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Go Beyond the Dance Studio With These Online Certifications

Day to day you're scheduling a ballet Zoom class, tuning in to an Instagram Live Q&A with an admired ballerina, and getting plenty of R&R watching the best dance movies of all time. Yet, you're still lacking fulfillment. Given that you were used to a full day of dancing pre-COVID-19, it's no surprise that "quarantine" has been your most challenging role.


With time off your feet (literally), now is the perfect opportunity to explore a skill beyond 32 fouettés and double tours en l'aire. Ballet will always be your first love, but COVID-19 has shown it's wise to supplement artistic endeavors with other talents. Ballet's unforeseen risks, such as injury, audition rejection, seasonality and freelancing, make for unknown career longevity. That's why it's always beneficial to have a range of skills to help support the demanding lifestyle of a dancer.


In response to this time offstage, many professional dancers are delving into reputable online programs to earn certifications they can use now or for when they choose to take their final bow. For example, Sarasota Ballet corps member Lauren Ostrander dreams of becoming a physical therapist for a ballet company after she retires. She's spent the past few years completing online certifications in personal training, fitness nutrition and spin instruction, and she is currently finishing her kinesiology degree at California Baptist University Online. (Next she plans on taking a course through the Performing Arts Medicine Association.) In this time of uncertainty, she urges dancers to take advantage of online certifications. "This is time you won't get back," says Ostrander. "So when it's all over and everything is okay again, what will you wish you would have done? Do that now."

With a variety of online resources, many of which are offering discounts because of COVID-19, you're likely to discover something that gets you excited. Whether you picture yourself teaching fitness, running a ballet company's marketing, or working toward a degree in political science, here are some online certification programs to help you get a head start.

Lauren Ostrander wears a dark tutu, black tights and pointe shoes, and a blue feather on her head and kicks her leg in developp\u00e9 ecart\u00e9. Behind her is a line of dancers dressed as saloon girls and cowboys, and a lone cowboy stands on the right side of the stage looking on.

Lauren Ostrander and Ivan Duarte with artist of Sarasota Ballet in Balanchine's Western Symphony

Frank Atura, Courtesy Sarasota Ballet

Coursera 

Coursera offers a variety of courses, specializations, certificates and degrees from over 200 universities and companies. A number of courses are free, and additional ones are available at an affordable cost. With studies ranging from graphic design to IT support to business administration, you can find a nice contrast from your work in the studio.

Jeanette Kakareka, a soloist with Bayerisches Staatsballett, recently pursued a Mandarin language certification from Peking University through Coursera; it's motivating her to improve communication and build relationships with her fiancé and his family, who are Chinese. In regard to developing skills outside of ballet, Kakareka says, "A well-rounded person brings more life experience to the stage and has a more honest presence, and having other passions is critical for mental health whenever you are forced to take time away from the studio."

Alison

In a very user-friendly fashion, Alison offers free certificate courses, diploma courses and learning paths. Course categories include technology, language, science, health, humanities, business, math, marketing and lifestyle ( such as music, literature, etc.). Within each of these, there are sub-categories, providing plenty of options to explore. You earn a certificate simply through completing the course and achieving at least 80 percent in each assessment. Additionally, there are resources for career advice and development, no matter where you stand in your personal journey. There are even photography certificates to help you develop your dance portfolio and reels.

A young athletic woman wearing a green tank top and leggings props herself up on her elbows on a yoga mat and types on a laptop computer.

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American Council on Exercise (ACE)

Through their mission to promote movement, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) offers NCCA-accredited certifications to become a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, health coach and medical exercise specialist. ACE supplies tools such as video coaching sessions, quizzes, audio coaching sessions and handbooks. Self-paced, these programs are ideal for a busy rehearsal schedule and allows you to study on your time. Also, a fitness background compliments a dancer's athletic lifestyle because one can teach in the studio and virtually, while breaking a sweat.

International Sports Science Association (ISSA)

The International Sports Science Association (ISSA) is acclaimed for their personal trainer certification, bundles, and other health and fitness specializations. Well-recognized in the industry, ISSA has a number of gym partnerships, making employment promising. That said, if after six months of completing your certification you haven't found a job, they will refund you. If you're passionate about peak-performance nutrition, yoga, or becoming CPR/AED certified, definitely check out ISSA.

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When School of American Ballet student Alexandra de Roos was 8 years old, she placed a collection box at her dance studio for others to donate their gently used dancewear. De Roos, now 17, has since turned that single collection box into a nonprofit organization that aims to minimize economic barriers in the performing arts with free dancewear and classes.

De Roos' organization, Peace Love Leotards, has collected about $2,600 of new and gently-used dancewear and $2,000 in grants and donations since formally launching in April. Dancers or studio owners can request items through a form on the organization's website.

"I knew that dancewear was really expensive and that a lot of students might not be able to do the thing that they love because it's cost-prohibitive," de Roos said. "I really wanted to create something to allow people to have the same experience of the love and joy of dance that I've been so grateful to have."

After SAB shifted its winter term online amid the COVID-19 pandemic, de Roos decided to expand Peace Love Leotards. She reached out to dance companies, resulting in partnerships with brands including Jo+Jax, Lone Reed Designs, RubiaWear and Wear Moi.

"To have them be like 'We want to help you with this and we love this idea and what you're doing is amazing,' that was really exciting to me," she said. "It was very heartwarming."

Jordan Reed, the creator of custom dancewear brand Lone Reed Designs, said she has donated seven items to Peace Love Leotards with plans to donate more consistently every quarter. Custom leotards often retail at higher prices, but Reed, a former Houston Ballet corps member, said the one-of-a-kind clothing offers an "extra bit of confidence, which can go more than a long way in a dancer's journey of training."

Paul Plesh, a sales director for Wear Moi in the United States and Canada, said the company donated 11 leotards after finding Peace Love Leotards' mission to be "commendable." Joey Dowling-Fakhrieh, the founder and creative director of Jo+Jax, said dancewear "can make a significant impact on a student's confidence, as well as how much they enjoy the process of learning dance."

De Roos has worked to expand Peace Love Leotards, Inc. rapidly in the past few months, but she first created the organization at eight years old after participating in a mentorship program with competitors in the Miss Florida and Miss Florida's Outstanding Teen pageants. The pageants, which are part of the Miss America Organization, require competitors to have personal platforms they advocate for as titleholders. As a competition dancer, de Roos instantly thought about the cost barriers to dance when wondering what her own future platform would be.

De Roos said she and her young classmates often outgrew nearly brand-new dancewear, so she approached her studio's owner about placing a collection box at the studio.

Barbara Mizell, who owns Barbara's Centré for Dance in Florida, said she was unsurprised by de Roos' proposal. De Roos always had "such a way of pushing herself and she never forgot those around her," Mizell said. As the box filled up, she distributed the dancewear to others at the studio, local schools with dance programs, and the local YMCA.

"When they could start to see that it was providing happiness for others, then it was almost like the kids couldn't wait to donate," Mizell said.

Nearly a decade after the Miss Florida organization inspired her to launch Peace Love Leotards, de Roos is now a titleholder herself, as Miss Gainesville's Outstanding Teen 2020. Her new mission for Peace Love Leotards is applying for grants, and she has already received a $1,000 grant from the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund that will be used to fund a Title 1 school class.

"The whole organization behind Peace Love Leotards is the dancers," de Roos said. "Being able to help the dancers that are in need and being able to think about the dancewear that they're going to be receiving or have received has been truly amazing."

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