Edward Villella, the artistic director who founded the Miami City Ballet in 1986 and built it into an internationally recognized company, has left sooner than expected.
Villella, 75, said last year he would retire after the 2012-2013 season ends in April. But according to CBS News, ballet officials announced Tuesday that Villella has decided to leave now.
In a statement, officials said Villella “had given the matter a great deal of thought” and decided with the company’s executive board to speed the transition to new leadership. Immediately succeeding Villella as artistic director is former New York City Ballet dancer Lourdes Lopez, recently the director at New York dance company Morphoses. She arrived in Miami last week to take over the company’s ballet school, which had been run by Villella’s wife.
In an email Tuesday to the ballet’s staff and roughly 40 dancers, Villella said he was confident that the company would continue to flourish. He also wrote that he was especially pleased with the acclaim they earned in rare tours in New York and Paris, and there was no mention of the angst that has shadowed his departure since his retirement was announced.
Ballet trustee Marvin Ross Friedman said Tuesday that he was leaving too. Instead of thanking Villella for the Paris tour, a few members of the executive board forced him to resign, Friedman said. “He created a world-class company, a crown jewel in the pantheon of Miami’s cultural assets . . . yet he was fired,” Friedman said in an email to ballet officials, dancers, and board members.
To read the full story, visit http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505245_162-57505886/villella-leaves-miami-ballet-sooner-than-expected/.
Ballet West artistic director Adam Sklute will be keeping that job at least through June 2017, as the ballet announces a number of changes to its artist staff and some dancer promotions and additions, according to the Deseret News.
Along with Sklute’s contract renewal, other leadership developments beginning in the 2012-2013 season include:
- Former Ballet West principal artist Jane Wood-Smith joining the company as ballet mistress
- Leading dancer Christopher Ruud, while continuing to perform as a principal artist, has been appointed director of Ballet West II
- Choreographer Nicolo Fonte has been named Ballet West resident choreographer
Company promotions include:
- Haley Henderson-Smith, Thomas Mattingly, Elizabeth McGrath, Ronnie Underwood, and Arolyn Williams from soloist to first-soloist
- Adrian Fry from corps-artist to soloist
- Sayaka Ohtaki from demi-soloist to soloist
- Katie Critchlow from corps-artist to demi-soloist
- Beckanne Sisk from new artist to demi-soloist
Moving up from Ballet West II is Amy Potter as a new artist and Ronald Tilton and Joshua Whitehead as first-year apprentices. Sarah Hochman, formerly of Pennsylvania Ballet II, joins Ballet West as a new artist.
To see the full story, visit http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765591144/Ballet-West-announces-changes-for-new-season.html?pg=all.
Kyle Abraham, acclaimed contemporary dancer, choreographer, and artistic director of Abraham.In.Motion, will receive the sixth annual Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award at the Jacob’s Pillow Season Opening Gala on June 16.
The Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award honors outstanding, visionary dance artists and carries a prize of $25,000, one of the largest cash awards in the dance industry, to be used by the choreographer to enhance their artistry in any way they choose.
“Kyle Abraham is a charismatic performer, ambitiously creative, and an insightful dance-maker who connects powerfully with audiences,” said Pillow executive and artistic director Ella Baff. “With this award, we can help this exceptional young artist turn a corner in his career and artistic development.”
Abraham began his training at the Civic Light Opera Academy and the Creative and Performing Arts High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, receiving a BFA from SUNY Purchase and an MFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. His choreography, which has won numerous awards and accolades, has been presented throughout the United States and abroad, and as a performer, Abraham has worked with acclaimed modern dance companies including David Dorfman Dance and Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. Abraham also teaches post-modern dance in schools and studios throughout the United States.
The Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award was created in 2007. Past winners include Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, co-directors of Big Dance Theater; Alonzo King, artistic director of Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet; Merce Cunningham; Bill T. Jones; and Crystal Pite, international choreographer and artistic director of Kidd Pivot. For details, visit www.jacobspillow.org.
Royal Ballet prima ballerina Tamara Rojo has been appointed the new artistic director of English National Ballet, replacing current director Wayne Eagling, who is scheduled to leave this summer, reported theartsdesk.
The ballerina had made clear in an interview with theartsdesk back in 2009 that her eye was set on a future job as a director when she stopped dancing, and on English National Ballet in particular, the touring company where she first showed herself as a shooting star 15 years ago.
The Spanish ballerina has no hands-on experience of running a company, but she has taken directors’ courses at National Ballet of Canada and the annual DanceEast directors’ retreat. At 37, she is a major world ballerina with box office appeal. The first ENB production of Rojo’s directorship will be the already announced The Sleeping Beauty in which she has excelled.
ENB is in crisis. Its critically acclaimed Beyond Ballets Russes season at the London Coliseum last month was a box office failure, not filling houses even with £10 ticket offers. A BBC Four documentary last year on ENB, Agony & Ecstasy, showed the stresses as the company tried to balance populism with maintaining classical standards.
To read the full story, visit http://www.theartsdesk.com/dance/tamara-rojo-prima-ballerina-becomes-english-national-ballets-director
Now that Miami City Ballet has chosen its new artistic director, it seems hard to imagine someone with a better résumé for the job, reported The New York Times.
The company—one of the premier regional dance companies and a major repository of the Balanchine tradition—announced Tuesday that it had hired Lourdes Lopez to succeed Edward Villella, the company’s longtime artistic director, who will stay on for next season.
Lopez, 53, danced with New York City Ballet for more than two decades, interpreting many of Balanchine’s and Jerome Robbins’s roles as a principal dancer. She was born in Cuba to an army officer who, she said in a phone interview with the newspaper, fought the rebel forces of Fidel Castro, a prime pedigree for many Cuban-Americans in Miami. She grew up in Miami until she was 14, when she moved to New York to study at the School of American Ballet.
And, Lopez said, she is “completely committed” to the Balanchine style. “It’s a philosophy that I grew up around,” she said, adding that Miami City Ballet’s dancers were exemplars. “They’re stage animals. There’s a raw energy, there’s a passion about them. That’s what Mr. B. wanted.”
However, not all is likely to be smooth for Lopez. Villella, 75, a star of a previous Balanchine era, announced his departure in the fall, distressing the dancers, many of whom had danced under him for their entire careers. Villella had helped establish the company and was its patriarch. He was reported to have been forced out by a faction of the board, although the company maintains he decided to leave of his own accord.
The search came down to Lopez and Jennifer Kronenberg, 35, a principal dancer with Miami City Ballet who is well liked by audiences and her colleagues. Kronenberg was also strongly backed by Villella, who lobbied for her. The dancers were split evenly between them.
To see the full story, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/04/arts/dance/lourdes-lopez-to-succeed-edward-villella-in-dance-company.html?_r=1.
Two finalists have emerged in Miami City Ballet’s effort to find a successor for founding artistic director Edward Villella, whose forced early retirement has divided the company and its supporters since it was announced in October.
The Miami Herald reports that the MCB board of directors is scheduled Tuesday to select either Jennifer Kronenberg, a popular, longtime principal dancer who is Villella’s choice as the best person to carry on his legacy, or Lourdes Lopez, a Miami-raised Cuban-American and former principal dancer with New York City Ballet, who is favored by some executive board members and advisors.
The choice reflects the division over Villella’s ouster: Kronenberg is an MCB insider supported by the bulk of the dancers. Lopez has the advantage of management experience and the support of powerful donors and board members.
Last fall, a small group of powerful executive board members and donors forced Villella, a former star dancer who founded the troupe in 1986 and has led it to national and international acclaim, to agree to retire earlier than he had planned. Villella, who is 75, is slated to retire in spring of 2013, at the end of MCB’s 27th season.
Kronenberg, 35, has been with MCB since 1994, rising from apprentice at 17 to principal dancer in 2001, performing leading roles throughout the troupe’s repertoire. She is married to fellow principal dancer and frequent partner Carlos Guerra, a naturalized Cuban. They are popular with South Florida audiences and are often asked to make appearances and speak with potential donors on behalf of the ballet.
Lopez, 54, whose parents left Cuba for Miami when she was a baby, began dancing in Miami but left at 14 to study at New York City Ballet, joining the troupe at 16 in 1974. She became a highly regarded principal dancer and worked with George Balanchine, who was Villella’s mentor. After leaving NYCB in 1996, she was executive director of the George Balanchine Foundation and then co-founder and director of Morphoses, launched with much fanfare in 2007 as a vehicle for famed choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. The partnership ended in 2010 after funding problems and other issues. Lopez continues to run Morphoses while Wheeldon is now resident choreographer at England’s Royal Ballet.
Li Cunxin was born in poverty in China, became a world ballet star, segued into stockbroking, wrote a best-selling memoir, took on a sideline in motivational speaking, and, as of this week, is artistic director-elect of Australia’s Queensland Ballet.
QB chief executive Anna Marsden said Li’s availability coincided with the desire of artistic director Francois Klaus to take up opportunities in Europe next year, The Australian reported. Li, 51, will have his feet under the desk in July and Klaus will leave at the end of the year. Klaus was to have left the Brisbane-based company at the end of next year.
