Thousands of dancers, choreographers, and dance intellectuals dream of teaching at the college level, and why not? A job in higher ed means working in their chosen field, often with inspiring young artists and creative colleagues. To sweeten the pot, a full-time position can translate into a month off during the school year, summers free, a workweek seemingly shaped by a handful of classes, grants for travel to conferences, additional funds for research and/or choreography, and a living wage with real benefits. At a time when most people are lucky to get two weeks of paid vacation, medical coverage, and a consistent salary, what could be rosier?
That depends. Like the pretty settings of British TV mysteries, where lilacs bloom and hedgerows are always tidy, the allures of college teaching can be deceiving. For example, teachers who lack career security (adjunct faculty) now represent the majority of higher-ed instructors, and they can earn as little as $20 an hour despite advanced degrees and a lifetime of dance training. These at-will dance instructors typically get no benefits of any kind, teach at an hourly rate regardless of how many courses they have, and can find their classes cancelled in a flash if enrollments don’t meet the increasingly high quotas set by college administrations. Some are excluded from the workings of their departments and rarely know what changes are coming until they arrive. As a result, adjuncts can be written out of the curriculum as easily as characters are killed off in Midsomer Murders.Read More
Videos of note (new and not)
1. Floor-Barre® & Ballet for Young Dancers: Series VIII
2. Sasha Waltz: A Portrait
3. The Red Shoes
4. Dancing in the Light: Six Dances by African-American Choreographers
Pondering these questions of education and access, Strandberg and her sister Carolyn Adams, a longtime Paul Taylor Dance Company dancer and a faculty member at The Juilliard School, came up with a revolutionary concept—the Repertory Etudes Collection. Under the guidance of Brown’s American Dance Legacy Initiative (ADLI), established by the sisters in 1993, modern dance choreographers would create new works based on one of their signature works or personal stylistic and thematic choreographic qualities. Important deceased modern pioneers, like José Limón, who died in 1972, could be represented through a new work created by a close associate charged with preserving and protecting the choreographer’s legacy.
Since these short technique studies (informally called RepEtudes) were commissioned by ADLI, they could be recorded and distributed to educators, who could teach them to students and present them in performance with no rights or royalty issues attached.Read More
Dance troupe lets Arkansas locals collaborate, create, and perform By Joseph Carman A pineapple symbolizes hospitality. So says Pineapple Tree Dance Company co-founder Sally Ashcraft. When the dance troupe, located in Fayetteville, Arkansas, was founded in March 2013, the founders’ prime motive was to bring dance teachers, dancers, choreographers, and studio owners together to establish…Read More
What’s up in the dance community:
A Storybook Nutcracker Reaches The End
Accolade for Dancemaker Bill T. Jones
CUNY Answers Call of NYC’s Choreographers
Big Step Up for NYCB Soloist Justin Peck
NEFA Awards to Artists Near $1 MillionRead More
“Dance 911”: It was an emergency. My son, then a sophomore in high school, approached me after a dance. “Mom,” he said, “when you dance, do you go back and forth, or side to side?” He demonstrated both, shifting stiffly from side to side, and yes, back and forth. Aghast, I gave him a quick lecture/demo on moving from his center and never bobbing his head.
“Make Your Bed”: What do you need to know about yourself in order to be fully present as a good teacher and choreographer, a successful studio owner—to uphold your values? And once you are aware of your patterns of behavior, how do you support yourself emotionally so that you can do creative and innovative work?Read More
The Huffington Post headline caught my eye: “18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently.” Wouldn’t you know, I fit almost all of the descriptors, from “they daydream” to “they people-watch” to “they ask the big questions.”Read More
As a young artist in Baltimore, Maryland, Angela Harris was on track to have a career as a dancer. She thought she was on track to be a choreographer too. It was only when she’d achieved Act I of her dream (dancing professionally) that she realized Act II wasn’t within reach. Fast forward to 2008 when Harris found her own answer to the lack of opportunities for young choreographers—the Atlanta, Georgia, organization for emerging choreographers, Dance Canvas.Read More
At the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB), young choreographers are introduced to a different way of creating a dance—by working in tandem with digital poetry. Digital poetry is an evolving medium that presents poetry electronically and can incorporate, for example, hypertext; animation, video, or other visual elements; sound; and interactivity.Read More
It could have been “folly,” indeed. The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies, a Southern California troupe that produces lavish variety shows starring shapely showgirls and Rockettes-worthy dancers, opened in 1992 to doubts and derision. For beneath all those feathers and sequins was a cast that ranged in age from their mid-50s to mid-80s. “Who wants to pay to see old ladies’ legs?” one reporter was heard to say.Read More
For this year’s holiday issue, we decided to take a cue from TV’s popular cooking show Top Chef, in which chefs concoct an innovative dish using specified ingredients or limitations. For our version of this challenge, we gave five choreographers a list of dance and theatrical ingredients to use in cooking up a holiday spectacle.Read More
It’s easy to let classes fall into a too-comfortable routine that can dampen dancers’ enthusiasm. To keep things fresh and interesting in all types of classes, change things up! Here are some ideas.Read More
Summer intensives are meant to challenge students, push them outside of their comfort zones and, ultimately, make them better dancers—and, perhaps, better people for the experience. Last summer the Brazil Project took CityDance Center students far from their spacious, well-appointed studios in Bethesda, Maryland—4,796 miles, in fact.Read More
Who was Tony Stevens? Many things, not the least of which were a Broadway and film director/choreographer. But this man, who passed away on July 12, 2011, at age 63 of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, was much more than that to me, and to many others.Read More
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.Read More
I’d like to tell you a story about the importance of remembering your dance roots.
