To accommodate the expanding needs of the dance program at Washington and Lee University, a new dance studio has been created at 109 South Jefferson Avenue, the former print shop for the Lexington [VA] News-Gazette.
Since its inauguration six years ago, the dance program at W&L has grown to include a dance minor and expanded academic course offerings, according to a press release from the university. It has won awards for “outstanding creative works” from the American College Dance Festival and has received national attention for its work in aerial dance.
Jenefer Davies, assistant professor of dance, described the new location as ideal for a dance studio. The building’s structure allows it to be rigged permanently for aerial dance, making silk ropes, harnesses, and bungees available to the dancers at any time. A special sprung floor has been installed to make it safer for dancers to move on and jump repetitively without being hurt.
Previously, the W&L dance studio was on the third floor of DuPont Hall on campus, which is slated to be transformed into the Center for Global Learning. The new studio is more than twice the size of the old one, and Davies was able to purchase double-sided mirrors to split the room in half so that two dance classes can be held at the same time.
Wendy Price, assistant dean of the college, was instrumental in the move to downtown Lexington. “The new dance studio makes it possible to meet the demand for more teaching and rehearsal space while also housing faculty offices,” she said.
To see the full release, visit http://news.blogs.wlu.edu/2012/09/06/wl-dance-program-moves-into-new-downtown-lexington-studio/
The Cornish College of the Arts Junior Dance Company will present “En Avante,” June 9 at 3 and 7:30pm and June 10 at 3pm at Erickson Theater, 1524 Harvard Avenue, Seattle, Washington.
The program includes a new modern work about the transition from child to adult by Steve Casteel, former soloist with Houston Ballet and a Preparatory Dance faculty and Cornish College of the Arts adjunct faculty member. Leigh-Ann Cohen-Hafford has reset the 1998 solo Inner Release, and Christine Juarez has set Under the Big Top, a theatrical piece, for the company’s apprentice dancers.
Paula J. Peters, former Spectrum dancer, Cornish graduate, and University of Washington graduate, has created two works, while Kathleen McCormick, director of the Preparatory Dance Program, has set Good Humored Ladies. Sarah Butler (2012 graduate) will perform Memory is Parallax, choreographed by Alex Ketley, director of The Foundry and resident choreographer at San Francisco Conservatory of Dance.
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Monsters of Dance is looking for a few passionate, talented, self-motivated individuals interested in dance and business management to participate in the new Monsters Dance internship program.
Interns will travel the country to Monsters Dance events where they will work closely with Monsters staff and choreographers assisting with: registration and check in, customer service, video and photography, coordinating lunch/dinner orders, merchandise sales, administrative work, data entry, and serving as support staff for Club Stylz. Applicants should be available to attend most or all Monster functions during the 2012-2013 tour.
Applicants must be at least second-year undergraduate students, have access to a computer, be available for weekend travel, know Microsoft Office, be highly motivated, have transportation to and from a local airport, and have strong verbal, organizational, and written skills.
To apply, attach a current resume to the online application and submit by August 17. Internships are unpaid positions, but college credit might be available. Applications can be found at https://monstersdance.wufoo.com/forms/w7w7p1/?utm_source=Email+Created+2012%2F05%2F08%2C+11%3A22+AM&utm_campaign=Internship+Launch&utm_medium=email
Union College’s dance program took a great leap forward May 19 with groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Henle Dance Pavilion, a home for classes, rehearsals, workshops, performances, and other events.
“The Dance Pavilion not only will provide an appropriate home for our thriving dance program but also will complete our vision for the campus’s vibrant arts complex,” said president Stephen C. Ainlay of the $3 million facility, to be built adjacent to Yulman Theater and completed next spring.
The new building will revitalize a currently underused courtyard and create an “arts town square” that also includes the Visual Arts Building, the Taylor Music Center, and Yulman Theater at the Schenectady, New York college.
The pavilion will replace the current 1,200-square-foot studio in Visual Arts with a 2,200-square-foot dance studio and 1,000-square-foot lobby that will double as rehearsal space. Both new spaces will have 20-foot ceilings that will safely permit lifts and aerials.
Under the direction of Miryam Moutillet, Union’s dance program enrolls nearly 150 students each term, many of whom combine a dance minor with majors in other fields. The program features multilevel technique classes in styles from ballet to Broadway dance, as well as classes in choreography, performance and dance history, plus workshops, master classes, and dance residencies taught by major dance companies and artists.
To see the full press release, visit http://www.union.edu/news/stories/2012/05/dance-to-step-into-new-home.php.
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A plan to turn a Bay Ridge high school into Brooklyn’s ballet mecca was sparked by a single conversation at a Brooklyn Heights hair salon, reports the New York Daily News.
The Joffrey Ballet School will open a dance program at Fort Hamilton High School in September—all because Joffrey director Gail D’Addario went to the Cutting Den on Clark Street last summer to get a touch-up on her highlights.
D’Addario told salon owner Tom LaMarca she wanted to bring the ballet to a Brooklyn high school, which sparked LaMarca’s interest because his wife Millie—a finance teacher at the school—had told him Fort Hamilton was desperate for a dance program.
“Tommy told me (Fort Hamilton school officials) were thinking of making the school into a mini Juilliard and that’s how it all began,” says D’Addario, who lives in Bay Ridge and has been LaMarca’s client for 20 years. “If I didn’t have that conversation with him that day, this would never have happened.”
When classes begin in the fall, the room will have a specially-designed $80,000 wooden dance floor, full-length mirrors, barres, and a sound system—$225,000 renovations the Joffrey insisted on to make the classes professional quality.
The program has been filled by 25 dance majors who will meet every morning for two periods starting at 7am for a class taught by a Joffrey instructor.
Got news? Email Karen@rheegold.com and include your name, email and phone. We like accompanying photos too with photographer’s credit and photo description.
The Juilliard Senior Dance Production, the culmination of a year-long creative and educational process focused on launching seniors into the professional world, will feature six works by dance division seniors in free performances May 3 to 6 in The Juilliard School’s Rosemary and Meredith Willson Theater, 155 West 65th Street, New York City.
Choreographers include Spencer Dickhaus, Melissa Fernandez, Nathan Makolandra, Ryan Redmond, Rachelle Scott, and Zack Winokur. Students in the school’s third and fourth year classes will perform the works. Juilliard dancers work in close collaboration with lighting design teams from the third year Stagecraft class, professional costume and set designers, and composers, as they create their original dance works.
Shows are set for May 3 to 6 at 8pm, plus May 5 and 6 at 2pm. No tickets are required. For more information on the Juilliard dance program, visit http://www.juilliard.edu/.
Cornish College of the Arts’ Summer at Cornish 2012 Pre-College Program will run June 25 to August 10 and feature dance programs for students ages 15 to 18, with additional programming in dance and music for children through adults
The college in Seattle, Washington, offers bachelor of fine arts degrees in art, dance, design, performance production, and theater, as well as a bachelor of music degree. The summer program includes studio courses and performance workshops in art and design, music, and theater, as well as dance.
The dance curriculum includes classes for beginners to professionals, for children age 4 through adults, in classical ballet, pointe, modern, composition, musical theater, jazz, improvisation, Pilates, and Spanish dance. The daily format offers intense summer training for dancers who want to gain strength, improve technique, and acquire knowledge of a new discipline. All dance classes will be held at Kerry Hall.
For a full course catalogue and to register, visit www.cornish.edu/summer.
A demonstration of original dances by pioneering modernist Isadora Duncan will be the highlight of an upcoming Russian Sundays program at New York City’s 92nd Street Y entitled “Isadora Duncan: A Muse of Modernism.”
The program will be presented March 11 at 7:30 pm. Admission is $35.
Lori Belilove and dancers from the Isadora Duncan Dance Company will present a sampling of Duncan technique and original dances. Belilove, the founder of the Isadora Duncan Dance Foundation, will join Beth Jucovy, Elizabeth Kendall, and other guests for a discussion of Duncan’s innovations, her time living in the Soviet Union, and her impact on artists and choreographers in Russia and around the world.
Jucovy is a Duncan scholar and the director of Dance Visions, a company that performs works by dance pioneers and contemporary choreographers. Kendall is a dance and culture critic, author, and teacher at Columbia, The New School, and Bard College.
The 92nd Street Y is located at 1395 Lexington Avenue. For information, visit www.92Y.org.
The Houston Metropolitan Dance Company performs “Signature Works,” an evening of premieres and audience favorites, on April 28 at 8pm at the Cullen Theater Wortham Center, 550 Prairie Street, Houston, Texas.
The program includes two works by New York-based choreographer Joe Celej, Before all this and Whatever Lola Wants. Works by Lar Lubovitch Dance Company member Kate Skarpetowska include Stand Back, a tango for three men and three women, and Tidal Intersections, set to music by Philip Glass.
Caleb Mitchell, a former Houston Ballet dancer, has restaged Stirring Simple Gifts in Shades of Blue, set to music by Karsh Kale. Other works include Air by Larry Keigwin of Keigwin + Company NYC, and Revisited, Rebound, Revamped and Returned by Houston Met resident choreographer Kiki Lucas. Infinite Movement Ever Evolving (IMEE) will perform as special guests.
Tickets run from $15 to $45 and are available through the Wortham box office at 713.222.5400 or http://www.explorehouston.org/ticketingor.
By Jennifer Kaplan
From the classic Ronco Veg-o-Matic to the newfangled best-selling ShamWow, product designers and developers have one thing in common. They see a need—from turning lights off from your bed to washing your feet in the shower without bending down—that other products in the cluttered marketplace didn’t fulfill.
The same goes for Torrance, California-based dance teacher and choreographer Tricia Gomez, creator of Hip Hop in a Box. The owner of Hype Studios Cultural Arts Center near Los Angeles, Gomez had developed a program and curriculum for teaching hip-hop to youngsters as young as 3. “When I started teaching hip-hop to 3-year-olds back in 1993, I didn’t know that a lot of studios say you’re not supposed to teach it until [children] are 7 or 12, or whatever age [studio owners] decide,” Gomez says. “Well, I started teaching hip-hop to 3s and it worked great for me and for the kids, too.”
Gomez grew up in a small town studying ballet, tap, and jazz at an even smaller studio. In high school as a member of the dance team, she began teaching herself hip-hop moves from music videos, starting with the Roger Rabbit. After she moved to L.A. and became a Laker Girl, she gained more experience from a wide range of choreographers.
But a decade later, she was teaching 21 classes a week, running a booming dance business in one of the busiest dance cities in the country—L.A.—when misfortune hit. “I wasn’t feeling well,” she says, “and ended up getting diagnosed with lupus.” That put a kink in her teaching load, which she could mostly fill from her roster of teachers. But Gomez couldn’t find anyone to teach her hip-hop classes for the youngest students—those bouncy 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds. She felt that the experienced hip-hop dancers couldn’t break down the steps well enough, nor did they have the patience needed to handle the youngest students, who lose focus more quickly than older children do.
“I wished I had something I could give to the teachers and say, ‘Here, teach this in class,’ because I knew it was easy,” says Gomez. “The simple things I was teaching them just made sense to the kids.” Then a friend chimed in with an idea: make three-by-five cards with various steps and exercises to give to substitute teachers. That’s when Gomez’s entrepreneurial streak took off.
“I played around with the idea,” she says, “talking about it with a couple of people in my studio.” One parent offered graphic design services and, coincidentally, Hype sits next door to a recording studio where music and videos are often produced. With someone to design the cards and packaging, and someone else to create and record original music on a work-for-hire basis (so rights and permissions wouldn’t become an issue) and shoot video for an instructional DVD, Gomez had pulled together a team. She paid for all services she used, whether offered by parents of her students or professionals in the community. She put the product on the market in 2006 and is now close to recouping her initial investment.
