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Posts Tagged ‘choreographer’

Twyla Tharp’s Latest a Collaboration with Carolina Chocolate Drops Bluegrass Band

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Carolina Chocolate Drops; photo by Michael Wilson

Carolina Chocolate Drops; photo by Michael Wilson

As a group of black musicians playing what is usually assumed to be traditionally white music—bluegrass and old timey songs—the Carolina Chocolate Drops has worked to show the deep connectivity of all music. Now, the band is teaming up with legendary choreographer Twyla Tharp to break down even more barriers with a performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music tonight (April 10) at 8pm, says the Brooklyn Paper.

“It will be cool and interesting to see how someone else will interpret our music,” said Carolina Chocolate Drops multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins—the only member of the North Carolina-based band who lives in Brooklyn.

It was Tharp’s idea to collaborate with the band. Tharp’s dance, titled Cornbread Duet, will be performed by New York City Ballet principal dancers Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild, to music by the band.

“It is always great when different arts support each other and mingle with each other,” said Jenkins. “Our music is dance music and it is nice to be able to show people that.”

Tickets for Carolina Chocolate Drops with Twyla Tharp, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Avenue (between Ashland Place and St. Felix Street in Fort Greene) are $16 for members, $20 non-members. For more information, visit www.bam.org.

To see the original story, visit http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/37/14/24-carolina-chocolate-drops-2014-04-04-bk_37_14.html.

 

 

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French Choreographer, Angelin Preljocaj, To Receive ADF’s Lifetime Achievement Award

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Angelin Preljocaj; photo by Lucas Marquand-Perrier

Angelin Preljocaj; photo by Lucas Marquand-Perrier

The American Dance Festival (ADF) will present the 2014 Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award for lifetime achievement to choreographer and director Angelin Preljocaj.

Preljocaj is one of France’s preeminent choreographers, known for work that is daring, intensely physical, and complex. Established in 1981 by Samuel H. Scripps, the annual award honors choreographers who have dedicated their lives and talent to the creation of modern dance.

The Scripps/ADF Award presentation will take place on July 11 at 8pm, prior to Ballet Preljocaj’s performance at the Durham [NC] Performing Arts Center.

“Mr. Preljocaj creates visually arresting, beautifully physical work that never fails to amaze. We are pleased to honor his significant contributions to the dance world this summer at ADF,” said ADF director Jodee Nimerichter.

Preljocaj began his career in classical ballet before turning to contemporary dance. In 1980 he studied in New York with Zena Rommett and Merce Cunningham, after which he returned to France, joining the Quentin Rouillier Company in Caen. Preljocaj formed his own company in December 1984 in Champigny-sur-Marne and since that time has produced 47 choreographic works.

His productions have been restaged by numerous repertory companies, many of which also commission works, including the Saatsoper of Berlin, The New York City Ballet, and the Paris Opera Ballet. For more information, visit www.americandancefestival.org.

 

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SYTYCD’s tWitch in the (Court)House on Season Premiere of Drop Dead Diva

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Stephen “tWitch” Boss; photo courtesy TheWrap

Stephen “tWitch” Boss; photo courtesy TheWrap

Dancer and choreographer Stephen “tWitch” Boss will be guest starring on the two-hour season 6 premiere of the Lifetime series Drop Dead Diva on March 23 at 9pm, TheWrap has learned.

Boss will play Billy Donaldson. Billy’s younger brother (played by One Life to Live’s Corbin Bleu) was arrested for arson and murder eight years previously. Billy hires Jane (Brooke Elliott) to help get her brother out of jail. But, Jane’s investigation into the cold case digs up some startling evidence

Boss was a finalist on the fourth season of Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance, and his TV credits also include guest-starring roles on Fox’s Bones and Touch. He also regularly serves as guest DJ on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

He reprises his role of Jason on the Step Up film franchise’s next installment, Step Up 5, which hits theaters on July 25. Also, he and his wife, Allison Holker, co-choreographed the Oscars promo featuring the award show’s upcoming host Ellen DeGeneres and 250 dancers, which was directed by Paul Feig.

To see the original story, visit http://www.thewrap.com/lifetime-drop-dead-diva-so-you-think-you-can-dance-twitch.

 

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Wisconsin Dancer/Choreographer’s 100 Birthday is Cause for Celebration

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Barry Lynn; photo courtesy The Leader-Telegram

Barry Lynn; photo courtesy The Leader-Telegram

Reaching the age of 100 is worth celebrating, but marking your birthday by performing in a dance show in your honor is celebrating on a whole different level.

Barry Lynn, founder, director, and choreographer of four dance companies and the co-director of the Lynn Dance Company at ChaliceStream near Ladysmith, Wisconsin, turned 100 on February 11. “Celebrating 100 Years: A Birthday Concert Tribute to Dancer Barry Lynn,” will be held February 23 at 2pm at the Heyde Center for the Arts in Chippewa Falls.

Featured in the show will be Lynn’s performance of his own The Cripple & The Chinese Bench, a theater solo about an elderly character and his favorite park bench. “I never thought I’d live to be 100, but here I am,” Lynn told The Leader-Telegram. “The end of my life is going to have to wait a little longer, though. There is so much I’m still learning and so much I still want to create.”

Lynn, originally from North Carolina, moved to Wisconsin in 1978 to form the Lynn Dance Company at ChaliceStream with Michael Doran. He has remained in the Chippewa Valley ever since, and continues to be active in the dance community.

Lynn lived the life he wanted—as a dancer, a painter, or whatever other medium took over his soul at a given time—without a care of what others thought of him. And after a century of living, that is the most important advice he has for anyone willing to listen.

“Don’t ever let yourself be guided by what someone else wants you to do; it sacrifices who you are and who you want to be,” Lynn said. “Nothing will spoil your life more quickly. You only get to have one life—as far as we know—so let it be yours.”

To see the original story, visit http://www.leadertelegram.com/entertainment/story/article_5e8ceb4e-99a2-11e3-9684-0019bb2963f4.html?mode=story.

 

 

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Loss of Beloved Teacher, Alan Danielson, Lamented by Limón Dance Colleagues

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Alan Danielson; photo courtesy José Limón Dance Foundation

Alan Danielson; photo courtesy José Limón Dance Foundation

The José Limón Dance Foundation last week sadly announced the sudden passing of beloved teacher, mentor, colleague, and friend Alan Danielson on February 12.

“Yesterday we lost a dear friend and an amazing human being,” Limón executive director, Juan Jose Escalante, said Thursday in a press release.

Danielson discovered dance at age 22 and subsequently moved to New York to study with Ruth Currier, who performed in the Limón Dance Company for many years and became company director after José Limón’s death. Ten years later he was approached by the director of the Limón Institute, Norton Owen, to help found the Limón School. The Professional Studies Program, an intensive nine-month program in the Limón technique and repertory, was created in 2001 under Danielson’s guidance.

Danielson was an internationally acclaimed choreographer and master teacher, committed to the contemporary relevance of the Humphrey/Limón movement principles and philosophy. He was on faculty at New York University and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, and taught extensively in Canada, Mexico, Europe, Japan, and Central America.

Once, when asked, “What would you like to offer young dancers today?” Danielson said: “I would like to share my love for movement—what it feels like and what it projects to those who are watching. I would like to share my joy in working with music and creating with other dancers. I’d like to show them how dance is life, and how it communicates our existence as human beings.”

 

 

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Bronx-Born Lawrence Gradus Made His Mark in the Canadian Ballet World

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Lawrence Gradus; photo courtesy Globe and Mail

Lawrence Gradus; photo courtesy Globe and Mail

As Marilyn Monroe sang “Happy Birthday” to John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in 1962, Lawrence Gradus was standing behind the curtain with other members of Jerome Robbins’s Ballets U.S.A. dance troupe, which was also on the program that night.

Toronto’s Globe and Mail said that Gradus, who died of prostate cancer in Ottawa on January 7, rose from humble beginnings to become a brilliant dancer and choreographer with a wide-ranging career that saw him cross paths with some of the most celebrated performers of his day. Performing in I Can Get it For You Wholesale, Gradus taught a young Barbra Streisand tap-dance steps backstage, only to be interrupted by her mother dropping off a tub of chicken soup.

In 1967, Canada claimed him when he accepted an invitation to dance at Expo 67. He went on to found the influential Montreal-based contemporary dance company Entre-Six, and later worked with Ottawa’s Theatre Ballet of Canada.

Born in the Bronx in 1936 to Anna and Julius Gradus, he started tap-dance classes at age 7 and would sneak into Broadway musicals and dance performances at intermissions. He studied at the Ballet Russe school and then the American Ballet Theatre school on a scholarship. In 1961, he became a soloist with Jerome Robbins’s Ballets U.S.A., performing around the world, and returned after a couple of years to rejoin American Ballet Theatre.

In 1974, after a handful of years dancing with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Gradus co-founded the dance company Entre-Six, where he took on bold, new repertoire and embarked on a fresh kind of touring, Canadian style; to Tuktoyaktuk, for instance, where dancers were welcomed by Inuit snowmobilers towing a string of sleds. The company dined on caribou stew and deer meat, then danced en pointe in a local school. An improvised stage was built with rubberized mats laced together by duct tape.

He taught and choreographed for National Ballet of Canada’s outreach program, the Danny Grossman Dance Theatre, Ryerson University, and other places.

To see the full obit, visit http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/theatre-and-performance/ballet-star-lawrence-gradus-was-a-dance-trailblazer/article16889511/.

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Pop Star Choreographer JD McElroy to Head Up Detroit Pistons’ Hip-Hop Clinic

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The Drop poster; image courtesy Pistons Academy

The Drop poster; image courtesy Pistons Academy

JD McElroy, known as a dancer and choreographer to the stars, will be doling out choreography tips and smooth moves at The Drop, a hip-hop clinic for all ages to be held by the Detroit Pistons Academy on February 23.

McElroy has performed and choreographed for top artists such as Beyoncé, Usher, Chris Brown, Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, and The Black Eyed Peas, and has appeared in the movies The Fast and The Furious and You Got Served.

This event will run from 10am to 2pm at The Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit, Michigan, and includes two master classes taught by McElroy and Jarell Gordey of the Detroit Pistons D-Town dancers. All ages are welcome, but previous dance class experience is recommended—dance instruction will be at an intermediate level.

Admission for the event is $65 and includes a free ticket to a Pistons home game. To register, visit http://pistonsacademy.com/signup/.

 

 

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Paul Taylor to Reveal Plans for New Center for American Modern Dance

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Paul Taylor in rehearsal; photo by Andrea Mohin/New York Times

Paul Taylor in rehearsal; photo by Andrea Mohin/New York Times

After Martha Graham’s death, a bitter and protracted legal dispute erupted over who had the rights to the revolutionary modern dances she created. When Merce Cunningham died in 2009, his dance company went on a farewell tour and then disbanded, according to his wishes.

Now Paul Taylor, who is among the remaining pioneers of the modernist movement that transformed dance in the mid-20th century, is shaking up his company as it celebrates its 60th anniversary—in the hope, he told the New York Times, of keeping it going for “at least” another 60 years.

After six decades in which the Paul Taylor Dance Company existed to dance almost nothing but Paul Taylor works, Taylor said that he wanted to broaden its mission to include presenting past masterworks of modern dance and works of contemporary choreographers in addition to his oeuvre and the dances he plans to continue to create.

“I want to bring back great works of American modern dance that have been done in the past, so that today’s audiences can see them,” said Taylor, 83. “And I want to encourage future choreographers of modern dance.”

His idea startled the company’s board when he first broached it with them in the fall, but since then, the board has been working feverishly to iron out the plan, said John Tomlinson, the executive director of the Paul Taylor Dance Foundation. The troupe plans to announce the details of its vision to create what it is calling “a new center for American modern dance” on March 13, the day of its gala at the David H. Koch Theater.

Taylor said that many details were still being worked out, including which contemporary choreographers would be chosen, which past works would be revived, and whether those works would all be danced by members of his company or by others. Asked what choreographers from the past he would be interested in presenting, he mentioned the possibility of Graham, whose company he danced in; Doris Humphrey; and José Limón.

But he said that he was still excited to choreograph new dances, and plans to continue creating two new works each year. “I’m already thinking about the next new piece,” he said.

To read the full story, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/10/arts/dance/legacy-in-mind-taylor-plans-a-center-for-modern-dance.html?_r=0.

 

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Sochi Opening Ceremonies Choreographer Inspired by Russian Culture and Arts

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Winter Olympics opening ceremonies choreographer Daniel Ezralow; photo courtesy The Wrap

Winter Olympics opening ceremonies choreographer Daniel Ezralow; photo courtesy The Wrap

After a year of planning and rehearsals, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark Broadway choreographer Daniel Ezralow premiered his 20th-century Russia–themed opening ceremony performance at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Friday.

With nearly 800 performers, hundreds of years of Russian history to represent, and a country under intense international scrutiny for its security situation and human rights policies, there was a lot on the line.

Ezralow was approached by opening ceremony director Andrei Boltenko to design the section of the ceremony that, like in other Olympics, focuses on the history and culture of the host country, he said in a phone interview with The Wrap from Sochi.

Considering that Ezralow is an American telling Russia’s story and that the 20th century was, to put it mildly, a complicated chapter of Russian history, Ezralow had a particularly tough challenge to tackle.

“What I did start to see here is that Russian culture and the Soviet life in Russia, to us as Americans, was very much the communist rule, closed down and everything,” he said. “But in a strange way, a lot of Russians lived very wonderfully. Obviously there were a lot of problems, a lot of issues—there are certain things I don’t talk about [in the piece] because they really don’t apply to the opening ceremonies.”

Instead, Ezralow said his section of the opening ceremony was inspired by great works of avant-garde art that came out of Russia at the turn of the century, sound-tracked by Russian folk songs.

At the end of the day, Ezralow said, the opening ceremony is not commercial or propagandistic, and his primary aim as an artist was to represent Russia to the global community through song and dance. “I don’t have a passport when I’m creating,” he said. “The passport is universal.”

To see the full story, visit http://www.thewrap.com/olympics-2014-choreographer-opening-ceremony.

 

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Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee Seeks Youth Choreographer/Artist/Mentor

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The Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee is seeking a person to fill the full-time position of “youth choreographer dance artist mentor.”

A job posting in the Americans for the Arts Job Bank said the Youth Choreography Dance Artist Mentor should be a professional, practicing teaching artist. Under the supervision of the program manager of performing arts, the artist/mentor will be responsible for the development, direction, and management of BGCGM Youth Dance Studies program.

The artist/mentor will collaborate with the Arts Initiative team to design and implement a rich dance program focused on youth-designed choreography and relevant pop culture styles and themes. The artist/mentor will be responsible for delivering youth-centric arts programming that is shaped with active, real-time influence and input of youth participants on program content and approach.

Job requirements include: relevant bachelor of fine arts or master of fine arts degrees in the arts, specifically in dance; minimum of three years’ professional/public experience in dance; training in step and/or hip-hop at an advanced or professional level for more than one year; and experience with professional, high profile artistic events and/or performances.