Li’s early life is well known from the international success of his book, Mao’s Last Dancer, and the subsequent film. The story ended as he was about to join the Australian Ballet, from which he retired as a principal artist in 1999. Li went on to be a senior manager at Melbourne stockbroker Bell Potter, an AB board member, and a corporate guest speaker.
Forty-one candidates vied for the QB post. QB chair Joan Sheldon cited Li’s “extraordinary career, international reputation, networks, and commercial experience” as reasons for his selection.
Ballet San Jose founder Dennis Nahat has confirmed that he has received a letter from executive director Stephanie Ziesel removing him as artistic director.
“I am flabbergasted at how this has happened,” Nahat said during a phone call to the San Francisco Chronicle. “I don’t understand the rationale behind it, and I guess one cannot rationalize it at this point.”
Nahat, who co-founded the Cleveland Ballet 40 years ago, piloted his dancers through a cooperative venture as San Jose Cleveland Ballet and oversaw its transition to Ballet San Jose. He says that his immediate plans are to concentrate on his commitment as adjudicator of the Silicon Valley International Art Competition in Cupertino. He will also enter discussions with Ballet San Jose over granting permission for the company to continue performing the more than 80 ballets (to which he still owns the rights) that he choreographed for the company.
Ballet San Jose has delayed its spring season announcement, shortened its Nutcracker run and announced a new partnership with American Ballet Theatre, new artistic leadership, and the departure of Ballet San Jose’s board chair.
To read the full story, visit
San Jose Ballet Artistic Director Dennis Nahat may be forced out of the company he founded, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Apparently, the artistic direction has moved solely into the hands of the board of directors.
“It’s a peculiar and precarious situation,” Nahat told the Chronicle. “I am still an employee of the ballet, I am still management, but if there are changes being made, I am not privy to them.”
Hints of difficulties surfaced earlier this year with stalled union contract negotiations with the dancers for the 2011-12 season.
Nahat insisted that he was not upset by rumors that he may be replaced as artistic director or by reports of turmoil within the company that he founded in 1985 as the dual-residency San Jose Cleveland Ballet.
Stephanie Ziesel, executive director of Ballet San Jose since 2009, would not confirm or deny to the Chronicle any plans to remove Nahat. Ballet San Jose also has not announced any performances after its current Nutcracker, which runs through December 23.
Company spokesperson Lee Kopp verified that details for the 2012 season would be forthcoming in early January, although Nahat said no ballets had been rehearsed and he had no idea of what works might be performed or what lies in store for the company’s immediate future. Nahat said the board decides which ballets will be performed, who will be cast in those ballets, and which dancers stay or go.
Hints of difficulties surfaced earlier in the year with stalled union contract negotiations for the dancers for the 2011-12 season. To read the full story, visit http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/12/12/DDQS1MBG4M.DTL.
Alexander Grant, a beloved star of British ballet and a former artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada, died September 30 in London, according to The New York Times. He was 86.
Grant was acclaimed for his magnetic personality and demi-caractère style, particularly in Frederick Ashton’s works for The Royal Ballet. He originated the role of Alain, the rich farmer’s son, in Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée and later staged the work for many companies, including American Ballet Theatre.
Grant was born on Feb. 22, 1925, in Wellington, New Zealand, and began his dance studies at the age of 7. He was offered a ballet scholarship in London and arrived there in February 1946. Two months later he was invited into the Sadler’s Wells Theater Ballet, the recently formed junior troupe of the Sadler’s Wells Ballet (which became The Royal Ballet in 1956). Ninette de Valois, founder of both troupes, invited him into the senior company in September 1946.
During his 30 years as a dancer in the Royal Ballet (1946 to 1976), Grant appeared in 30 Ashton ballets, creating roles in 22 premieres. He led the National Ballet of Canada from 1976 to 1983.
Sylvia Waters, artistic director of Ailey II for nearly four decades, will retire from her position on June 30, 2012.
Chosen by Alvin Ailey to guide and develop Ailey II following seven years as a lead dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Waters has trained generations of professional dancers and opened the door for many of today’s most vital choreographers. She also brought Ailey II, which was founded in 1974, to prominence as one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed touring companies.
Waters has named Troy Powell, a veteran Ailey dancer, teacher, and choreographer who has been Ailey II associate artistic director since 2003, to be Waters’ successor. Powell will immediately become artistic director-designate of Ailey II and will assume his new role as artistic director on July 1, 2012.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will pay tribute to Waters with a special performance on December 11 as part of its five-week season at New York City Center. Following her retirement from Ailey II, Waters will remain active in the Ailey organization, including leading The Ailey Legacy Residency, a new lecture, technique, and repertory program for college-level students that looks definitively into the history and creative heritage of Alvin Ailey.
“Mr. Ailey gave me the greatest gift imaginable when he created a second company and asked me to take charge of it. I have spent the past 37 years living with the energies and enthusiasms, the hopes and hurts, of some of the world’s best young dancers and choreographers—memories I will always cherish,” Waters said.
Artistic director and co-founder, The State Ballet of Rhode Island; artistic director and owner, The Brae Crest School of Classical Ballet, Lincoln, RI
NOMINATED BY: Gloria Silva, parent: “Mrs. Marsden is the best dance teacher there is. At 73, she still teaches all her ballet classes. She allows every student to perform; she encourages even those who think picking dance wasn’t a great choice. They stay—why? Because of her. Students get an experience there that they would not get anywhere else. My daughter, who has many disabilities, feels good about herself because of Mrs. Marsden.”
YEARS TEACHING: 53 years
GENRES TAUGHT: Classical ballet: technique and pointe, including pas de deux, classical variations, and character dancing
AGES TAUGHT: 8 to adult
WHY SHE CHOSE TEACHING AS A CAREER: I have always been appreciative of others who helped me throughout my dancing career as well as during my childhood in a war-torn country, Croatia (formerly part of Yugoslavia). Inspired by teachers who gave me opportunities that changed my life for the better, I knew that sharing my love for ballet as a performer and teacher would continue the legacy of classical ballet, my inspirational teachers, and my passion and belief in the power of the arts. When my family and I moved to the United States, it was an opportunity for me to share my talents as a dancer by teaching others. There was no question about my decision to teach, because it was a living tribute to give back what I had been blessed with. By teaching, all were alive: ballet, my teachers, myself, and the future of my students.
GREATEST INSPIRATION: I have a great love and appreciation for classical ballet, and I share that with the teachers who inspired me: Ana Roje, Oskar Harmos, Mila Katic, and Mia Slavenska. I also value the Slavic heritage I share with many of my teachers.
TEACHING PHILOSOPHY: Dance all you can today because you never know what tomorrow brings.
WHAT MAKES HER A GOOD TEACHER: I have always shared with my students the love and respect I have for ballet. Ballet is my way of life, and my students are part of my everyday world. My teaching, disciplined yet open to artistic expression, is conveyed with love so they too can appreciate ballet.
FONDEST TEACHING MOMENT: I take great pride in watching my students progress as dancers and as individuals. So many of them, from my ballet school as well as from the University of Rhode Island, have chosen paths in life in which they have been so successful: dancers, doctors, teachers, business leaders, and artists in other genres.
ADVICE TO STUDENTS: Continue to love the art of ballet. It is a way to live, grow, inspire, create, cope, express, and feel free. Always do your ballet class because it exercises your mind, body, and soul. It is OK to take risks and be afraid of the challenges along the way of reaching your dreams and achieving your goals. Believe in yourself and the discipline you’ve learned in ballet class and you will attain wonderful achievements and strength as a dancer and quality human being.
IF SHE WASN’T A DANCE TEACHER: It is not a matter of what I would do if I were not a ballet teacher, but rather who I would be. Ballet is who I am, and teaching is how I share myself with my students.
DO YOU KNOW A DANCE TEACHER WHO DESERVES TO BE IN THE SPOTLIGHT? Email your nominations to Arisa@rheegold.com or mail them to Arisa White, Dance Studio Life, P.O. Box 2150, Norton, MA 02766. Please include why you think this teacher should be featured, along with his or her contact information.
Robert Ivey, a distinguished dancer, choreographer, and artistic director who died July 15, will be remembered for the many lives he touched in the Charleston arts community, reported The Post and Courier this weekend.
Founder and artistic director of the Robert Ivey Ballet and director at the Robert Ivey Ballet School, he studied ballet at the American Ballet Theatre School while attending Columbia University in New York as a pre-med student in the 1950s. Ivey later would study at the Ballet Arts School in Carnegie Hall.
His professional credits included major roles on Broadway and in Europe, among them the New York and London productions of West Side Story, and his work earned numerous grants and awards. Ivey was a member of the Swedish State Theatre and Royal Norwegian Ballet and performed on European tours with such stars as E.G. Marshall, Sada Thompson, Esther Rolle, and Liv Ullmann.
Ivey had served as dancer and choreographer in residence for the Brevard Music Center and for the Spoleto Festival USA. He was a past president of the Charleston Area Arts Council and a professor of dance in the Theatre and Dance Department in the School of the Arts at the College of Charleston.