Working on instinct, without a formal business plan, Gomez knew she needed to put the teaching material in a form that could be broken down into teachable steps, phrases, and combinations, both on paper and on video.
Hip Hop in a Box grew from that initial spark of an idea. The product, which retails for $69.95, features 100 mix-and-match cards, each containing instructions and pictures for a different hip-hop step (fundamentals and some with a hip-hop flavor); a DVD with Gomez demonstrating each step; a CD with five original hip-hop songs; and a “teaching tips” workbook.
Aside from helping dance teachers who lack hip-hop expertise, Gomez has found that physical education teachers and other educators, and even teachers in adult programs, find the material useful. She’s also used the cards with older students as an exercise in creative choreography: they deal out the cards and use them to build their own phrases and combinations set to music. “So a step like crack-a-stick would have four different picture positions,” says Gomez, “and those positions, when you link them together, create the step.”
In the process of creating Hip Hop in a Box, Gomez says, “I spent a solid six months on it, every day, all day, in some manner, whether it was writing the list of steps I wanted to include, all the way up to editing the pictures, which I did myself in Photoshop.” It was a long, hard, time-consuming process, and some days she wanted to drop the idea. But Gomez believed her product would fill a need in the dance education and studio community, so she pushed herself to complete it.
Her best, simplest—and most obvious—advice? “It helps to have a deadline. It pushes you to spend time on the project every day until it gets done.”
As the product development neared completion, Gomez worked with a local printing agency on how to produce (design, photography, etc.) and manufacture the product at a reasonable cost. She had to decide how many to order and at what price point she could sell it. Ultimately, the local printer jobbed the project offshore, so the cards and box are printed and assembled in China. “I wish I could have manufactured it in the U.S., but it would have been impossible” due to the costs, she says.
Gomez had done no pre-marketing and had no advance orders, so she simply ordered what she and her husband, who works in the technology industry, could afford: 2,000 units. She’s just now getting ready to reorder. She stores the boxes at home and fills all orders herself. At some point, as her number of products and popularity increase, she hopes to hire an assistant.
On the heels of Hip Hop in a Box, Gomez has developed a companion product, 1-2-3 Dance, featuring additional hip-hop steps and materials to help overworked teachers plan lessons for their youngest students, ages 3 to 5.
On the heels of Hip Hop in a Box, Gomez has developed a companion product, 1-2-3 Dance, featuring additional hip-hop steps and materials to help overworked teachers plan lessons for their youngest students, ages 3 to 5. Her goal with both tools is, she says, “to allow people to do things they didn’t think they could do.”
That’s exactly what happened to Gomez. She never thought she’d become a product innovator, designer, marketer, and jack-of-all-trades in creating her own products. But now she is.
Gomez has promoted Hip Hop in a Box primarily at conferences and conventions. She hasn’t invested much in advertising aside from Google Adwords, but the kit has gained a few brief editorial mentions in dance and education magazines, plus a featured spot on TV’s The Dr. Phil Show, during a show devoted to parents who want their kids to become stars. Somehow a producer came across Gomez’s product and invited the dance teacher to serve as a judge in a mini talent competition in which kids used the cards to choreograph and perform short phrases on the show. “What’s great is that now I have Dr. Phil announcing me as ‘our dance expert Tricia Gomez with Hip Hop in a Box.’ That gave me a boost,” she says.
For Katie Whorton, who owns and directs Beatniks Dance & Tumble in Platte City, Missouri, Hip Hop in a Box has been a lifesaver. Whorton teaches ballet, tap, jazz, tumble, cheer, and hip-hop. “I have more traditional ballet, jazz, and tap training,” she explains, “and always felt inferior in the hip-hop world. Even in college, I struggled with hip-hop and found that I shied away from it.”
She found that she needed a strong, easy-to-use curriculum that would allow her to provide the same quality classes in every genre she offers. “Hip Hop in a Box has a lot of desirable qualities,” says Whorton, who has taught for more than a decade. “The steps are so basic that even someone who was ‘hip-hop challenged’ like myself could execute them with confidence and skill. The breakdown of each step and the level of counts for different age levels is a quick, easy way to turn a basic piece of choreography into an intermediate one, and [then] on to advanced.”
She also likes the various types of explanations—written out and sketched on cards and demonstrated on DVD—along with the interactive possibilities the cards provide in getting children involved through putting together their own steps. Best of all for Whorton, “it eliminated my weekly stress of getting through three 50-minute hip-hop classes.” Now, she says, “I am a good hip-hop teacher and my kids learn a lot from me.”
Another fan of the product, Megan Mendoza of Cheryl’s School of Dance in Carlsbad, New Mexico, is an experienced hip-hop teacher. However, she says, “I was not experienced in teaching young children. I had such a hard time coming up with things that were ‘simple’ or easy to explain, let alone keep the class fun and interesting.” Using Hip Hop in a Box, she says,” I have been able to have successful classes for 4-year-olds.”
For Gomez, the venture boils down to persistence and determination. The difference between her and everyone who says they could have thought of it is that she “sat down and did it,” she says. “I didn’t know if it was going to work, and that first year I sold maybe 70 units. I could have just said it wasn’t worth it, but I’m stubborn. I knew it was going to work.”
As for her future, she says, “I think I’ll see where it takes me.” She runs Hype and holds two other part-time jobs: operations manager/choreographer for Dance the Magic and teaching artist with Disney Performing Arts Program at Disneyland.
“I would love to see Dance In a Box take off to become a full-time job,” she says. “But knowing me, I’d still keep my part-time jobs, too. I can sleep when I’m dead!”
By Eliza Randolph
Parents of teenagers know the drill—college tours, college applications, college admissions—the agony and the ecstasy. Starting in their junior year, the question of college looms on the horizon for many high school students. But what about studio owners? How much do you know about your students’ plans after high school, after the bittersweet final recital? How much do you participate in shaping those plans?
One school owner, Crystal Draper of Kinetic Expressions Dance Academy in Daytona Beach, Florida, so loved her college experience that she wants to send all her students off to school. She even took them on a road trip—not for a competition, but to visit her alma mater, Shenandoah University and Conservatory in Winchester, Virginia.
While most college dance programs offer tours, lectures, and classes as part of their audition process, Shenandoah offers “Dance Days” during which even high school juniors who are not yet auditioning can sit in on classes, auditions, workshops, and performances. As an alumnus, Draper made special arrangements and took her one junior and seven other interested students (some as young as 12) there last fall. They drove up from Florida to Virginia in one shot, with some parents as chaperones and Draper’s 2-year-old son in tow. Everyone chipped in to cover expenses.
“It was about opening their eyes,” says Draper, to what college in general and dance programs in particular can offer students. “Obviously it was extra special because it was my school and I could show them all my old stomping grounds.” But she also wanted very much to share with her girls “the same thrill I got when I went for my audition.”
Draper grew up in Ohio, and despite a rewarding stint of training and performing with a local studio, she knew she wanted college. And she knew she wanted to go far from home to stretch her wings. “The best thing I ever did was go away where I didn’t know anyone,” she says, “too far away to bring the laundry home on the weekends, far enough to miss my mommy. I felt like a big girl, like I was growing up.”
The sense of independence Draper developed at school carried over into her professional life. “Moving away to Florida where I didn’t know anybody and starting my own business—I don’t think I would ever have done that if I had been living down the street from where I grew up.”
Her students, she says, “need that push” to strike out on their own. “If they can afford it, if they can get the scholarship, if they can make it work, then I say, ‘Go away. It’ll be the best thing you’ll ever do.’ ”
The trip gave Draper and the young dancers both a look back at the past (hers) and a glimpse of the future (theirs). “We had so much fun,” she says. The students took classes all day, and Draper took the first ballet class with them, overwhelmed by nostalgia. “I stood at my favorite spot on the barre where I stood all four years when we were doing ballet,” she says. “And all my kids lined up on the barre behind me. It was so awesome for me to see them in there, in my [former] studio with my teachers. That makes me really proud.”
“Probably the most eye-opening thing was seeing Miss Crystal dance with us. I’ve grown up dancing with her, and she taught me basically everything I know. But being back where she learned everything she knows is crazy to me.” —senior Mary Rebekah Barto
For senior Mary Rebekah Bartos, the trip revealed what the college experience might be like, but it also revealed her teacher in a new light. “Probably the most eye-opening thing was seeing Miss Crystal dance with us,” says Bartos. “I’ve grown up dancing with her, and she taught me basically everything I know. But being back where she learned everything she knows is crazy to me. I could see exactly where she gets her combinations, and everything she had been pushing in ballet, I could see where it was coming from. The school itself was gorgeous, and I fell in love with it. And I could see why she was encouraging us all to go to college for dance. She’s always encouraged everyone to go to college, whether it be for dance or anything.”
As for taking class with college students, Bartos says, “I was excited rather than nervous, because it was a place I was looking at for college. It was kind of like an audition before auditioning. And, being with Crystal, it was like home away from home. She was in class with us, and so it was comfortable.”
Raven Brown, who was a freshman at the time of the visit, says, “I was really excited, and I looked over [in class] because I was on a different barre from Crystal and the other students, and it was like, ‘OK, this is kind of scary.’ And I would look over at Crystal and think, ‘It’s OK, you’re fine. Relax.’ ”
Brown was surprised by the atmosphere of the class—simultaneously gentle and rigorous. “I expected it to be a lot more strict, but it really wasn’t. [The instructors] were laughing, but they were on you about technique. It wasn’t controlling and a lot of yelling like I thought it was going to be. They’re there to help you.”
In addition to taking class, the students attended a workshop for prospective students, ate in the cafeteria, toured the campus, and watched a performance.
Draper was delighted by her students’ excitement about Shenandoah and says she’s open to future visits. She’s also open to the idea of taking students to visit several schools. In the context of learning more about college experiences and options, she says, “it would have been much more worthwhile if we could have taken a whole week and stopped at a bunch of schools, and let them do it all week long.”
The girls’ parents were equally enthusiastic about the college visit. Draper says, “I got great feedback from their parents about that trip. They couldn’t get [the kids] on that van fast enough. They thought it was a really great experience, couldn’t believe I was taking eight teenagers all the way to Virginia.”
Draper contrasts this visit with the usual competition road trips. “It was so cool, because most studios require you to pay hundreds of dollars to get on a van and go to a competition where you do one dance and get a trophy and go home,” she says. “This was lifetime-rewarding. They’ll never forget the time that we had, the whole experience. They just had their mouths open the whole weekend. They absorbed it like sponges.”
As a special gift for Chicago Tap Theatre’s audiences, this December’s edition of “Tidings of Tap!” will feature live musical accompaniment for all dance numbers.
“Though we have long featured one or two pieces to live music in the past, we have been receiving feedback from our audience for years that they love the live music and wanted more,” said artistic director Mark Yonally, who credited the change to the support of donors, foundations, and government grants.
The program will include Christmas and Chanukah standards, seasonal classic such as “Carol of the Bells,” funky and fun songs such as “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” and a five-minute updated version of familiar tunes from The Nutcracker.
“Tidings of Tap!” runs December 9 and 10 at 8pm and December 11 at 3pm at the University of Illinois Chicago Theater, 1044 W. Harrison. Tickets are $35 for adults, $25 for seniors, and $20 for students and dancers. Group discounts are available. For tickets, visit www.brownpapertickets.com or call 800.838.3006. For more information call the Chicago Tap Theatre office at 773.655.1175 or visit www.chicagotaptheatre.com.
Spend a lunch hour exploring the world of belly dancing on December 2 with “Blanca Curates Belly Dance Past and Present,” a free Fridays at Noon program at New York City’s 92nd Street Y.
An array of the city’s belly dance teachers will demonstrate belly dance and other Middle Eastern dance traditions. Artists include Blanca, showing her dances The Fool and Filii Neidhardii; Zenaide with Night of Love and Bamby Drum Solo, two dances in the classical Egyptian sharqi style; Anahid Sofian; and Fayzah Fire, who specializes in blending tango, tribal dance, popping, and belly dance.
