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
Ballet is challenging enough when you have good vision, but for dancers who need glasses, things can get even trickier. While it’s true that you rarely see professional ballerinas performing in glasses, young dancers are a different story.
Ballet and other styles of dance are possible to do while wearing glasses, but some steps and styles are harder to perform bespectacled. By securing glasses properly, and choosing the right frames, you can dance in glasses easily.
The first step to using a turn board is to focus on balance and core strength. Turn boards are slick on the bottom, and they will be incredibly unsteady and slippery for a first-time user.
Have you ever seen a soccer player wearing basketball shoes? Or a football player wearing ice skates? Probably not! In the dance world, dancers are expected to wear the kind of shoes that correspond to the style of dance they’re taking. You do need to wear ballet shoes to ballet class most of the time. Occasionally, there are instances where other footwear is acceptable, but the best shoes to wear for ballet are ballet shoes!
Ballet shoes have unique qualities that make them appropriate for ballet class, just like jazz shoes have specific functions for that style of dance. For more about jazz shoes and why they’re necessary for learning jazz dance, check out our article Can I Wear Ballet Shoes in a Jazz Dance Class?
Dancers put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into their art, and the same goes for their shoes! Ballet and dance shoes can wear out pretty quickly for a few reasons, and dancers and parents are always looking for ways to prolong the life of their shoes.
Poor quality materials, overuse, growth spurts, and mistreatments are just a few of the reasons that dance and ballet shoes wear out fast! In order to get the most use out of your dance shoes, follow our tips and tricks!
In nearly every photo or video of a ballet dancer, you will notice they always wear a few key things – a leotard, tights, and their hair in a bun. The bun hairstyle is a staple of the ballet world, but you may be wondering why that is.
Ballerinas often have to wear their hair in a bun to adhere to a dress code, because of the traditional aesthetic that the ballet world follows, and to keep their hair out of their face while dancing.
If your dancer is looking to improve in ballet, there is one tried and true solution – practice at home! Most young dancers don’t take enough hours of class per week to get away with not practicing at home and still expect to see results, whether that’s balancing longer in an arabesque or finding that additional rotation in a pirouette.
In lyrical dance, we combine the best of the worlds of ballet and jazz, sometimes with a little modern thrown in for fun. But with so many styles fusing into one to create lyrical, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what dancers should focus on when practicing at home. Luckily, there are several easy and fun exercises you can do with your dancer that will help them improve in lyrical dance!
Jazz dance, with its origins in African music and culture, has long been a way to celebrate, communicate and entertain. The history of jazz dance isn’t often taught in the studio setting, but understanding where this commercially successful form of dance comes from, and how it has evolved, is an important part of improving as a jazz dancer.
Dancers dream of getting their first pair of pointe shoes! The beautiful satin slippers are sturdy enough to support the beautiful pirouettes and arabesques that dancers perform, but there comes a time (and it’s sooner than you would think) that pointe shoes become unusable.
A pointe shoe’s lifespan ranges from 2 months to one year, depending on your age, skill level, and schedule. There are some handy tips and tricks you can try to extend the life of your pointe shoes!
So you’ve signed your child up for a year of dance classes! One of the first things you’ll need to do is purchase dance shoes. Just like when purchasing school shoes, you’re probably hoping to get the most bang for your buck when you buy shoes for dance lessons. But how long can you expect your child’s dance shoes to last?
Ballet shoes might look like the ideal comfort shoes – they’re sometimes called “slippers” for a reason! So it’s no wonder people want to wear them for more than just ballet class, including outside and on the street. But unfortunately, wearing ballet shoes outside is a big no-no.
If you are a new dance mom, or a new dancer yourself, you might be overwhelmed by the amount of supplies you need to buy for dance classes! You will need leotards, tights, hair accessories, and of course, the proper shoes! Is there any way to use the same pair of shoes for different styles of dance, so you don’t have to buy so many things?
Kids outgrow everything, from clothing to carseats, and dance and ballet shoes are no exception! When taking into consideration growth spurts, general wear and tear, and the soft materials ballet shoes are made of, there does come a time when dance shoes have to be replaced (and it might be sooner than you think!)
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!
To help your child improve in lyrical dance, you can encourage practicing at home, promote clear storytelling, and encourage creative improvisation and play in dance practice.
Typically, a beginner ballet class for young children will last between 30 minutes to an hour, depending on age. Dancers will learn a combination of creative movement skills, fine and gross motor skills, and classical ballet steps.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
Progress, to me, is the ability to apply corrections over time, try again after a failure, and turn a negative into a positive.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
If your dancer comes home from class complaining that they’re not progressing, or if you are sensing that they’re not performing at the level they should be, you’ve got to start asking some tough questions.
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?
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.
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.
The best jazz shoes for dance class have a snug fit and are well made. They come in various colors, materials such as leather or canvas, can be slip on or lace up, full or split- sole.