Colleagues said Ivey’s influence is felt widely in Charleston area artistic circles, and that his example would endure.
“The biggest thing I would say about Bob is that it is a huge loss to the Lowcountry, and that he will be sorely missed by a lot of the people in the arts, not only in the world of just dance, but all over the United States,” said colleague and friend Jill Eathorne Barr of the Charleston Ballet Theatre. “He has taught many young dancers a love of dance he loved so much himself.”
To read the full story, visit http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2011/jul/16/ivey-ballet-founder-dancer-dies/.
The Joffrey Ballet breathed a collective sigh of relief this week when Ashley Wheater, the company’s artistic director since 2007—and who in recent weeks was shortlisted for the hugely powerful job of artistic director of the Britain’s Royal Ballet—will happily continue on in Chicago, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The Royal Ballet job went to Kevin O’Hare, who has had a long association as both dancer and administrator with several major British companies, including the Royal Ballet, and who plans to work closely with choreographers Christopher Wheeldon and Wayne McGregor.
“I was extremely honored and excited to even be considered,” said Wheater, who trained at the Royal Ballet school and danced with the Joffrey, the Australian Ballet, and the San Francisco Ballet before coming to lead the Joffrey. “But I did not seek the job. I just received a letter asking me to come see the company and school, which I hadn’t seen for a year or so. I went to London and did that, and gave them my thoughts. And about two weeks ago they asked me to officially apply for the job, which I did.
“The truth is, I feel like I have only just begun my work with the Joffrey.” Wheater noted he is eagerly looking forward to the company’s production of Don Quixote next season and has been in discussion with Wheeldon about creating an original work for the troupe.
The fifth annual Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award will be presented to Crystal Pite, an internationally renowned Canadian choreographer and artistic director of contemporary dance company Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM, at the Pillow’s season-opening gala June 18.
The Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award honors outstanding visionary artists and carries a prize of $25,000, one of the largest cash awards in the dance industry, to be used by the choreographers to enhance their artistry in any way they choose.
“Crystal is one of the most talented, intelligent, and original dancemakers to come along in recent years,” said Ella Baff, Jacob’s Pillow executive and artistic director, in a news release. “A former dancer with William Forsythe’s Frankfurt Ballet and a riveting performer with her own troupe, she has also choreographed for major international companies, many of which have performed at the Pillow. She is respected and admired by the dance field throughout the world, and each of her creations is something unexpected and deeply imaginative.”
To watch a video preview of Pite’s piece Dark Matters, visit http://www.youtube.com/user/kiddpivot#p/u/0/VNyLjFiKrfY.
The Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award emphasizes the Pillow’s commitment to support choreographers at various stages of their careers, and to support the creation of new work through the Pillow’s Creative Development Residency Program. For more information, visit www.jacobspillow.org.
Making his creative vision public for the first time, Robert Battle, the incoming artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, announced a major new choreography program on Thursday, according to a story in The New York Times.
New Directions Choreography Lab will grant $9,500 resident fellowships to four emerging or mid-career artists each year. For the inaugural class of the program, which has Ford Foundation support, the choreographers are Adam Barruch, who studied at Ailey and Juilliard and now has his own company; Camille Brown, whose work has been seen at Sadler’s Wells in London, among other places; Joanna Kotze, a Movement Research faculty member; and Malcolm Low, a former dancer who now works with Crystal Pite and her company, Kidd Pivot.
Those choreographers, selected by a panel of dance professionals, will receive stipends, work with Ailey dancers, and be paired with “creative advisers” during seven-week residencies at the Joan Weill School of Dance. At the end they will be invited to show their work informally and receive feedback, but there is no requirement for a final performance or commission.
The program will benefit the dance world, not just Ailey, Battle said. Choreographers have few chances to learn outside of commissions, which come with time constraints and other pressures, he said. Those pressures lead them to “reach into their bag of tricks” rather than to take risks in public, Battle said. The lab, he added, would not focus on results. “Maybe at the end they’ll have a kernel of a great idea,” Battle said, but that is not a requirement of the program.
To read the full story, visit www.nytimes.com/2011/05/12/arts/dance/alvin-ailey-awards-choreography-fellowships.html.
Jim May, artistic director of Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble, returns to Peridance Capezio Center in New York City with a special summer workshop based on the works of groundbreaking modern choreographer Anna Sokolow.
The workshop will be held June 27 to July 1 from 9:30 to 11:30am at the Peridance Capezio Center, 126 East 13th Street. Geared for the dancer/actor, the workshop will tap into acting, vocal, and movement exercises to help students become complete performers using Sokolow’s approach to theater dance.
Cost for the full workshop is $90. To register, visit www.peridance.com or call 212.505.0886.
PBS late-night host Tavis Smiley will talk this Friday (April 29) with Robert Battle, dancer-choreographer and soon-to-be artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
This summer, Battle will succeed Judith Jamison to become only the third person to head the troupe since it was founded in 1958. He has had a long association with the company as a choreographer and an artist in residence and has given master classes around the globe.
Battle hails from the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami, Florida, and attended Juilliard’s dance program. After graduation, he joined the Parsons Dance Company before founding his own Battleworks Dance Company. He was honored by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2005.
Although schedules change, Smiley’s show generally runs at the following times on these stations:
WNET/New York: 1pm and 12am
KOCE/Southern California: 11pm
WTTW/Chicago: 1am Monday to Thursday, 1:30am Friday
WETA/Washington, DC: 12am
Visit www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/interviews/alvin-ailey-dance-theater-robert-battle/ for more information.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago will conclude its season with the company premiere of Following the Subtle Current Upstream, choreographed by LINES Ballet artistic director Alonzo King and marking a new collaborative relationship between Hubbard Street and LINES.
The company’s Summer Series, scheduled for May 19 to 22, will also feature the return of choreographer Jirí Kylián’s 27’52” and a revival of Untouched, created for the company by choreographer Aszure Barton.
Hubbard Street artistic director Glenn Edgerton initiated the coming together of the two very different companies—LINES Ballet’s neoclassical focus and Hubbard Street’s contemporary style—as part of Hubbard Street’s mission to collaborate with other artists, as well as expand the artistic experience for both dancers and audience.
In January, Hubbard Street received a $50,000 award from The Joyce Foundation to support a multi-year collaboration. The partnership will be launched with Hubbard Street’s performance of Following the Subtle Current Upstream, set to music by Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain, South African singer Miriam Makeba, and composer Miguel Frasconi.
Edgerton and King will work to set up a series of opportunities during the next two years for the dancers of both companies to share their talent and technique with one another, culminating in a new work by King in 2012 and performed by both companies on stage together.
The Summer Series program will be held at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph Drive, Chicago, with performances set for May 19 at 7:30pm, May 20 and 21 at 8pm, and May 22 at 3pm. Summer Series single tickets, priced from $25 to $94, are available by calling 312.850.9744, at www.hubbardstreetdance.com, or at the Harris Theater box office. Group discounts are available.
Carla Maxwell, Limón Dance Company artistic director, will lecture on Missa Brevis, one of Limón’s classic works, April 19 at 7pm at the Americas Society, 680 Park Avenue, New York.
Admission is free, but reservations are required. To RSVP, call 212.777.8359 ext. 4.
Company members Francisco Ruvalcaba and Roxane D’Orleans Juste will perform excerpts from the historic piece. The lecture will address the sources of information used by Limón and Hungarian composer Zoltán Kódaly to create the dance and music. Limón was inspired by Kódaly’s Missa Brevis in Tempori Belli, composed at the end of World War II when the composer was in hiding in the cellar of a Budapest convent.
Missa Brevis will be included in the Limón Dance Company’s June 7 to 12 New York season at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College, 58th Street and Tenth Avenue, New York City. Repertory for the season includes La Cathédral Engloutie by Jirí Kylián, Chrysalis by Jonathan Fredrickson, and Limón classics The Moor’s Pavane, Emperor Jones, and There Is a Time. Visit www.limon.org for info.
Bruce Marks’ unique path through the worlds of modern dance and ballet
By Joshua Bartlett
Some people challenge conventional limits; Bruce Marks just ignores them. He was a modern dancer who became a ballet dancer. He completed makeovers on Ballet West and Boston Ballet, proving that he could be an equally effective artistic director and chief executive. He has worked closely with many of the titans of dance history. And he continues to teach, choreograph, and stage ballets with the zeal of someone 50 years younger.
Getting his start
Marks was born in 1937, the son of a Brooklyn truck driver who taught him gymnastics. When he was 13, Mr. Schacter, his eighth-grade physical education teacher, told him he was opening a dance school on Flatbush Avenue and gave him a scholarship to study tap and ballroom dance. Later that year, Marks’ homeroom teacher suggested that he audition for the new High School of the Performing Arts in Manhattan. He overrode his parents’ protests by reassuring them that it was a college preparatory, not vocational, school. The audition panel included dance critics Walter Terry and John Martin as well as legendary American Ballet Theatre ballerina Nora Kaye. At the same audition, another young dancer showed up—Edward Villella, who became a star at New York City Ballet and later, artistic director of Miami City Ballet.
