Carol’s Dance Background

Carol Schwarzkopf  (full bio) holds a degree from the acclaimed University of Utah where she graduated with honors, a Health & Wellness Certification from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, and years of study of the brain, motivation, fascial fitness, Pilates, resilient living, yoga, grief, qigong and the human potential movement.


Carol was raised in West Texas where she studied ballet with Ingeborg Heuser, a former soloist of the Deutsche Oper Berlin and a special pupil of the great German pedagogue and choreographer Tatjana Gsovsky. Beginning at age 13, her studies broadened with  summers at San Francisco Ballet School on Ford Foundation Scholarships until she left home at the age of 16 to dance with Ballet West and William F Christenson. She has had the good fortune of dancing in many of the major classical ballets of our time as well as in the contemporary works of some of the greatest teaching and choreographic influences of the 20thcentury.

Carol holds a degree from the acclaimed dance department at the University of Utah  graduating cum laude, studying with the great Danish ballerina Toni Lander . There she was exposed to some of the finest modern masters in America as well at what is still considered one of the finest post-secondary dance training schools in the world. Her contemporary dance career was launched in order to utilize her ballet and modern training in this new American art form. Additionally, she is a certified yoga instructor, credentialed in 2001 through White Lotus Foundation in Santa Barbara, as well as training as a Street Yoga instructor for work with special populations. More recently, she earned a Health and Wellness Certification from Mayo Clinic College of Medical Science 

Carol has authored several dance curricula and taught dance at St. Olaf College Pacific Northwest Ballet,  Minnesota Dance TheatreNormandale CollegeBerkshire Pulse in Massachusetts, as well as other fine dance schools nationwide. Carol co-directed the dance program for the Visual and Performing Arts Magnet at North High School in Minneapolis for 10 years where she received a Distinguished Teaching Award from her peers for her exemplary contribution to arts education. She has served as company teacher for Poetry in Motion Contemporary Dance, Ballet Director at Platinum Dance, and Ballet Principal at Creo Arts and Dance. Her work with adults incorporates all this and more, now teaching MovementThruGrief for the losses in our lives.


Honors include the Twin Cities Mayors’ Public Art Award as well as a Minneapolis Public Schools Appreciation Award. Ms Schwarzkopf sat on the advisory board that later formed The Perpich Center for Arts Education/The Arts High School, as well as the committee that successfully lobbied and attained K-12 dance licensure for the state of Minnesota. She is a founding and was a long time board member for Dance Educator’s Coalition, established to support dance artists teaching in the schools. She is proud that her professional coaching, teaching, study, and performance endeavors have taken her all over the world.

Carol is grateful for her mentors, the work itself, and the students and colleagues who have shared her journey.

Please contact me with inquiries.

“I hope you know that you did your job well! You gave me the push I needed to never give up on myself, to always try harder. You gave me support in everything. You have never given up on me. You poured your heart into me-you were more than just my ballet teacher, you were my biggest advocate. I love you Ms Carol, please know that” Student Elizabeth

More About the Perfect Tendu

I completely agree with dance physiotherapist Lisa Howell in one of her latest videos that the mechanics of the simple tendu are often overlooked and it’s critical for dancers to reacquaint themselves with the movement by watching her short video here.  She Dancer 2 JPegdoes a great job explaining why improper execution fails to engage the muscles we’re trying to strengthen and tightens muscles we need to keep supple to avoid pain. For those of you consistently practicing the foot exercises like doming, you will recognize some of the same strategies. Additionally, Lisa provides an added tip toward the end of the video on how to successfully close in fifth position without bending either leg. Enjoy!


It comes as a surprise to many that the world of dance training is experiencing tremendous change because of the research of some very brilliant dance physiotherapists and the strong shoulders they stand upon-the pioneers of dance medicine. And as they pass this knowledge down to the committed teachers that hopefully teach in your area, everyone benefits as the form and function of dance continues to make this world a better place.