To see the full posting, visit http://jobbank.artsusa.org/jobs/5963620/youth-choreographer-dance-artist-mentor.

 

 

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Baryshnikov Seeks to Honor Cunningham/Cage with Artistic Fellowship Fund

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Mikhail Baryshnikov with his photographs of Merce Cunningham dancers; photo by Judith Levitt for the New York Times

Mikhail Baryshnikov with his photographs of Merce Cunningham dancers; photo by Judith Levitt for the New York Times

Mikhail Baryshnikov is opening a campaign to raise $1 million for artistic fellowships named for the composer John Cage (1912–92) and the choreographer Merce Cunningham (1919–2009).

The effort, says the New York Times, is intended to give artists a place to work, specifically in Studio 6A, a 43-foot-by-43-foot top-floor space at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in midtown Manhattan that is to be called the John Cage and Merce Cunningham Studio.

Baryshnikov’s invocation of Cunningham is a reminder of his own extraordinary and late-flowering collaboration with this radical American modern-dance choreographer. “The two choreographers who affected me most were Balanchine and Merce, in the way they exemplified certain ethics in art,” he said in an interview. “Throughout their entire careers, they never compromised their artistic integrity. Even when they were in very bad financial circumstances, the dignity of the way they went on creating was so impressive. No matter what pitfalls or triumphs or unpleasantnesses came their way, they committed themselves to the purity of work.”

Awarded annually beginning in December 2015, the $50,000 Cage Cunningham Fellowship is to enable an exemplary and innovative contemporary artist (or company or other group of collaborators) to experiment and create work during two years. Baryshnikov said any kind of artist—filmmakers, dramaturges, choreographers, composers—would be eligible.

“So many artists today are having to move from space to space around New York as they create,” he said. “I realize how important it is to have your own space, how it affects productivity, to have the right light, the right floor, and no noise. Not to be always in transition, catching cabs. Merce had that at [his company’s studio at] Westbeth.

“The afternoons were hot, and there was no air-conditioning in the studio while I was there,” he added. “When I left, I said to Merce, ‘Are you going to be all right in this heat?’ Merce said: ‘You don’t understand. This is happiness.’ Just to work in peace: that was what he loved most.”

To see the full story, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/18/arts/dance/baryshnikov-plans-fund-raising-to-give-artists-space.html?ref=dance&_r=0.

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Young Choreographer’s Festival Seeks Out Talented Up-and-Comers

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A dance by Bryn Cohn in the Young Choreographer’s Festival; photo by Jaqi Medlock, courtesy Facebook

A dance by Bryn Cohn in the Young Choreographer’s Festival; photo by Jaqi Medlock, courtesy Facebook

Applications are still being accepted for the 2014 Young Choreographer’s Festival, an annual showcase in New York City that features the work of up-and-coming artists. This year’s event is set for June 14 at 8pm at Peter Norton Symphony Space, New York City.

The festival’s mission is to “aim to educate, foster . . . and support the cultivation of young artists” by putting young choreographers in contact with established professionals. Choreographers selected for the festival will work with a mentor, attend private workshop classes, participate in the Talk Back panel, and receive rehearsal space prior to the performance.

Choreographers must be between the ages of 18 and 25 on the application deadline date of January 31. Applicants must provide a three to five minute work sample (via YouTube) of the proposed work, in any genre, of either rehearsal or performance.

For more information, visit http://www.youngchoreographersfestival.com/
YoungChoreographersFestival/Home.html
.

 

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NYC Choreographer Steps Up to Save Bankrupt DNA’s Space and Reserve it for Dance

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Gina Gibney; photo by Philip Montgomery for The Wall Street Journal

Gina Gibney; photo by Philip Montgomery for The Wall Street Journal

Lower Manhattan’s arts scene took a hit when Dance New Amsterdam vacated its TriBeCa home this fall. But last week a new tenant with equal dance-world credibility signed a 20-year lease for the 36,000-square-foot space at 280 Broadway: choreographer Gina Gibney, founder of Gibney Dance.

The Wall Street Journal says her nonprofit contemporary dance company and rehearsal center currently leases a floor of 890 Broadway, a Flatiron-area building with a long history as a creative hub. Gibney Dance has seven studios stretching over 15,000 square feet that it rents out to dance companies, Broadway shows, or anyone in need of arts-related space. (A story on Gibney and 890 Broadway appeared in the August 2012 Dance Studio Life.)

By adding the downtown facility, Gibney Dance will more than double its operations—and it’s not just empire-building. “The primary reason we want to expand is to save the space for the dance community,” said Gibney. “I think we had to do it.”

Affordable, convenient rehearsal space is one of the most pressing performing-arts needs in New York. The shuttering of DNA after it filed for Chapter 11 protection threatened a further reduction: it could have easily been leased and renovated into something other than a center for dance.

Although her plans for the downtown space are yet to be finalized, Gibney expects to renovate 280 Broadway in a way that will make it a resource for emerging artists, while 890 Broadway will be more focused on the needs of those in midcareer.

To see the original story, visit http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303848104579310853484787882.

 

 

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Dancing on Common Ground

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Robert Mason’s Hunger, which premiered during Dance Canvas’s first season, was later produced for its fifth anniversary in January 2013. Photo Richard Calmes

Robert Mason’s Hunger, which premiered during Dance Canvas’s first season, was later produced for its fifth anniversary in January 2013. Photo Richard Calmes

Dance Canvas turns to partnerships to nurture young choreographers
By Ann Murphy

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.

“We’re [like] an art gallery that provides opportunities to showcase choreographers,” Harris says, explaining the organization’s name. And through collaboration and partnerships, Dance Canvas is part of the innovative, nurturing dance scene in the Atlanta metropolitan area.

The road to dance . . .

Growing up, Harris trained at Baltimore School of the Arts, where she studied ballet, modern, choreography, repertory, and Spanish dance. College was next, but after two years at a small university that has a strong dance program, Harris saw school life, even one filled with ballet and modern dance, as disconnected from career opportunities and the companies that interested her. So she changed gears and headed for New York City.

Dance Canvas is part of the innovative, nurturing dance scene in the Atlanta metropolitan area. “We’re [like] an art gallery that provides opportunities to showcase choreographers.” —Angela Harris

To satisfy her family’s expectations, Harris enrolled at City College of New York (CUNY), zeroing in on a degree in journalism, and at the same time nailing a full ballet scholarship to Steps on Broadway. At CUNY she acquired valuable writing, marketing, and communication skills, and at Steps she was exposed to an array of teachers who revealed to her the complexity and diversity of dance.

It was there that she met choreographer Daniel Catanach, who introduced her to Urban Ballet Theater, a contemporary ballet company with a diverse approach to classical dance that spoke to her, especially as a black ballet dancer. It was a harbinger of things to come, though exactly what those things were would still take some years to reveal. What she did know was that by the time she slipped into her graduation robe and pinned on her mortarboard, she would be a lot closer to her dream because she was leaving school with a toolbox of useful dance and communication skills and an awareness of new artistic possibilities.

 . . . but not to choreography
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With Dance Canvas, Angela Harris created a base for herself and others to evolve as choreographers. Pictured: Harris’ Muses of Form, with dancers Mara Mandradjieff and Whitney Edwards. Photo by Richard Calmes

Dancing was only one of the possibilities and only part of the dream; Harris’ ultimate goal was to have her choreography mounted and performed by accomplished dancers. She assumed she was on track for that, although no one had ever discussed the mechanics of how one becomes a choreographer. Like her peers, she supposed you joined a company, danced for that company, got your break when you were invited to make a work, then, finally, that work got staged.

 

Her reasoning seemed sound. After all, a dance company has the necessary infrastructure—dancers, stages, costumes, lights, press contacts—to provide a medium for up-and-coming choreographers to make and show dance. But when Harris joined a series of ballet institutions, including Urban Ballet Theater, Columbia City Ballet, and Georgia Ballet, the opportunities she’d long imagined simply didn’t materialize.

“Being a ballet dancer, your role is to do the work. You’re not really a vocal part of the process; you’re a vehicle onstage,” Harris says. “It’s a submissive role––most young dancers don’t call meetings with the directors; the directors call meetings with you. For an emerging choreographer, it’s a tough world to get a foot in the door.” In fact, it’s a door that is rarely open.

So she began to wonder: how does one become a choreographer in the 21st century? Choreographers are expected to leap over daunting obstructions with no ladders to assist them, like spawning salmon. Because the material conditions vital to budding dancemakers, as basic as low-cost studio space, are so inaccessible in the U.S., a great deal of young and promising vision and talent gets swept aside.

As she pondered the problem, Harris grasped how vital it was for dancers to have doors opened for them and to be offered structures that give them a base to evolve as choreographers. She decided to create a vehicle that could give artists––herself included—the ladders and bridges they needed. Dance Canvas, a nonprofit, is now moving into its sixth year, performing on the mainstage of the 14th Street Playhouse after two years on the smaller Stage 2.

Dance Canvas meets Atlanta Ballet
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The emerging dance ecology in Atlanta allows various levels of art to flourish. Here, John Welker in Lost, choreographed by Ivan Pulinkala, KSU dance department chair, for Atlanta Ballet. Photo by Charlie McCullers

When Harris realized how big the vacuum was for choreographers, and how great the infrastructural needs were, she sat down with a strategic planner and made “a choreographers’ career-development plan.” Once that exercise was complete, Dance Canvas could throw heart and soul into building a dance ecosystem based on shared alliances.

 

Partners were not far away. John McFall, artistic director of Atlanta Ballet and widely saluted as a generous collaborator, believes deeply in community and was eager to help. A former dancer with San Francisco Ballet, McFall choreographed for American Ballet Theatre and Dance Theatre of Harlem, among other companies, before taking over BalletMet in Columbus, Ohio. When he picked up the reins at Atlanta Ballet, he pulled that Georgia institution out of the doldrums, launched a center for dance education run by Sharon Story that now has national clout, and brought an eclectic array of dance to the Atlanta area.

One of the many valuable moves McFall made was to open Atlanta Ballet’s studios to the emerging choreographers in the Dance Canvas stable––vital space that makes it possible for these choreographers to create dances that, in turn, Dance Canvas mounts in its annual series. Next he presented the kind of opportunity that Harris dreamed would unfold: he commissioned a work from one of the choreographers whose works he saw at a Dance Canvas annual program. McFall commissioned a work from Juel Lane, a former dancer with Ronald K. Brown, and Lane’s commissioned Moments of Dis became part of Atlanta Ballet’s season. Such support not only allowed Dance Canvas to solidify its place in Atlanta but also gave a little-known artist’s work a valuable outlet.

Atlanta’s dance ecology, for McFall and Story, includes all movement forms, which, as McFall puts it, are a means of “expressing ourselves in our communities.” That inclusive mind-set prompted him, in 2008, to greenlight a collaboration between rapper Antwan “Big Boi” Patton, of the rap duo Outkast, and choreographer Lauri Stallings, whose work includes choreography for Cirque du Soleil. The result was big, a multimedia event that drew diverse communities. (See “Ballet Scene: Atlanta Ballet Thinks big,” DSL, December 2008.)

Jazz, tap, and hip-hop––dances that, McFall notes, were created “right here in the United States,” are part of Atlanta Ballet’s curriculum, one that has a broad reach: 1,000 students in the region, including college dancers at 50-year-old Kennesaw State University (KSU), are involved in AB’s education center.

KSU jumps on board
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Dance Canvas founder Angela Harris was a recipient of Atlanta’s Office of Cultural Affairs’ 2012-13 Emerging Artist Award. Photo courtesy Angela Harris

In 2005, KSU hired Ivan Pulinkala, a young educator and artist ready to bring change to a fledgling program. The third-largest university in the state offered only a minor in dance when Pulinkala arrived; seeing the potential in such a large university population and burgeoning arts area, he pushed for a dance major. That major now has 150 candidates and a host of external dance opportunities linked with Atlanta Ballet and Dance Canvas, and it includes mandatory dance internships in the community.

 

In hiring him, the administration found “someone to start a program from the ground up,” Pulinkala says, and he was ready. His doctorate in education from the University of Alabama prepared him to design curriculum, while his MFA from Mills College in California readied him to build a rigorous program in choreography, performance, kinesiology, history, and theory. With his background in ballet and musical theater, and life experience growing up in New Dehli, Pulinkala also had a borderless view of dance.

For Pulinkala, undertaking a rapid expansion of a dance program was feasible in no small part because of proximity to nearby Atlanta, which, for him, made collaborating with the neighboring dance institutions a no-brainer and a vital means to bridge the college/professional world divide. Before long, Dance Canvas, Atlanta Ballet, and the KSU dance department were finding common cause.

“As Dance Canvas was starting to take shape,” Harris says, “it became clear we were trying to create the next generation of choreographers. Ivan had this really strong program, and it occurred to me that we had similar ideas about where we wanted to go. I thought if Dance Canvas provided one slot a year to a KSU choreographer on our major annual performance series, we would be able to create a professional setting for this new dance program.”

Pulinkala knew none of them could do it alone. Not only did he and Harris ally themselves, he “connected with Atlanta Ballet and said, ‘Hey, I’m starting this program. I’d love to have your support.’ ” He got it by way of costumes, space, and advocacy. And when he searched around for an artist-in-residence for the department, he looked to Atlanta Ballet’s choice of the genre-bending Lauri Stallings and brought her to campus. A shared culture continues to grow.

Partnerships pay off

In the eyes of Atlanta Ballet’s Sharon Story, “partnerships are crucial. Ivan, John, and I are always looking at new ways to strengthen and build the partnership in meaningful ways.”

So is Harris. Dance Canvas has formed “a great partnership with Atlanta Ballet. We work in their studios; we get 100 hours a season at steeply discounted rates. They’ve really been accessible.”

What’s more, these partnerships are reciprocal. Dance Canvas has given a leg up to KSU by preserving one slot on its annual concert series for an undergraduate choreographer, whose work is chosen through a rigorous adjudication process. This opportunity not only ramps up the professionalism in the college program, it creates a ladder to the commercial dance world—which is exactly what Harris found wanting in her first college experience. The commercial dance world, in turn, benefits from new young talent receiving mentoring, marketing tools, introductions to directors, and exposure to press, as well as venues to showcase work.

Atlanta Ballet dancers turn to KSU to earn college degrees, and the company enlists the many student dancers at KSU to flesh out ballets that require huge onstage crowds, like The Sleeping Beauty. In other words, there is an emerging dance ecology in Atlanta that allows various levels of the art to flourish.

It is a stunning example of mutualism that makes many “impossibles” possible: emerging choreographers can get a toehold in a tough arts world; the Atlanta dance scene has created a vertically and horizontally integrated system that allows a young choreographer to have an audience, a student to stand on a mainstage, and a rapper to team up with leotard-wearing ballet dancers. It’s a supportive culture that reaches across the landscape, whether it is public schools, parks, dance studios, or art spaces.