At four-foot-ten Marks was short (he later grew to be six feet tall) with a huge jump, so he was put on the track of being a modern dancer. “I didn’t know what a career in dance was,” says Marks. “I didn’t know what concert dance was. I was to become a modern dancer.”
The modern-dance track
One of Marks’ teachers at HSPA was choreographer and Martha Graham dancer Pearl Lang, who gave Marks his first lead role. He performed with her company as her son in a polemical dance about war and chaos, called The Ironic Rite (later changed to Rites). “Here I was, a very serious child modern dancer reading nothing but contemporary poets like E.E. Cummings, T.S. Eliot, and Dylan Thomas,” says Marks in a joking tone.
When he graduated, he auditioned for Brandeis University, dancing a piece set to “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” He laughs at the memory. “How I danced that, I don’t know,” he says. But after a short period at Brandeis (“I was the entire male dance department,” he says. “They had a Hanya Holm style of training”), he opted to train at The Juilliard School instead, where he studied ballet with Antony Tudor. “He ‘adopted’ me, fell in love with me. We went everywhere together; he taught me about music, French cooking, and wine,” says Marks.
And the young protégé loved Tudor’s classes. “The enchaînement were very creative,” he says. “[Tudor] was very influenced by people like [August] Bournonville. It was about the detail and subtlety of getting your weight where it should be. He always said dance exists in the transitions. He was in love with the rise and fall, the breath of dance.”
Segue to ballet
Tudor, who was choreographing for the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, wanted Marks to audition there, explaining that he could have a paying job and still dance with Pearl Lang’s company. (In those days ballet dancers and modern dancers barely spoke to each other.) “I told him I didn’t want to be a ballet dancer and I didn’t want to be in an opera ballet company. Tudor said it didn’t really matter because I probably couldn’t pass the audition anyway. He was the original mind-game player. I said, ‘I’m taking the audition but not the job.’ ”
Marks got the job and took it. In 1956, he made his Metropolitan Opera debut in a solo in Lucia di Lammermoor, with soprano Maria Callas in the title role (her Met Opera debut in that role). During his career there, he performed numerous principal roles and partnered ballerinas such as Violette Verdy, Lupe Serrano, and Alicia Markova. So Marks became the modern dancer who morphed into a ballet dancer.
After five years at the Met, Marks auditioned for ABT and artistic director Lucia Chase offered him a soloist contract. Five days and a very sore body later (they threw everything at him), she made him a principal dancer. It was there that he met his future wife, Toni Lander, the Danish ballerina who became a revered ABT star. Marks ended up dancing a wide variety of ballets from Swan Lake to Miss Julie to Études to The Moor’s Pavane. Unlike most ballet dancers (particularly in those days), he had worked with choreographers across a wide spectrum—Martha Graham, José Limón, Tudor, Jerome Robbins, Agnes de Mille, and George Balanchine, who coached him in Theme and Variations.
In 1971 Marks and Lander went to Denmark for five years to dance with the Royal Danish Ballet. There Marks got a chance to dance many Bournonville roles, including James in La Sylphide, and modern works such as Paul Taylor’s role in Aureole. Lander died in 1985, but the couple had three sons and two grandsons.
A company of his own
After turning down an offer to head the dance department at SUNY Purchase (Marks wanted to form a company there, but he was told he would have to raise all the money for it), in 1976 he accepted Willam Christensen’s offer to co-direct Ballet West in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 1978, he became artistic director.
“When I went to Ballet West, they were doing Giselle with flexed feet, and I cried, thinking, ‘What have I done?’ ” he says. “I had to start from the beginning—and I did. I wanted to encourage new works and do credible, small versions of the classics.” During his tenure, the company presented its first full-length production of Swan Lake and became known for giving opportunities to emerging choreographers. He also revived an obscure Bournonville full-length ballet called Abdallah, which has an Aladdin-style plot. After Marks secured the libretto from Sotheby’s for $150, a team including Toni Lander and members of the Royal Danish Ballet consulted a librarian in Denmark, who had a record of the Bournonville choreography, and set the ballet in a streamlined fashion. A Saudi arms dealer helped secure half of the $350,000 needed to mount the ballet, Marks says.
Boston and beyond
In 1985 Marks took the position of artistic director of Boston Ballet. “When I arrived at Boston Ballet, I had about 700 new ideas,” he says. “I was like a 1,000-watt light bulb.” While there, he produced large productions of the classics, such as an American/Soviet production of Swan Lake, an acclaimed 1993 version of The Sleeping Beauty, the oldest existing version of Coppélia from the Royal Danish Ballet, and a traditional Russian production of Giselle coached by Natalia Dudinskaya from the Kirov Ballet. He also commissioned works from contemporary choreographers such as Twyla Tharp, Mark Morris, Merce Cunningham, Susan Marshall, and Bill T. Jones. He set up a children’s dance program in the city’s public schools and raised the money to build an impressive new home for the ballet with spacious studios. And when he brought ABT star Fernando Bujones in as a guest dancer, he raised the standard of dancing for the entire company, especially the men.
After 12 years he left, because he felt that his job was over. “For me the exciting thing was taking on the ugly duckling of ballet—everyone hated Boston Ballet. I would never again be able to quadruple the budget. I need the action, the fight,” he says.
Marks has made a name for himself as a prodigious fund-raiser as well as an esteemed director, a rare combination in the dance world. When asked about the secret behind his executive talents, he seems reluctant to reveal his full hand. “I’m not sure what it is. Maybe because I took two years of acting at the High School for the Performing Arts? I’m rather good at getting my message across,” he says.
According to Marks, when he arrived at Boston Ballet the company had a $4 million budget and a $2 million deficit, which he erased within three months. And Boston, he says, was not the easiest place to procure funding. “Everyone in Boston believes they should have the arts and someone else should do it,” he says. “There’s that whole Brahmin mentality.”
Since his departure from Boston, Marks has acted as interim director for Orlando Ballet (now directed by Robert Hill) and opened a consulting company called ArtsVenture, Inc. “I teach, coach, stage ballets, choreograph,” he says.
Marks as master teacher
Marks has plenty of ideas about teaching, which he will be doing at the 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, this summer. The element he stresses most when he teaches is to get students to remember what it feels like to dance rather than to do ballet. “I always go back to Tudor and Doris Humphrey and Limón and the breath,” he says. “I always say dance is about the breathing and showing your humanity. Dance is about directly contacting the audience through a kind of openness.”
What he thinks is often missing in teaching is a sense of épaulement. “There are so many people teaching dancing by teaching the outside of ballet—the positions and how important they are,” he says. “I think it is wonderful if people put their legs behind their head. It doesn’t interest me much, but it seems to interest a lot of people. But I think it is really wonderful when dancers communicate directly with me through a kinesthetic response to dance. I want to be surprised by any kind of theater.” He readily admits that he is “bored with multiple everything” and that he thinks Bournonville was right in thinking that’s for the circus.
His favorite dancers include Gelsey Kirkland, for her risk-taking; Margot Fonteyn because of her ability to speak to the soul; Yuri Soloviev for the way he moved and used the ground; and Herman Cornejo for his combination of technique and artistry. As jury chairman of the USA International Ballet Competition, he was recently impressed by a junior gold medal winner, a young Portuguese dancer named Marcelino Sambé, for his ability to do just about anything.
His advice for dance school directors and teachers: There is more than one way to teach dance and there are different approaches to technique. “When I teach a master class, at the end I always say you are going to go home to your teachers and say, ‘Mr. Marks said this.’ And they are going to say, ‘That’s terrible.’ And you need to say to your teachers, ‘He knows that’s not the only way to do it. He did it differently in Copenhagen and New York, but it worked for him.’ ”
Marks admits he’s patiently waiting for the next revolution, the next reinvention of the full-length ballet that isn’t formulaic. “I can’t watch another Disney story not being as well done as Disney does it. I don’t want to see that in regional ballet,” he says.
Advocate for education
As for today’s dancers, he wants them to be kind to themselves, to listen to their bodies. “Take care of your injuries as soon as they arrive,” he says. “Don’t pray and hope they’ll go away.” And long gone are the days when Lincoln Kirstein used to rip books from the hands of ballet students at the School of American Ballet, saying they should be concentrating on only stretching and technique.
“I think the intelligent dancers are the most interesting,” Marks says. “They need to know about music, go to museums, they need to have a full life, have a full education about the visual arts and dramatic arts.” Because many dancers become directors and choreographers, he says, “they need to know how to talk to a designer and say, ‘No, I’m interested in a more Mondrian-like background, something geometric.’ I sometimes see the designs directors choose and realize they have never seen anything! So mind your education.”
At the 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference, Marks will be talking a lot about the use of the torso. He will also be lecturing on his life in ballet. “There aren’t too many sons of Brooklyn truck drivers who have had the life and experiences I’ve had. Is it impractical to have a life in dance?” he asks. “Terribly impractical. But the impractical things in life are the only ones worth doing. My life has been all surprises because of dance. I am happy to say, as I enter my mid-70s, that it’s been a phenomenal life.”