The event will be held December 2 at noon at the 92Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue. For more information, visit www.92Y.org.[ad#Store]
From improv to dancemaking to performance, NYC teens get creative with Young Dancemakers Company
By Elizabeth Zimmer
Summer dance camp is an established ritual for middle-class kids, but inner-city students often find the cost of the programs, not to mention the cost of forgoing a paid summer job, prohibitive. That makes the Young Dancemakers Company, run by Alice Teirstein out of the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the bucolic Bronx neighborhood of Riverdale, an especially valuable enterprise.
The five-week program, now in its 16th year, is free of charge to the participating students, all in public high schools. It focuses on the creative aspects of the dance profession, rather than on the technique classes that anchor most other summer sessions. Within the first week the 16 young people, who spend seven hours a day in class and rehearsals, are already submitting written proposals for pieces they want to make in the next 15 days; by the fourth week they coalesce into a touring ensemble performing their own dances in four boroughs of New York City. They also learn and perform works by major choreographers; this year they showed excerpts from Psalm, a 1967 piece by José Limón.
Teirstein, a petite brunette who wears glittering ruby slippers to her troupe’s performances, graduated from Adelphi College (now University) on Long Island as an English and dramatic arts major and earned a master’s in dance education at Columbia University Teachers College. Her biggest challenge, she says, is weaning the young artists from a tendency to choose popular music with lyrics that drive the design and content of their choreography.
This year’s hour-long performance, performed in late July at seven sites around New York City, was called “Connect.” It included short works on themes of teen pregnancy, substance abuse, celebration of life, homophobia/gender discrimination, speaking and not being heard, self-image, chaos theory, and the history of hip-hop. Needless to say, this last subject garnered the loudest cheers from a large audience of elementary-school-age day campers, many of whom are themselves quite fluent in the genre’s rhythms and moves, which they demonstrated when company members invited them onstage at the end of a Monday-afternoon matinee program. One student, Shelby Joy Cole, said her piece, Oddballs, to music by Fats Waller, was “inspired by my friends,” and another, Shaza Bailey, said his dance was about alcoholism.
In previous summers Teirstein asked me to spend an hour with the group discussing strategies for viewing and reviewing dance. This year, due to financial and time constraints, I was invited to attend a matinee performance with them and sit in on their meeting with emerging choreographer Kyle Abraham. This event took place almost three weeks before the actual start of the program and gave the participants, who attend 10 high schools across the metropolitan area, a chance to get to know one another as well as to quiz the artist about his inspirations and influences.
The 2011 program formally began on June 29, with seven days in residence at the downtown studios of Dance Theater Workshop. During the first few days Teirstein led improv workshops and introduced various dancemaking processes. What, she asked them, did they want to dance about? The company members submitted written proposals for choreography they wanted to do.
“I spoke with them, one on one, about their ideas, and mentored them about that process,” says Teirstein.
She and I met after the fifth day of the program. “Today we saw seven ideas,” she told me. “The students described them and created an improvisation to give the others, so they could see their ideas played out by the group. I was astounded at the way they are going after deep and controversial topics. They gave viable improvs to the group, and we videotaped each one; the students went home to get ideas for the choreography, which is the way I insist that they work.” The ideas vetted on July 5 emerged as the subjects of the dances I saw on July 25, each introduced by its choreographer.
Teirstein danced and choreographed as a young woman, spending time as choreographer-in-residence at The Yard, an arts colony for dancers on Martha’s Vineyard, during the 1970s. She began teaching at Fieldston more than 35 years ago, after raising four children. She gave up her formal teaching duties in June 2010 but keeps an office at the school out of which she conducts YDC. At an age when most of her cohort is knitting afghans and dandling grandchildren, she’s still acting and dancing on New York stages.
Starting in 1976, Teirstein developed the Fieldston dance curriculum from scratch, and a dance major as well, called the Fieldston Dance Company. “I was one of the first to have a high school group that called itself a company,” she says. “They created their own work and toured to other schools, performing it. Creating original work has always been my guiding educational mission. I’ve always felt that teenagers have a lot to say, and can say it in dance without imitating others.”
Each season with YDC, she figures out “how far back” she needs to go in terms of teaching choreographic principles. “Shall I teach them what I teach the seventh-graders at Fieldston? By trial and error I find out how basic I have to get in order to guide the kids toward creating from within themselves.”
After widely publicized auditions, Teirstein hold callbacks and an orientation session. Dropouts are very rare. “This year one kid had to go to summer school, so we lost him; I replaced him within 24 hours with a kid from the waiting list,” Teirstein says. “These 16 kids were at the door of DTW at 9:45 every morning: no absence, no lateness. Some of them traveled two hours each day from Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Manhattan, and the Bronx.”
The program gets 60 to 80 applications a year. “We put a bunch on a waiting list,” notes Teirstein. “More of the specialized arts high schools are sending their kids. We used to get more raw beginners, but now we get kids with some technical experience behind them—a problem because I pride myself on nurturing the innate talent of kids who might not have taken this path had it not been for YDC.”
“These 16 kids were at the door of [Dance Theater Workshop] at 9:45 every morning: no absence, no lateness.” —Alice Teirstein
According to Teirstein, some of the non-arts high schools have stopped sending students to the Young Dancemakers auditions, for fear that they won’t get in. But she feels that the experience of the audition is worth it even for those who don’t make the cut. “I teach them and do improv work with them during the audition: it’s a learning experience for every kid. They each get a personal interview; the guest artists also teach during the audition. I’ve heard kids say, ‘I never had so much fun in an audition.’ I get them relaxed so they can enjoy themselves.”
After the second week, the whole enterprise moves to the campus of the Fieldston School. “The studios were not used in the summer,” says Teirstein, “and I decided we should make a free program for NYC public school kids who would not otherwise have this opportunity. So I started raising money for it. Fieldston agreed to host it, supplying space and office support; I wrote grants and got foundation support.”
The program lasts 25 days altogether, from opening day to the finale performance, which this year took place in the theater at the Alvin Ailey company’s Joan Weill Center for Dance. Students take a daily combined technique and repertory class, this summer learning choreography by José Limón, taught by members of the Limón Company.
In the afternoon Teirstein and her staff work with the students on improvisation and choreographic concepts. “After a few days we have their dances cast and they go into rehearsals. We ask them to come back with a casting list, after they look at videos; we refine their lists so it works for everybody, so three choreographers can work at the same time. We end up with a minimum of 10 student works, plus the repertory project, plus a prologue to the concert in which the students introduce themselves to the audience with choreographed self-portraits.”
The students take ownership of their work, conducting their own rehearsals and collaborating with a costume designer and with music director William Catanzaro. They decide how many dancers they’ll use in each piece, limited only by the fact that there are three simultaneous rehearsals daily. Some of the kids want to make intimate pieces with few dancers, but Teirstein makes sure everyone gets a reasonable chance to dance. The real challenge is the lightning-fast costume changes: pieces are two or three minutes each with barely a minute between them.
The one-hour concert is offered free to the public at locations throughout the city. “We rent the Ailey theater for our finale,” says Teirstein. “This year we also rented the Schimmel Center at Pace University, to host 700 kids from United Neighborhood Houses. All the other spaces produce us.”
The students bring their own lunch. The city’s Department of Education provides them with transportation and the program covers the occasional meal in a restaurant and the cost of designing and constructing costumes for the touring concert.
“The participants really experience what it is like to be in a touring dance company,” says Teirstein, “having to accommodate to various spaces, various audiences—some not accustomed to dance—and the feeling of a group of people working intensively together toward a common goal. Hence the title Young Dancemakers Company—every word is relevant to what they do. They can get community service credit if their high school requires it. I send a letter documenting their CS hours in public performance. At the end of the season we have a farewell party; instead of giving out diplomas I give out modest stipend checks in recognition of their public service work and the fact that many of them have given up jobs in order to do the program.”
Approximately 300 students have moved through the ensemble in the past 16 years. Some come back as interns; if they return a second year they get paid, and after that they graduate to “program assistant.” One alumna, Noéle Phillips, became a choreographer with her own company, says Teirstein; a couple have gone into the Ailey company as dancers.
Almost all of the students have camera phones; they shoot their own audition material and class exercises, so they can look for ideas from the improvs and choose their casts. If they don’t have a phone, Teirstein sends them home with a DVD.
Dance New York, a program funded by the Emily Davie and Joseph Kornfeld Foundation, enables Teirstein to take the students to four professional dance concerts, either before or during the season, and hold Q&A sessions with the artists involved. It also funds the repertory project. “It’s a very important component of the training,” she says. “They can relate what they’re doing to the professional world of dance.”
In 2010 Teirstein started a collaborative project with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company; the kids had the opportunity to set their work on professionals after the five-week session. This fall the Limón company will provide six dancers, and YDC members will set pieces to be performed December 4, as part of the Limón School’s professional studies program concert.
Visit ecfs.org/ydc.asp to view the Young Dancemakers Company’s Alumni Newsletter.
Bour developed Why Now? to explore how change affects and evokes feelings and molds individuals into a new sense of belonging. The three-chapter story highlights a woman’s journey: the past, the present, and the discovery of what is left when the unknown quiets and life moves forward.
As a performer, Bour has danced in works by choreographers including Maguy Marin, Carolyn Carlson, Jennifer Muller, and Dominique Bagouet, and in dance companies directed by Angelin Preljocaj, Inbal Pinto, and Philippe Combes. In 2008, she launched Compagnie Julie Bour in New York City. Her works have been presented at venues in France and NYC, including Dance New Amsterdam, LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, Miller Theatre, and many art galleries. Bour is a native of France and graduated from the Conservatoire National de Danse de Paris.
Tickets may be purchased in person at DNA’s box office, 280 Broadway, two hours before performance time or by visiting www.dnadance.org. Tickets are $17 for general audiences, $12 for DNA members, and $14 for students/seniors; $12 advance-sale tickets are also available. To arrange discounted tickets for groups of six or more, contact email@example.com.
Professional and pre-professional dance companies and dance students of all ages will gather October 7 to 9 for the inaugural South Carolina Festival of Dance in Columbia.
Organized by the University of South Carolina Dance Program, the festival will be a three-day celebration of the state’s dance artistry, according to The Times and Democrat in Orangeburg.
The festival will kick off at October 7 at 7:30pm with “S.C. Dances: An Evening of Premiere Dance Companies” at the Koger Center for the Arts, featuring professional dance groups from around the state, including Carolina Ballet Theatre, Revolve Aerial Dance, Columbia Classical Ballet, Columbia City Ballet, Unbound, DanceFX, The Power Company, and Vibrations Dance Company.
“The S.C. Dance Festival Showcase,” a performance featuring adjudicated works from pre-professional companies from South Carolina, will take place at the Koger Center on October 8 at 7:30pm.
Ticket prices for both performances are $10 for students, $14 for faculty/military/seniors, and $16 general admission. To order, call the box office at 803.777.5112 or charge by phone at 803.251.2222. Tickets for both events will be sold separately.
The festival will also feature master classes in ballet, contemporary, jazz, musical theater, hip-hop, and more on October 8 and 9 at the university’s new state-of-the-art dance studios. Master classes are available for students 11 years of age and older, and will be offered in three skill levels: beginner/intermediate, intermediate/advanced-intermediate, and advanced/professional.
Information on class costs and registration is available at www.cas.sc.edu/dance. For more details, visit http://www.thetandd.com/lifestyles/leisure/article_698014ec-ea1b-11e0-9623-001cc4c002e0.html.[ad#Store]
Applications are now available online for The Margaret Jenkins Dance Company’s Choreographers in Mentorship Exchange (CHIME), a mentorship program for self-selected pairs of choreographers, and CHIME Across Borders, a national mentorship program where a master choreographer mentors other choreographers for a year.