The result, says Harris, who choreographs and is now able to mount work of her own, is an authentically inclusive model for dance, one that breaks down barriers while nurturing the skills and tools every committed dance artist needs.

 

 

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Onstage Poetry

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Dancers Angelica Mammoliti and Evan Matthew Stewart demonstrated how poetry and choreography can enhance each other in Wall: Two Wall, created by choreographer Kerry Ring and poet Loss Pequeno Glazier. Photos by Donald J. Schwartz

Dancers Angelica Mammoliti and Evan Matthew Stewart demonstrated how poetry and choreography can enhance each other in Wall: Two Wall, created by choreographer Kerry Ring and poet Loss Pequeno Glazier. Photos by Donald J. Schwartz

UB’s Digital Poetry and Dance Program links words and movement through technology
By Lois O’Brian

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.

In 2008, Loss Pequeño Glazier, professor of Media Studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo and creator of the Electronic Poetry Center, visited the Department of Theatre & Dance and told the dance faculty that he saw poems as movement and wanted to explore this idea with dancers. Every year since, the UB Department of Theatre & Dance and the UB Department of Media Study has collaborated on selecting choreographers and works of digital poetry to create a yearly Digital Poetry and Dance Program (DPDP), culminating in a performance.

 

Layering meaning

Glazier sees inherent movement in digital poetry, which is created on a computer screen where the words themselves can move and might also incorporate audio, text, video, music, or any combination thereof. “The visual arrangement of the words on the screen is like the placement of bodies on the stage,” Glazier says. For Glazier, there is an obvious link between digital poetry and dance.

Kerry Ring, lecturer in ballet and modern dance at UB (and a frequent Dance Studio Life contributor), believes the union of digital poetry and dance works because of the degree of flexibility between the two. Digital poetry’s overlap with other arts such as film makes it easier to connect with dance. “Many of these visual/digital poems have sound components. The sound and digital components can be layered, which creates a very rich environment for dance to exist [or] be created,” says Ring. Ring has been involved in the digital poetry and dance project since its inception, and directed the yearly Digital Poetry and Dance concert in 2012 and 2013.

For Ring, it’s important to seek various points of view in order to find a different way “to enter into the process of creating a dance” besides the traditional one—music. In a world so heavily dependent on technology, in which many universities have graduate programs that are based on dance and technology, she thinks it is a disservice not to provide undergraduate students with an opportunity to work with technology. “For dance, media is in our future. It will happen,” Ring says.

 

Process

The year 2013 marked the sixth performance of this collaboration between the arts. In the early years of DPDP, faculty and local professional dancers created the choreography. For the past two years, UB students have been the choreographers. The performance and the process are still developing and evolving.

Since many of the dances are created with poetry as the starting point, viewers see the poem even when they’re not looking directly at the video or listening to the words.

Thus far Glazier has searched for and chosen the digital poems to be used. Ring, in her two years as director, has chosen to assign these poems solely to student choreographers. Some of the poems are existing works; some are created by a poet who works closely with a choreographer. Some choreographers begin with the poem, but Ring’s own first piece of choreography for this collaboration began with the dance. Because of time constraints, Ring created the choreography first, and Glazier wrote the poem to fit the dance, embedding elements of the dance in his poem after watching it.

Julie Marazzo, a dance and exercise science major, now a senior, had choreographed before, but had never worked with digital poetry. She describes how her choreography for the February 2013 concert was inspired by the poem assigned to her, “Reading the Wind,” by David (Jhave) Johnston. The influence of the poem can be seen, she says, “in the weave of my dancers on the ‘page’ of my piece.” The digital embodiment of the poem Marazzo worked with showed individual words or small groups of words on white pages projected onto the screen. The pages flew in, changed shape, and flew out, to be replaced by another page with other words.

Another student choreographer, dance major Jenny Alperin, who graduated in 2013, had never worked outside the tradition of dancing to music until her involvement in the February 2013 DPDP. She was assigned a portion of the 10-minute short film Mechanical Principles (1930), by Ralph Steiner, which features close-ups of moving gears. A flowing, yet gear-like, musical soundtrack by 3 Liquid Hz accompanies the version she used.

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Poet Loss Pequeno Glazier and choreographer/dancer Dana Bojarski generated movement and poetry simultaneously to create Guillemets.

At first Alperin was intimidated by the challenge to be true to the video, and she wondered how the audience could view the dance and the video at the same time without missing something. She also knew she wanted to make a statement about not mindlessly succumbing to the allure of technology.

Having the dancers’ movements replicate the movements of the gears on the screen didn’t work. She decided instead to allow the contrasts between the flowing music and the staccato movements depicted in the film to inform her choreographic choices.

“My approach to choreographing was to focus heavily on connecting the movement to the poem and sound in the beginning of the rehearsal process,” she says. “I learned the poem well, stopped worrying about the video, and could focus on portraying my story while having a real relationship to the poem.”

For viewers, the experience of seeing a Digital Poetry and Dance concert is different than seeing a typical dance concert, since their attention is divided between the video elements and the dance. Placement facilitates the viewing of both simultaneously, but the viewer must decide where to focus. Glazier says every dimension of the piece—movement; written text on the screen; other visuals; audio text, whether live or recorded; and music—must work on its own.

Ring says since many of the dances are created with poetry as the starting point, viewers see the poem even when they’re not looking directly at the video or listening to the words. “The video has informed the dance,” she says. The movements of the dancers “read” the poem to the viewers, who must learn “to open themselves to the possibilities.”

Conversely, in works like Ring’s that begin with the dance, listening to or reading the poem reveals the shapes, dynamics and/or “plot” of the choreography.

 

Cross-translation
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Jenny Alperin’s piece, Conformed, which incorporates film, music, poetry, and movement, asks audience members to decide where to place their focus.

Glazier is occasionally surprised by how choreographers “read” the poems, sometimes seeing things in them that he doesn’t. In turn, any individual audience member’s interpretation of the poem might differ from the choreographer’s. Such varying viewpoints spur conversation about dance for days or weeks after a performance, and for Ring, conversation is an important part of the creative process. “It’s good for students to see their dance teacher go outside [the field of dance], to simply have a conversation,” she says.

Whether or not a new art form or collaborative project results, Ring believes dance teachers must show their students that students and teachers alike should be open to finding inspiration for the art of dance in unexpected places.

Dana Bojarski, a dance and communications major who recently graduated, collaborated with Glazier on a piece for the 2013 concert; they created the dance and the poem simultaneously. Her choreographer’s statement sums up their goal for the project: “We began our process by getting to know each other, describing our ideas about the piece and what stories we were hoping for as an end result. The exchange of ideas and discussion played a major role in the success of the collaboration. A main goal was to explore how the words sounded and felt when they were read, and then how the body could reveal that through movement—almost as if your body, like your mouth, could physically articulate sound.”

A visit Glazier made to a castle in Scotland became an element in their collaboration. They mapped out the castle’s floor plan on the stage, and Bojarski created segments of her dance (which included improvisation) inspired by each area. Glazier read the poem—the text’s sequence arranged by computer—aloud onstage, changing location as Bojarski moved around the “castle.” With no visual projection or music, the piece—the first number on the program—was meant to establish a poetry and dance ground for the works to follow.

 

Widening perspectives, shining new light

In a university setting, opportunities for collaboration are readily available. But how can a dance studio owner encourage students to bring other arts into their dancing? Ring suggests encouraging students to see as many dance forms as possible, and to see shows that involve collaboration.

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In choreographer Megan Rutkowki’s Elucidation (prawie czysty), Robert Creeley’s text is projected on a screen and manipulated.

There are also possibilities online. Examples of the digital poetry project are available at the UB website, epc.buffalo.edu/dance. There are also many sites where you can read about or view digital poetry to learn more about what it is.

Collaboration involves looking beyond music to inspire dance, Ring says. “Anyone, anywhere can do that. It just so happened that at UB, it was a poet who came to the dance department.”

Asked, “What is digital poetry?” Glazier explains that poetry, in general, can be described as words for their own sake, used “to express something different or particular, something beautiful or therapeutic. Ironically poetry is saying something words can’t say, [making] a ceremony out of it.”

Similarly, Ring points out that dance is movement for the sake of movement. Neither an outwardly rotated position nor a drumbeat, for example, is required to make a dance. “I can get from here to there without a dance,” Ring says, but adding intent makes it a dance. “It becomes a dance when I say, ‘This is a dance.’ ”

One student, watching Glazier move from one area of the stage to another as he read aloud his poem for Bojarski’s piece, said he saw Glazier’s movement as dancing too.

“Words are the way we communicate,” Glazier says. “We live in a digital age. What can we express with digital words that we couldn’t express without them? In another 10 years, people will have seen a computer before they’ve seen a book. This is a way to reach a new generation.”

And now it’s a way to reach new dancers, and new audiences.

 

 

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Monthly Choreographers’ Showcase Moves to New Home at Hubbard Street Dance Center

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Choreographer Sarah Carusona (left) at “Dance Chance;” photo by Vin

Choreographer Sarah Carusona (left) at “Dance Chance;” photo by Vin

“Dance Chance,” a monthly showcase of works by local choreographers chosen through a random drawing, will move to a new home at the Lou Conte Dance Studio in the Hubbard Street Dance Center, 1147 West Jackson Boulevard in Chicago’s West Loop, beginning January 31.

Launched in March 2008 by DanceWorks Chicago, “Dance Chance” has encouraged dialogue between artists and audiences, and prompted the creation of more than 100 original works in diverse forms and techniques. Programs are run on the last Friday of each month from 7 to 8pm.

Previously held at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, each showcase features three 15-minute pieces by local choreographers, followed by discussion and audience response, and the random choosing of the next month’s three choreographers from names submitted by choreographers in attendance. There are no fees or prerequisites to enter the drawings.

“The Hubbard Street Dance Center is a place where new choreography is constantly being made, by dancers from so many different disciplines,” says Lou Conte Dance Studio director Claire Bataille, also a founding member of the center’s resident company. “It makes perfect sense for ‘Dance Chance’ to move into our facility. I look forward to watching this program continue to build community and creative exchange among the talented and unique artists we have here in Chicago.”

DanceWorks Chicago artistic director Julie Nakagawa said “Dance Chance” was started “to encourage creativity and a sense of adventure in artists and audiences, and bring communities together to learn more about one another.”

Admission to “Dance Chance” is $3. Visit www.danceworkschicago.org and www.facebook.com/DanceWorksChicago to learn more.

 

 

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Choreographer Trey McIntyre to Disband Full-Time Company to Pursue Other Interests

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Trey McIntyre Project in Queen of the Goths; photo by Katherine Jones/Idaho Statesman

Trey McIntyre Project in Queen of the Goths; photo by Katherine Jones/Idaho Statesman

Choreographer Trey McIntyre says he will disband his Trey McIntyre Project as a full-time dance company in July, instead focusing TMP on other enterprises involving dance, film production, and photography, reports the Idaho Statesman.

Their first booking next season is an outdoor dance installation at Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa, California. The final farewell performances will take place at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Massachusetts, as part of a six-show engagement in the Ted Shawn Theatre, June 25 to 29.

The Statesman said McIntyre will continue to live and work in Boise, but the yellow and black TMP headquarters building on Warm Springs Avenue will be closed. After July, McIntyre will continue to accept freelance choreography assignments and work with some of the dancers who are under contract, but on a per-job basis.

At the same time, he intends to pursue his growing interest in film production and photography. He also will expand the engagement programs TMP developed in Boise on a national scale, tying engagement events to his works when they’re performed in other cities.

“I’m really of two minds right now,” McIntyre said. “I’m super excited about being in this creative path. The other half of me is sad to put this chapter in the book to rest. This has been 10 years of my life.”

McIntyre also will finish up the narrative documentary project about the collaboration with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on two ballets about New Orleans. Then he plans to launch another film project about the 10 years of TMP and the impact the company had on the dance world and on Boise.

To see the full story, visit http://www.idahostatesman.com/2014/01/06/2959862/trey-mcintyre-project-to-disband.html.

 

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Atlanta Ballet’s Helen Pickett to Create Ballet Version of The Crucible

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Helen Pickett; photo courtesy Helen Pickett

Helen Pickett; photo courtesy Helen Pickett

Scottish Ballet is to premiere a ballet version of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible by Canadian choreographer Helen Pickett next autumn, according to The Stage.Co.UK

According to the season announcement, Pickett, who is currently resident choreographer at Atlanta Ballet, “layers rich, evocative characterizations and lyrical story telling in this first-ever ballet version of Miller’s chilling tale of innocent men and women destroyed by malicious rumor.”

The world premiere forms part of the company’s 2014–15 season, which also includes a re-creation of its founding artistic director Peter Darrell’s 1973 version of The Nutcracker, for Christmas 2014.

The Crucible will be paired with the UK premiere of Christopher Bruce’s Ten Poems, set to a recording of 10 Dylan Thomas poems read by Welsh actor Richard Burton.

To see the original story, visit http://www.thestage.co.uk/news/production/2013/12/arthur-millers-crucible-adapted-ballet/.

 

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Portraits of Movers and Shakers in American Dance Scene on Display at Smithsonian

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Isadora Duncan; photo courtesy National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Isadora Duncan; photo courtesy National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

From the late 19th century to today, dance has captured this nation’s culture in motion. “Dancing the Dream,” an exhibition running now through July 13 at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, showcases generations of performers, choreographers and impresarios.

The show includes images of performers such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Michael Jackson, Savion Glover, George Balanchine, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Beyoncé, Isadora Duncan, Agnes de Mille, and Lady Gaga.

Dance has drawn from the boundless commotion of cultures to represent the rhythm and beat of American life. This exhibition explores the relationship between the art of dance and the evolution of a modern American identity.

For more information, visit http://www.npg.si.edu/exhibit/exhdance.html

 

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Point Park University’s Conservatory Dance Company Choreographer to Retire

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Choreographer Nicolas Petrov; photo by Martha Rial

Choreographer Nicolas Petrov; photo by Martha Rial

Romeo and Juliet was the first professional production Nicolas Petrov saw as a student in Yugoslavia. Later, as the founding artistic director of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, he created the first American production in 1971. Now the revival of that same full-length ballet at Point Park University will mark his final bow in a 67-year career in dance.

“That’s a lot of pliés,” he quipped dryly to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

One day after World War II in a small Yugoslavian town, representatives from the ballet showed up at his public school to audition potential students. “Ballet? What is ballet?” he thought.

Among the benefits for dancers was special VIP food and a two-week paid vacation, so he set about studying the art of ballet at age 12 in Novi Sad.

While dancing with the National Theatre in Belgrade, French choreographer Janine Charrat saw him and invited him to Paris where he took classes at Olga Preobrajenska’s famed studio and met choreographer Leonide Massine and fellow Yugoslavian Frano Jelincic. Later, Jelincic enticed him to come to Pittsburgh, first for a job at the Pittsburgh Playhouse and eventually at Point Park College.

