual tour on youtube.

Patrick’s Cabaret: This space in Minneapolis provided a more intimate version of “the dust” than we performed in Kansas City with seating on three sides of the stage. It was a great exercise in keeping a show fresh with each performance.

5. Awesome Hosts: fringe festival volunteers sometimes offer their homes as a place for visiting artists to stay while in town performing. Cpc took the following generous and gracious hosts up on their offer…

Sandy and byron: these two are a fun and exciting couple that live in kansas city, kansas. Their spacious home on a golf course somehow managed to feel full with five cpc company dancers, one artistic director, one stage manager, and one composer. Byron makes prosthetics for children and sandy is a retired physical therapist. Together they are welcoming and hilarious great supporters of the arts.

Peg: This lady is Minnesota nice. She wasn’t home when we arrived at her house in savage, mn from kc so she just told us to go on in and make ourselves at home. Shortly thereafter her neighbor dropped off a freshly baked peach pie. When peg arrived home she greeted us all with hugs and she was like family from the start.

Minnesota Nice Peach Pie

6. Wearing nail polish: it sounds so silly and simple but it’s true! I missed wearing nail polish for a month. My funky colored fingers and toes weren’t part of the costume design so they had to go during tour. I was happy to have my purple nails back! 

Eight performances, four weeks, two cities, and one unforgettable experience. 

–Kate Puckett