Liz Lerman, founder of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, is passing the artistic directorship to company member and choreographer Cassie Meador.
Lerman will leave the company to pursue a new realm of choreographic and public intellectual endeavors while sustaining a relationship with the Dance Exchange through select performance, community, and online projects.
Leadership transition for the intergenerational performance company based in Takoma Park, Maryland, will take effect on July 1. The reconfigured company will return to the organization’s original name, The Dance Exchange, and Lerman will function independently, operating under her own name. She will become choreographer emerita to the Dance Exchange.
Meador, 31, has been performing, teaching, and leading projects with the Dance Exchange since 2002. She emerged as a strong choreographic voice in 2007 when she co-directed the premiere of 613 Radical Acts of Prayer: Opening Acts with Lerman at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Meador is also a visiting teacher of dance and environmental studies at Wesleyan University, where she uses Dance Exchange tools and methods to look at topics such as climate change, food systems, and energy.
Departure from the artistic directorship allows Lerman, 63, to pursue a wider variety of opportunities. “I have been so supported by the community in the Washington, DC ,and Maryland area, and have been challenged to do my best work. I’m grateful for that and look forward to watching the interactions of the new Dance Exchange with those audiences,” Lerman says. “I’m part of a whole generation that’s coming to a later age with a lot of vividness and capacity. I’m very enthusiastic about the partnerships that I’m forming, the conversations I’m having, and the ways in which I’m going to work . . . and how different it’s all going to be.”
In the fall, Lerman will become artist-in-residence at Harvard University. Meanwhile, she will continue to choreograph on a wide variety of dancers, and she is in discussion with American Repertory Theater, the Hirshhorn Museum, and Sadler’s Wells in London about upcoming projects.
Lerman will also pursue a more active life as a writer. Her book of essays, Hiking the Horizontal, is to be published this spring by Wesleyan University Press.
For more information, visit www.thedanceexchange.org.
Hip-hop dancer, choreographer, and artistic director Gabriel “Kwikstep” Dionisio will teach a master breaking workshop at the Mill Ballet School, Lambertville, New Jersey, on January 29 from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
The workshop is open to all ages and levels of dancers, and will include instruction in neck moves, head and shoulder tracks, drops, top rock, footwork, and rhythm patterns. Cost is $25.
Born and raised in New York City, Kwikstep toured China with the New York Express at age 19. He has won a Bessie award for choreography, appeared in TV, film, and videos, and founded Full Circle Productions, a non-profit hip-hop collective. Today he is an international icon in breaking and is best known for his smooth style, versatility, and signature head spins. Kwikstep will make his debut with New Jersey’s Roxey Ballet during “Romance and Dance,” running February 3 to 13.
The Mill Ballet School, the official school of the Roxey Ballet Company, is located at 243 North Union Street, Lambertville. To register, visit www.thestudiodirector.com/millballetschool/register.jsp. For more details, visit www.millballetschool.com or call 609.397.7244.
The Louisville Ballet’s executive director, Dwight Hutton, is resigning from the position effective December 31, according to the Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky.
Artistic director Bruce Simpson will become interim executive director in addition to his current duties while the company’s board of directors searches for a replacement. Hutton declined to comment on his decision to leave the position and return to Seattle, where his wife and two daughters live. The company’s director of marketing, Leslie Wilson, said that the resignation was a mutual decision between the Hutton and the board of directors.
Hutton came to the position at Louisville Ballet in January 2009 with more than 30 years of experience working as a dancer and an arts administrator. He began dancing as a student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, then went on to dance professionally with the Tulsa Ballet and the Milwaukee Ballet. He first took on administrative duties as the company manager for Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle before moving on to become the managing director of San Francisco’s Smuin Ballet. Since 2006, Hutton has served on the board of Dance/USA, a national service organization representing dance companies throughout the country.
To access the full story, visit www.courier-journal.com/article/20101216/FEATURES/312160069.
Steve Smith of Steven Smith Teamaker and Christopher Stowell, artistic director of Oregon Ballet Theater, have collaborated on a one-of-a-kind tea blend that will be served and sold exclusively at OBT performances this month.
The blend, named “Christopher’s OBTea” after Stowell, is a mixture of Yunnan and Assam full-leaf black teas that is “soothing, golden, and slightly creamy with a natural, honey-like sweetness.” Smith describes it as a mix of Indian and Chinese teas, touched with hyssop, linden flowers, and mint.
The tea will be available by the cup at performances, and can be purchased by the box ($15) in the foyer of the Keller Auditorium or at the OBT Box Office. Performances of OBT’s The Nutcracker and A Holiday Revue run from now to December 24.
All proceeds from “Christopher’s OBTea” will go to OBT’s company, education and outreach programs, and the School of OBT. For more information about Steven Smith Teamaker, visit www.smithtea.com or call the Teaworks at 503.719.8752. Details on performances can be found at www.obt.org.
Gideon Obarzanek has announced that he will be stepping down as the artistic director and CEO of Chunky Move at the end of 2011 to pursue other freelance opportunities in dance and other art forms, reported Australian Stage.
While he will continue to work on touring productions in an associate director capacity the following year, Obarzanek will hand over to a new artistic director and CEO at the beginning of 2012.
“Chunky Move has literally been the greater part of my adult life. The organization has allowed me extraordinary creative flexibility on so many different, unique, and exciting projects with an array of inspiring artists,” he said. “Dance has been such an inspiring art form for me and it is my hope that Chunky Move continues to reinvent and push the boundaries of what dance can be within our ever-evolving contemporary culture.”
Obarzanek founded Chunky Move in 1995. Under his directorship, Chunky Move has evolved into Australia’s most successful contemporary dance export, touring to more than 30 cities and performing in just the last twelve months to more than 10,000 international dance lovers. For full story, visit www.australianstage.com
Teacher/owner, Michele’s Dance Academy, Las Cruces, New Mexico; artistic director, Las Cruces Chamber Ballet
NOMINATED BY: Laura Vechione, instructor, Michele’s Dance Academy: “Kevin’s late wife, Michele Self, founded Michele’s Dance Academy more than 30 years ago and Las Cruces Chamber Ballet in 1983. Kevin taught with Michele and has continued in her tradition after her death four years ago. It was a difficult transition, but Kevin inspires all of the students and has kept Michele’s vision and dream alive and flourishing.”
YEARS TEACHING: More than 25 years, and the learning never stops.
AGES TAUGHT: My principal student group is the older children, 12 years and up, and I’m an assistant teacher in several of the “baby” classes. I don’t have the patience or tolerance to teach the younger children and I admire anyone who does. They are the bread and butter of any local dance studio.
GENRES TAUGHT: My areas of expertise are ballet, jazz, and tap. Tap was my first interest, but ballet became my true passion and paid for two college degrees and tours all over the world, plus a stint with American Ballet Theatre. Ironically, after years of intense focus in ballet, I received my first professional job with Agnes de Mille as a tapper!
HIS INVOLVEMENT WITH LAS CRUCES CHAMBER BALLET: After retiring from the dance world, I returned to Las Cruces and became a real estate broker. After several years I found a need for physical discipline, so I went to a local dance studio owned by a friend from high school. She told me she needed men for her new company and I would be a great asset. She was cute, so I agreed—and then married her two years later.
It’s a nonprofit company and no one, neither administrators nor dancers, receives payment. The result is my day begins at the studio at 6:30 a.m. and ends at 9:00 p.m., six days a week. It’s not a job; it’s a rewarding way of living.
WHY HE CHOSE TEACHING: I never intended to teach—until I married a dance teacher. Michele showed me how much more rewarding it was to watch a student and talent grow together than to experience the short-lived thrill of performing.
GREATEST INSPIRATION: Edward Villella inspired me as a young boy; when I became a young man, Mikhail Baryshnikov took his place. What an incredible experience it was to be with ABT during the “Misha years.” I’ll never forget the day I realized I was standing at the same barre as Baryshnikov, Nureyev, and Erik Bruhn. As a mere corps member, it was humbling and inspiring at the same time.
TEACHING PHILOSOPHY: I adopted the teaching philosophy of my late wife. First you teach the student, then you teach the subject. If you understand the students, you can make them the best they can be.
WHAT MAKES HIM A GOOD TEACHER: The ability to find a balance between honest criticism and constructive inspiration.
FONDEST TEACHING MEMORY: Each time a former student returns and apologizes for giving me such a hard time when they were young. A good teacher isn’t an easy teacher.
ADVICE TO TEACHERS: Focus on the discipline aspect of teaching. It’s a tool that will help students succeed in any endeavor.
GOALS: To continue Michele’s legacy and provide quality opportunities for performance and art education to as many young people as possible.
WHAT HE WOULD DO IF HE WEREN’T A TEACHER: Be an entrepreneur, promoting other people’s talent. Each project would present its own uniqueness and satisfaction.
DO YOU KNOW A DANCE TEACHER WHO DESERVES TO BE IN THE SPOTLIGHT? Email your nominations to Arisa@rheegold.com or mail them to Arisa White, Dance Studio Life, 10 South Washington St., Norton, MA 02766. Please include why you think this teacher should be featured, along with his or her contact information.