Mary is a professional dancer who has built a career as a performer and choreographer on the international dance scene.
“KLee is a true educator. She was among the first graduates of my Certification Program in the Bill Evans Method of Modern Dance Technique. She has developed a true community of people who support each other in the study of dance and in all aspects of their lives. ”Read More
Most people have dreamed of traveling back in time. For Christmas, I did just that.
For an afternoon I was perched once again in a nosebleed seat in San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House on a miserably hot July 17, 1988, for an eye-opening performance of Le Sacre du Printemps. My much-younger self was a perfect match for Louis Armstrong’s recollection of his own boyhood—“I didn’t know nothing and didn’t even suspect much”—and I’d never seen anything like this before.Read More
Some choreographers seem to be born with a gift. Others learn their craft slowly and work their way into the business. But those who want to choreograph seriously need to hone their skills through practice and hard work. One of the best, most accessible—and often overlooked—means of doing so is by working with local dance studios and choreographing for their recitals and performances.Read More
Dancing “to save your life” has a literal meaning for classical Cambodian dancer, teacher, and choreographer Sophiline Cheam Shapiro. Sophiline, now 41, lived through some of the most turbulent times in her country’s history. She was 8 years old when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia in 1975. She lost her father, two brothers, her grandmother, and many other relatives during this time, as most families did. Today Sophiline is one of the most significant artists in the movement for the preservation of classical Cambodian dance.Read More
What makes a good dance educator? It’s a question I’ve been pondering lately. The answer, in my opinion, is: humble, nonjudgmental, hard working, and doing it for the good of the art and the education. But periodically, I run into dance educators of the not-so-humble and oh-so-judgmental variety.Read More
For Lauren Anderson, the transition from star of the stage to star of the studio was a well-planned journey. The Houston Ballet principal dancer took her final bow, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, during a performance of The Nutcracker in December 2006, amidst a tremendous fanfare. The following December, at the company’s annual jubilee, she was honored for her 23-year career with a showing of highlights from her performances.Read More
As a teacher your role has many facets, but your long-term goal should be to produce well-rounded and educated performers. Including fun facts in your classes will impress your students and keep them interested. Take this quiz yourself, and then share it with your students and staff. Look for more mini-quizzes in future issues.Read More
There’s no single way to make a go of a life in dance. But too often, young dancers limit themselves and thus their options. Not so for Desiree Robbins of Tremaine Dance Conventions, who set out to make a living in the dance field at an early age. She carved out her unique path by getting an early start, paying attention to the professionals around her, and developing the skills needed to diversify her income. Robbins’ story shows that equal measures of creativity, perseverance, and determination can make just about anything possible.Read More
“What sets Veronika apart from other teachers is the way she speaks to the whole student—her dancers grow in strength and beauty and appreciation of dance, but they also grow as people. Although Veronika’s standards for hard work and dedication are very high, she will give a tremendous effort back to any girl willing to work for her. Moreover, Veronika believes—and has proven—that with the requisite hard work and effort, anyone can be a real dancer.”Read More
For more than 20 years, choreographer Doug Varone has carved a career path that is as full of unexpected twists and turns as his remarkable dances are. A tap dancer by training, he instead became a contemporary dance choreographer. Though he is unable to read music, he nevertheless enjoys regular commissions from leading opera companies. Now a widely respected, prolific choreographer, he struggled at first to define his own movement vocabulary. These surprising facts were revealed during a conversation on April 6 with critic Deborah Jowitt as part of the “Breaking Ground” lecture series presented by New York’s 92nd St. Y Harkness Dance Center. The evening yielded valuable insights about Varone’s choreographic process as well as his unique journey.Read More
There is no dearth of university programs that cater to dancers. Nearly every state in the union offers students a chance to complete a four-year degree with a dance major. These days more dancers than ever seem to be pursuing college studies to lay a foundation in the arts. But once you’ve got that BA degree, will you get a J-O-B?Read More
Technique, as any good teacher will tell you, is a means to an end, not an end in itself. In the 20th century, when modern dance was born, it seemed nearly every choreographer wanted to distinguish herself with a specific style and technique. Numerous camps developed as dancers, students and professionals, aligned themselves in balkanized fashion with a specific choreographer or technique. You could tell a Graham dancer by the way she held her chin and wound her hair in a high, full bun. A Dunham dancer? The walk, like coursing through a sandy beach, gave it away. But today, choreographers and artistic directors demand versatility, not allegiance. The ability to remain flexible enough to tackle any number of stylistic or technical demands is what divides good dancers from great ones. The techniques below may be built on differing foundations but the end result remains constant: well-trained and adaptable dancers.Read More
Tap dancer Dianne “Lady Di” Walker appeared in the movie Tap and the original Paris production of Black and Blue and served as assistant choreographer and dance captain of the Broadway version. She has been featured in the documentaries Songs Unwritten: Leon Collins; Honi Coles: The Class Act of Tap; Black and Blue; and Great Performances: Tap Dance in America.Read More
Wayne McGregor is as passionate a man as you’ll hope to find among choreographers. Cerebral and articulate, he is as much an intellectual as an artist.Read More
Mention the name Mark Morris and most of us will think of the multitalented choreographer who has lit the dance world on fire with his profound musicality and intensely visual dances. But did you know that this modern dance legend also heads up a neighborhood studio?Read More