For as long as people have danced, injuries related to the movement arts have been analyzed and studied. And even the relatively short period of time that I myself have been studying human movement, so much has changed. Committed dance educators everywhere are saying the same thing – in our lifetime, there’s been a massive amount of information we can now use to help our students dance longer, dance safer, and dance more efficiently. There are many people to thank for this wealth of information even though, as you can imagine, funding for such study is scarce. But dance has adapted in spite of it and students are lucky to have teachers that continue to learn and hone their craft for the good of the art form.



Nurturing Leadership Through the Arts

Recently I was listening to a podcast interviewing author Eric Kaufman about his latest book Four Virtues of a Leader. While I was intrigued by the subject, it occurred to me that in my teaching of young dance artists, these same four virtues are critical.

The first trait is focus. The complexities of body movement, particularly as the dancer matures and must tackle an ever more complex vocabulary requiring strength, flexibility, and balance requires a tremendous amount of concentration and attention to detail. The author asks “what am I creating?” For the artist, this is a critical query while interpreting the intention of the dance maker or choreographer.

The second trait Eric Kaufman explores is courage. For a leader, he encourages the question “what am I avoiding?” The dance student is often unable to make that choice in a classroom setting however it is no less valid as the artist matures. Fearlessness is often encouraged from a young age precisely because it allows for pushing physical boundaries. Pushing beyond yesterdays limitations or not confronting challenges is to limit progress.

Trait number three in the author’s book is grit. With so much interest in the wellness world on resilience, I like to think of this as the foundation that sustains the dancer. Inevitably there will be emotional, physical, and psychological/spiritual setbacks in the trajectory of any artist and this is the ability to bounce back. This hot topic alone can be studied at length however in the life of a dancer, it may be the most important virtue of the four.

Finally, the fourth virtue of a leader is trust. The beauty of this one in the dance world is that we have hundreds of years of history to observe. We know that the training yields great results. Every student stands on the strong shoulders of those who came before them. Trusting the process is not easy for all dance students but once embraced, success is inevitable.

For Kaufmann, these four virtues enable and empower leaders of the world. But every artist, by arts very nature, is given the opportunity and task each and every day to create and recreate their work based on their inner guidance. In Mr. Kaufmann’s work as a leadership coach, he holds people accountable on this path. And for me as a dance educator, I do the same. But at the end of the day in spite of disappointment and frustration, battling physical limitations and fatigue, it is up to the individual. This is how the arts create leaders. Those that learn to trust in themselves and the process, who have the courage to show up, the grit to keep going, and the focus to know why they do WILL be tomorrow’s leaders.

Revisiting the Midline in Dance Training

As we head back into the season here in North America, it’s a good idea to revisit some of the concepts from last year. As a movement teacher who spent the last few  year learning about the Pilates MVE chair, I think the central axis/mid line topic deserves some attention.

The informative picture below (kindly provided by Lisa Howell) offers several valuable reference points to help orient dancers in a stationary position. It does an excellent job defining where strength is necessary with supporting considerations such as softness in the jaw and fingers as well as proper weight distribution in the standing leg. However once the dancer begins moving through space, it becomes far more difficult to keep these concepts in mind. Without a clear understanding of the central axis point in our bodies, students will struggle.

“The axial skeleton forms the central axis of the human body and consists of the skull, vertebral column, and thoracic cage.” (Source: Boundless. “Human Axial Skeleton.” Boundless Biology. Boundless, 08 Aug. 2016. Retrieved 17 Sep. 2016 from classical ballet training, the mid line/central axis point is so critical because it orients the dancer to a position in space as they’re traveling. Constant recalculation based on the ingrained patterns studied and practiced over years of training as well as kinesthetic memory come into play.

“A three-dimensional object always rotates around an imaginary line called a rotation axis” (Wikipedia). So this would apply to the human body in motion. Since we are bi-peds and our four limbs connect to and extend in space away from our central trunk, dancers, knowingly or not, are constantly using physics and re adjusting in order to achieve movement through space. Additionally, they are challenged as the choreography demands, particularly in more contemporary applications of these principals where the central axis contracts, rotates, etc.