Founded in 2004 by MJDC artistic director Margaret Jenkins, CHIME seeks to formalize the exchange and feedback mechanisms between established and emerging California choreographers. CHIME, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, allows for self-selected pairs of professional choreographers—mentor and learner—to receive financial support for 12 months in order to establish and explore a working relationship that includes, but is not limited to, work in the studio.
Guidelines and applications are now available at www.mjdc.org. Deadline for submission is October 15. A free application workshop will be held August 6 from 11am to 12:30pm at the Margaret Jenkins Dance Lab in San Francisco.
CHIME Across Borders creates the opportunity for a sustained and intimate exchange between an established master choreographer and local choreographers. Artists are invited to submit a Letter of Intent to apply to work with Elizabeth Streb, action architect for the Streb Lab for Action Mechanics (S.L.A.M.), who will act as the CHIME Across Borders chair (or mentor) in 2012. Instructions are available online at www.mjdc.org. Deadline for submission is August 1. A free information session will be held July 23 from 11am to 12:30pm at the Margaret Jenkins Dance Lab.
The San Francisco Ballet School’s five-week intensive summer session, designed to give students a taste of the demands of a professional career, begins June 27 and runs through July 29.
With more than 200 participants from the United States and abroad, the summer session offers training by the school’s faculty, as well as guest teachers including SF Ballet company members. For more information, visit www.sfballet.org/balletschool/summersesson.asp.
Also, the San Francisco Ballet Center for Dance Education (CDE) is now accepting applications for its week-long youth dance camp, to be held June 13 to 17 from 10am to 4pm. The camp is for children ages 7 to 14, and no previous dance experience is necessary.
Each day, campers will participate in two dance classes, one music class, one visual art class, and yoga. Children will also be treated to a special mid-week field trip to the city’s arts district around Civic Center. The week will culminate in a community celebration where students demonstrate to friends and family their learning and experience in the arts. For more information visit www.sfballet.org/educationcommunity/dancecamp.asp.
Susan Marshall & Company celebrates its 25th anniversary season with a special two-in-one program at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City this June.
On June 10 and 11, the program will feature the New York premiere of Adamantine, a new work that dwells at the intersection of dance, sound design, visual art, and theater, with a score composed and performed live by Peter Whitehead. Also scheduled is Frame Dances, a video/dance installation that unveils dancers in confined spaces, creating a metaphoric and fantastical world about scale and simulacrum.
Tickets are offered in two seatings: 7 or 8pm. (Frame Dances will be performed at 7pm, followed by Adamante at 8pm, and a repeat showing of Frame Dances at 9:15pm.) Tickets are $25 and are available at 212.868.4444 or at www.smarttix.com.
A benefit performance for Susan Marshall & Company will be held on June 9. A limited number of tickets are available to Adamante only for $20 from www.smarttix.com. For gala information and tickets (beginning at $150), contact 212.219.0005 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the BAC, 450 West 37th Street, visit www.BACNYC.org.
ODC School Youth and Teen Program of San Francisco’s ODC Dance Commons has designed a session of summer dance classes from creative movement for young dancers, to concentrated technique classes in ballet, to contemporary dance for both beginning and experienced students, during its summer session June 4 to July 31.
The program provides students of all ages the opportunity to experience dance in a context that values the individual and the creative process and offers a non-competitive environment. The curriculum caters to each student’s strengths and is designed to encourage creative expression and a positive body image.
- For ages 2 to 12: Little Bears Music & Dance, creative movement, pre-ballet, and youth hip-hop. (June 4 to July 31)
- For ages 8 to 14: classes in contemporary, ballet, global, and choreography for students. (July 5 to 29)
- For teens 13 to 18, Teen Performance Lab: intensive training in choreography, technique classes including contemporary, African, post-modern partnering, bhangra/Bollywood. Faculty includes former ODC company members Brian Fisher and Yukie Fujimoto, African teacher Rashad Pridgen, and bhangra/Bollywood teacher Joti Singh. Choreographer Erika Chong Shuch will create a performance incorporating dance, music, text/spoken word, and visual art, with special guests Jennifer Chien (contact improvisation) and Beth Wilmurt (voice). Students participate in the creative process, which culminates in a performance at the session’s end. Teen Lab students must have at least two to three years of technical dance training. (June 30 to July 8)
The ODC Dance Commons, 351 Shotwell Street, San Francisco, is the largest center for contemporary dance on the West Coast. To register, contact Liz Kamara, ODC youth program registrar, at 415.863.9830 ext. 220 or email@example.com. For more information about the summer sessions and enrollment, visit www.odcschool.org/youthsummerprograms.
Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet will present two full programs featuring the Pacific Northwest Ballet School students during a Day of Dance on June 18.
The 30th Annual School Performance, beginning at 1:30pm, will feature students of all levels performing original works by PNB school faculty and is designed to showcase the students’ skills and accomplishments over the past year. PNB school’s most advanced students will perform George Balanchine’s Western Symphony, with music performed by the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Stephen Rogers Radcliffe. Audiences will also see the world premiere of Menuet & Allegros, choreographed by PNB ballet master Paul Gibson.
Later, at 7pm, “Next Step” (formerly Choreographers’ Showcase), features eight world premieres choreographed by PNB company dancers and performed by the PNB School’s professional division students.
Between the two events, the Third Annual School Celebration Dinner at Prelude restaurant in McCaw Hall will honor and commemorate the successes of PNB School students over the past year.
All three events take place at Seattle Center’s Marion Oliver McCaw Hall. Tickets may be purchased from the PNB box office at 206.441.2424, online at www.pnb.org, or in person at 301 Mercer Street.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s 2011-2012 season includes a new series at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago that offers an intimate program of new works by promising choreographers, plus a holiday season family program, world premieres, and favorite works.
The company’s 34th year will launch October 13 to 16 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance with a world premiere by Twyla Tharp in her return to Hubbard Street, where she was instrumental in creating and setting a repertoire of work. Hubbard Street’s Fall Series will also see the return of Arcangelo, a dance reflection of heaven and hell choreographed by Nacho Duato and based on Concerti Grossi by Arcangelo Corelli, and the hilariously bizarre Walking Mad by Johan Inger, featuring the music of Maurice Ravel.
The company’s Winter Series, January 19 to 29, 2012 at MCA Stage at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, will feature new choreography by emerging choreographers. The program “danc(e)volve: New Works Festival” features pieces by company dancers set on fellow company members, works created for Hubbard Street 2 by winners of Hubbard Street’s 2011 National Choreographic Competition, and a world premiere created for HS2 by Hubbard Street resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo.
The Spring Series at the Harris Theater, March 15 to 18, 2012, includes a new work by Cerrudo; the return of Israeli choreographer Sharon Eyal’s electric Too Beaucoup; and LINES Ballet artistic director Alonzo King’s Following the Subtle Current Upstream, set to the music of Zakir Hussain and Miriam Makeba.
Hubbard Street’s season will conclude May 17 to 20, 2012, with a Summer Series, also at the Harris Theater, offering the company premiere of William Forsythe’s Quintett, a passionate work created soon after the death of his wife and featuring the haunting music of Gavin Bryars. Also on the program will be Israeli master choreographer Ohad Naharin’s THREE TO MAX and Cerrudo’s Malditos, a work created through a collaborative effort between Nederlands Dans Theater and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.
In addition, Hubbard Street 2 will revive the critically acclaimed family program Harold and the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure, December 1 to 4, co-presented with the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. For information about subscriptions packages, call the Hubbard Street ticket office at 312.850.9744 or visit www.hubbardstreetdance.com. Single tickets go on sale in August.
Chicago Cultural Center’s DanceBridge program will show several dance works-in-progress during a free program at 6pm April 7 in the CCC dance studio.
Scheduled works include A Kholem (A Dream) from Steven Weintraub’s New Yiddish Dance Ensemble, and Emma Draves’ Duet As One and Matrikas. Jan Bartoszek of Hedwig Dances will lead a talk-back with the audience following the performance.
DanceBridge is an initiative of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in partnership with the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture to support Chicago’s professional dance artists and choreographers. Its goal is to foster new and innovative work, particularly work that crosses boundaries of style or tradition and reflects contemporary international influences and interdisciplinary exploration. Selected dancers receive rehearsal space for 12 weeks to develop new work and are provided an opportunity to perform their work-in-progress.
Chicago Cultural Center is located at 78 E. Washington Street. For information, visit www.chicagoculturalcenter.org.
“Ballet with a Modern Sensibility” will be the topic of the April 8 Fridays at Noon program at the 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue, New York City. The event is free.
The program will look at some of the artists charting the paths for ballet in the 21st century. Christopher Caines will shows excerpts from his new work, ARIAS, a three-act ballet set to vocal music spanning four centuries, from Italian Baroque to Meredith Monk. Portions of Part II (Evening: In the Garden) and Part III (Night: In the House), with music by Arnold Schoenberg and Frédéric Mompou, will be presented.
Choreographer Brian Carey Chung and his Collective Body | DanceLab will present excerpts from a work in progress, Moon, set to music by Debussy and Beethoven. Also, Helen Heineman will present Collage, her dance for three women and two men set to music by Lou Harrison. For more information, visit www.92Y.org.
American Repertory Ballet’s Dance Power program celebrates the culmination of its 26th year in the New Brunswick [NJ] Public School District with a free showcase performance on April 11 at 7pm at the New Brunswick High School.
“Waiting in the Wings: Broadway Moves!” will showcase more than 400 third-grade students from the New Brunswick Public School District who have participated in ARB’s Dance Power program throughout this year. The evening will also feature special appearances by New Brunswick High School senior Shayla Jones, a member of Princeton Ballet School’s Professional Training Program; Dance Power scholarship recipients, and American Repertory Ballet dancers Marc St-Pierre and Edward Urwin. A reception for supporters and special guests will follow the performance.
Started in 1984, Dance Power is a partnership between ARB and the New Brunswick Board of Education, providing dance education to every New Brunswick third-grade student through physical education classes, and also provides scholarships for students to study at ARB’s affiliated Princeton Ballet School. It remains the longest-running arts/community partnership in New Jersey.
For more information, contact David Sadowsky, director of educational programming, at 732.249.1254 ext. 19 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 92nd Street Y’s Sundays at Three program in New York City presents “Sydney Skybetter Curates the Neo-Neo Classicists” on March 27 at 3:00 p.m.
Skybetter, a choreographer who also lectures on dance history, presents three choreographers whom he sees as extending the traditions of dance classicism that began with Marius Petipa and continued through Fokine, Balanchine, Ashton and others.
Iain Rowe will show three new works: This Fire Will Burn, which uses balletic language to explore and express aggression; Heaven, a serene, reflective work set to haunting music by Antony and The Johnsons; and The Strongest People I Know, with music by Max Richter, about people coming together in times of crisis and how one person can inspire many others.
Pam Tanowitz and John-Mark Owen will show works in progress. Tanowitz’s Recorded forever in between the cracks with real passion is a work for seven dancers, set to music by John Zorn. Owen’s Sonata (2), set to music by H.F. Biber, shows a relationship marred by the struggle between learned behavior and primal instincts.
Cost is $10. The 92nd Street Y is located at 1395 Lexington Avenue. For more information, visit www.92Y.org.
Camp Laurel, a private, co-ed summer camp in Maine, is seeking a talented, organized person to coordinate, choreograph, and run its 2011 summer dance program.
The job includes teaching hip-hop, jazz, modern, and ballet to all levels and abilities of campers. Salary, room and board, and travel allowance are included. The camp season runs mid-June to mid-August.
The Trinity Academy of Irish Dance invites Chicago-area children to sample its award-winning instruction with its annual summer program, Taste of Trinity, to be held from late June through mid-August at six Chicago-area locations.
