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Dance Parent 101 Writer – Lesley Mealor

Lesley Mealor has been professionally involved in all facets of the dance world for the past 15+ years. Originally from Marietta, GA, Lesley grew up dancing under the instruction of her mother, Brenda Mealor, at The Dancers Studio. She then went on to graduate from Oklahoma City University with a degree in Dance Performance. 

Lesley’s performance career has taken her around the world with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, across North America with tours of “Sweet Charity” and “The Music Man”, and everywhere in between with numerous industrials and regional theatre work. She is very good friends with Elmo and Abby Cadaby through her work with Sesame Workshop, and surprises people regularly with Flash Mob America. She is currently based in New York City, where she has transitioned out of performing and is exploring life on the other side of the industry. She has worked for Capezio in the product testing division, and currently judges and directs events for Spirit of Dance Awards.

Lesley is inspired by teaching young performers that what they bring to the table is enough, that good technique is the foundation for all styles, and that telling the story is more important than any trick you can do. She continues to teach locally in the tri-state area, specializing in jazz and theatre dance. She is a sought-after adjudicator for competitions across North America, and is a founding member of Impact Dance Adjudicators, the only company in the US that provides pre-screened judges to competitions. Lesley is also the co-host of Making the Impact – A Dance Competition Podcast. Follow her work at www.lesleymealor.com

Articles by Lesley on Dance Parent 101

The Best Movies and Films That Feature Tap Dance

Tap dancing in movies has been featured since the golden age of film, and in recent years, even more incredible dancing has been captured for audiences to enjoy. It can sometimes be difficult to find out if a movie has any tap dancing in it, but we’ve compiled a list of the ten best movies that are either completely about tap dancing, or heavily feature tap!

The Best Books About Tap Dance for Every Age

Ever wondered about the early days of tap dance? How about the production of one of the most famous tap movie musicals of all time? With this list of books, hoofers of all ages will be educated and entertained about this American art form!

The Best Tap Dance Exercises To Do At Home

Tap dance, with its intricate rhythm patterns and fast footwork, requires a lot of practice! Even the most advanced and professional tap dancers come back to what are called the “rudiments” of tap dance to hone in on the basic skills necessary to execute the flashy steps. 

How To Help Your Child Improve in Tap Dance at Home

As a dance educator and dancer, I’ve always thought that tap dance is the easiest form of dance to learn at any age. Even if you’re not a tap dancer yourself, you can still help your tap dancing kiddo improve by doing a few simple things at home, in the car, or wherever you happen to feel the need to dance!

What To Expect From Your Child’s First Tap Dance Classes

Tap dance is making a comeback lately, with movies like “Happy Feet”, tap being featured on popular shows like “So You Think You Can Dance”, and viral videos from tap artists such as Syncopated Ladies. With its origins in African and Irish cultures, tap dance evolved into a unique art form that is beloved all over the world, and you can find classes for all ages and levels at dance studios. 

Best Musical Theatre Games To Play At Home For Dancers

Imagine, if you can, bored, blank faced orphans in “It’s a Hard Knock Life” from “Annie”. Or, Donald O’Connor trying to “Make Em’ Laugh” in “Singin’ in the Rain” without his hilarious and skilled facial expressions throughout the show-stopping routine. It would be a pretty bleak world if musical theatre dancers didn’t use acting skills to tell their story. If your child is studying theatre dance, there are a few things you can do to help them level up their acting abilities from home!

How To Help Your Child Improve in Musical Theatre Dance

In order to be a well-rounded musical theatre dancer, you really have to have a wide variety of training in all aspects of musical theatre – dance, vocals, and acting. While not all young dancers want to be professionals, even dancers who participate in musical theatre classes for fun can benefit from learning the different facets of the art form. 

Improve At Home – The Best Hip Hop Dance Games & Exercises

The best way to help your dancer improve at hip hop is to practice at home! Games that develop personal style are a fun way to work on individual movement quality, and exercises that focus on the basics of hip hop will help with consistency. 

What To Expect From Your Dancer’s First Musical Theatre Class

If your child has ever been mesmerized by “The Descendants” or won’t stop singing along to “Hamilton”, chances are you’ve got a musical theatre fan on your hands! Whether they want to be the next big star or just want to dive deeper into the wonderful world of musicals, signing your kiddo up for a musical theatre dance class might be on your mind! 