Of course this is a very large area of exploration for the developing dancer and one that each must ultimately explore for themselves. But even a general awareness of movement intent is important here. The dancer can explore this in class with the instructor or in rehearsal with the choreographer. Obvious starting points can be movement where the  dancer feels unstable.

Below the dancer in in developpé devant anchoring the right hip and the left shoulder in such a way that they work from each side of the body toward the midline. The same is true for the right shoulder and left hip, stabilizing the left standing leg and the right supporting shoulder. I would encourage my students to work with this concept in class and  rehearsal, reporting back whether they can recognize for themselves other examples.Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 1.18.21 PM

Guest post by Keesha Beckford – Mother, Dance Teacher, Blogger

Hi, there! This is your dance teacher. Your older dance teacher. Let’s chat.

First, I know you love dance. You want to be great. You want to work. You want people to see all that you have to offer. You are also coming of age in a dance world that is so different from the one I grew up in, and I’m excited to see what develops.But I’ve seen a lot that concerns me.

                                                                                                                                                                            You come from a generation that has been empowered like none before in humanity. You have been taught to question authority – to do your own thing — from an early age. Many of you have been raised where “everyone gets a trophy,” and your teachers, parents and coaches, trying to be encouraging, often praised you just because. Furthermore, in the age of the Internet everything is accessible instantly and effortlessly. You want to look up a word or person? Google it. You hear a song you like? You don’t even have to remember the words — just Shazam it. Hell, you don’t even have to push a button anymore; you merely touch a screen.

                                                                                                                                                                       When you are asked to work at something because that is simply what one does, many of you ask “Why should I? So-and-so made this thing and it went mad viral.” A few people are genuine overnight sensations — results of our spectacle-hungry, media-addicted culture. Most sudden phenoms, however, have been toiling quietly for years before their “moment.”

                                                                                                                                                                    Success is a process. Success is also a product of criticism from others and oneself. In dance class, corrections are very public. The teacher cannot always say everything in the gentlest way. With a class full of students, she needs to be concise and clear.

Your teacher’s job is not to make you like her, not to make you want go have coffee or drinks, or to be lifelong or even Facebook friends. Personally, I like it when I become friends with students. But this happens because before anything else the student trusted me — my skills and knowledge as a dancer and teacher.

                                                                                                                                                                               If you don’t trust your teacher you might find her corrections disrespectful. I tend to get zealous with corrections, going on campaigns and harangues to fix things. My humor tends toward the sarcastic, which can rub people the wrong way. Thus the combination of doggedly wanting to help and a dry wit might offend some students. If you are one of these students, you need to come talk to me about it. Don’t rip me a new one via your parents or in your course evaluation.

                                                                                                                                                                 Certainly there is humiliation, even cruelty in the dance studio. The caricature of the mean teacher or choreographer is based in truth. But when you find a teacher who is going out of her way to correct you, and perhaps getting a little frustrated – to call this teacher disrespectful is wrong. You do yourself a disservice. It is much easier for your teacher to ignore you, and spend time on someone who makes changes quickly. Only a teacher who thinks you have potential would bother to try to help you. Not disrespectful at all — exactly the opposite. And that puts the onus on you, to take responsibility for yourself. If you don’t understand why you are getting a correction five times per class or why your dancing is not getting the compliments you’d like, ask!

                                                                                                                                                                           The teachers who gave me the harshest, most brutally honest corrections are the ones I learned the most from. I didn’t like what they had to say, but in my day, we just went home and cried — never did we accuse the teacher of disrespect. Weeks, months or even years later, I realized how right the teacher was. That said, their corrections didn’t mean I was a) a bad dancer b) never going to dance professionally c) meant to be a Taco Bell employee.

                                                                                                                                                                             So please, take class mindfully. Work hard. Bring passion into the studio. Be curious about how to get better. Ask questions. And remember, if someone cares enough to work with you day in and day out, if she or he cares enough to get frustrated with you, she’s not being disrespectful, she’s teaching.

                                                                                                                                                                           You have so much information and technology available to you, and I know you have a lot to say. But a skilled dancing body still counts. Let me help.