Each six-class workshop is designed to give students ages 4 to 12 a chance to discover the basics of Irish dance and learn its techniques. Each session concludes with a 15-minute performance for family and friends. No previous dance experience is necessary.
Registration for Taste of Trinity is now open; space is limited. Cost per six-class session is $95, which includes a Trinity T-shirt. Contact Cynthia Oblein at 773.529.4822, extension 35 or email@example.com for information. Trinity Academy of Irish Dance is located at 2936 N. Southport Avenue, 3rd floor, Chicago. More details are available at www.trinityirishdancers.com.
Dance New Amsterdam will present Frameworks, a semiannual program of innovative new works of choreography for the camera, February 13 at 3:00 pm at DNA, 280 Broadway in Lower Manhattan, New York.
The series is founded and produced by Michael Bodel, who wants to challenge the field, cultivate dialogue between disciplines, and provide a reliably high quality platform for the presentation of new dance films from around the world.
This program features six films, all ranging between three and 12 minutes in length, two of which will be presented as looped video installations before and after the screening. Selected films include:
- Sleeping with Frank, Lily Baldwin. A slice of morning in Queens in which choreographed gesture reveals a potent underbelly to the lacquer of domestic normalcy.
- Greece Piece, Michael Bodel. Three tourists scramble in search of the perfect beach; a look at paradise, tourism, and loss of place in the Greek Islands.
- For Water, Natalie Metzger. A collaboration between dancers from Indonesia and America that follows a pilgrimage of five spirits to a sacred place to perform their ritual for water.
- Story Case, Ne Barros. Empty places and people with no history; bodies move in and out of a charged stage environment, set to an electric guitar soloist.
- Gaffe, Marisa C. Hayes and Franck Boulegue. An impressionistic response to NASA’s gaffe in accidentally deleting documentary footage of Neil Armstrong’s first walk on the moon.
- Tissue Lattice, Courtney Gannone and Lindsay Wolfe. The by-product of stealthy discomfort and distaste, where cinematic and human motions fall off-center.
- Body/Traces, Sophie Kahn and Lisa Parra. This seven-minute single-channel video installation asks, “What happens to the body when it becomes a still image?” and, “What becomes of that image when it returns to motion?”
Cost is $5 online, $10 at the door. Call 212.625.8369 for more information or visit www.dnadance.org/site/performances/dna-presents-winter-season-2011/frameworks/.
Fable & Faith, a new work by choreographer Robert Moses’ Kin in collaboration with playwright Anne Galjour, explores imagination, creativity, and identity through the metaphor of children’s fables.
Centered on the idea that a person or metaphor can symbolize our beliefs and aspirations, the work will consider the power of myths to shape and transform both personal and cultural identities, as well as provide symbolic resonance for the deeper, psychological aspects of identity formation. The performances feature live music by the San Francisco Boys Chorus and lighting and visual design by Elaine Buckholz.
Performances of Fable & Faith at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ Novellus Theater, 701 Mission Street, San Francisco, are set for February 18 to 20 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $35, $28, and $25, with student, senior, member, and group discounts available. To purchase, visit www.robertmoseskin.org.
The School at Jacob’s Pillow will hold auditions January 8-9 in Miami for its 2011 professional advancement programs in jazz/musical theater dance and contemporary.
The jazz/musical theater dance audition will cover multiple jazz dance styles, including tap, and will be led by Chet Walker; jazz/musical theater dance program director. The vocal portion requires two songs from published musical theater works, maximum eight minutes total, to be performed with live accompaniment. The contemporary audition will be led by dancer/choreographer Camille A. Brown.
Auditions are structured as a master class—no cuts are made—and are open to advanced dancers, ages 15 and up. No pre-registration required. There is a $15 (cash only) audition fee. Audition fees are waived for New World School of the Arts students. Times are:
Jazz/musical theater dance: January 8, registration 2:00-2:45 p.m., audition class 3:00-6:00 p.m. Contemporary: January 9, registration 2:00-2:45 p.m., audition class 3:00-5:00 p.m.
Auditions will be held at the New World School of the Arts, Miami-Dade College
Dance Division Building, 25 NE 2nd Street, Miami, Florida. (Jazz/musical theater dance auditions will be located on the 8th floor; contemporary auditions on the 9th.) Call 305.237.3135 for directions.
If unable to attend, applicants are encouraged to submit video auditions (by DVD or video hosting website). For more information, specific audition guidelines, and additional 2011 program details, visit www.jacobspillow.org/education/school.
Students and faculty of the School of American Ballet will present “The Beauty of Ballet,” a fun and educational program that illustrates the process by which talented youngsters develop into accomplished classical ballet dancers, in March at the Brooklyn Center for Performing Arts, Brooklyn, New York.
The free family program includes excerpts from classic ballets such as The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Beauty, as well as a “class” where training exercises and steps are demonstrated. The program features advanced students from the School of American Ballet, the official academy of the New York City Ballet.
“The Beauty of Ballet” will be held at 2:00 p.m. March 6 at the Walt Whitman Theatre, Brooklyn College, and is recommended for ages 4 and up. No tickets or reservations are required; seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information visit www.brooklyncenter.com or call 718.951.4500.
Good things can happen when a university and private studio join forces
By Jennifer Kaplan
With the economy in the dumps and recovery a slow and painful process, both studios and educators are looking for innovative models to support dancers and dance programs. Rider University figured out one way to do it a long time ago. A small, private liberal arts college with 6,000 students, it joined with a pre-professional ballet studio to build a unique academic dance program.
Rider University, with two campuses in Lawrenceville and Princeton, New Jersey, has been partnering with Princeton Ballet School (PBS) for 17 years. Offering a fine arts degree with a concentration or a minor in dance, Rider’s dance program is suitable for serious ballet students who haven’t found post-high-school job placement, as well as for dancers who want to continue their dance studies while pursuing an academic major, according to dance program director Kim Chandler Vaccaro.
What’s good for Rider . . .
The partnership with Princeton Ballet School enables Rider to offer a broader and deeper range of technique classes than it could if it relied on its on-campus resources. Until recently, Rider didn’t have a dance studio, and it just opened a theater appropriate for dance performances within the past decade. Vaccaro finds that Rider dance students benefit greatly by studying with renowned faculty at PBS. Some even have opportunities to perform in the annual production of Nutcracker produced by American Repertory Ballet, PBS’s professional company affiliate. Other serious ballet students can take advantage of advanced pre-professional classes daily and audition for the junior workshop company, American Repertory Ballet Workshop.
But Rider’s program isn’t solely for highly trained, serious dancers. Students can begin their dance training there with introductory ballet, modern, jazz, and world dance classes, most offered in the evenings and geared to adult learners in the surrounding Princeton community.
. . . is good for PBS
This unique collaborative program provides benefits to PBS as well. The ballet school gains a steady revenue stream that bumps up its three-studio, 1,500-student enrollment by about 60 students each semester. But more important, notes PBS director Mary Pat Robertson, the Rider students enhance the learning environment. Robertson observes that other adult students appreciate the seriousness with which the college students approach their classes. After all, they’re being graded on their attendance, participation, and performance, unlike working professionals in other fields who take the same ballet classes for fun, exercise, camaraderie, and artistic pleasure.
How it began
The plan to forge a partnership between the university and a private, nonprofit ballet school came from a college administrator who saw the need to expand the campus’ fine-arts offerings, particularly in dance. At the time, Vaccaro had been teaching at PBS and had recently received a doctorate from Temple University. Invited to teach dance history on campus, she was soon asked to stay on as liaison to the collaborative new program.
The fine-arts degree developed a concentration in dance; over the years its alums have gone on to work in related professional careers in dance, arts administration, teaching, and dance therapy. Others have pursued fields of study outside of the school of fine arts, including education and business. Students can earn a BA in dance, which requires 47 dance credits; they can earn a BA in fine arts with a concentration in dance, including 32 credits in dance with elementary education; and they can earn a degree in arts administration, requiring 36 credits in dance.
From the joint program’s start with a handful of theater students who wanted dance instruction, it has grown steadily, says Vaccaro. For the fall 2010 semester, 20 entering freshmen signed on to take dance classes at PBS for Rider credit.
For Rider this program has been a godsend, because for years the campus, which includes Westminster Choir College and Westminster College of the Arts, did not have the facilities to house a full complement of dance classes. Just a few miles away, PBS was able to accommodate students interested in continuing their dance education, as well as novices ready to take their first steps in ballet, modern, or jazz.
In developing the program, Vaccaro and Robertson realized that because the majority of dance classes took place off campus, they didn’t need to follow the standard of 50- or 75-minute class time blocks. Instead, most PBS adult open-enrollment classes meet for one and a half hours, twice a week.
Rider considers that a single-credit course. “This allows us to get in many more dance credits and hours,” says Vaccaro. “The dance classes don’t have much work outside of class. A three-credit academic course presumes an additional nine hours of homework, reading, writing, and research outside the classroom each week. Instead, my students have to attend a concert and midterm seminar, prepare a final project, and sometimes write a paper. If you add up the outside work, it might amount to an hour per week of homework, not six to nine hours.” That enables Rider’s dance program to keep the credit load low. According to Vaccaro, some universities charge additional tuition for taking more than 15 or 18 credits; this way, students who want to take multiple dance classes won’t see a rise in their rates.
PBS allows students to take four classes a week under the Rider cooperative tuition arrangement. Those classes could vary in length of time spent in the studio, from an hour for a Pilates class to two hours or more for a ballet class with pointe. So a student taking four classes could find herself in the studio from four to ten hours weekly. For students who want more classes than their Rider tuition covers, the ballet school offers a generous discount.
“We always want our students to dance more because we know repetition is key,” says Vaccaro. “We encourage them to do as much performance and rehearsal, on top of classes, that they can fit in, so that they’re dancing every day.” It helps that the ballet school’s schedule is far more flexible than the university’s, offering morning, afternoon, and evening classes seven days a week. “A typical university gets locked into a grid,” Vaccaro says, “but at the ballet school there are classes throughout the day and evening.”
It takes about 20 minutes to drive from the Lawrenceville campus to the ballet studio. Most students carpool, or they can take a city bus. Some Rider students might take one or two dance classes a semester, which means they might leave campus two or three times a week. Others can find themselves at PBS each day for a few hours, particularly if they are in the pre-professional ballet track.
Working in tandem
On the administrative side, PBS finds that it takes about a half hour of administrative time per student each semester to manage the accounting and registration. That’s far more than a regular studio registration, according to studio registrar Cynthia Mahoney. Additional complexities occur because Rider doesn’t allow access to its database, which means that students have to register at both the university and the ballet school. Registration for Rider students occurs twice a year as opposed to once a year for regular PBS students.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s certainly worth it,” Mahoney says. “We enjoy interacting with the students and they’re always very happy to be here. It’s neat watching them in class seeing what they do and how they progress.”
Placements each fall and spring semester require a tremendous amount of input from Vaccaro and Robertson, as well as the PBS teachers, all of whom assess the Rider dance students during the first week of university classes to ensure they are in the appropriate level.
Vaccaro, who specializes in modern dance but also teaches jazz, Pilates, history, world dance, and ballet, oversees the PBS faculty in grading the students. She is responsible, in consultation with the ballet school faculty, for ensuring that each Rider student is assessed appropriately. She designed a grading rubric that the 18 to 20 full- and part-time PBS teachers who work with the Rider students use regularly.
Still, as Rider’s program director, Vaccaro observes each dance student a couple of times a semester, supplementing the PBS teachers’ observations and comments. “It was one of the most difficult things for the studio teachers,” Vaccaro says, “because the mind-set for them is not on grading as we do in higher education.”
More pluses for PBS
The biggest benefit the program provides to the studio, according to Robertson, is the addition of serious adult students to the open-enrollment program. Like many studios, attendance at PBS’s adult classes is often erratic; working professionals frequently skip a class or a few weeks due to family or work conflicts. But with the addition of the Rider students to the adult drop-in classes, enrollments have stabilized. Rider students are far less likely to miss classes since their attendance is expected in order to gain college credit. And PBS’s adult students make a greater effort to attend when they observe the dedication of the Rider students.
