Dance Method DVD Expands a Teacher’s Audience

“When are you going to make a video?” is a question Jennifer Salk, MFA, associate professor in the University of Washington dance program would get often from dance teachers attending her master classes and workshops.

An expert in weaving anatomy instruction into dance technique classes, Salk has taught at the American Dance Festival, the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science, and National Dance Education Organization conferences, and at workshops nationwide.

“Incorporation of an experiential anatomy component into the modern technique class educates students about the body in a way that permanently and positively impacts how they move,” says Salk. “It is our responsibility as dance educators, whether at the elementary, secondary, or college level, to teach students how to care for their bodies.”

A Dynamic Teaching Method
Anatomy in DanceSalk finally set to work creating a DVD based on her own extensive dance and teaching experience and research on anatomy and kinesiology. Published in fall 2010, Experiential Anatomy in Dance Technique educates dancers about the body in a way that enables them to move with greater efficiency, flow, and dynamic range.

More than just a video, it is a dynamic combination of instruction, audio and video illustrations and an article on the technique. This engaging, audiovisual guide, filmed in a dance studio, explores the structure and function of the skeleton in eight lessons, each beginning with Salk using a model skeleton to explain a joint such as the shoulder or hip. Just as in a class, she takes two dancers through a series of center or floor exercises that progress to across-the-floor dance phrases. Viewers can see the exercises as filmed from multiple angles to deepen their understanding of joint function.

“My method offers a way to seamlessly teach anatomy in a technique class,” Salk said. When dancers learn where movement initiates on the body and understand the dynamics, their dancing gains clarity and becomes ‘spicier’ — more vibrant and rich.”

Center for Commercialization is a Partner from Step One
“Before I even started working on the video I consulted with C4C because I didn’t know anything about copyright or legal issues related to using models and dancers or contracting with a filmmaker,” Salk said.

Salk met regularly over several years with Gail Dykstra, a C4C Technology Manager and from the get-go an enthusiastic advocate for Salk’s project. Dykstra has long experience in helping UW faculty produce and find the right channels for distributing digital materials, including medical and scientific instructional DVDs.

“We helped Jennifer focus her goals and strategy for DVD production and handled the copyright protection, release forms for dancers, contract with the filmmaker, and licensing and contract with the publisher,” Dykstra said. “We ensured that every aspect was handled properly and professionally — a ‘no surprises’ approach so there were no impediments in the way of success,” Dykstra said.

“Gail really understood the product and protected my interests,” Salk said. “All the negotiations with the university and the publisher were incredibly smooth. I couldn’t have done this without her.”

A review panel for the National Dance Education Association recently approved the video for inclusion in its online catalog. One reviewer noted the caliber and clarity of the Salk’s instructional methods and said it “adds a much-needed resource to our discipline.”

Smooth Path to Market
Salk’s first-choice publisher, Illinois-based Human Kinetics, an educational publisher in all areas of physical activity and health, jumped at the opportunity to market her video to the dance community. It is now available through the publisher,, and other outlets.

Gayle Kassing, a dance educator and Human Kinetics acquisitions editor, sees the video as the next step forward for dance education. “There is nothing else like this on the market,” Kassing said. “It’s important for dancers to gain this visual understanding of anatomy. The movements are beautifully choreographed, the dancers are exquisite, and Salk’s approach is educationally sound.”

Salk planned and produced the video in cooperation with Jeff Curtis, graduate of the UW dance program, professional dancer, and dance filmmaker. “He did all the filming, designed the format, produced the DVD, and is the reason it is so beautiful,” Salk said.

Salk finds teaching workshops more fun now that she can use her DVD as a visual aid. “I hope it will inspire dance teachers with new ideas,” Salk said. “After planning and working on it for nearly four years, I’m excited to have it out to a wider audience.”