His Romeo and Juliet was the first American production, an original full-length ballet culled from his own memories. He would go on to bring historic figures to fertilize his fledgling group, including teachers Edward Caton and Vitale Fokine, dancers Edward Villella, Violette Verdy, and Frederic Franklin, and mentor Leonide Massine. Eventually, Petrov would create 10 full-length ballets and more than 50 shorter works, some at Point Park, others in professional groups such as American Dance Ensemble and Ballet Petrov, which he formed in association with the college.

Romeo and Juliet runs through Sunday at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. To read the full story, visit http://www.post-gazette.com/ae/theater-dance/2013/12/09/Final-steps-in-67-years-of-dance/stories/201312090026.

 

 

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Dancers and Choreographers Sought for First Annual International Contemporary Competition

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International Contemporary Dance and Choreography Competition; photo by Yelena Yeva

International Contemporary Dance and Choreography Competition; photo by Yelena Yeva

Dancers have until March 30, 2014 to submit applications for the first annual international Contemporary Dance and Choreography Competition, which will be held April 28 and 29 at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway, New York City.

The competition is produced by former Bolshoi ballerina Valentina Kozlova, creator of the Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition.

For the new contemporary competition, competition divisions include solos (two pieces), duets, and groups, and pieces may be entered as competing dancers and/or competing choreographers. Dancers may perform either barefoot or in soft shoes. Unlike the ballet competition, there is no age restriction.

Prizes include scholarships for summer intensives with The Ailey School, Peridance Capezio Center, and the Juilliard dance division, plus a choreography workshop at an international location. The judging panel will be headed by Bolshoi Ballet star Andris Liepa.

For information or the application, visit www.vkibc.org or call 212.245.0050.

 

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‘Step in Time’ Choreographer, Marc Breaux, Dies at Age 89

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Marc Breaux works with Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins, 1963; photo courtesy Walt Disney Archives

Marc Breaux works with Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins, 1963; photo courtesy Walt Disney Archives

When Dick Van Dyke got the role of Bert in the 1964 movie musical Mary Poppins, Walt Disney asked him if he had a recommendation for a choreographer. Van Dyke recalled working with the team of Marc Breaux and Dee Dee Wood, who had created a number for the Jack Benny television show.

“I’m not really a dancer,” Van Dyke said. “I could move a little and I was what you call an eccentric dancer—loose-limbed and light on my feet. But they took what I could do and made the most of it. I was just thrilled.”

Disney took his recommendation and the married duo created one of the best-known live-action dances in the history of the studio—the chimney sweep number to the song “Step In Time.” According to the Los Angeles Times, Breaux, 89, a Broadway dancer who had trained with Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman, died November 19 in Mesa, Arizona, in an assisted-living facility where he had been in frail condition, said his son, Michael.

Mary Poppins also led them to work on the 1965 film version of The Sound of Music. Working with performers who were not primarily dancers became a Breaux and Wood hallmark. In the 1970s—during the time variety shows were popular on television — they created dances for more than 200 TV episodes.

To read the full obituary, visit http://www.latimes.com/obituaries/la-me-marc-breaux-20131122,0,196559.story#ixzz2lOiPIUf4.

 

 

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Extraordinary Dance Life of Modern Pioneer Anna Sokolow Presented in Theater Production

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Anna Sokolow Way; photo courtesy The Huffington Post

Anna Sokolow Way; photo courtesy The Huffington Post

The extraordinary legacy of Anna Sokolow, one of the premiere modern dance choreographers of the 20th century, will be honored in a new production, Anna Sokolow Way, December 4 to 8, at the Theater at the 14th Street Y in New York City, reported The Huffington Post.

Conceived and directed by Jim May, Sokolow Ensemble’s founder, artistic director, and former dancer, Anna Sokolow Way will include new choreography, rare video, live performance, and narrative script, along with highlights from Sokolow master works, Dreams, Rooms, From the Diaries of Franz Kafka, Opus 65, and Magritte, Magritte.

From the Horse’s Mouth, the acclaimed dance/narrative series co-directed by Tina Croll and Jamie Cunningham, will present its unique blend of movement, storytelling, and supportive visual imagery to bring Sokolow vividly to life by tapping into the personal experiences of dancers, actors, critics, and musicians who worked with Sokolow over the course of her 60-year career in dance.

To see a From the Horse’s Mouth video segment on Sokolow, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7uyqQzhxDo.

Sokolow choreographed for Broadway (Street Scene, Camino Real, Candide, and the original Hair). She taught at New York’s Clark Center, at The Juilliard School in the dance and drama divisions, at HB Studio, the Actor’s Studio, and the American Theater Wing. Her work is in the repertories of the Joffrey Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and others. She helped influence Israeli dance and had a lifelong association with the dance and theater arts in Mexico, and returned to both countries frequently as teacher and choreographer.

To read the full story, visit http://www.huffingtonpost.com/adria-rolnik/anna-sokolow-way-honors-l_b_4234416.html.

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DCNT Scholarship Program Applies to Students, Teachers, Choreographers, Writers

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Dance Council of North Texas logo; image courtesy DCNT

Dance Council of North Texas logo; image courtesy DCNT

Applications are now being accepted for more than $38,000 in scholarships to be awarded through Catch A Rising Star: The 2014 Dance Council of North Texas Scholarships.

Over the past eight years, DCNT has awarded scholarships totaling $244,000 to outstanding dancers from ages 13 through graduate school. There is no residency requirement. DCNT scholarship recipients receive funding, tuition waivers, or both to attend prestigious summer intensives and workshops that encompass every dance style.

Recipients have attended nationally renowned summer programs such as School of American Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet (Seattle), Kirov Ballet, Alvin Ailey (NYC), Jacob’s Pillow, American Dance Festival, Miami City Ballet, the Arathi School (to study bharata natyam), to attend technique and choreographer intensives, dance critique studies, among other programs.

Teachers have been awarded scholarships for continuing education programs with American Dance Festival, Debbie Allen Dance (LA), Third Coast Rhythm Project (San Antonio, Texas), and the Katherine Dunham Workshop. Choreographers have attended the Glenda Brown Choreography Project in Kansas City, Missouri. The Margaret Putnam Dance Writers Scholarship provides funding to attend a dance writers’ workshop.

Deadline to submit application is midnight on Saturday, February 9, 2014. Recipient notification is March 15, 2014. Apply at www.dancecouncilscholarships.org.

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FYI

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What’s up in the dance community
This Follies Defied the Odds—and Gravity
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For more than two decades crowds flocked to see senior showgirls such as Jill Owens strut their stuff in the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies. Photo by Ned Redway

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.

But age provided no obstacle to audiences, who showed up at the circa-1936 Plaza Theatre in droves; kept the show running five days a week, 11 months a year, for more than two decades; and contributed to a tourism boom that revitalized the sagging Palm Springs downtown. On November 1 the show will open its 23rd and final season with The Last Hurrah! Like all Follies shows, this revue pays tribute to the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s “golden age” of the stage, with burlesque-style comedy acts and Broadway-big production numbers.

“It has been an amazing, wonderful ride,” said Follies producer and co-founder Riff Markowitz, who, as master of ceremonies, hasn’t missed a single show. “It’s hard for me to believe that sometime during the coming season we will seat our three-millionth audience member.”

The curtain closes May 18, 2014. Visit psfollies.com for details.

 

 

 

 

Ticket to Ride: SF Trolley Dances
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Performers from Epiphany Productions jump for joy over this year’s 10th anniversary of San Francisco Trolley Dances. Photo by Andy Mogg

Public transportation is great for getting from here to there. Or, if you’re in San Francisco this October, you can get where you’re going and see great dance at the same time.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of San Francisco Trolley Dances, founded by Kim Epifano, artistic director of Epiphany Productions, a dance-theater company that produces large-scale, multidisciplinary, collaborative performances around the world.

Riders hop aboard at the Market Street Railway Museum and ride for as long or as little as they like through San Francisco’s famous Market Street area. At stops along the track, a variety of Bay Area dance companies use the picturesque streets, sidewalks, train stations, and other sites as three-dimensional performance spaces.

Riders must purchase a MUNI ticket ($2 general, 75 cents students and seniors); anyone who happens along on foot or bicycle can enjoy the dance for free. Trolley Dances tours will set out six times each day, October 19 and 20. Check it out at epiphanydance.org.

 

 

NYC Ponders Why Dance Matters
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A video clip series from Dance/NYC employs famous dancers, choreographers, and dance fans – such as (clockwise from upper left) Elizabeth Streb, Isaac Mizrahi, Robert Battle, and Rokafella – to explain “Why Dance Matters.” Photos courtesy New Yorkers for Dance

“My name is Sara Mearns,” says the New York City Ballet principal in a video clip. “I’m a New Yorker for dance because it allows dreams to come true for boys and girls from all around the world that make dance their communication and their expression. I’m a living example of that.”

Short, strong, to the point. This web campaign from the nonprofit service organization Dance/NYC features roughly 30-second snippets about why dance matters from artists, dancers, and fans such as Bolshoi and ABT star David Hallberg, innovative choreographer Elizabeth Streb, and Staten Island studio owner Luanne Sorrentino. Some talk about dance’s power or its ability to inspire; others why they love it. (“Legs,” says designer Isaac Mizrahi with a saucy smirk.)

Launched in June, new videos from famous faces will be added periodically. Why does dance matter to you? Share your thoughts @DanceNYC #newyorkersfordance.

 

 

 

 

Joffrey Seeks Choreographers of Diversity

Three promising young choreographers will win the opportunity of a lifetime through Joffrey Ballet’s fourth annual Choreographers of Color Award. The program seeks young artists with a “diverse perspective” who will create original works on Joffrey Academy of Dance trainees, then present the pieces at Chicago’s Harris Theater for Music and Dance on March 1, 2014.

Aside from encouraging young choreographic talent, the program provides a challenge for the Joffrey trainees. In a YouTube video, one of last year’s winners, William B. McClellan Jr., described his style as a fusion of jazz, ballet, modern, hip-hop, African, samba, capoeira—“a melting pot of forms”—and a way for the ballet students to “think about movement differently.”

Have a last-minute application? The deadline is September 2 at joffrey.org/cofc. Tickets to the March 1 choreography showcase go on sale in January.

Joan Myers Brown Wins National Medal of the Arts

Since 1960, when she opened the doors of her Philadelphia School of Dance Arts—thereby allowing previously excluded African American students the opportunity for formal training—Joan Myers Brown has been a force in dance and dance education. A dancer and choreographer, Brown founded The Philadelphia Dance Company in 1970 to provide professional opportunities for minority dancers. Dubbed Philadanco, the contemporary company became known as one of the finest in the land.

For her tireless efforts championing the cause of African Americans in dance in Philly and around the world, President Barack Obama recognized Brown with a National Medal of the Arts at the White House on July 10.

 

 

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Joffrey Academy Announces Winners of Choreographers of Color Award

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Stefanie Batten Bland; photo courtesy Joffrey Ballet

Stefanie Batten Bland; photo courtesy Joffrey Ballet

Justin Allen, Stefanie Batten Bland, and Norbert De La Cruz III are the winners of the Joffrey Academy of Dance’s third annual Choreographers of Color Award.

The Choreographers of Color Award was created by the Joffrey Academy, the official school of the Joffrey Ballet, to recognize promising young minority choreographers whose diverse perspective will ignite creativity in the field of dance. Each of the three selected choreographers will set a new work on the Joffrey Academy trainees, receive a $2,500 stipend, and have the opportunity to work with Joffrey Academy artistic directors Alexei Kremnev and Anna Reznik.

The three world premieres will be presented in Winning Works: Choreographers of Color Awards 2014, March 1, 7pm, at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph Drive, Chicago.

Stefanie Batten Bland, from New York, was recognized as a 2010-12 Baryshnikov Arts Center artist in residence, has danced for Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and others, and created Company Stefanie Batten Bland in 2008 in France so that she might better investigate the human condition and its relationship within the natural world.

Justin Allen was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and was trained at the Baltimore School for the Arts, The Rock School for Dance Education, and the Miami City Ballet School, among others. In 2009, he joined Ballet Theatre of Maryland where he performed as a soloist, and in 2010 he became a full-time faculty member and a choreographer at The Rock School.

Norbert De La Cruz III was born in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines, and raised in Los Angeles, California. Cruz graduated from The Juilliard School in 2010 with a BFA in dance, and has balanced a career as a professional dancer, photographer, and emerging choreographer.

Tickets will be available as of January 13, 2014 at www.harristheaterchicago.org.

 

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Choreographers Kyle Abraham, Alexei Ratmanski, Win MacArthur Genius Awards

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Kyle Abraham; photo by Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

Kyle Abraham; photo by Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

Alexei Ratmansky; photo by Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

Alexei Ratmansky; photo by Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

 

The dancer-choreographer Kyle Abraham, who recalled relying on food stamps just three years ago, was among the 13 men and 11 women officially named MacArthur fellows on Wednesday, reported The New York Times. Alexei Ratmanski, 45, choreographer and artist in residence at American Ballet Theatre, was also a recipient.

Besides the imprimatur of achievement and future promise, the 2013 fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation come with a sweetened stipend of $625,000 paid over five years.

It was amazing to me,” Abraham, 36, said of receiving the good news via a recent telephone call from Cecilia Conrad, vice president of the program. “It was a shock. I was laughing about it; I was crying about it, it was so overwhelming. I’ve been trying to figure out how to pay off my student loans to this day.”

A Pittsburgh native whose latest work, Pavement, uses dance to probe violence, Abraham lives in Brooklyn and is the founder and artistic director of his company, Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion. “Getting an award like this lets me know I can continue to make work and pay my dancers and I can pay my rent.”

To see the full story, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/25/arts/macarthur-genius-award-winners-named.html?_r=0.

 

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Two North Carolina Educators Receive NC Dance Alliance Honors

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Sherone Price; photo courtesy NCDA

Sherone Price; photo courtesy NCDA

The North Carolina Dance Alliance (NCDA) will hold its annual event on October 12 and 13 with more than 30 different classes in multiple dance forms, scholarship auditions, the annual NCDA Choreographers Showcase and Annual Award Presentation, and an adjudicated performance featuring works by North Carolina dance students.

Avis Hatcher-Puzzo of Fayetteville, assistant professor of dance at Fayetteville State University, will receive the Annual Award, which honors an individual who has made significant lifetime contributions to the growth and development of dance in North Carolina. The 2013 NCDA Choreography Fellowship will go to Sherone Price of Boone, assistant professor of dance at Appalachian State University. Price will receive a stipend of up to $1,000 to cover the cost of a new work.

The NCDA Choreographers Showcase will be held October 12 at 8pm, with the Youth and College Performance Showcase on October 13 at 5pm. The event will be held the Durham [NC] School of the Arts. Information and registration is available at www.ncdancealliance.org.

 

 

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Houston Native, Hollywood Choreographer, Patsy Swayze, Dies at Age 86

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Patsy and Patrick Swayze; photo Yahoo

Patsy and Patrick Swayze; photo Yahoo

Houston native Patsy Swayze, the late actor Patrick Swayze’s mother, died Monday night after suffering a stroke earlier this month, reported KHOU. She was 86.

