Dance Teacher’s Top 10 Stories of 2021
December 31, 2021

What was your favorite story from Dance Teacher this year? 

Judging by our top-clicked articles and our most-talked-about social posts, dance teachers enjoyed reading about a wide range of topics. From figuring out what support they should and shouldn’t provide to their students to understanding what it means to dismantle racism on the competition stage, these timely and relevant stories made dance teachers all the more empowered to inspire and advance the next generation of dancers. 

Here are the top 10 of 2021, and why they resonated with our readers: 

No. 10: Here’s How—and Why—to Treat Your Freelance Teaching Career as a Business by Helen Hope 


Readers loved this story for its advice on how to get smart now about branding, finances and other crucial ways to tell the dance world that you mean business.

After all, becoming your own CEO can only make your work–life balance more sustainable, help you make more money, keep you organized and get potential employers to offer you more respect and improved working conditions.

No. 9: So You Want to Start a Baby and Toddler Program at Your Studio by Helen Hope 

A toddler wearing a pink leotard and pink bows in her hair holds two shakers in her hands.

The earlier in life a child discovers dance, the greater the chance that they’ll spend many years involved in all the programming offered at your studio. But running this kind of class isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. Here, preschool dance-education specialists share how to get the parent-and-tot set doing a happy dance at your studio.

Readers shared this story over and over for its adorable photos and thoughtful advice. “The transformation is magical and we get to be a part of it,” reads one Instagram comment from Divine Rhythms Dance. We couldn’t agree more! 

No. 8: Decolonizing Dance: 3 Asian-American Dance Educators Reflect on Their Community-Centered Pedagogy by Garth Grimball 


Dance Teacher spoke with three Asian-American dance educators about the ways in which they are expanding the field of dance education through their own personal histories. Given their cultural heritage from Japan, Taiwan and India, respectively, and dance practices that range from circus to postmodern to bharatanatyam, their experiences affirmed the rich and vast diversity within the Asian-American experience. 

Readers loved this story for the insightful quotes shared by all three educators, including this one from Kimi Okada, ODC School director and associate choreographer: “I really believe creativity needs to be taught with tools to know how to access it. Learn how to talk about it, how to have arguments about it.” 

No. 7: Ballez Founder Katy Pyle Is Creating Space for Students to Reclaim Ballet on Their Own Terms by Olivia Manno

Katy Pyle, wearing a tie dye shirt and bright green shorts, leans against a park bench next to a basketball court.
Kyle Froman

Ballez isn’t just an exercise in reimagining the classical ballet canon. It’s an active dismantling of ballet’s long upheld status quo—and, for Ballez’s dancers, a process of reckoning with the nuanced facets of their relationship to this art form, in an encouraging environment carefully cultivated by Pyle.

We’re thankful to Pyle for sharing their story and to you for resharing it across the internet! 

No. 6: How Charla Genn Teaches Ballet Dancers That the Floor Is Their Friend by Natalia Boesch

Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

“Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more,” says Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico. To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls “Mother marley,” Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

Readers loved this term, and commented about it over and over again on social media. Why not share it with your students today?

No. 5: What Does It Mean to “Lift From Underneath the Leg”?  by Deborah Vogel 


As a dance teacher, you know that using the right language to describe what’s happening in the body is essential, as the way students think movement is happening will influence how it actually happens in their body. “So,” writer Deborah Vogel asked, “how does ‘lift from the back of leg’ look anatomically?”

Our readers love stories that helped them take a step back to reexamine long-lasting teaching practices that might not help as much as we want them. This one was especially popular, pushing us to consider the anatomy in our words at the front of the studio.  

No. 4: The Support You Should and Shouldn’t Provide as a Dance Teacher by Jess Spinner 

Getty Images/iStockphoto

“Your role in your students’ training and their lives is invaluable. And if any of your dancers are on a path towards a professional career in dance, you have an even bigger responsibility on your hands. Of course, navigating this relationship isn’t always easy, and so it can be hard to decide where to draw the line when it comes to judging what support you should and shouldn’t provide as a dance teacher.”

Our readers loved this piece for the important dos and don’ts that come with creating a supportive and uplifting environment for their dance students.

No. 3: 8 Signs That You’re *That* Dance Parent—and How to Do Better by Jenny Oulette 

A close up of children's feet in ballet class. They wear pink tights and shoes, and are lined up in a row.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

As parents, we only want the best for our kids—and we’ll do nearly anything to help them succeed. But some actions that might seem supportive in the moment but can be detrimental in the long run. Even minor infractions, when repeated, can be infuriating to teachers or studio owners. 

Teacher Crystal Carfango says in this piece: “If you’re upset about something, email the office and make an appointment to talk instead of getting half the information from another parent.” Her words resonated with our readers all over the world! 

No. 2: Racism Has No Place on the Competition Stage: One Judge’s Experience Watching “Modern-Day Blackface” by Richard Riaz Yoder

A empty stage lit with blue light

“Ignorance is no longer a valid excuse for racism on the competition stage,” wrote writer Richard Riaz Yoder this spring. “Studio owners and choreographers,” Yoder continued, “need to understand that when they compete with numbers like the ones I’ve seen this season, they are perpetuating a history of racism in America. This racism—often veiled as reverence for another culture—can be confronted, but only if we listen to those most affected by discrimination.”

Thank you for reading and reflecting on such an important topic with us this year!

No. 1: How Kelli Erdmann’s Dance Training Prepared Her for TikTok Fame by Haley Hilton 

Kelli Erdmann, a young white woman, wears a red sweatshirt and white pants. She stands on two pillars, one foot on each. There are palm trees and a blue sky in the background

When the pandemic hit, Los Angeles–based commercial dancer Kelli Erdmann found herself in the unique position of having both lots of time on her hands and a husband who dabbled in video editing. Naturally, she joined TikTok.” At the time of this piece’s publication in March, Erdmann had 639 thousand Instagram followers. Today, she has 1.8 million (and a whopping 4 million in TikTok!). We asked her about her newfound social media fame, her dance life during COVID, and how her training experiences helped her achieve TikTok fame. Almost a year later, this story remains our most read of all time.

Now, as the year draws to a close, we’d like to say a big ‘Thank You’ for relying on Dance Teacher for advice and inspiration to nurture the next generation of dancers. If you’d like to see more exciting stories like these on Dance Teacher in 2022, please send your ideas to [email protected].

And be sure to sign up to receive updates about DanceTeacher+—our brand new informative and impactful digital platform that will give you the chance to expand your teaching tool kit and dive deep into the resources you need to refine your teaching practice—all set to launch in early January 2022!

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