Robertson says the university students bring another non-monetary benefit: enthusiasm. And that enthusiasm translates into enhanced teaching by the PBS faculty. “The teachers at the ballet school enjoy the Rider students and work well with them,” says the director. “My faculty has really been cooperative in always having open discussions about the students. They talk about the students’ progress continuously. They continuously revamp and codify the syllabus that they use for classes.”
One student’s story
One of Rider’s dance graduates, Jennifer Gladney, grew up in Lawrenceville, studying at PBS and other studios in nearby New York as a youngster. While in high school she was so sure she would dance professionally that she never applied to college. When she didn’t earn a spot after a 15-company audition tour in her senior year, Gladney revised her career plans.
“Of course, that is a bit of a heartbreaker,” she says about not being hired. “My mom said I should go back to school.” After two years at a community college, she transferred to Rider. “I felt I still wanted to dance, and becoming a teacher, for me, was a backup plan.” She received a double degree in elementary education and early childhood education, which included the concentration in dance.
Gladney was of course familiar with PBS and she knew Vaccaro—Dr. Kim, as she and all Rider students call her. “Rider appealed to me because I had studied at the ballet school, I knew all the teachers, and I didn’t want to move away from home because I had done all that traveling to New York when I was younger. My parents spent all that money on my dance training, but spending more for me to live away at college too was not the best thing for me. I lived at home and commuted to Rider.”
Looking back, Gladney says she matured enough from age 17 to 20 or 21 to gain insight into her training. Training as a college student with some of the same teachers she’d had when she was younger, she discovered that she “listened to them more and really took it in. I remember corrections I got when I was 16; I wish I had taken them then the way I’m taking them now. But it takes maturity to realize that.”
After graduating from Rider summa cum laude in 2006, Gladney found a full-time job teaching preschool that allowed her to sub (and then later teach) in the afternoons at PBS. Vaccaro invited her to teach modern dance and to choreograph for the Rider spring dance showcase. And then, once more, Gladney got the itch to perform. This time, at age 28, she auditioned for and was invited to join American Repertory Ballet.
As much as she’ll miss teaching, Gladney says, she “always wanted to do this, and now it really feels like it’s time for me. Some days will be long, but when you love it, it doesn’t matter.” And teaching? She can always fall back on that when her dance career is over. The Rider program worked for her, she said, by providing her with a marketable degree in education while allowing her to maintain her dancing.
Flexibility and a fallback plan
Audrey Yeager, 19, is a Rider sophomore who trained as a youth at New Jersey School of Ballet. “I was looking for a college degree in something other than dance, but I wanted to keep dance in my life.” She hopes to dance professionally on graduating but is a realist: “Dancers get injured all the time, and I wanted something to fall back on.”
So she is majoring in arts management and will pick up a dance major this year. Yeager likes Rider’s program because of its flexibility. She sees fellow university students majoring in education, psychology, and other subjects who continue to dance.
Because of her intensive ballet background, Yeager dances in the professional training program at PBS, but she notes the variety of offerings from tap to flamenco, jazz to hip-hop, as well as performing opportunities on campus at Rider and at PBS.
“The program is able to accommodate people of all different skill levels,” she says, “without affecting other dance majors. I can take a higher level in ballet, while someone who’s discovering dance for the first time can take Ballet 101.” The program is open enough that students can chart their own path in consultation with Vaccaro. “There really is something for everyone here,” Yeager says.
Why a partnership?
For studios interested in investigating a similar program, Robertson suggests thinking through the advantages and challenges carefully. “I would never advise anyone to do this solely as an income stream,” she says. The difference the Rider tuition adds is minimal when the additional work on grading and administering the program is accounted for. “The point of doing this is to help a college in your area offer a full dance program. This helps their students dance without it being an extra expense,” she says.
While it may not be incentive enough for some busy or cash-strapped studios, Robertson noted that PBS does it because it “builds a synergy in the community, allowing young people to continue dancing and allowing a small college or university to become involved in a field they may have hesitated to offer otherwise because they didn’t have the capital to build a studio or the endowment to take on additional faculty.”
It’s good for the field as a whole, too, Robertson adds, because most of the Rider students double major and will ultimately work in non-dance-related professions. But that doesn’t mean they won’t contribute to the dance ecology in the future, perhaps by subscribing to performance series, continuing to study as adults, enrolling children in dance lessons, or becoming a supporter or board member of a dance school or company.
“I see a lot of Rider students graduate with double majors in dance and elementary education, which is really smart to me,” Robertson says. “They’ll be teaching our next generation in elementary schools. The more they know about dance, the better.
“If done correctly,” she continues, “it can bring additional income to a studio. But it also brings a fair amount of expense. You have to think it all through.”
Participants in Dancing With Class, a program for schoolchildren in grades 4 to 6 in the Chicago area, will show off their smooth and saucy ballroom moves during a Dance Off competition. The event is scheduled for December 9 at 6:00 p.m. at the Sidney R. Yates Gallery, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington Street, Chicago, Illinois. Admission is free.
Dancing With Class uses dance as a medium to build teamwork and communication skills, as well as personal character and self-esteem. The Dance Off features several rounds of competition in merengue, swing, fox trot, tango, and salsa, with a Gold Level Overall Champion selected. Participants are from Bateman Elementary, McDade Classical, Passages Charter School, Poe Classical, Ruiz Elementary, Waters Elementary, and Whistler Elementary.
The program is presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs in conjunction with May I Have This Dance, Inc., Chicago’s leading provider of in-school and after-school dance programs. For more information, visit www.chicagoculturalcenter.org or www.mayihavethisdance.com.
The 92nd Street Y, in collaboration with the Dance Film Association, will present Richard Move in Dance on Camera on December 19 from 2:45 to 5:00 p.m.
The program will examine how a filmmaker’s intention can guide everything from lighting to choreography. Leading the discussion will be Move, Martha Graham-impersonator extraordinaire, who has danced with and choreographed for Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rasta Thomas, Debbie Harry, Shirley Bassey, and the Martha Graham Dance Company. He has also made several films: Bardo, winner of a 2009 Dance On Camera Festival Jury Prize nomination; Bloodwork—The Ana Mendieta Story, which won a National Board of Review award; and Ghostlight, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
The 92nd Street Y is located at 1395 Lexington Avenue, New York City. Visit www.92Y.org or call 212.415.5500 for more information.
George Washington University’s Department of Theatre and Dance (TRDA) will offer a new master’s of fine arts degree for mid-career dancers, performers, choreographers, and other dance professionals beginning the summer of 2011.
The program will promote exploration and integration of the latest developments in the dance field while developing professional relationships with the larger international dance community.
“As dancers and choreographers, we have limited time to build a career. Receiving more education should not slow the process, it should enhance it,” says Dana Tai Soon Burgess, chair of GW’s theatre and dance department. Burgess also is the choreographer and director of DTSB & Co., a Washington, DC, Asian American dance company. “Dance is a fundamental form of communication which bridges cultural differences, and we look to this new program as a way to enhance global dialogue between artists.”
The program is designed for highly skilled, practicing professionals with extensive dance experience and will incorporate individualized distance and on-site learning. The 18-month program will include an initial eight-week residency at GW, two semesters of supervised distance learning for artists working full-time domestically or internationally, and completion of a performance portfolio submitted electronically. Each student will work one-on-one with a GW TRDA faculty member to develop the portfolio.
Additionally, students will have the opportunity to work with specialists in the areas of dance curating, management, and advocacy from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Geographic Society, and the National Endowment.
For additional information, visit www.theatredance.gwu.edu.
Edmund Henkel’s “Movement Talks: Dance as a Catalyst for Change,” a program of ongoing discussions, will present its first discussion on November 9 at 8 p.m. at the Secaucus, New Jersey, Public Library, 1379 Paterson Plank Road.
“Escape Velocity/The Dancing Earth,” the first program, is a discussion about dance and the environment featuring choreographers Christopher Caines, Hilary Easton, and Jill Sigman, and moderated by Edmund Henkel. To register, call 212.864.7827. For more details, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOMINATED BY: Meghan Seaman, studio owner, instructor, and Seaman’s sister: “Joel is a wonderful role model for our young male dancers. He is personable, friendly, high-energy (especially important for those 4- and 5-year-olds’ classes), and always comes to class excited to teach something new. As a student in the early childhood education program at Ryerson University in Toronto, he did research in incorporating dance into the general school curriculum and created a video to help instructors teach elements of mathematics and physics through dance, which was shown to educational experts and members of the Toronto District School Board. He hopes to continue developing dance curriculum for the school system and to start a dance program for children with special needs.”
YEARS TEACHING: Five years.
GENRES TAUGHT: Jazz, ballet, tap, hip-hop, creative movement, contemporary, and modern dance.
WHY HE CHOSE TEACHING AS A CAREER: Teaching dance combines my two passions—dance and education. Dance allows me to create a positive learning environment to foster the love of dance, and I can use the same teaching strategies in classrooms and in dance settings.
GREATEST INSPIRATION: My sister Meghan. As a studio owner, she has created an atmosphere where students thrive, build self-esteem, and enjoy themselves. She treats her faculty, students, and families with respect, and that makes all the difference.
TEACHING PHILOSOPHY: All students learn in their own way. Working with students with special needs has helped me form this philosophy. Much of dance is about having students move in specific ways, but teachers need to remember that some children have different paths to an end goal. Teachers need to structure lessons in a way that appeals to students who learn visually, aurally, and kinesthetically. Differences should be celebrated and valued in class settings. This leads to higher encouragement levels and allows students to learn from one another and find success on their own terms.
WHAT MAKES HIM A GOOD TEACHER: I like to infuse my classes with humor and enthusiasm. The moment dance class stops being fun is the moment I believe I have failed as a teacher. Also, I approach dance teaching with the goal of building students’ self-esteem—to make them feel safe being themselves, regardless of body size, ability, or flexibility. Many dance teachers strive for perfection, forgetting that these are children.
FONDEST TEACHING MOMENT: My boys’ class is filled with students who have never danced and were hesitant to start. Through our first months together, my boys grew by leaps and bounds and could not wait to get onstage and show off how hard they had worked. My boys rocked it at the holiday performance and were the hit of the show. They looked like they were having the time of their lives.
BEST PIECE OF ADVICE FOR STUDENTS AND/OR TEACHERS: I am a firm believer in lifelong learning. Educators need to continue to educate themselves in order to best teach others. Genres and styles are always changing, as well as teaching strategies. I encourage dance teachers to learn about childhood development theories, be they physical, emotional, or cognitive development.
WHAT HE WOULD DO IF HE WEREN’T A DANCER: Whether in a dance studio or a school setting, I can’t imagine myself doing anything other than teaching! Maybe I would be a children’s author—writing books about dance, of course.
MORE THOUGHTS ON DANCE AND TEACHING: Dance and education go hand in hand. Dance should be in every school across the nation; it is a great educational tool to promote creativity, problem solving, emotional intelligence, and physical health.
DO YOU KNOW A DANCE TEACHER WHO DESERVES TO BE IN THE SPOTLIGHT? Email your nominations to Arisa@rheegold.com or mail them to Arisa White, Dance Studio Life, 10 South Washington St., Norton, MA 02766. Please include why you think this teacher should be featured, along with his or her contact information.
Tickets go on sale July 19 for the annual “Director’s Choice” program at Pacific Northwest Ballet, highlighting the addition of new works to the Seattle-based company’s repertory and the work of noted choreographers.
This year’s program will run from September 24 to October 3 and will include the PNB premieres of Jiri Kylian’s Six Dances and Jerome Robbins’ Glass Pieces, as well as Nacho Duato’s Jardí Tancat and a reprise of last season’s premiere, Kylian’s Petite Mort.