One of Philadelphia’s most renowned dance companies, Philadanco, will premiere a new piece by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founder and artistic director of Urban Bush Women, when the company appears at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College, New York, on November 20 at 8:00 p.m.
Known for its powerful and diverse blend of African-American dance, ballet, jazz, and modern, Philadanco’s latest production, By Way of the Funk, harnesses the energy and culture of funk music, and is set to music by Parliament and Funkadelic. Tickets are available at 718.951.4500 or www.brooklyncenter.com.
Ethan Stiefel, principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre, has been appointed artistic director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet.
Stiefel, currently the dean of the School of Dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, will take up the new position next year.
“This is a huge coup for the RNZB,” Amanda Skoog, the company’s general manager, says. “Ethan is one of the most talented dancers currently performing in the world, but on top of that, he’s a fantastic teacher and I have no doubt he will not only be an inspiring mentor but he will lead the RNZB to a new level of recognition and excellence.”
A Pennsylvania native, Stiefel has connections to New Zealand. His grandmother was born and raised in Christchurch, and his relatives live in Invercargill and Manapouri. He said he is looking forward to building on the company’s excellent reputation while at the same time “seeking to be a fresh, innovative and inspiring leader for the RNZB.”
Stiefel began his performing career at age 16 with the New York City Ballet, where he rose to rank of principal. He also was a principal dancer with the Zurich Ballet and has been a principal at ABT since 1997. Stiefel has performed as guest dancer with some of the most renowned companies in the world including the Kirov Ballet, The Royal Ballet, and the Australian Ballet, starred in the movies Center Stage and Center Stage 2: Turn it Up, and founded a summer dance intensive program.
For more information, visit www.nzballet.org.nz.
Judith Jamison, in her final year as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater artistic director, will receive the NYC Handel Medallion, the highest official honor given by the City of New York, on November 8 in a special ceremony.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will present the medallion at Alice Tully Hall during the Mayor’s Awards for Arts and Culture program, featuring tribute performances and remarks. Medallion recipients are selected for their outstanding contributions to the city’s intellectual and cultural life. Past recipients include George Balanchine, Aaron Copland, Duke Ellington, Leonard Bernstein, John Lennon, Leontyne Price, and Alvin Ailey. Jamison was a star dancer with the Ailey company before serving as artistic director for more than two decades.
Also, on November 17, Jamison will receive the 2010 National Award for Citizen Diplomacy for extraordinary work increasing American citizen engagement in international affairs and fostering cross-cultural understanding, along with actor Robert Redford and five other recipients.
For more information, visit www.alvinailey.org.
The Festival Ballet of Providence, under the artistic direction of Mihailo Djuric, will present “All Balanchine” in November at the VMA Arts and Cultural Center, Providence, Rhode Island.
“All Balanchine” will showcase George Balanchine’s masterworks Who Cares?, Tarantella, Tchaikovsky Pas de Due, and Apollo on November 6 and 7. This is Festival Ballet’s 33rd season.
For tickets, call 401.421.ARTS or visit www.festivalballet.com.
Septime Webre’s adaptation of Romeo + Juliet, set to Sergei Prokofiev’s stunning score, kicks off the 2010-2011 season for The Washington Ballet.
Webre, artistic director of TWB, believes this interpretation off the classic Shakespearean tragedy will “reflect the artistic growth of the company.” The ballet will run November 3-7 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Eisenhower Theater.
Audiences can get a sneak peek of the production at TWB’s inthewings on October 18, as well as during beerandballet on October 20. For information and tickets to beerandballet, call 202.362.3606 x123.
Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida will launch its 2010-2011 season with the Four Seasons, four pas de deux choreographed by artistic director Vladimir Issaev, and Danzon No. 2, a new ballet by guest choreographer Yanis Pikieris.
These two neo-classical ballets will be followed by composer Igor Stravinsky’s Petrouchka. Four Seasons, set to music by Verdi, premiered at the Mariinsky Theater, St. Petersburg, Russia, while Danzon No. 2 was first danced in Mexico by Ballet de Monterrey.
Performances will be held Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 3 at 3 p.m. at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, Aventura, Florida; and Oct 10 at 3 p.m. at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
For more information, call the Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida at 305.935.3232 or visit www.artsballettheatre.org
After 19 years, Leggz Dance Studio in Rockville Centre, New York, has a new home.
Regular classes begin September 11 at its new 5,000 square-foot facility, with three dance studios and several large changing rooms, at 486 Sunrise Highway. That’s an upgrade from the 4,000 square feet it had at the original location down the road at 222 Sunrise Highway.
“It has all new Spanish tile floors, viewing windows into each of the studios, and it’s all on one floor, which makes everything easier,” artistic director Joan MacNaughton told the Rockville Centre Patch. The school held its grand opening on August 30.
Renovating the vacant building space took a month, she told the Patch, and each of the three dance studios is named after an award: Oscars, Tonys, and Emmys.
Miami-based Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida opens its season in October with Petrouchka, along with artistic director Vladimir Issaev’s The Four Seasons and a new work by guest choreographer Yanis Pikieris.
The company will perform The Nutcracker throughout December. As with the October program, it will be staged at the Amaturo Theater, in the Broward Center for Performing Arts, and the new Aventura Arts and Cultural Center.
In March 2011, Arts Ballet Theatre will revive Dr. Ouch, a colorful tale of an animal doctor who travels to cure sick monkeys in Africa, where he and his crew go through comic adventures battling the evil pirate Barmalei.
For the close of the season, the company in May will host the VII International Ballet Concert, bringing dancers from all over the world to Miami.
In addition, Arts Ballet Theatre will perform at other Florida venues in Boca Raton and Hialeah and will appear at schools in the Broward and Miami-Dade area.
To learn more, visit www.artsballettheatre.org or call 305.948.4777.
Austin studio, school, dance troupe share a single focus
By Neil Ellis Orts
For two women in Austin, Texas, modern dance is the center of the universe. This universe is kept spinning by three separate but interconnected entities—a physical dance space, a dance school offering classes for serious adults, and a dance company. Both the women and their businesses are devoted to the teaching, making, and performing of modern dance.
Just as Kate Warren and Kathy Dunn Hamrick share that vision, they also share ownership of Hamrick/Warren Dance, a professional school of modern dance. Separately, Hamrick is artistic director of Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company, and Warren is director of Café Dance, a space in a strip mall with a small office and a single studio (which is also used for performances). Café Dance rents the space to the company and the school, as well as other like-minded tenants.
As a business model, what Warren and Hamrick have in Austin may not work for everyone. But for some, it’s a symbiosis of a school, a company, and a studio worth considering. Keeping the integrity of their vision for modern dance foremost, they have survived for just less than two decades, with no end in sight.
It all began with the school.
Hamrick attended the University of Texas at Austin as an undergraduate and moved to Austin permanently in 1989, after completing her MFA at Florida State University. Warren, already a prominent figure in Austin’s dance community, was teaching for another dance school. Hamrick enrolled in Warren’s class and later taught at the same studio. In 1991, when Warren decided to start her own school, she asked Hamrick to join her. The two women had found in each other complementary spirits. Warren favored Cunningham technique and Hamrick cites Limón and Lewitzky as major influences, but they shared a passion for modern dance.
Then there was the studio.
After renting space from a Montessori school for three years, Warren got wind of the Café Dance space, then managed by another dancer. It was primarily a children’s ballet and jazz school, but Warren and Hamrick found that they could work their class schedule around the existing classes. So Hamrick/Warren Dance rented the space for about a year.
Then the other dancer decided to give up the studio and asked Warren if she wanted to take it over. She did. She talked to Hamrick about doing it together, but Hamrick didn’t feel she was in a position to take on managing a space. Warren says, “I called my husband and said, ‘Mark, this space is open and I really want to take it.’ He said, ‘How much is it going to cost?’ and I said, ‘Who cares?’ ” She laughs at the memory and adds, “I was so ready to do it.”
Warren started looking at what she needed to do to make her rent each month. Charles MacInerney, a longtime Austin yoga teacher, was already a renter there and Warren kept him on. Warren didn’t want to teach kids but knew children’s classes were important, so she engaged Michele Owens-Pearce, who was already known in local public schools as a modern dance teacher. Warren says, “I liked the way she taught, and she was the only person I knew who was teaching modern dance to children.”
More income came when Warren started renting to other choreographers and companies and producing performances in the studio. “The most important thing to me was teaching and performing. I knew from the beginning that I had to rent out space; otherwise I wouldn’t be able to dance.” Hamrick/Warren also continued to rent the space, maintaining a separate business identity from Café Dance. All rent checks go to Warren, and the two teachers pay themselves an hourly wage for classes they teach.
Finally, there was the resident company.