The longtime dance instructor and choreographer passed away just two days after the anniversary of her son’s 2009 death. Patrick Swayze died of pancreatic cancer at age 57.

Patsy Swayze was best-known for choreographing movies like Urban Cowboy and Hope Floats. She taught dance in Houston for several years before moving to Simi Valley, California, and opening a dance studio there.

Former students remembered her fondly Tuesday for her passion for dance—and for them.

“She would give. She would stay at the studio till 9:30, 10 o’clock if somebody needed her,” said Krissy Richmond, Kinkaid Dance School director. “She loved what she did. She has always treated her students like they were her own kids.”

To see the full report, visit http://www.khou.com/community/Longtime-Houston-dance-instructor-choreographer-Patsy-Swayze-dies-at-86-224134561.html.

 

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Bill T. Jones Discusses Collaboration in New Lecture Series at University of Houston

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Bill T. Jones; photo by Stephanie Berger

Bill T. Jones; photo by Stephanie Berger

Legendary choreographer Bill T. Jones will be the honored guest for the first-ever Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center Mitchell Artist Lecture on September 12 at the Moores Opera House, University of Houston.

A public reception will begin at 6pm with the lecture at 7pm. Admission is free.

A Kennedy Center Honors–award winner, Jones has choreographed more than 45 works for his own company, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, and won Tony Awards for his recent ventures into Broadway theater as co-creator of FELA! and choreographer of Spring Awakening. Jones has also choreographed pieces for major companies such as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Boston Ballet, Houston Grand Opera, Lyon Opera Ballet, and others.

In his Mitchell Lecture, Jones will discuss his significant legacy of interdisciplinary collaboration over the course of his career, including artistic partnerships with Louise Nevelson, Kiki Smith, Toni Morrison, Jessye Norman, Keith Haring, and dozens of others.

The annual Mitchell Artist Lecture will feature individuals emblematic of artistic collaboration and innovation.

For more information, visit http://www.mitchellcenterforarts.org/events/recent/mitchell-artist-lecture-featuring-bill-t-jones/?utm_source=Mitchell%20Center&utm_campaign=c361c20758-September%2012%3A%20Bill%20T.%20Jones&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_bf722ee827-c361c20758-129712342.

 

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Eight Choreographers Vie for Title of Celebrity CREATE Champion

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Talia Favia, Celebrity 2012 CREATE winner; photo courtesy Mather Dance Company

Talia Favia, Celebrity 2012 CREATE winner; photo courtesy Mather Dance Company

Eight choreographers chosen from a field of 152 contestants will show their work during the Celebrity 2013 CREATE Competition, set for September 14 at the Renaissance Hotel Glendale, Arizona.

The eight finalists are: Matthew Delly, Melissa Farrar, Jennifer Forst, Madi Jean Ballester, Larisa Perez, Katie Taylor, Dana Metz, and Chris Thomas.

Special guests in attendance at the event will include Ade Obayomi and Daniel Baker from So You Think You Can Dance; Chaz Buzan, a dancer for Madonna; Talia Favia, Celebrity 2012 CREATE winner; Josh Scribner from Cirque Du Soleil; Chelsea Thedinga from Shaping Sound Dance Company; and Brian Friedman from The X Factor.

The grand prize–winner will take home $2,500, a gift prize from Capezio, and the title of Celebrity CREATE Champion. “Celebrity Dance Competitions is very proud to promote the art of choreography and is thrilled for the live show,” Celebrity director Drew Phillip said. Tickets will be available at http://www.dancecelebrity.com/ the first week of September.

 

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Tempting Twists on Tradition | Five choreographers cook up a holiday show with must-use ingredients

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TWT-T

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.

The required ingredients were: ballet, jazz, hip-hop, and modern dance; homemade scenery, use of props, and costumes of a non-clothing nature; one traditional Christmas carol, one nontraditional version of a holiday song, one spoken-word element, music played live onstage, and use of nontraditional instruments; one character, musical excerpt, or setting from Nutcracker; a fruit, an endangered animal, a piece performed by people other than students, one unthinkably expensive element that would be out of the question in real life, and two of three major holidays: Christmas, Chanukah, and Kwanzaa.

Five imaginations went to work to create five memorable holiday shows. Let us know your favorites!

 

Favorite Things, Holiday Style

By Julie Holt Lucia

TWT-T2My holiday show will begin with the sounds of a light thunderstorm filling the theater—a patter of rain and rolling thunder more intriguing than ominous. The curtain will slowly rise during the thunderstorm to reveal a warm and inviting living room scene, complete with two large windows positioned upstage right and upstage left, as well as armchairs with fluffy cushions and a huge faux fire crackling in a fireplace upstage center. On each side of the fireplace will be an opulent Christmas tree, adorned with glittering red, green, and gold ornaments, gold tinsel, and a gold star on top.

When the curtain is up, the thunderstorm quiets. A teenage dancer, barefoot and dressed in a simple white dress with a blue satin sash, walks from the wings to a downstage center microphone, and with a smile, recites the lyrics to “My Favorite Things.”

Kindergarten dancers in kitten costumes (complete with makeup whiskers) dance to “The Christmas Kitten” by Dickie Bird, eliciting giggles from the audience.

As the dancer leaves the stage, a string quartet enters and takes its place downstage right, and the words “Raindrops on roses” are projected onto the cyc. A group of beginning and intermediate ballet students, each holding a red rose and outfitted in a swirly red chiffon ballet dress, enters accompanied by a group of Raindrops (advanced ballet students wearing pale blue tutus). After their places have been taken, the musicians begin to play “Winter” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. At various times throughout the dance, each rose dancer hands off her red rose to a raindrop dancer.

After the ballet dancers and string quartet exit, “Whiskers on kittens” appears on the cyc and the next group enters: kindergarten dancers in kitten costumes (complete with makeup whiskers), sneaking onto the stage with tiny bourrées. They perform a creative-movement–based dance to “The Christmas Kitten” by Dickie Bird, eliciting giggles from the audience with their pas de chats and leaps.

TWT3The lights dim as the kittens skitter offstage, and colorful side- and footlights begin pulsing. A remixed version of RuPaul’s “Funky Christmas” starts to play and the words “Brown paper packages tied up with string” appear as all levels of hip-hop dancers, outfitted in pants, skirts, and tops made of brown craft paper and string, groove their way onstage. The dancers move with partners up and down the width of the stage and in circles, mimicking the party scene patterns in The Nutcracker. The stage lights continue flashing and blinking, giving the paper costumes a lit-up Christmas-tree glow as the dancers move into a tree-like formation for their final poses.

After intermission the curtain rises to reveal a snowy wonderland. The words “Silver white winters” appear on the cyc, fading to a frosty silver-blue, and a row of glittering snow-flocked Christmas trees line the upstage area. The string quartet returns to its place and begins to play Yo-Yo Ma’s version of “Dona Nobis Pacem.” At the same time, the dancer who began the show with the reading reappears on a trapeze, swinging above the stage, a gentle sway to complement the strings. The words “Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes” appear, and after four measures of music, a group of advanced modern dancers, dressed in white dresses with blue satin sashes, bend and curve their way into swirling snowlike patterns. The trapeze dancer swings offstage and then reenters, joining the dancers. When the piece is over, the dancers bring the string quartet members to center stage for recognition.

The words “Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes” appear as beginning and intermediate jazz dancers roll out three large faux snowballs, each constructed of chicken wire and cotton batting and designed to fit together. They take their places as Ray Conniff’s version of “Frosty the Snowman” fills the air. Jazz steps alternate with pantomime as the dancers put Frosty together, adding his accessories one at a time. (The props are hidden inside the bottom snowball.) When one dancer mistakenly gives Frosty a banana for a nose instead of a carrot, another dancer has to correct her and the audience gets a good laugh.

For the final routine, the music is Julie Andrews’ iconic version of “My Favorite Things.” A group of dancers from each of the previous pieces joins the dance, revealing all the elements of the song that were used in the show.

But suddenly there’s an interruption! Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” breaks through “My Favorite Things” and the dancers’ dads bumble out of the wings in black-and-yellow stripes, buzzing a chaotic path through the dancers. Among the bees is a dancing dad dressed as a Mexican long-nosed bat. The music screeches to a halt as the dancer who did the reading approaches the bat, throws her hands up in the air, and shouts, “Bees, Dad! Bees, not bats!”

The bat shrugs and exits, followed quickly by the bees. The audience applauds as “My Favorite Things” resumes, closing the show with all the dancers onstage together, hands clasped, for a final bow.

 

The Horrible Holidays

By Larry Sousa

TWT-HH-TLights up on Sam the Snowman, the iconic storyteller from the 1964 TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Played by a studio dad, the snowman is dressed exactly as the famous character: green plaid vest, bowler hat, black ribbon tie, with a white goatee.

Sam welcomes the audience with a folksy speech about holiday traditions. “I’m a tradition too,” he says. “You can’t go a year without seeing me on TV. And in that spirit, here’s a story.” Revealing an oversized book, he reads: “Why I Hate the Holidays: A Celebration of the Most Annoying Traditions We Endure Year After Year.” Quick blackout. Sam returns throughout the evening to introduce each new Annoying Tradition.

In a voice-over, a cacophony of pitchmen hawk Black Friday deals. An oversized digital clock reads “11:59pm.” A spotlight reveals department store doors upstage center with dancers behind them, squishing their faces against the glass.

Midnight strikes and the doors fly open. Desperate shoppers (played by the senior hip-hop class) dance to a frantic remix of “12 Days to Christmas” from the Broadway musical She Loves Me. Merchandise rolls by—homemade, oversized props such as doll houses, teddy bears, and TVs—and gets danced on, or with, or worn as costumes (yes, dancing cell phones and perfume bottles). Fistfuls of money are thrown about like snow. As two moms fight over the one remaining toy, a tiny dancer sneaks in and grabs it. The brawl clears.

The stage is a mess. Junior-level tappers dressed as janitors perform a “clean up” dance to “Hard Times for an Elf” by Robot Holiday, and then a vintage switchboard rolls on. The operator, his back to the audience, plugs and unplugs cables while repeating, “ACME Widget Company. Yes, I’ll connect you” into his headset. Then: “It’s time? It’s time!”

Midnight strikes and the doors fly open. Desperate shoppers dance to a frantic remix of “12 Days to Christmas” from the Broadway musical She Loves Me.

The operator turns to the audience. It is Sam, who says, “It’s time for our next tradition: The Dreaded Office Party!” The switchboard and Sam roll offstage.

The Broadway song “Turkey Lurkey Time” from Promises, Promises plays as dancers in business attire enter—interns, secretaries, computer geeks, and The Boss— along with office furniture. They begin a jazz dance with a ’60s feel, which evolves into a contemporary style as the song morphs into a funky extended remix of itself.

Sam reappears, still looking like a switchboard operator: “It’s time for Secret Santa!” Groans. Gifts are exchanged, the last being the ugliest Christmas sweater ever. Sam puts it on. Drumroll. The office disappears and a 10-foot-tall gift with a bow on top appears downstage left.

The front of the present opens, revealing a studio mom wearing a sweater even uglier than Sam’s. They see each other. Angels sing. It’s love—but not so fast. One by one, moms enter through the large gift, wearing stunningly ugly sweaters. The moms flirt with Sam as they do a sultry jazz dance to “Baby It’s Cold Outside” by Eartha Kitt and Louis Armstrong.

A mid-stage curtain rises, revealing a chorus of handbell players. Junior-level dancers perform a modern piece to “Carol of the Bells,” accompanied by the handbell musicians. Sam reappears as Scrooge and bellows, “Bah, humbug!” A Rockette-like line of dads, all dressed as Scrooge, enters. The junior dancers watch the dads perform a pouty, hilarious character dance to No Doubt’s funky-punky “Oi to the World.”

TWT-HH-2As the junior dancers join their Scrooge dads, Sam introduces the next tradition: The Awkward Family Gathering. The stage transforms into an open space with a kitchen, dining room, and living room. A dad parks himself in a recliner at center stage. As he nods off, his boisterous family enters—unruly kids, crazy aunts and uncles, cantankerous grandparents, and one completely stressed-out mom, all played by student dancers.

As Alvin and the Chipmunks’ “Here We Come a-Caroling (The Wassail Song)” plays, pools of light reveal kids eating cookies, mom and aunts chatting over coffee, and grandparents playing cards. The song speeds up and the dance scenes become comic: the kids have a food fight, mom and the aunts enter full gossip mode, and Grandpa spikes his eggnog while Granny peeks at his cards. Dad wakes up and clicks an oversized remote control, desperately seeking escape. He shouts, “Yay! A football game!” and the dancing freezes.

Sam returns and announces, “Our next tradition: Holiday Specials Ruining Your TV Schedule! We interrupt this football game to bring you the ultimate holiday treat: a six-hour ballet about sugar plums and stuff.”

Distraught, Dad surfs channel after channel, hearing the same announcement over and over until Sam delivers the final blow: “Don’t bother—it’s on every channel.” The dancers begin a Nutcracker-ish ballet production number, complete with Christmas carols, reindeer, and dancing mice. The sequence evolves into a global celebration, featuring a horah danced to “Oh Chanukah,” and a Kwanzaa dance to live percussion—dancers using kitchen utensils, tabletops, and gift boxes as drums. Dad sleeps through it all.

The doorbell rings. It is Scrooge (played by Sam), bearing a gift. The family gathers around. Drumroll. Reveal. Silence. The entire family says, “Fruitcake. Um, thanks.”

À la Nutcracker, an enormous, tacky, aluminum Christmas tree begins to rise, a larger version of the tree in A Charlie Brown Christmas. A grandmother places a color-wheel light in front of it, eliciting groans. The Vince Guaraldi Trio’s holiday jazz classic “Linus and Lucy” begins, and everyone does the Peanuts characters’ famous “bouncy” dance. Sam sneaks offstage and the dancers move into the auditorium, encouraging the audience to dance with them.

Sam reenters with Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (a senior-level dancer) in tow. They bring the smallest dancer front and center.

“You, little angel, are the future,” Rudolph tells her. “Here is a special gift just for you. I know you will love it and keep it close to your heart.”

She peeks inside the box. She hates it. Closing the box, she says, “Ladies and gentlemen, our final holiday tradition: Re-gifting!” She hands the present to Sam and skips away.

The finale kicks off, a fast mega-mix of snippets from every dance in the show, with bows worked in—a “re-gifting” of the dances. As a projection of tiny reindeer pulling a miniature sleigh glides up over the audience, snow falls, and so does the curtain.

“Happy” Holidays.

 

The Christmas Butterfly

By Holly Derville-Teer

TWT-CB-T

As the curtain opens, teen ballet dancers wearing traditional second-act Nutcracker costumes dance to “Nutcracker Suite” by The Brian Setzer Orchestra. The Sugar Plum Fairy and Russian, Arabian, and Waltz of the Flowers dancers perform, followed by an ensemble finish that features Clara and concludes with a cast bow.