Tickets start at $27. To buy them, call 206.441.2424 or visit www.pnb.org.
Kinderdance will hold its 30th annual Continuing Education Conference from July 8 to 10 at the Oceanfront Hilton Hotel in Melbourne, Florida, where franchisees from around the United States and the world will learn new teaching concepts developed by Kinderdance during the past year.
Kinderdance, established in 1979, is a nationally recognized dance, gymnastics, and fitness program for 2- to 12-year-olds. Its 125 franchisees teach more than 12,000 children weekly at more than 800 locations in 35 states and 6 countries.
Classes are held in child care centers, recreation centers, hospitals, military bases, bowling alleys, and many other locations, with an emphasis on building self-confidence and self-esteem in children by teaching them to share, lead, interact, and respond to others’ needs as well as their own.
To learn more, contact Richard Maltese at 800.554.2334 or visit www.kinderdance.com.
The Washington Ballet will launch a trainee program this fall that’s aimed at providing full-time training and performance experiences to classically trained ballet students ages 17 and older who aspire to professional careers.
Carlos Valcarcel, a choreographer and longtime faculty member of the Washington School of Ballet, has been named ballet master of the program. Valcarcel will manage the program’s day-to-day operations, expand and contribute to the repertoire, and stage and coach works from the classical repertoire as well as new works.
The one- or two-year program will run from September through May. Trainees will maintain a vigorous performance schedule, dancing alongside professional company members, and will be considered for positions with The Washington Ballet’s Studio Company and its professional company.
Dancers interested in auditioning for the program should send a DVD of barre work, center work, pointe work for women, men’s work for men, and a classical variation along with a curriculum vitae and a $25 audition fee to: Trainee Program, The Washington Ballet, 3515 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20016.
To learn more, contact the school’s manager, Donna Glover, at Dglover@WashingtonBallet.org or 202.362.3606, extension 149.
Oregon Ballet Theatre gives art students a new way of looking at the body—and an appreciation for ballet
By Heather Wisner
It is bitterly cold outside Portland’s Keller Auditorium, and not much warmer inside, one Wednesday morning in December as Oregon Ballet Theatre’s dancers file onstage for company class. Everyone is bundled up in hoodies and track pants; Raychel Weiner even wears bright blue gloves as she grips the barre and begins warming up. Out in the audience, art students from St. Mary’s Academy begin warming up as well, rubbing their hands together and blowing on them, breaking out oil pastels and colored pencils, arranging sketch paper, and adjusting tripods and light readings on digital cameras.
The students have come for OBT’s Photo/Art Encounter, a quarterly program that brings art students and dancers together. OBT initiated the program in 1994; every year since then, groups of high school and college students have snapped shots and created sketches of the dancers at work. Each June, the company displays the work in the Keller’s lobby during the last program of the season.
Before this session begins, Emily Russell, OBT’s executive board and community projects manager, explains the ground rules: no food or drink in the auditorium, and excess baggage (backpacks, coats, etc.) should be left in the lobby to increase overall mobility. Students may stand to the sides of the stage to work, or near the edge of the orchestra pit, but they cannot touch the stage. Above all, they’re not allowed to use flash photography, which can distract the dancers as they move. Russell also encourages the photographers to save some film for the showier steps that will come at the end of class.
As OBT school director Damara Bennett demonstrates combinations, movement and concentration heighten on both sides of the stage; students jockey for better sightlines as the dancers begin crossing the floor. The rehearsal pianist plunks away as pencils scratch against paper and shutters whir and beep.
Once the hour-and-a-half class ends, everyone returns to business as usual. The students head back to school to start working on their pieces and the dancers begin a Nutcracker tech rehearsal. But in that brief time, the students have sharpened their abilities to capture bodies in motion, while the company has gained community exposure. The program was designed to be mutually beneficial, and participants say it is. In fact, it could serve as a model for other studios elsewhere.
Kasandra Gruener, OBT’s director of education and outreach, says the program was developed by outreach colleague Sandra Baldwin. “She had this idea that it would be really great for artists, because they would be interested in the arts, so they just started it up,” Gruener says. There have been adjustments over time: dancers used to model for students at the schools until OBT scheduling demands and school budget cuts made that impractical. Since the program has been at the Keller, as many as 60 students at a time have participated, although funding became an issue again recently as cash-strapped local schools trimmed field trips from their budgets, leaving no takers for the October session. And students used to do their work onstage until safety concerns dictated that they remain in the audience.
Overall, however, Gruener says the program has been a relatively easy and cost-effective way to promote the company. “It’s not very expensive—it’s just a matter of spending some time to figure out who in our community we should reach out to, who are the department heads, and then contacting them,” she says.
Over the years, OBT has sent flyers, brochures, or postcards to the schools, although, Gruener cautions, not-for-profits “have to go through certain hoops to send things to schools. In some communities, you can contact the superintendent about sending information to schools. And if you can have personal conversations with art teachers, the word gets out. You have to find out the appropriate way to tell schools that you have a program that benefits them.”
OBT also directs potential participants to its website, which lists the program as an ongoing event. The company doesn’t limit itself to young artists, either—adult art students from continuing education classes are also welcome, as are professionals, although the encounter is meant to be an academic exercise. Participants are admitted at the stage door, so the company doesn’t need to hire people to work the front of the house. And a staffer is always present to explain the rules, facilitate the process, and collect $2 from each participant.
Art students jockey for better sightlines as the dancers begin crossing the floor. The rehearsal pianist plunks away as pencils scratch against paper and shutters whir and beep.
Beyond the nominal fee, the event helps the company attract the attention of potential dance students and dancegoers. “It helps people understand dance—it’s another way to do that,” Gruener says. “Also, people who are in our donor base appreciate that we are encouraging young people’s involvement in art. As education struggles to keep the arts in front of kids’ faces, this is one way to keep young individuals interested in dance, in ballet.”
The arts intersect
“I like ballet myself, and have season tickets,” says Kathy Mitchell, the art teacher at all-girls St. Mary’s who has been bringing her drawing and photography students to the encounter for the last five years, ever since she heard about it from colleagues. “The fact that we’re located downtown makes that a really doable thing. We can walk there.”
Mitchell believes that trying to capture athletic bodies at work is a good exercise for her students, and says the gradually accelerating pace of the class helps them learn to anticipate movement. “The challenge is to try to capture something that’s going by so fast,” she says. “With photography, you have to keep shooting to see what you can get. Then there’s the challenge of proportions and making them convincing. They have the option of abstracting and how much to go in that direction. Some students have really made it very abstract.
“To me, it’s a wonderful challenge to young artists to see what they’ll do with that and what medium they’ll choose to do it in,” she continues. “I feel like there’s a more lively, invested energy in the drawings because they’re trying to capture that fleeting moment. The more they are excited by the dancers, the subject they’re working with, the more invested they are in making it a good drawing or photo.”
After the December session, participating students admitted to struggling with dim lighting and fast motion but seemed philosophical about the learning curve they faced. Emily Cronin, who arrived armed with Sharpie, colored pastel, and graphite pencil, felt there wasn’t enough paper or time to capture everything she liked. “It was hard to focus on just one pose for more than a few seconds,” she says. “I will probably do my final piece in pastel or acrylic paint—something loose and easy to make big lines with.”
Classmate Sophie Serber said her biggest challenge was to capture whole poses accurately in a short time. She wound up working with segments of movement to capture the feeling of the movement as a whole.
Each artist trained her eyes on different aspects of the process. Fiona Baker, already a veteran of one OBT encounter, looked less for movement than for dancers’ interactions with one another this time around while she was shooting with a digital camera. “Two years ago when I attended the encounter, I managed to get some great shots of them casually talking [while they were] stretching,” she says. “I found these shots to be more striking than poses. I also tried to find the moments where their faces expressed how much love they have for dance. I am a dancer as well and I wanted to capture their movements of joy.”
The encounter has been educational on the other side of the stage: OBT soloist Candace Bouchard says the process tends to change the way dancers approach class. “You suddenly have an audience; it makes you more aware of positions, how your feet look,” she says. “I have seen some of the photos they’ve taken, and sometimes they come back with something really incredible and sometimes they come back with something you didn’t want to see. For me, I have seen that my shoulders were up. It’s a kind of a dance critique because you see yourself candidly.”
Still, she says, she likes seeing what students, especially first-time dancegoers, produce. “They love to take pictures of us turning, with a slow exposure, so it’s blurry, which a dance photographer wouldn’t do,” she says. “But it’s pretty cool. And they like to take pictures of us putting on our pointe shoes. All of these photos wind up being strangely personal in a way.”
The final product
Once the encounter is over, Mitchell’s students have a week or two to complete their work, depending on what level they’re at. Then she and the students make decisions about matting and how best to present the work.
“Anyone who has participated is invited to submit one or several of their works, already matted, to exhibit in the show we have during the June [performances],” Gruener says. All participating artists are asked to fill out information cards that list their names, school affiliations, and other pertinent details. The show is not juried; according to Gruener, “If we have a lot of work we may have to cut back, but I always hang at least one piece from everyone who participated. It’s a light process—it’s fun. It’s to look at the wonderful art these young people have created being inspired by our company.”
Mitchell’s drawing students have to make a piece from the event, although they don’t have to enter it. But, the teacher adds, the event has a reputation as “a cool thing to do. You get to get out of school and go watch the dancers, so they always look forward to that part of it.”
Sketches and photos are hung from ballet barres in the Keller; some years have seen as many as 200 pieces hanging at a time. (Gruener says she tries to alternate high school and college works with the display.) All the participants get two tickets to come to the show.
Mitchell has found that that kind of exposure makes her students work just a little bit harder. “They have a lot more motivation to do their best work,” she says. “I try to use that peer pressure, or maybe it’s peer support, as often as I can as an art teacher. It’s a wonderful venue for students to have their work be seen. It’s not just like making work in the classroom that no one will see. It’s a more professional venue. Their parents are very excited to have their daughters’ work out there—they can bring family to see it.”
Students can also sell their work if they like. At OBT’s information table in the lobby, would-be buyers can fill out request forms indicating their interest. OBT asks students and schools for the rights to reprint work for its publications, but the company turns over the request forms to the schools, and proceeds from any sale directly benefit the young artists, along with boosting their portfolios. The company has not yet exhibited the work through Portland’s First Thursday art walk, but Gruener says that could be another option to raise awareness.
Either way, OBT also gets a boost in the end. “I’ve heard young people say, ‘I took dance when I was young. I wish I hadn’t stopped, I should take it again,’ ” Gruener says. “They see the high skill level of our company and get inspired to dance again. And people who haven’t taken dance, especially the guys, are kind of taken aback at the level of athleticism, because they had no exposure to dance. It shifts their thinking, although I have no statistical measure of how much.”
The event also opens people’s eyes to a new art form, she says. “They could become wonderful audiences or artists themselves. All of them are inoculated with dance, so that’s cool.” Gruener wasn’t aware of any other companies with a similar program; at a Dance USA event held in Portland a few years earlier, she described it to colleagues; they seemed surprised and interested, she says.
To the companies and studios that are considering implementing a similar program, Gruener has just one small piece of advice. “The key is, don’t think of it as a money-making opportunity, because it’s really not,” she says with a laugh. “Think of it as a goodwill gesture to the community, and the rest will follow.”
The BalletRox dance program will hold its annual SpringRox gala May 2 at the Tony Williams Dance Center in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.
Attendees will be able to mingle with the troupe’s members—and with its founder, Tony Williams—while enjoying complimentary wines, cocktails, and hors d’oeuvres.
BalletRox, which focuses on at-risk, urban youngsters, offers scholarships to underserved children and gives all its students a solid foundation in ballet. Its mission, as explained on its website, is to use the power of dance to break down racial barriers. All proceeds from the gala will go to the BalletRox scholarship program.
