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LIVE Q + A with Courtney: December Edition!

Check out our podcast episode on this hot topic + watch the live stream on Facebook!

On this week’s episode of Making the Impact, host Courtney Ortiz went live on Facebook with IDA judge, teacher, and choreographer Emily Branigan to answer listeners' questions on the air.

One important question that arose was around hair styling for young competitive dancers. A curious dance parent of a young dancer of color expressed that her daughter’s team prefers that hair be straightened to create uniformity, but given the diversity of the studio, the dancers actually aren’t uniform, even if their hair is all styled the same way. So how do judges feel about uniformity when it comes to hair styles, especially with diverse groups of dancers? Emily suggests that each situation is different depending on the vibe and aesthetic of the piece. In a solo or small group, it might be easier to embrace natural essence, as opposed to a larger group. Courtney, a self-proclaimed “curly girl” offers the challenges of altering natural hair, noting that if she straightens her hair to appease a teacher or match a group, it’s not going to look like other dancers’ straight hair. Both judges agree that unless the style of the piece calls for a specific look, this is a great opportunity to celebrate diversity.

On a totally different note, another dance parent seeks advice on her young daughter’s contemporary solo dreams. Her six year old is itching to do a creepy contemporary solo next season but she isn’t sure that this is the best idea in terms of age appropriateness. Emily notes that it depends on the dancer, their maturity, and their technical proficiency, offering that at that young age, she prefers to see a lyrical solo but that lyrical can still be a little creepy if that’s what the dancer is craving and what her technical abilities allow for. The reason for this desire is to ensure that young dancers are working on their ballet foundation, which lyrical will bolster, while contemporary will often work to break. In contemporary dance, there is more space to play with technique and alter it, which most seven year olds are not yet ready to do. In order to break the rules of classical ballet, a dancer has to know those rules. But lyrical/contemporary debate aside, both Courtney and Emily agree that it truly comes down to the dancer and their technical strengths and abilities as a performer.

A third topic of conversation arose around the ever-important topic of virtual learning and the engagement that happens--or doesn’t--in this mode of taking and teaching class. One listener asked for advice to help younger dancers stay interested in virtual classes. Emily suggests structure and consistency, offering that a two minute introduction with expectations is a great place to start every class. She also reminds everyone--dancers, teachers, and parents--to be patient and kind during these difficult times. Courtney agrees and also emphasizes the silver lining of Zoom classes, which is the potential for guest teachers that normally might not be able to work with students. Now is a great time to expose dancers to a variety of teachers in a more financially and logistically feasible way.

Be sure to tune into the full episode to hear more insight from Courtney and Emily on topics including breaking into judging, matching tights/shoe colors to dancers’ skin, the makings of a great convention teacher, and more!


Thanks to our guest, Emily Branigan, for joining us on the podcast this week! You can follow her at @embranigan.


Maddie Kurtz is an IDA staff writer/admin, choreographer, judge, and dance educator. Check out her other articles on the IDA Blog, visit her website, and follow her @maddiekurtz92.

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