The Sugar Plum Fairy cries, “Cast party!” and everyone reacts with excitement. Ten- to 12-year-old hip-hop dancers (dressed in black and pretending to be the backstage crew) push a Christmas tree and three boxes of presents (two large, one much smaller) onstage, placing them upstage right. Cheered on by the Nutcracker dancers, who surround the hip-hop group in a U formation, the hip-hoppers begin dancing to “Holiday Bounce” by Yo Yo Yo Kids.

Smoke meanders onto the stage, creating an eerie atmosphere. The upstage curtain opens, revealing a dancer dressed as a blue butterfly imprisoned in a homemade cage.

As the song fades out, a tall, mysterious, Drosselmeyer-like dance teacher wearing a black dress and cape moves downstage, slowly and elegantly. Three Nutcracker boys follow her, moving the boxes of presents downstage. The teacher presents the boys with bugles and the girls with dolls. She gives Clara the small box, which contains a blue butterfly stuffed animal. The teacher reads “The Butterfly Upon the Sky” by Emily Dickinson as Clara performs a ballet dance with her gift.

During a quick blackout, the tree and boxes are struck and replaced by a bed and dressing table. A nightgown-clad Clara performs a jazz dance with her butterfly toy to “Christmas Butterfly” by Romeo. A group of 5- and 6-year-old tappers wearing blue wings, leotards, and tutus performs alongside her.

The tappers exit and Clara falls asleep. “Can’t Fly” by SevenMinusZero begins and the lights dim. Smoke meanders onto the stage, creating an eerie atmosphere. The upstage curtain opens, revealing a dancer dressed as a blue butterfly imprisoned in a homemade cage made of wood, with widely spaced thin bars. She is wearing a blue unitard with blue fabric wings that attach at her back, wrists, and ankles. On her head is a sparkly blue headband with antennae attached. Imprisoned, the Butterfly dances a melancholy modern piece.

Modern dancers ages 7 to 9 enter. Dressed as menacing spiders, they wear black hooded unitards with two “legs” (tubes of black fabric stuffed with Styrofoam peanuts) on each side. The Spider Queen, a teenage dancer wearing a tiara, enters, wielding a sword. Clara awakens and throws an apple from her dressing table at the Spider Queen, killing her. After the spiders drag the Queen offstage, Clara frees her butterfly friend.

TWT-CB-2The Butterfly (wearing a wireless mike) tells Clara she is a Fender’s blue butterfly, an endangered species. Her home is with her family at the zoo’s butterfly garden, and she is lost. Clara (also miked) promises to help her get home.

The set changes to a semicircle of 12 artificial, blue, four-foot Christmas trees. Blue snow falls as the Butterfly is joined by a large group of teen blue butterflies dressed like her, symbolizing the family she is missing. They dance a lyrical piece to “Blue Christmas” by The Perishers. The Butterfly reaches for the butterflies dancing around her but can’t get their attention. As she clings to Clara for comfort, the curtain closes.

The second act begins with broom-carrying zoo workers ages 10 to 12 dancing in front of the curtain. They do an a cappella Stomp-inspired dance, making music with their brooms and tap shoes. As their dance concludes, the Butterfly and Clara enter.

The curtain opens, unveiling a zoo version of Land of the Sweets. A zoo sign, bench, and homemade cages set the scene. An overall-wearing Zookeeper (formerly the Sugar Plum Fairy) greets the duo and invites them to sit on the bench. She performs a jazz dance solo to “Rockin’ at the Zoo” by Linda Arnold. Prompted by the lyrics, she introduces a Lion playing bass, a Monkey on drums, a Tiger on guitar, a Penguin on keyboards, a Giraffe lead singer, a Hippo on sax, an Elephant on trumpet, and a singing Duck, who enter at the appropriate melodic prompts.

The band plays “O Come All Ye Animals (Faithful)” by Troy and Genie Nilsson, joined by jazz-dancing 5- and 6-year-old bears (in brown leotards, skirts, and headband ears) and elephants (in gray leotards, skirts, and fabric ears attached to headbands).

Clara, the Butterfly, and the Zookeeper watch a group of 7- to 9-year-old tap dancers jive to “Tiger Feet” by The Party Animals. Next comes a funny staff-member musical-theater–style jazz dance to “We Three Camels (Kings)” by Troy and Genie Nilsson, followed by an acrobatic solo to “Sarah the Seal” by Too Many Cookes.

Finally it is time for the Butterfly to be reunited with her family. Butterfly’s mother enters and runs to embrace her daughter. The Mother dances a lyrical solo to “My Treasure” by Larry Gonsky, about a woman whose Chanukah wish is to have a child.

After the Mother’s dance concludes, the Blue Butterfly begins to dance to “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” by Eiffel 65. Her butterfly friends and family join in at 42 seconds, concluding the show with a jazz production number that includes all dancers ages 7 and up (except the Zookeeper, who exits during the chorus). During the second and third choruses, the lights fade to black, leaving only the glow of blue LED lights on the butterfly costumes.

During the final chorus, the zoo set is struck and replaced by Clara’s bed. All of the butterflies exit. In the final 20 seconds of the music, the lights come up, revealing Clara waking from her wonderful dream.

A quick blackout allows Clara to exit. As the lights come up and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” by Weezer begins, the dancers take their bows.

 

Coconutcracker

By Diane GudatTWT-C-T

The lights come up on a tropical island beach with the remnants of an airplane crash strewn around, along with large trunks labeled “NUTCRACKER ON TOUR,” with tutus and props hanging out of them. Dancers of all ages are lying on the beach, hot, hungry, and desperate. A voice-over says: “The search for the missing Nutcracker on Tour plane has been called off. Families hold out hope for a miracle!”

Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of “Too Darn Hot” begins to play and the survivors begin a musical-theater dance. As they finish, one dancer yells, “Move back! The tide is coming in!”

From one corner of the stage, 12 teen dancers appear, dressed in flowing blue costumes. They perform a segment of Doris Humphrey’s Water Study, a modern dance that spills across the stage like waves. This version ends with strips of blue fabric stretched across the stage.

Everyone pitches in, decorating the beach with Nutcracker props and island decor while singing “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” and dancing with a hula flair.

A group of beginning dancers scurries in, dressed as sea creatures. They do a jazz dance to the song “Under the Sea,” from The Little Mermaid, while people hidden behind the fabric strips act as puppeteers, animating fish on the end of sticks, jumping fish (attached to hula hoops that circle), and white birds (attached to strings like fishing poles) that swoop onstage.

The blue material drops to the floor to reveal a preteen contemporary dance class performing a dance as dolphins playing in the waves. They finish and exit, along with the fabric.

A portly, balding man then enters (an overweight studio dad), accompanied by a band of monkeys. He announces himself as the island’s self-proclaimed king. The trespassers must leave at once, or else he will set loose his man-eating tiger. The terrified dancers huddle together, trying to figure out a way to save themselves.

The King plops down in an oversized beach chair throne and snaps his fingers. Two monkeys appear with a drink in a coconut and a lobster on a platter.

TWT-C-2As the King eats, some of the monkeys try on the Nutcracker costumes. The King spots the Cavalier’s costume and tries it on. Although he can’t button it, he is thrilled to wear it and obviously impressed with how he looks.

The dancers notice the King’s interest in the costume and decide to distract him from his threat about the tiger by entertaining him. The advanced teens do an energetic acrobatic dance to the “Mother Ginger and Her Polichinelles” music. The King is delighted. The monkeys put on the Snowflake costumes and the dancers lead them in a balletic waltz to “Waltz of the Snowflakes.”

As the King applauds, children dressed as lobsters crawl onstage and dance the Spanish variation, using their claws as castanets. They finish by sliding down a chute into a large silver pot that has been rolled onstage. Monkeys stir the pot with giant spoons.

Three teenage boys perform the Russian variation, collapsing at the end from hunger and exhaustion. The Island King summons a Witch Doctor (a teenage hip-hop soloist) and commands him to revive the boys. The Witch Doctor dances around the boys to “Witch Doctor,” sung by Sha Na Na. The boys recover and the Island King decides to throw a huge luau.

Everyone pitches in, decorating the beach with Nutcracker props and island decor while singing “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” and dancing with a hula flair. Three monkeys seated stage right accompany them on the ukulele.

The decorating done, children in tropical floral costumes (an intermediate ballet class) dance to “Waltz of the Flowers.”

A large clamshell rolls onstage and preschool-age dancers crawl out, dressed like pearls (eggshell-colored tutus with a pearl-colored balloon affixed to the front). They dance to Nutcracker’s “March of the Children.”

The Island King, thrilled by all the dancing, opens his arms. The dancers are welcome to stay, he announces, and the tiger will remain caged. The King sits in his beach-chair throne and reads Leonard and Ruth Hawk’s poem, “’Twas the Night of the Luau.” The Pearls fall asleep in the clamshell and are pulled offstage.

As the King’s story comes to an end, the Sugar Plum Fairy starts to cry. Behind a scrim, a 12-year-old dancer does a dreamlike lyric solo to the song “Home” from The Wiz. The Island King, fighting back tears, tells some monkeys (a beginning tap class) to cheer everyone up. They dance to Raffi’s “Banana Phone.”

The Sugar Plum Fairy discovers that one of the phones works and calls for help. The whole ensemble (including the lobsters in the pot) dances to “Celebration,” by Earth, Wind & Fire.

A ship’s bow appears onstage and the dancers climb aboard. They urge the Island King to come with them, but he refuses. The Sugar Plum Fairy gives him a nutcracker and everyone waves farewell.

As the ship leaves, the Island King becomes very sad. Alone on the beach, he sits in his chair and falls asleep hugging the nutcracker. And the palm trees begin to grow . . . and grow . . . and grow.

 

The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus

By Misty Lown
TWT-BW-T

The theater is dark, save for the curtain warmers and a glow near the proscenium where musicians are playing a warm rendition of “Silent Night.”

The curtain rises to reveal a living room set, obviously crafted by children. A cardboard rabbit-ear TV, green sculptured damask couch borrowed from a grandmother’s attic, and brick fireplace made from paneling, with tissue-paper flames, transport the audience to the 1950s as a dancer—a boy around 9 years old—enters wearing short pants and a sweater vest, hair neatly parted down the middle.

The boy saunters around, tossing an apple hand to hand, looking bored and mischievous. Suddenly the voice of James Earl Jones draws attention to the downstage right corner of the stage, where Jones is revealed sitting in a tall chair, wearing glasses and holding a book.

A cardboard rabbit-ear TV, green sculptured damask couch borrowed from a grandmother’s attic, and brick fireplace made from paneling, with tissue-paper flames, transport the audience to the 1950s.

“ ‘The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus’ by Ogden Nash,” booms the actor while peering over his glasses knowingly at the audience. He begins to read.

“In Baltimore there lived a boy, / He wasn’t anybody’s joy.
Although his name was Jabez Dawes, / His character was full of flaws.
In school he never led his classes, / He hid old ladies’ reading glasses,
His mouth was open when he chewed, / And elbows to the table glued.”

The lights come back up on the boy, Jabez Dawes, sulking at a table, With a dour expression, he sings “I’m Getting Nuttin’ for Christmas,” while a class of 6-year-old ballet students joyfully skip across the stage with large gift-wrapped boxes in their arms. Jabez Dawes never leaves his sour post as the children tendu, chassé, and exchange gifts behind him. The little girls giggle and shake their heads as he wraps up his lament: “Cuz’ I ain’t been nothing but bad!”

Jones continues his tale.
“He stole the milk of hungry kittens, / And walked through doors marked No Admittance.
He said he acted thus because / There wasn’t any Santa Claus.
Another trick that tickled Jabez / Was crying “Boo!” at little babies.
He brushed his teeth, they said in town, / Sideways instead of up and down.”

A group of moms dressed in 1950s dresses and pushing strollers enters from stage left to the tune of “Baby’s First Christmas” by Connie Francis. They chassé happily with their babies in a modern dance, then curve and spin through space until Jabez Dawes shuts down the fun with a giant “Boo!”

Jones continues his story.
“Yet people pardoned every sin, / And viewed his antics with a grin,
Till they were told by Jabez Dawes, / ‘There isn’t any Santa Claus!’
Deploring how he did behave, / His parents swiftly sought their grave.
They hurried through the portals pearly, / And Jabez left the funeral early.”

TWT-BW-2Jabez Dawes is back on his feet now at center stage and the lights shift to green. Advanced jazz dancers enter and circle him, dancing to the song, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” They point their fingers at him as they battement and turn, but Jabez Dawes doesn’t seem to mind. He pushes through the group in a flurry of châiné turns to stand facing the audience with his hands on his hips.

The lights fade as Jones continues.
“Like whooping cough, from child to child, / He sped to spread the rumor wild:
‘Sure as my name is Jabez Dawes / There isn’t any Santa Claus!’
Slunk like a weasel or a marten / Through nursery and kindergarten,
Whispering low to every tot, / ‘There isn’t any, no there’s not!’ ”

The Nutcracker party scene music “Decorating and Lighting of the Christmas Tree” begins, played softly by the orchestra in contrast to the story being told by Jones.

“The children wept all Christmas Eve / And Jabez chortled up his sleeve.
No infant dared to hang up his stocking / For fear of Jabez’ ribald mocking.
He sprawled on his untidy bed, / Fresh malice dancing in his head,
When presently with scalp a-tingling, / Jabez heard a distant jingling;
He heard the crunch of sleigh and hoof / Crisply alighting on the roof.”

Intermediate tap dancers come from both wings to take Jabez Dawes by surprise as Bruce Springsteen’s version of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” pounds through the speakers. As the tap dancers flap-ball-change offstage, the music fades and the narration picks up in intensity.

“What good to rise and bar the door? / A shower of soot was on the floor.
What was beheld by Jabez Dawes? / The fireplace full of Santa Claus!
Then Jabez fell upon his knees / With cries of ‘Don’t,’ and ‘Pretty please.’
He howled, ‘I don’t know where you read it, / But anyhow, I never said it!’ ”

Santa emerges from the fireplace to face a fearful Jabez Dawes, who has fallen to his knees. As the electronic song “Jack-in-the-Box” by Logic Bomb begins, a small group of advanced hip-hop dancers enters from behind the set, wearing matching homemade Jack-in-the-box costumes. They pop and lock their way into a line behind Jabez, where they continue dancing in place.

“ ‘Jabez,’ replied the angry saint, / ‘It isn’t I, it’s you that ain’t.
Although there is a Santa Claus, / There isn’t any Jabez Dawes!’
Said Jabez with impudent vim, / ‘Oh, yes there is; and I am him!
Your magic don’t scare me, it doesn’t’— / And suddenly he found he wasn’t!”

TWT-C-3The audience gasps as Jabez Dawes drops through a trapdoor. He rises from the trap a moment later in a gaudy homemade Jack-in-the-box costume.

“From grimy feet to grimy locks, / Jabez became a Jack-in-the-box,
An ugly toy with springs unsprung, / Forever sticking out his tongue.
The neighbors heard his mournful squeal; / They searched for him, but not with zeal.
No trace was found of Jabez Dawes, / Which led to thunderous applause,
And people drank a loving cup / And went and hung their stockings up.”