How To Help Your Child Improve in Hip Hop Dance?

Helping your child improve at a skill you may not be familiar with can feel like a daunting task. I know I would be lost if I was asked to help anyone improve in, say, chess! But when it comes to assisting your dancing son or daughter with their hip hop dance skills, there are plenty of easy and fun ways to level up their abilities from home!

What to Expect From Your Child’s First Hip Hop Dance Class

If you’ve got a kid who is cooler than you’ve ever been, hip hop class might be right up their alley! Good hip hop classes stay on the pulse of what’s popular in current hip hop culture, while paying homage to the founders and movements that created the styles that make up contemporary hip hop. 

Door Anchored Leg Stretchers – Safe & Worth It for Ballet & Dance?

Dancers of all ages are always looking for a way to get better, whether that’s doing more pirouettes, hitting all the sounds in a pullback, or becoming more flexible. Some of the latest products on the market for dancers looking for more flexibility are called leg stretchers. But are these products safe – or even worth the money?

20 Of The Best Hip-Hop Songs For Kids Dance Classes – Video List

Tired of hearing the same old, tired Kidz Bop songs on repeat when your child wants to practice their hip hop skills? As a dance teacher and judge, believe me, so am I! Finding clean, appropriate, and FUN music for hip hop is harder than it should be, but lucky for you, I’ve done the work already!

Jazz Dance Movies You Need To Watch!

One of the coolest things about jazz dance is how varied the style can be! From lindy hop to street styles, Latin jazz to social dances, jazz dance lives in many worlds, and there is no shortage of movies that have some sort of jazz dancing included. 

What To Expect From Your Child’s First Lyrical Dance Class

Lyrical dance combines elements of ballet and jazz, and the focus is on storytelling through movement and emotional connection to the lyrics of a song. Lyrical classes for children range from 45 minutes to an hour in length, and start around age 8.

What To Expect From Your Child’s First Jazz Class

A beginner jazz class will last between 45 minutes to an hour and a half, and dancers should be learning some traditional jazz steps along with basic motor skills. For very young dancers, jazz may be offered alongside ballet or tap as a combo class. 

What To Do If Your Dancer is Always in the Back Row?

If your dancer is being given a back row spot in their dance routines, first, consider their ability to remember choreography. Then, think about their performance quality and showmanship. Finally, determine if your dancer lacks confidence in herself.

What is Theatre Jazz?

Theatre jazz, or theatre dance, is a style of dance which includes traditional jazz dance technique with the addition of storytelling through acting. Jazz dance by itself sometimes includes elements of storytelling, but in theatre jazz, it is required. 

What is Street Jazz?

Street jazz is a lively, eclectic and unique form of jazz dance that focuses on movement that evolved outside of a studio setting; “in the streets”, if you will. Drawing from an individual form of expression, street jazz includes elements of house, vogueing, wacking, locking, popping, and improvisation for a high energy class.

What is Majorette Dancing?

Majorette dancing in the United States takes on two forms that are related, but vary based on region. In some places, namely the Midwest and the South, traditional majorette dancing takes place in front of or alongside a marching band, and involves mainly baton twirling and clean, crisp jazz technique. You often see majorettes alongside cheerleaders at high school and college sporting events.

What is Jazz Fusion?

Jazz fusion is a unique style of jazz dance that does just what its name implies – fuses together multiple styles of dance for a hybrid class all its own! Drawing inspiration from classic jazz, street jazz, hip hop, lyrical and contemporary, a jazz fusion class could truly be anything the instructor chooses, which is the beauty of this style.

What is Competitive Dance?

Competitive dance is an umbrella term that encompasses many styles of dance, including but not limited to ballet, jazz, lyrical, tap, contemporary, hip hop, and acro dance. You will normally not see a dance class labeled as simply “Competitive Dance”; rather, the class may be called something like “Competition Team Jazz Class”, which simply indicates that the dancers participating are a part of the studio’s competition team. To best understand competitive dance, you must understand what kind of dance competitions there are.

What is Clogging?

Clogging, or clog dance, originated in the foothills of Appalachia around the mid-1700s, and was adapted from a combination of the folk dances of the early American settlers of the area, who came from England, Ireland, Scotland and Germany. Each of these cultures had their own rich history of folk dancing and folk music, which all included some form of percussive footwork, personal expression, and upbeat music.