After years of producing independent showcases for her own choreography, Hamrick decided to form a dance company. Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company officially debuted in 1999 and has performed from coast to coast. Warren was one of the original company members, but it is Hamrick’s company all the way. It also has the status of “resident company” at Café Dance. Hamrick holds her board meetings, fund-raisers, and other auxiliary events (such as classes and performances for KDHDC’s public school outreach program, New Art Kinnections) at the studio. As resident company, KDHDC gets priority when choosing times in the space, but all the troupe’s events are rentals for Café Dance.
“I called my husband and said, ‘Mark, this space is open and I really want to take it.’ He said, ‘How much is it going to cost?’ and I said, ‘Who cares?’ ” —Kate Warren
In short, three distinct but interconnected businesses function in this small space. Hamrick and Warren are adamant about keeping a clear division between the school and company. The school’s purpose is to teach modern dance, not serve as an income producer to help support the company—which might lead to decisions that compromise the women’s artistic vision. Hip-hop might bring in more money, but they’re not interested. They offer no ballet, no jazz. All three entities exist for the promotion of modern dance.
“So this is all about being able to teach modern dance, perform modern dance, create dancers of modern dance,” Hamrick says.
“It is more like a vision of what I think is good for modern dance,” Warren says. “That’s always been in my mind. How do you keep modern dance alive?” To that end, she is very selective about who rents Café Dance. “I try to pick people who are like-minded, have the same sensibility, that they feel the same way about it that we do, that it’s a beautiful space to provide for other people; emotionally, spiritually, artistically.” Whether renters offer yoga, belly dancing, or NIA technique, Warren makes sure they are in tune with a broader ethos of health and spirituality. And no shoes are allowed.
Warren and Hamrick are also clear on how they want students to find them. They do little advertising for the school. Other than an occasional listing or program ad and a website that’s only about five years old, they’ve always depended on word of mouth from their students. The women not only want to make sure that potential students know what kind of instruction they’ll receive, but they also want to have a feel for who the students are and what they already know and understand about modern dance. Consequently, they usually invite potential students to watch a class before paying for one.
They make affordable classes a priority, especially for students, who pay only $7 per class. “Our clientele is different from most studios’,” Hamrick says. “I’m guessing most dance studios are geared toward kids, and they have parents who will pay for those classes. Our clientele is college students, young people working, single people, and they have to pay for their own classes.” Currently no dance class costs more than $13, with discounts available for professional dancers and multiple class rates available to non-professionals.
Warren estimates they average 40 students per week and that the enrollment is split fairly evenly among students, professionals, and non-professionals. “We talked about making our classes affordable so people could come multiple times and to build the modern dance community,” she explains.
Having a resident company at Café Dance helps the school get students, but then the school helps the company grow. Hamrick seldom holds auditions and instead picks new company members from her classes. “I need to know them very well, because it’s important to me how they fit into the group,” she says.
“Community” is a word that recurs when talking about Hamrick/Warren Dance. Beau Hancock, now pursuing his MFA in dance at Temple University, danced one season with KDHDC. He landed in Austin after working in New York City as a dancer and wondering if the dancing life was for him. Taking class at Hamrick/Warren “provided such a rich environment artistically, but also very much a feeling of family,” Hancock says. “One of the reasons New York was so brutal for me is that it is an incredibly lonely place when you don’t have a community. In a lot of ways, I’m still on this path in the dance world because of [the Hamrick/Warren] experience.”
Andrea Beckham, senior lecturer in the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Texas, says she often refers students to Hamrick/Warren. “You know you can send a student who is very interested in modern and contemporary dance and they’ll get incredible training and also be hooked into a community of like-minded modern dance folk,” she says.
All talk of building community, keeping class prices low, and focusing only on modern dance aside, a question arises: if these women were single, could they afford to live on their earnings as dance professionals?
Hamrick answers first. “I teach at St. Edward’s University, I teach at Austin Community College, I have the company, and I teach at Café Dance, so those are my four jobs. Between my four jobs I could.”
Warren laughs and says, “I guess I’d have to be her roommate because I couldn’t afford it.” Although she manages to do a little better than break even, she says she relies on her husband’s income to live the life she does.
Hamrick adds, “But you make choices based upon what your resources are.”
“I probably wouldn’t be able to perform because I wouldn’t have time,” Warren says. “I’d have to teach a whole lot more. I don’t teach half as much as I used to, when I was single.”
And there’s one more question: why modern dance? “Because it is truth,” Warren says. “To me, in order to express yourself in modern dance, you can’t lie. Merce Cunningham has a great quote. We are ‘not to show off, but to show.’ ”
Hamrick cites “movement invention” as the main reason she loves modern dance. “Three choreographers can go into a studio with the same intention but come out with very different dances,” she says. “That is still what excites me as a teacher and choreographer and human being—the endless possibilities to experience something new and meaningful.”
Washington will be honored at a banquet March 30 at the 2011 national convention of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance in San Diego, California. Both she and her daughter Tamica will teach master classes at the gathering.
Washington and her husband, Erwin, founded the Los Angeles-based troupe in 1980. As a dancer, teacher, and choreographer, she fuses African and Afro-Haitian dance and incorporates elements of classical ballet, modern, street, theatrical dance, and hip-hop.
She also created ritual movements and large dance sequences seen through motion-capture technology in the science-fiction film Avatar.
The Vanaver Caravan will present a program geared toward dance and world music fans, particularly children, during its engagement August 25 to 29 at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Massachusetts.
In celebration of its 35th anniversary, the company presents the world premiere of Earthbeat! A Journey, an evening-length show of rhythm and percussion journeying through Romania, India, Brazil, South Africa, the British Isles, and Spain.
The Vanaver Caravan, formed in 1972 and led by artistic directors Livia and Bill Vanaver, first performed at the Pillow in 1981 and again in 1982, 1990, 1991, and 1998, as well as during the 2009 Community Day event.
Tickets range from $30 to $36, with $10 youth tickets available for the August 29 matinee. To order, visit www.jacobspillow.org or call 413.243.0745.
Dancer/choreographer Kyle Abraham brings his company, Abraham.In.Motion, to Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, Massachusetts, from August 11 to 15.
The company will perform excerpts from The Radio Show, an evening-length work that explores the function of radio and memory in urban history, culture, and community; Inventing Pookie Jenkins, a solo for Abraham that deals with perceptions of masculinity and identity; and Op. 1, a world premiere inspired by the photography of Eadweard Muybridge, co-commissioned by Jacob’s Pillow.
Tickets range from $30 to $36. To buy them, visit www.jacobspillow.org or call 413.243.0745.
Abraham has performed with David Dorfman Dance, Nathan Trice/Rituals, and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. He founded Abraham.In.Motion in 2005. The Princess Grace Foundation has announced that Abraham will soon be honored with a 2010 Princess Grace Award for choreography, along with Victor Quijada, artistic director of Rubberbandance.
Abraham will participate in a free PillowTalk with photographer Lois Greenfield, focusing on the relationship between dance and photography, at 4:00 p.m. August 7, and will lead a master class from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. August 15. The class is open to intermediate and advanced dancers and costs $15 ($8 for dance instructors with proper identification). Pre-registration is required; call 413.243.9919, extension 5.
Darrah Carr, the artistic director of Darrah Carr Dance and a contributor to Dance Studio Life, has been named one of the 50 most influential women in the Irish-American community by the Irish Voice.
Carr, an adjunct professor of dance at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York, is the inventor of what she calls ModERIN, a blend of traditional Irish step and contemporary modern dance.
Her company has performed on NBC’s Today show and with the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall.
As of August, Hee Seo will be promoted to the rank of soloist with American Ballet Theatre, ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie announced July 6.
Born in Seoul, South Korea, Seo was awarded a three-year full scholarship to the Universal Ballet Academy in Washington, D.C. In 2003, she won a scholarship to train at the John Cranko Ballet Academy in Stuttgart, Germany. She is the recipient of the 2003 Prix de Lausanne Award and the 2003 Grand Prix at the Youth American Grand Prix in New York.
Seo joined the ABT Studio Company (now ABT II) in 2004. She was named an apprentice with the main company in 2005 and promoted the following year to the corps de ballet.
Her repertoire with ABT includes Gamzatti in La Bayadère, Zulma in Giselle, Natalia in On the Dnieper, Olympia in Lady of the Camellias, and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet.
Ballet master, Meg Segreto’s Dance Centre, Davie, FL; artistic director, Dager Ballet Institute for Dance Education, Boca Raton, FL
NOMINATED BY: Meg Segreto, employer: “German Dager is a ballet and pointe instructor as well as a talented choreographer and director. He is also a private coach, judge of regional and national competitions, and leader in liturgical dance productions. He is frequently asked to teach master classes for local studios and organizations as well as national dance conventions. He had a successful studio in Colombia and now teaches in South Florida. We are blessed to be graced with his talents and expertise.”
AGES TAUGHT: 8 to adult.
GENRES TAUGHT: Classical ballet, pointe, variations, repertoire, and pas de deux.
TEACHING DANCE FOR: 24 years.
WHY HE TEACHES: My motivation is the deep love I have for ballet, plus the desire to transmit all my knowledge to a new generation.