All the dancers return triumphantly to the stage, dancing with Santa Claus to “The Man With All the Toys” by the Beach Boys. The 6-year-olds pretend to play along on homemade drums and guitars. The scene fades to stillness as Jones finishes his story.

“All you who sneer at Santa Claus, / Beware the fate of Jabez Dawes,
The saucy boy who mocked the saint. / Donder and Blitzen licked off his paint.”

The dancers take their bows as the Chanukah song “Light One Candle” ushers the audience out of the theater.

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Eight Outstanding Choreographers and Performers Recognized by Princess Grace Awards

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Choreographer Robyn Mineko Williams; photo by Cheryl Mann

Choreographer Robyn Mineko Williams; photo by Cheryl Mann

The Princess Grace Foundation-USA has announced the 2013 recipients of more than $1 million in grants, scholarships, and apprenticeships, to 24 artists in theater, dance performance, choreography, and film.

The awards continue the legacy of Princess Grace (Kelly) of Monaco, who helped emerging artists pursue their artistic goals during her lifetime. This year’s winners will receive their awards at the 31st annual Princess Grace Awards Gala on October 30 at Cipriani 42nd Street, New York City.

The Foundation has cultivated a diverse group of over 600 artists to date who continue to advance the spectrum of performing arts with innovative, cutting-edge, and vibrant theater, dance, choreography, film, playwriting, and design.

This year’s winners in dance and choreography are:

• Alexander L. Anderson; dance scholarship, Alexander Moore Bayer Dance Award; The Juilliard School dance division
• Skylar Brandt; dance fellowship; American Ballet Theatre
• Courtney A. Henry; dance fellowship, Chris Hellman Dance Award; Alonzo King LINES Ballet
• Talli Jackson; dance fellowship; New York Live Arts
• Rachelle Anaïs Scott; dance fellowship; Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet
• Rosie Herrera; choreography fellowship; Ballet Hispanico
• Loni Landon; choreography fellowship; BODYTRAFFIC
• Robyn Mineko Williams; choreography fellowship; Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

To see the full list of winners in all disciplines, visit http://www.pgfusa.com/news/view/2013-Princess-Grace-Awards-Winners.

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Francia Russell Committed to Transmitting Balanchine’s Dances to New Dancers

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George Balanchine; photo courtesy Rowntree/Getty Images

George Balanchine; photo courtesy Rowntree/Getty Images

Francia Russell hasn’t performed in 50 years, but she says as soon as she hears the music for George Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco, her body starts to move: “I could do it in my sleep, you know, get up and sleepwalk and do it.”

Balanchine’s work as a choreographer for the New York City Ballet came to define ballet for much of the 20th century. He died 30 years ago, but in Russell—and in dance companies around the world—his work lives on.

In an NPR report, Russell describes how Balanchine sometimes used her when he was making new dances. “Those dancers who worked with him a lot understood very quickly what he wanted. It wasn’t just a physical thing in the studio,” she says. “Our minds were working all the time. They had to be.”

Russell left New York City Ballet in 1962, but two years later, Balanchine called her back and offered her the job of assistant ballet mistress.

She focused on learning every one of his ballets so she could help teach them to company members. Russell documented every dance by hand in a spiral-bound notebook. She brought the notebooks with her to Seattle in 1977, when Russell and her husband, Kent Stowell, took over artistic leadership of Pacific Northwest Ballet.

“So many people look at the video . . . but I think the process of transmitting what the choreographer wanted is so important. And in ballet it’s so personal . . . for instance, those of us who actually worked with Balanchine—to learn from a videotape is not the same as learning from us who were in the studio with him.”

To see the full report, visit http://www.npr.org/2013/07/27/185807882/preserving-balanchines-ballet-legacy-30-years-later.

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Joanna Kotze Selected as 2013 Emerging Choreographer by The Bessies

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Joanna Kotze; photo courtesy NY Live Arts

Joanna Kotze; photo courtesy NY Live Arts

The Bessies, NYC’s premiere dance awards honoring outstanding creative work in the field, has selected Joanna Kotze as the recipient of the 2013 New York Dance and Performance Award for Outstanding Emerging Choreographer.

Kotze was nominated for her work It Happened It Had Happened It Is Happening It Will Happen, presented at Danspace Project. Other nominees were: Justin Peck for Year of the Rabbit, presented by New York City Ballet; Molly Lieber and Eleanor Smith for Tulip, presented at Roulette; and Ephrat Asherie for A Single Ride, presented at Dixon Place.

Kotze challenges habitual movements and explores the body’s potential through intense physicality and rigor in her It Happened, performed by Kotze herself, Stuart Singer, and Netta Yerushalmy. Kotze, who has created her own choreographic work since 2004, seeks to juxtapose classifying, ordering, and structuring with the unnamable, vulnerable, and imaginable in her It Happened.

In accepting the award—presented at a press conference this month—Kotze stated, “I feel honored just to be nominated amongst these amazing people and after so many years being on the scene as a dancer. I never really imagined this would happen for me now. When you make work, you never know what it’s going to turn out to be, and I’m so glad it’s been accepted by the dance community.”

The Bessies will take place October 7 at 8pm at the Apollo Theater in New York City. For more information, visit https://www.dancenyc.org/bessies/.

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Promising Dancemakers Urged to Apply to Joffrey’s Choreographers of Color Award

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Joffrey Choreographers of Color Award; photo courtesy Joffrey Ballet

Joffrey Choreographers of Color Award; photo courtesy Joffrey Ballet

 The Joffrey’s Annual Choreographers of Color Award recognizes promising young choreographers of color whose diverse perspective will ignite creativity in the form of original works of dance.

The Joffrey Academy of Dance, the official school of The Joffrey Ballet, has sent out a national call seeking artists for the fourth annual award program. The deadline for application is September 2.

Three selected choreographers will each receive a minimum of 30 rehearsal hours to set their pieces on the Joffrey Academy trainees; a $2,500 stipend; and an opportunity to work directly with academy artistic directors Alexei Kremnev and Anna Reznik. Choreographers whose permanent residence is more than 100 miles from Joffrey Tower in Chicago will be provided with accommodations for the duration of a two-week residency. The completed new works will be performed at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance on March 1, 2014.

Choreography created for the Joffrey Academy trainees must be original work developed by the applicant, running between 10 and 12 minutes long. Applicants must be 18 or older. For full application details, visit http://www.joffrey.org/cofc.

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Philadanco Founder to receive medal

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Joan Myers Brown, photo courtesy Philadelphia Inquirer

Joan Myers Brown, photo courtesy Philadelphia Inquirer

Dancer and choreographer Joan Myers Brown, the founder of Philadanco and a commanding presence in the world of dance and arts education has been named a recipient of the National Medal of the Arts, the White House announced Wednesday.

In announcing the twelve winners of the nation’s highest civic honor for excellence in the arts, President Obama cited Brown, 80, for carving out “an artistic haven for African American dancers and choreographers to innovate, create, and share their unique visions with the national and global dance communities.” She founded her dance school in Philadelphia in 1960, a time when formal dance was segregated and African Americans were virtually excluded from serious training in white schools and companies. In 1970, Philadanco was launched. “It’s totally unexpected,” Brown said of the award. “Totally exciting.”

The awards will be bestowed Wednesday at a ceremony at the White House. In addition to the Philadelphia winners, nine other artists and one organization will receive the award, including soprano Renée Fleming, playwright Tony Kushner, and moviemaker George Lucas.

To read the full story visit: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/20130704_Philadanco_
founder__local_landscape_architect_among_those_to_receive_National_Medal_of_the_Arts.html#rv08mCeKspjy2Kod.99

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Broadway Choreographers Flip Out Over Actors with Gymnastics Skill Sets

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Broadway’s Bring It On: The Musical; photo by Joan Marcus

Broadway’s Bring It On: The Musical; photo by Joan Marcus

With Bring It On: The Musical snagging a Tony nomination for best musical and Pippin leading the revival parade with 10 nominations and four wins, flash—particularly in choreography—has caused the tap shoes of yesteryear’s chorines to yield to today’s barefooted gymnasts, reports Backstage.

“Instead of being a triple threat nowadays, you have to be a quadruple threat,” said Trevor Sones, a 24-year-old actor who spends his days auditioning for regional theaters, national tours, and Broadway musicals. “You have to be able to do all the styles of dance and do tumbling on top of that to book the gigs.”

From the leaping paperboys of Newsies to the trained circus performers of Pippin, Broadway musicals today require young performers to add acrobatics to their repertoire. “Every audition that I’ve been to thus far has asked every male dancer if they can do tumbling or tricks,” Sones said. It seems that those without gymnastics skills are left at a disadvantage.

Is tumbling the lasting device to push these creative boundaries, or is all this flipping and flying just a fad? Many in the business believe that the gymnastic trend is cyclical but on a hot streak right now. “Especially in the musical theater realm, it’s kind of becoming a necessary skill,” he said. “I would advise anybody to go and get a basic acrobatic skill set if they’re planning on being a dancer,” said Newsies’ Tommy Martinez.

Despite the time and training needed to master proper technique, none of the top musical theater programs in the nation specifically advertises a course that teaches this craft. But, said Ralph Zito, chair of the drama department at Syracuse University, “I think a training program’s first responsibility is to teach students those fundamental storytelling skills, what is always going to last, and then to begin to attend to the skills of the moment.”

To read the full story, visit http://www.backstage.com/news/secret-landing-broadway-chorus-gig/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+backstage%2FNews-Features+%28Backstage+-+News%26Features%29

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Young Choreographer’s Festival Piece Highlights Tragedy of Teen Bullying

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Young Choreographer’s Festival choreographer Neil “Dradle” Schwartz watches a rehearsal; photo by Erin Kasperski

Young Choreographer’s Festival choreographer Neil “Dradle” Schwartz watches a rehearsal; photo by Erin Kasperski

A powerful dance piece highlighting the tragic effects of teen bullying presented by guest artist Neil “Dradle” Schwartz with Brian Henninger and a cast of 23 young dancers, was presented at New York’s Young Choreographer’s Festival (YCF) June 15.

The Examiner reported that the audience was stunned into silence, then erupted into applause for the hard-hitting hip-hop piece. Now in its fourth year, producer Emily Buffered’s YCF has emerged as a highly regarded New York dance showcase offering inspirational works developed by both young talent and seasoned professionals.

“This work calls attention to the issue of bullying and teen suicide which has personally touched both of us,” explained Henninger with Schwartz at his side. “This is our chance to use art for good, and raise awareness for this important issue that does not get enough attention.”

Performed to music originally titled “Suicide” but later changed to “Chop Suey!” by System of a Down, the Schwartz dance begins with short voiceover vignettes from three bully youth victim “types”: the girl that has internalized the pain of physically not fitting in, the “cutter” who appears fine on the outside yet feels desperate that she cannot live up to peer expectation, and the young man who is physically picked on who considers putting a permanent end to his torment. In the piece, the audience views the anguish and pain of the physical and emotional bullying endured by the three, only to witness one finally succumbing to the pressure.

To read the full story, visit http://www.examiner.com/article/new-schwartz-dance-highlights-the-tragedy-of-teen-bullying-and-suicide?cid=rss.

 

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Pippin, Motown the Musical, are Leaders of the Pack at Astaire Awards

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Art of Dance of Chester, New Jersey, performs at the Fred and Adele Astaire Awards; AP Photo/Sam Morris PR, David Dupuy

Art of Dance of Chester, New Jersey, performs at the Fred and Adele Astaire Awards; AP Photo/Sam Morris PR, David Dupuy

The Tonys aren’t until Sunday, but when it comes to achievement in dance, Pippin and Motown the Musical are already at the head of the pack.

Both dancers and choreographers from the two shows won Fred and Adele Astaire Awards Monday night for their achievements this Broadway season, reported The Huffington Post.

Charlotte d’Amboise took the trophy for best female dancer in her role as Fastrada, Pippin’s scheming (and high-kicking) mother-in-law. And Eric LaJuan Summers won best male dancer for his portrayal of singer Jackie Wilson in Motown.

For best choreography, Chet Walker, who recreated the Bob Fosse choreography in the Pippin revival, tied with Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams of Motown.

The Astaire awards honor dance in film, too, and this year’s winner was Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui for Anna Karenina.

The evening at New York University’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts was filled with dance performances. Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild of New York City Ballet presented a haunting rendition of the Carousel pas de deux, choreographed by Warren Carlyle. A reconstructed “Simply Irresistible” from the Broadway show Contact was performed by the American Dance Machine for the 21st Century. The New Jersey-based Art of Dance troupe offered a vibrant “Dancin’ Fool.”

For more information visit www.fredandadeleastaireawards.com. To see the original story, visit

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/05/astaire-awards-2013-dancers-from-pippin-motown-honored_n_3389514.html?utm_hp_ref=arts#slide=2533870.

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Former BB Principal Devon Carney to Succeed William Whitener at KCB

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Devon Carney; photo by Peter J. Mueller

Devon Carney; photo by Peter J. Mueller

Devon Carney, a veteran dancer and choreographer with ballet companies in Boston and Cincinnati, is Kansas City Ballet’s new artistic director, announced The Kansas City Star.

Carney, who will take over in July, is succeeding William Whitener, who retired this month.

Carney, 52, told The Star that he appreciated the stability of the Kansas City company and the firm foundation created by his predecessors. He was impressed by the company’s new Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

“Kansas City Ballet is ready for some incredible growth,” Carney said. “It’s like everything is in place. And now you’ve got the final part of that—an artistic director on the ground and ready to go.”

Carney, who was selected from among 62 initial candidates, joined Boston Ballet as a dancer in its second company in 1978 and became a principal dancer with the main company eight years later. He was named artistic director of the company’s summer dance program in 1994 and was appointed ballet master in 1998. He joined Cincinnati Ballet as chief ballet master in 2003 and was named associate artistic director in 2008.

He has performed with Rudolph Nureyev, Fernando Bujones, and Cynthia Gregory, and choreographed, among other works, Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, two acts of the four-act Swan Lake, and Dracula—a version of which his new company will stage at the Kauffman Center next season.

Jeffrey Bentley, Kansas City Ballet’s executive director, said the company’s strategic plan calls for staging more full-length ballets and creating a second company for young trainees to provide more performances in the community and fill out the ranks of the corps members in full-length, big-scale ballets. Carney, he said, has all the qualities to achieve those goals.

To see the full story, visit http://www.kansascity.com/2013/05/23/4252831/kc-ballet-names-a-veteran-dancerchoreographer.html#storylink=cpy.

 

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Tanztheater Wuppertal Embarks on New Beginning Under New Director

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Tanztheater Wuppertal; photo courtesy Pina

Tanztheater Wuppertal; photo courtesy Pina

Four years after the death of choreographer and dancer Pina Bausch, Lutz Förster is set to take the helm at her dance theater in Wuppertal, Germany, and to breathe fresh air into the beloved institution, reports En.Haberler.com.