What is Burlesque Dance?

Burlesque dance is a sensual, sometimes bawdy and comedic dance style reserved for adults. Historically, burlesque dance was a part of variety shows as early as the late 1800s that featured lewd comedy, suggestive dancing, pantomime, and later, the striptease. One famous example of early 20th century burlesque can be seen in the movie “Gypsy” starring Natalie Wood as Gypsy Rose Lee, a real burlesque dancer, whose gimmick was to strip down to nearly nothing but never reveal anything more than an arm or a leg.

What is Heels Dance Class?

A heels class can be one of two things depending on the dancers it’s intended for. A heels class in the context of a children and teen’s dance studio will be a class that includes jazz, street jazz, theatre dance and/or commercial dance styles that utilize character heels. 

Is The Back Row Bad? A Dance Teacher’s Perspective On Stage Placement

Dancing in a group means that sometimes you won’t always be in the front. It’s just the nature of group activities! But, what does it mean if your dancer is consistently placed in the back row? How do teachers choose who to place where on stage? Is being in the back row in a dance routine bad?

4 Actions to take when Your Child is not Progressing in Dance or Ballet Class

After taking steps to assess your child’s progress in dance as we have written about in our article 3 Things Parents Can do to Assess Their Child’s Progress in Dance you have realized that your dancer is not progressing. Now you are wondering what you should do, and that is where we come in with a few ideas and actions you can take to ensure your dancer is learning and moving forwards in their training.

3 Things Parents Can do to Assess Their Child’s Progress in Dance

If you’re unsure how to measure progress in dance, take these steps before anything else. First, talk to your child! Second, ask your child’s teacher how they’re progressing in class. Then, you can observe a class to see for yourself your child’s progress before considering changing studios.

Teacher Approved Turn Board Exercises for Dancers To Improve Balance & Turns

Some of the hottest trends in the dance industry in the last ten years are the turn board and the spin disc. Dancers looking to improve their pirouettes utilize these products to help with balance, suspension and speed. But aside from just stepping on a turn board and spinning, what are some other ways to use a turn board or spin disc that can benefit a dancer?

Dance Competitions Explained – Everything You Want To Know!

If you’ve never been to a dance competition, they are quite the sight to behold! Imagine hundreds of dancers, all decked out in beautiful rhinestone costumes, perfect hair and makeup, and every dance shoe you can think of! The music is pumping, hairspray and glitter are in the air, and everyone is excited to show off their hard work.

How Dance Competitions are Judged & Scored? What Parents Want To Know!

If you’ve ever wondered about how dance competitions are judged, look no further! As a veteran judge of ten years for competitions all over the United States and Canada, I’m here to answer all of your burning questions about how dancers are adjudicated and scored at dance competitions. 

What Types of Shoes Are Best for Hip Hop Dancing?

By Lesley Mealor / Edited by Samantha Bellerose, B.Ed, Dip.Dance(Performing Arts) Hip hop is a style of dance that originated not in a studio, but in the streets of New York City in the 1970s and 80s. Attire for hip hop dancers in its early days required only authentic style, and in fact, there were no dedicated shoes in…

How To Choose The Best Character Shoes for Dance Lessons

In order to choose the best character shoes, you must first know what style of dance they will be used for. Once you know the genre of dance, you can then choose from the variety of styles, colors, materials, and heel heights that character shoes come in.

Everything You Need to Know About Buying Pointe Shoes for Ballet!

To choose the right pointe shoes, you need to first obtain your child’s teacher’s permission to go en pointe. At your local dancewear store, you will be fit for pointe shoes and will look at the fit of the shoe as determined by the length, width, shank strength, vamp length, and box construction. 

Parents Guide to choosing the Best Shoes For Ballet Class

The best shoes for ballet class have a snug fit, and are made of leather or canvas.  Depending on the dancer’s age and level, you will choose between full sole or split-sole flat ballet shoes. Do not buy synthetic or pretty sateen ballet slippers or pointe shoes.

Popular Turn Boards: Worth It & Safe? Dance Teacher Explains!

Some of the hottest new dance and ballet products out there are geared towards pirouettes – spin spots, turn boards, and turn discs all claim to help dancers execute their turns faster, cleaner, and in greater numbers! But, is all the hype worth it? Do turn boards really work? And an even better question -…