GREATEST INSPIRATION: When I started my dance training, it was Mikhail Baryshnikov. Then the movie Fame came out and changed my life and inspired me to keep dancing and training. Also, I was impressed by the teachings of Agrippina Vaganova and the results I have seen—generation after generation of amazing dancers. Another great inspiration is Magda Auñon, my mentor and teacher. Up to this day I keep learning incredible things from her.
PHILOSOPHY OF TEACHING: My philosophy is to instill dedication, vision, great expectation, and a desire to see results and achievements in my students. I stress the importance of giving my best in order to get the best out of those whom I teach.
WHAT MAKES HIM A GOOD TEACHER: I would cite these things: The love and patience I have for the children and parents; my sincere attitude toward instilling the knowledge I have in each of my students; and the respect and admiration I have for them and the value I place on them.
FONDEST TEACHING MEMORY: Here in the United States, we are very much exposed to dance. There is practically a dance studio in every neighborhood. In 1988, when I started my own school in Cartagena, Colombia, I was in awe to see all those hundreds of students who registered for the first time in a dance studio and had never taken a ballet class in their lives, all eager and with such a desire to learn. It was the first time they had heard the words “plié” and “battement tendu.” It was such a challenge, but at the same time it was an awe-inspiring experience.
BEST PIECE OF ADVICE FOR STUDENTS AND/OR TEACHERS: To dance or teach with passion, with all your soul and strength, with soaring dedication and determination to achieve your highest possible level.
WHAT HE WOULD DO IF HE COULDN’T TEACH DANCE: Teaching is my life and my passion, so I would like to be an educator in theology and Spanish.
MORE THOUGHTS ON DANCE AND TEACHING: Teaching is one of the most rewarding careers. The satisfaction of seeing your students progress from Ballet 1 until they become seniors—and then seeing them accepted into the best dance colleges and dance companies in the nation—gives you amazing fulfillment. To see your students grow from little kids and to spend a whole life pouring your expertise into them as they mature as artists is just overwhelming. It is an amazing blessing to be a dance educator!
DO YOU KNOW A DANCE TEACHER WHO DESERVES TO BE IN THE SPOTLIGHT? Email your nominations to Arisa@rheegold.com or mail them to Arisa White, Dance Studio Life, 10 South Washington St., Norton, MA 02766. Please include why you think this teacher should be featured, along with his or her contact information.
Choreographer Bill T. Jones, co-founder and artistic director of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, will receive the fourth annual Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award.
The award honors outstanding visionary artists and carries a prize of $25,000. Ella Baff, executive director of Jacob’s Pillow, will present the award to Jones on June 19 at the opening gala of the annual summer dance festival in Becket, Massachusetts.
“Bill is quite simply one of the greatest artists of our time,” Baff said in a news release. “Fearless in his thinking and aesthetic investigations, he has taken his art, and his audiences along with it, to illuminating places.”
Jones’ company will perform Serenade/The Proposition, a collage of movement, live music, and American history, July 21 to 25 at the festival. In addition, “Arnie Zane on Bill T. Jones,” an exhibit of photographs featuring a young Jones by the late Arnie Zane, will open at the Pillow on June 23 and run through the end of August.
The first Jacob’s Pillow Award went to Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, co-directors of Big Dance Theater, in 2007. Subsequent honorees were Alonzo King, artistic director of Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, and Merce Cunningham.
Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin, artistic director of Batsheva Dance Company, will teach Gaga, his signature technique, at Koresh Dance Company in Philadelphia from April 27 to 30.
Classes cost $7; for required pre-registration, email email@example.com or call 215.751.0959.
Dancer and choreographer Ronen “Roni” Koresh and his brother, Alon Koresh, founded their company in 1991 and set up the Koresh Dance School two years later.
Teacher and director, Linda Lavender Schools of Dance, and artistic director, Twin City Ballet Company, Monroe, LA
NOMINATED BY: Mare Brennan, Twin City Ballet board member: “Linda Lavender Ford inspires all ages with her kindness and spirit. She received the Governor’s Arts Award in 1997 for outstanding lifetime achievement in the arts. Her original choreography includes three complete ballets for children, A Storybook Christmas, Rudolph, and Scrooge. Her influence on the cultural enhancement of life in our northeastern Louisiana region is immeasurable.”
AGES TAUGHT: From 3 to adult.
GENRES TAUGHT: Ballet, pointe, and tap.
TEACHING DANCE FOR: Nearly 50 years.
WHY SHE TEACHES: Teaching dance is what I was destined to do. I have truly been blessed and very lucky to have an occupation I love, to earn a good living, and to raise a family.
GREATEST INSPIRATION: My mother—I still draw from the courage, strength, and work ethic she exemplified—and my teachers Mary Lou and Pat Young, the best tap teachers in the South, who taught me to believe that I could dance. Also Cecilia Kelly, from England and Ballet La Scala, a great teacher who brought classical ballet to north Louisiana.
PHILOSOPHY OF TEACHING: Those of us privileged to teach dance should take our art form to our students through love. Teach them to love dance first—then they will always be dancers in their hearts.
WHAT MAKES HER A GOOD TEACHER: I’ve watched with pride as many of our dancers have gone on to professional careers and have established their own schools and performing companies.
FONDEST TEACHING MEMORY: Being part of the founding of the Twin City Ballet Company in 1970 and watching it grow and become accepted into the Regional Dance America/Southwest as a Performing and now an Honor Company.
BEST PIECE OF ADVICE FOR STUDENTS AND/OR TEACHERS: To be a good teacher you must be a caring teacher. The classes we teach are full of children who need to believe they can do it! Every parent who picks up their child after class says, “Did you have fun today?” Make each class fun and enjoyable, and find a way to say something positive and encouraging to every student.
WHAT SHE WOULD DO IF SHE COULDN’T TEACH DANCE: I can’t imagine what I would have done if I couldn’t be a dance teacher. It was my destiny. Schoolteachers have children for a year and they move on. How lucky am I to have students in classes for 10 or more years and watch them as they grow up
MORE THOUGHTS ON DANCE AND TEACHING: My husband and I raised two sons and a daughter, Linda Lou. She grew up in the studio and is now my right arm and the glue that holds our studios together. I watch her teach with her glowing smile and great spirit. Seeing how the children respond to her gives me such a feeling of tremendous joy.
DO YOU KNOW A DANCE TEACHER WHO DESERVES TO BE IN THE SPOTLIGHT? Email your nominations to David@rheegold.com or mail them to David Favrot, Dance Studio Life, 10 South Washington St., Norton, MA 02766. Please include why you think this teacher should be featured in Dance Studio Life, along with his or her contact information.
Artistic director, owner, instructor, Bayshore Academy of Dance, Holmdel, NJ
Ages taught: 1 1/2 through senior citizens
Genres taught: Ballet, tap, jazz, musical comedy, ballroom, rhythm and movement, folk dancing, Mommy and Me
Teaching dance for: 43 years
Why she teaches:
I loved my childhood dance teacher, Niki Simon, because she made me feel so special in the classroom. I was the first student to enroll in her school, Niki Simon’s School of Dance in Passaic, NJ (now closed). Her energy was contagious. I wanted to be just like her.
Greatest inspiration: Niki Simon, and then the movies’ greatest dancers, including Cyd Charisse, Ann Miller, Fred Astaire, and Shirley Temple.
Philosophy of teaching: Dance is for a lifetime. Know your material. Know the history of the choreographers whose genre you teach, from Busby Berkeley to Jerry Mitchell. I believe in giving a full history of the music I am using, and I teach about the composers and lyricists to go along with the music. It’s valuable to teach them all this. When my students get [school] assignments about music history, they are the only ones who know the answers. I show them my passion for it; when I get through with them, they’re excited about it. I don’t teach just the steps. I encourage my students to perform, and I treat each student with respect regardless of their level and ability.
What makes her a good teacher: I care about every student. I am never absent or late. I keep up with the latest Broadway material. I make class time fun, interesting, exciting, and educational. I am passionate about my material and what I teach. I also teach everyday life values.
Fondest teaching memory: Teaching my two daughters to become dancers and performers and watching them on the stage for the first time. That’s the moment when you realize how other parents feel when they see their child onstage.
Best piece of advice for students and/or teachers: Concentrate on your craft. Don’t divide your time among so many activities that you can’t develop a skill in any of them; then you can’t be your best in any of them. Show your respect and dedication through perfect attendance.
What she would do if she couldn’t teach dance: I would be a social director at a club, which I have done and enjoyed. I enjoy having an influence on people’s lives.
More thoughts on dance and teaching: Encourage your students to attend live theater and ballet, whether school shows, community theaters, touring companies, or Broadway shows. They should see what dance really looks like. Without that their dance education is not complete. A teaching reward for me is when I can mold a shy, insecure young student into a confident, extroverted, and talented person. A second teaching reward is when a developmentally challenged student can get up onstage and be so proud of what they have accomplished.
Do you know a dance teacher who deserves to be in the spotlight? Email your nominations to Cheryl@rheegold.com or mail them to Theresa Grenier, Rhee Gold Company, 10 South Washington St., Norton, MA 02766. Please include why you think this teacher should be featured in Dance Studio Life, along with his or her contact information.