Pina Bausch was not interested in how people move, but what moves them. The director of the dance theater Tanztheater Wuppertal, Pina Bausch became an icon, was awarded profusely for her work, and was sought after by the most prestigious opera houses in the world. She died of cancer in June 2009. German director Wim Wenders memorialized her two years later in a posthumous documentary, Pina.

At the time of her death, the decision was made to continue the Tanztheater’s leadership under the direction of Bausch’s assistant, Robert Sturm, and long-time dancer and friend, Dominique Mercy.

This decision invigorated the ensemble both psychologically and artistically, captivated old audiences, and garnered new ones. The troupe’s performances are now more popular than ever around the world; they even made a guest appearance at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Nevertheless, a certain restlessness and discontent began to permeate the group. There was no artistic challenge to be found in maintaining the Bausch tradition by recycling and performing the old pieces over and over again. It became clear that eventually the repertoire would grow stale, frustrating young dancers and causing audiences and critics alike to lose interest.

Thus it was decided to forge forward. This summer, dancer and dance educator Lutz Förster will assume artistic direction of the Tanztheater. “You can only attempt to fill Pina’s big shoes,” said Förster, who is not a choreographer, and instead will work to guarantee the preservation of Pina Bausch’s legacy by bringing in a team of supporters, instigators, consultants, and moderators. “But I’m not afraid.”

To see the full story, visit http://en.haberler.com/pina-bausch-s-troupe-embarks-on-new-beginning-271089/.

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Dance in America Producer/Director Merrill Brockway Dies at Age 90

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Merrill Brockway, left, with George Balanchine in the late 1970s; photo courtesy The New York Times

Merrill Brockway, left, with George Balanchine in the late 1970s; photo courtesy The New York Times

Merrill Brockway, a director and producer who brought high art to millions of Americans by presenting many of the 20th century’s greatest dancers and choreographers on the PBS television series Dance in America, died on May 2 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, according to The New York Times. He was 90.

Brockway’s work introduced many people to George Balanchine, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Agnes de Mille, Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp, and other giants of dance. Dance in America premiered in 1976 with the Joffrey Ballet, and later became part of the PBS series Great Performances.

Modeled after the dance numbers in Fred Astaire movies, Dance in America became known for showing dancers’ bodies mostly in full. Brockway said his collaboration with Balanchine influenced that approach.

“If you notice, all Fred Astaire movies are full figure, and Balanchine ballets are like that,” he said in an interview in The New York Times in 2011. “So we devised acceptable shots, and we came up with those together. If you watch TV now, it’s like they’re taking pictures. In dancing you can’t just take pictures, you’re telling a story.”

A pianist and World War II Army veteran who gravitated toward the budding television industry in the 1950s, Brockway became interested in dance, he said, after a classmate at Columbia University took him to see Martha Graham. In his 2010 memoir, Surprise Was My Teacher, Brockway wrote: “I saw a tiny lady dancing a solo. She grabbed my gut, swung it around, tossed it in the air, slammed it to the ground, then tenderly picked it up and cradled it. I would be, forever, Martha Graham’s disciple.”

To read the full story, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/10/arts/television/merrill-brockway-producer-of-tvs-dance-in-america-dies-at-90.html?_r=0

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UI Dance Professor Wins Prestigious Doris Duke Artist Award

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Tere O’Connor; photo by Natalie Fiol

Tere O’Connor; photo by Natalie Fiol

University of Illinois dance Professor Tere O’Connor’s selection as a Doris Duke Artist Award winner will bring him an unrestricted $225,000, plus another $25,000 to pay for an audience-development project, and another $25,000 to put toward his retirement.

The News-Gazette reported that Duke award winners are culled from a pool of artists who have won at least three designated national accolades during the preceding decade. Among those given to O’Connor: U.S. Artists Rockefeller Fellow, 2009; Guggenheim Fellow, 1993; and three New York Dance and Performance (Bessie) Awards.

He also has received multiple grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Harkness Foundation for Dance, and other organizations.

In addition to the national recognition, the UI College of Fine and Applied Arts recently gave O’Connor one of two research awards. “Tere is a great example of an artist who maintains an active, cutting-edge practice while also being highly engaged on our campus,” college dean Ed Feser told the UI News Bureau. “He very much helps put Illinois ‘on the map’ in dance.”

O’Connor, an internationally known choreographer, joined Dance at Illinois in 2006. Based in New York, where his Tere O’Connor Dance Company is located, he spends the spring semesters at Illinois.

“I love the work I do with the students here,” he said. “The choreographic product I make is not divorced from my teaching and advocacy for dance. And those experiences all kind of converge in the dances somehow.”

To read more, visit http://www.news-gazette.com/arts-entertainment/local/2013-05-05/ui-dance-professor-receives-duke-award.html.

 

 

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Classroom Connection

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Change It Up

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.

• Have students change from their usual place at the barre or center. Continue to do so throughout the class.

• Begin combinations on the left side or on a different count of music.

• Change the music you normally use for class. Explore using popular or ethnic music for ballet class or classical music for jazz, tap, or modern.

• Have a music theme week using a particular musical artist, composer, or style.

• Let young students know that at each class, one of them will be selected to be the class leader. Don’t tell them ahead of time who will be selected. No one will want to miss her turn. Keep track so that everyone gets a turn.

• Ask students to retrograde combinations (perform the steps in reverse order), being careful to use age- and ability-appropriate combinations that won’t turn challenge into frustration or failure.

• Assign older students “homework” to create a 16- to 32-count combination, and randomly choose one student per class to perform her combination for the class.

• Have each student choose one movement or step and randomly place students (and their steps) in order to create an 8- to 16-count phrase. Change the order one or more times. This exercise can produce interesting combinations, and working together to add connecting movements that make the phrase flow helps students understand transitions.

• Bring in photos of famous dancers or choreographers and teach your dancers about them and their contributions to the dance world.

• Have students mirror each other in pairs for port de bras or other movements. It develops focus and is fun for students of all ages.

—Debbie Werbrouck

 

Dancing Through Decades

I recently reintroduced an idea I incorporated a few years ago, called “Dance Thru the Decades.” It was a response to the fact that my students seemed to lack knowledge of past dance styles, and did not realize that their “new” cool moves are actually derivative of steps that have existed for years.

I find that this works well with my intermediate-level students, who love learning about different periods in dance history.

Every other month I choose a decade and we spend 10 to 15 minutes in each class learning about it. We look at video clips to find out which dancers and choreographers were popular during that time, learn about the dances or steps that were made famous during the period, and listen to music that was commonly danced to.

After two months of learning about the dance and dancers of the decade, we devote a whole class to revisiting what we learned. I allow students to dress in the style of that era and award a small prize for the most authentic outfit. I also give them a trivia sheet to complete and we learn a combination influenced by the music and dance style from that time period.

To get started, choose a decade to focus on. Internet searches will help refresh your memory about what was trending during that time. I start with the 1920s, when the charleston was the rage. As we move ahead, I can then show how this style was incorporated in the 1940s with the jitterbug. I play big-band music and teach swing and lindy hop phrases. We dance a combination to Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing” and watch a dance clip from the movie Swing Kids.

I continue the theme and format, always emphasizing the evolution of dance, until we reach the present. It is a fun yet structured way to introduce and incorporate dance history into your class curriculum.

—Debra Danese

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Tapper Extraordinaire Michelle Dorrance Wins Top Award from Jacob’s Pillow

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Michelle Dorrance; photo by Matthew Murphy and Kenn Tam

Michelle Dorrance; photo by Matthew Murphy and Kenn Tam

Dorrance is the first tap artist to receive the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award, which honors outstanding, visionary dance artists. It carries a prize of $25,000, one of the largest cash awards in the dance industry, to be used by the choreographer to advance their artistry in any way they choose.

Michelle Dorrance will perform at the Gala with singer Aaron Marcellus. Her ensemble, Dorrance Dance, will perform at this summer’s festival July 24 to 28, accompanied by award-winning singer, musician, and composer Toshi Reagon and band.

Past recipients of the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award include Crystal Pite, Merce Cunningham, and Bill T. Jones. Ella Baff, Jacob’s Pillow executive and artistic director commented: “With this year’s award, we recognize a hugely talented young artist who is experimenting with new ideas and moving the art of tap forward. We are also honoring the great American art form of tap, which has created some of the best dance and music-making ever.”

Dorrance is lauded as “one of the most imaginative tap choreographers working today” (The New Yorker). A 2012 Princess Grace Award Winner, 2012 Field Dance Fund Recipient, and 2011 Bessie Award Winner, Dorrance is among the world’s most sought after tap performers, teachers, and choreographers today. For Festival 2013 information and tickets, call 413.243.0745 or visit www.jacobspillow.org.

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Vancouver Event Showcases Bold New Direction of Bollywood Dance

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A Bollywood scene; photo courtesy The Vancouver Sun

A Bollywood scene; photo courtesy The Vancouver Sun

The inaugural Times of India Film Awards in Vancouver on April 6— the Academy Awards of Bollywood cinema— was defined by large-scale production numbers devised by Shiamak Davar, an A-list Bollywood choreographer who divides his time between Mumbai and Vancouver.

“TOIFA is an extension of the cultural exchange that has been taking place between Canada and India for years now,” Davar told The Vancouver Sun. Many of the participating B.C. dancers were members of the Shiamak Davar Dance Team, the professional wing of his North Vancouver dance school affiliated with a string of international Shiamak style dance schools, including centers in Victoria and Toronto.

Davar, who served as both director of choreography and design for the Vancouver events, is widely credited with re-positioning Bollywood dance for an international market.

“When I started off 20 years ago,” he said, “Bollywood dance did not have a structure. The first movie I choreographed went on to win a national award, and introduced jazz technique to Bollywood. It was a first for Indian cinema to have properly choreographed pieces with dancers who were trained and had fit bodies. This movie—Dil Toh Pagal Hai—is considering a turning point for dance in Bollywood movies.”

A marker of his success is the fact that the term Bollywood now refers to a dance style, as well as to the Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai. If old Bollywood dance was modeled on classical styles like bharata natyam and kathak, or folk dances like bhangra, the new Bollywood marries those older forms with western genres like contemporary, jazz, and hip hop.

To see the full story, visit http://www.vancouversun.com/entertainment/movie-guide/Dance+guru+Davar+Shiamak+cranks+voltage+Times+India+Film+Awards/8185001/story.html.

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Cats Choreographer Gillian Lynne Feels Reality Shows Undermine Theater Quality

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Gillian Lynne; photo by Suki Dhanda/The Observer

Gillian Lynne; photo by Suki Dhanda/The Observer

The choreographer of bestselling London West End shows Cats, The Phantom of The Opera, and Aspects of Love is worried about the future of the industry.

Gillian Lynne, set to receive an Olivier award for lifetime achievement next month, told The Observer she senses a growing threat to musical theater from television. “It is a real problem for the West End,” said the former classical ballerina. “Television, especially reality TV, is a danger because producers drop someone into a role who has been on television. It’s not healthy. They want instant fame.”

Recently, The Wizard of Oz, Chicago, and Oliver! have all been promoted by using cast members known to TV audiences first, but it is a trend she decries.

At 87, Lynne is the most successful choreographer of several generations. The Olivier award will celebrate her contribution to theater and a career she believes has been built on a commitment to her art and a dislike of shortcuts. In spite of a close working relationship with Lord Lloyd-Webber, who uses TV contests to pick out his new stage stars, Lynne fears the reliance on celebrities has undermined her craft.

Lynne worked most recently on the West End show Dear World, but her life in dance started in London’s East End at the age of 16. Later, she danced with Sadler’s Wells Ballet and at Covent Garden, before turning to acting, choreography, and directing.

Her Olivier award means she joins an elite list of previous recipients, including Lloyd Webber, Stephen Sondheim, Dame Maggie Smith, and Sir Alan Ayckbourn. The ceremony in London will crown a career in which she has danced with both Frederick Ashton and Fred Astaire.

To see the full story, visit

http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2013/mar/24/choreographer-gillian-lynne-reality-tv-harms-theatre.

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Future Viability of Trisha Brown Dance Company Pondered

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Trisha Brown, dance, interactive, museum, choreographer, TBDC

Trisha Brown Dance Company in Les Yeux et l’âme; photo by Stephanie Berger

Can a single-artist dance company become an ever-evolving, interactive, mobile museum?

That is the question, and the premise, of the Trisha Brown Dance Company’s revolutionary plan as the iconic, 76-year-old dancemaker retires her choreographic cap and becomes the company’s founding artistic director and choreographer, reports an article in Berkeleyside.

As of February 2011 and after a series of minor strokes, Brown concluded 50-plus-years as a master creator of elegant physical vocabulary unfurled in magnificent metaphors of time, tasks, and space.

Naming Diane Madden and Carolyn Lucas (long-time TBDC members since joining as dancers in the 1980s) as associate artistic directors, the company embarked in January on a three-year international “Proscenium Works, 1979-2011” tour.

At the tour’s conclusion—and even now, as plans are laid and funding sought—TBDC’s papers, visual art and sets, film and video archives, costumes, educational programming, and yes, the lovely dances that are its creative centerpiece, will enter a new phase.

Immortality, if it is possible, will come from the rigor of Brown’s vision as it lives on in site-specific re-mountings of the repertoire, cross-genre engagements with public institutions, and a curated, online media library.

A key component will be TBDC alumni, like the two women now charged with carrying a legacy into its future. “Trisha always shared her process, her thoughts’ gestation, as these dances were made,” Lucas said, in an intermission interview during the company’s one-night Cal Performance appearance at Zellerbach Hall on March 15.

To read the full story, visit http://www.berkeleyside.com/2013/03/19/114044/.

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Classic Trisha Brown Works Available on DVD

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Trisha Brown DVD; image courtesy ARTPIX

Trisha Brown DVD; image courtesy ARTPIX

As the trailblazing dance artist Trisha Brown, 76, moves from making dances into a more administrative position in her company, fans can relish some of her best works on a two-disc DVD set available from ARTPIX.

Trisha Brown: Early Works 1966-1979 features film and video footage by filmmakers, including Babette Mangolte, Carlotta Schoolman, and Jonathan Demme, of 18 of Brown’s major performances from 1966 to 1979. A companion DVD contains a conversation between Brown and art historian Klaus Kertess in which Brown talks about her dance education, early years in New York, work with Judson Dance Theater and her fellow choreographers, and the creation of her innovative dances.

Brown, one of the most acclaimed choreographers of contemporary dance, first came to notice in New York in the 1960s and founded her company in 1970. Along with like-minded artists Yvonne Rainer, Steve Paxton, and Simone Forti, she pushed the limits of what was then considered appropriate movement for choreography, and changed modern dance forever.

Other DVDs available from ARTPIX include the Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s final performances at the Park Avenue Armory, New York, in 2011; and Cunningham’s collaborations with designer Robert Rauschenberg (Suite for Five, Summerscape, and Interscape;) plus dance construction pieces from Simone Forti presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2004.

Trisha Brown: Early Works 1966-1979 is available for $40 from http://www.artpix.org/02TB.htm.

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