Tickets are $100 and $250, with sponsorship levels of $500, $1,000, and $5,000. To buy tickets, visit www.balletrox.org/donate.html or mail a check (payable to BalletRox) to 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130. Please include the names of your party. For more information, call 617.460.4417 or email email@example.com.
Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington, is including adult programs for the first time in its menu of summer offerings. The college’s Kerry Hill campus on Capitol Hill will offer classes from July 6 to August 27 in ballet, pointe, modern, choreography, Pilates, ballet vocabulary, musical theater, and jazz. For details, visit Cornish.edu/summer. For summer registration, call 206.726.5069.
By Nancy Wozny
For a small group of students—43 this year—at Indiana University, “Ballet,” is the answer to the familiar question, “What’s your major?” With less than a handful of programs in the United States offering a ballet major, college is hardly a typical track for ballet dancers, who most often join companies during their late teen years. The straight-to-a-company approach, however, is not a fit for every dancer; college may be the perfect path for the academically minded and gifted dancer.
Ballet is the sole focus at Indiana University’s dance program, which is part of the prestigious Jacobs School of Music. Instigated by the opera department as a way to bring dance into the music department, the program was originally directed by Marina Svetlova of the Original Ballet Russe some 40 years ago. The idea is to train students to the highest professional standards and prepare them for jobs in ballet companies.
“Ballet is such a specific and demanding art form,” says Michael Vernon, chair of the Department of Ballet. “On occasion we have other styles and techniques taught by guest artists, but they’re not regular offerings. As dancers reach a certain age certainly we hone our technique, but we also need to develop our artistry. It’s not just the steps, but the way the choreography is taught.”
Vernon, now in his third year, came to IU from Eglevsky Ballet, where he served as ballet master and resident choreographer. He was attracted to the program’s structure, put in place by the previous chair, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux. “It’s really run like a ballet company, and I have a role equivalent to the artistic director,” says Vernon. “Just like in a company, there’s a hierarchy. The upperclassmen are more likely to receive larger roles. We like to give them the first try at principal roles because they are about to leave us. Of course, there’s always an exception when we get an amazing freshman.”
Ballet majors spend six hours in dance classes and rehearsals each day. Mornings are for technique class, followed by pointe, men’s class, pas de deux, and variations, plus occasional or elective classes in choreography, jazz, or modern dance, while afternoons are reserved for rehearsals for upcoming performances.
In addition to their dance studies, the students at IU carry a full academic load. Non-dance classes are squeezed in before 11:30 morning class and after rehearsals are finished in the late afternoon. Not remotely a schedule for the casual student, it tends to attract individuals who are equally serious about dance as they are about their academic courses. Students who choose to double major “are a committed bunch,” says Vernon.
In addition to the usual core classes, ballet majors are required to study an instrument for two years. Most choose piano. “It’s fabulous for their musicality,” reports Vernon. With five orchestras, several chamber groups, and many vocal ensembles, dancing to live music is a regular occurrence for ballet students. “As IU is one of the top music schools in the country, students leave having danced to top musicians in their field. It’s so valuable for them, and increasingly rare in the dance world,” Vernon says. “We are lucky to have such resources at our fingertips. We spoil them in a way, because they might rarely experience such ideal conditions.”
Vernon, a choreographer in his own right, is also known for bringing in top guest artists, including principal dancers from major ballet companies, such as Damian Woetzel (who recently retired from New York City Ballet) and José Manuel Carreño and Julie Kent (both of American Ballet Theatre). Each year, dancers have the opportunity to learn George Balanchine’s works from members of the Balanchine Trust. Vernon has carried on the Balanchine tradition put in place by Bonnefoux and former NYCB principal dancer Violette Verdy, who is on faculty. “Balanchine was not only a great choreographer but a great teacher,” Vernon says. “His steps are a great learning tool. And then there’s his musicality, which is so important.”
For faculty member Guoping Wang, the concentration on Balanchine is an important element of the program, along with the impressive roster of guest artists. “Most of our students develop a passion for Balanchine,” says Wang. “Each year, IU Ballet Theater has three major performances; works from Balanchine are often a key component. These are extraordinary opportunities for young dancers.”
Performance experience ranks as a high priority for Vernon. “We want our graduates to finish with a good deal of stage experience,” he says. “At least half of the course is performance based. Dancers improve through technique class and also by learning ballets that will help them develop—the only kind of ballets I tend to choose for the department. So by the time they join a company they have a confidence and a way of presenting themselves that only comes with experience.”
Vernon scheduled a jam-packed fall for his students, and his deep connections in the ballet world make for a stellar list of visiting artists. Sandra Jennings, a former soloist with NYCB, set Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments. Daniel Ulbricht, a principal at NYCB, danced a solo choreographed by Vernon as part of a new ballet, Endless Night. “It’s really important for the dancers to be exposed to that caliber of artist,” says Vernon. “And Danny is very open and chatty with them.” And Stacey Caddell, a former NYCB soloist, staged Twyla Tharp’s poignant Sweet Fields. “This is the first time this ballet will be danced to live accompaniment,” said Vernon last fall.
Connecting to the Bloomington community remains high on the mission for Jacobs School of Music. The ballet program does just that through its annual Nutcracker, which serves as the city’s holiday extravaganza. Vernon has choreographed a traditional production; since The Nutcracker is a staple of most dance companies, it makes perfect sense to get a head start on learning it while in college.
Bloomington residents, along with the IU community, enjoy other student performances as well. “The university is a very inclusive environment,” says Vernon. Next spring Matthew Neenan, artistic director of BalletX and choreographer in residence at Pennsylvania Ballet, will set a new ballet on the IU students. And for assistance in getting Swan Lake in tip-top form, Vernon looks to world-famous former ballerina Cynthia Gregory. Everyone dances in the full-length production, including local children who are enrolled in the department’s Pre-College Program, which offers classical ballet training to the non-academic community.
To tackle more contemporary work, Vernon started a new series, “On the Edge,” which will premiere in January 2009; performances will take place in a small theater in downtown Bloomington. “The series showcases younger and up-and-coming choreographers, some right from the program,” explains Vernon. “It’s very important [for the students] to be familiar with edgy work.” Graduates must have completed two pieces of choreography as well, an experience that Vernon considers an added plus for any dancer.
The ballet program’s facilities include three studios nestled at the back of the Musical Arts Center, an impressive, fully equipped theater. The stage is about the same size as that of the New York State Opera House, and the theater is run like an opera house, with full-scale productions and crews and its own costume and scenery shops.
Students dance in several operas that are part of the Jacobs School of Music season each year. “I rekindled dancing in operas after I got here; it was so important to my own development,” says Vernon, who taught ballet for the Metropolitan Opera Ballet company. “It was something that had been going on a while back, but I rebuilt the bridge with the opera program and it provides wonderful experience for the dancers.” This season the ballet majors will enliven performances of The Merry Wives of Windsor by Otto Nicolai, Cendrillon by Jules Massenet, and The Most Happy Fella by Frank Loesser.
Applying to IU is a two-step process. Prospective students apply to the university and to Jacobs School of Music, then must audition. (Auditions are held six times a year to coincide with major ballet performances.) The program attracts a wide variety of students, from those who want to dance and go to college to those who have already danced in professional companies and want to continue their training while going to school. Sometimes parents play a role in a student’s choice to pursue a college degree, while others are not ready for a ballet company at age 18 and need some seasoning; college is a good place to do just that. “Some are really good dancers and very academically minded. Perhaps they realize that without a good education their career is going to be limited,” says Vernon. “Others are just a bit undecided, like normal teens.”
Pennsylvania Ballet dancer Lauren Fadeley, 23, was one of those on-the-fence dancers who needed time and a place to figure out her next move (see “Voices of Experience,” DSL, August 2008). After a year as an apprentice and another in the corps of NYCB, Fadeley found herself burned out and injured. “I was unsure of what I wanted to do, so the IU program seemed like a wise move,” says Fadeley, who considered a career in physical therapy. “It was the perfect place for me. I loved being in a real college environment. In my junior year I fell back in love with dance and decided to go for a career again.”
For Grace Reeves, 19 and a sophomore, the choice was simple. “I am very serious about ballet, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready for a company and didn’t want to miss out on the college experience. Doing both made sense,” she says. “I couldn’t pass up great training with a company-like environment while being in the center of academia at the same time. It’s a dream come true.” Reeves appreciates dancing great ballets in a beautiful theater with an excellent student orchestra.
With a roster of terrific teachers and guest artists, a prestigious music school, the chance to hang out with arts-minded students, and exposure to Balanchine’s ballets and other masterworks, IU proved the right environment for Reeves. “I love having something else to concentrate on. I needed to challenge myself in other ways besides dance,” says Reeves, who enjoys history and philosophy classes. “As for piano lessons, they are really hard.” She’s banking on the fact that artistic directors will appreciate her artistic maturity and not think her too old. “I do feel like I won’t get burned out as quickly as some, possibly, because I will enter the field when the time is right and have the confidence of a college degree.”
As dancers approach their senior year, Vernon keeps an eye on their career trajectory and helps them find a good company match. In the past two years, since Vernon’s arrival, graduates have been hired by Pennsylvania, Sarasota, Tulsa, Louisville, and Nashville Ballets; the school’s website lists dozens of other companies where former students now dance. Most students do want to dance professionally, says the department head. “We have regular reviews where I make sure all is on track. I have an open-door policy; dancers can come in and talk anytime.” Career planning is built into the program. Exams are held in front of a jury just like at Paris Opera Ballet.
Vernon concedes that many dancers still choose a more direct path into a company. Since a life in ballet can be short and uncertain, obtaining a college degree is one path, aimed at a certain kind of dancer. Like any other ballet climate, it’s not a perfect life—dancers still get injured and miss out on roles they hoped for. Vernon says, “Just like in a real company, there are the same heartbreaks and triumphs.”
Why you need a syllabus and how to make one
By Jeanne Fornarola
Colleges across the country have distributed course syllabuses to their students at the beginning of each semester probably since Harvard opened its doors in 1636. A syllabus, whether on paper or online, serves as a road map for students, a blueprint for faculty members, and a guide for individual teachers to achieve the common goal of understanding and learning.
With the aid of a course syllabus, students will clearly understand the goals, expectations of the teacher, and most important, how both parties will achieve the desired outcome. A syllabus enables all members of the faculty team to understand the curriculum design of each class and define what needs to be taught at each level of learning in order to maintain a cohesive program. Finally, as a guide for the individual teacher, it serves several functions: It promotes pre-planning and the identification of benchmarks in a logical order that produce results.
Though commonplace in colleges and universities, a syllabus is used less frequently in the private dance studio setting. But an argument can be made that the reasons for using one are equally valid in a community school as on a college campus. Here’s why.
By definition a syllabus is simply an outline of a course of study. That means that the distribution of a course outline can establish the first connecting point between parents and the dance classroom. In addition, it provides another learning tool for older students. Just as a newsletter communicates important times, dates, and studio information, a syllabus can inform students and parents of your goals, expectations, and procedures inside the dance studio.
By defining a few key words of “syllabus jargon,” we can begin to develop a suitable document for use in the dance studio.
Learning outcomes or achievement targets describe what you want the students to be able to know and do after the instruction that they couldn’t do before. Learning outcomes define content, procedure, and evaluation. They target exactly what is to be accomplished. They are the broadest goals.
Objectives are smaller in scale and focus on a particular skill. There might be more than one objective, but all of them must relate to the learning outcomes, which are the long-term goals. These objectives help guide the development of the content materials and the teaching methods used. You can use objectives to make sure you reach your goals and insure that students understand what is expected of them in the studio classroom.
Assessment is the process of documenting progress, knowledge, and skills, often in measurable terms. In designing methods of assessment the teacher should keep in mind the desired learning outcomes of the individual and the student group.
Course information can include the days and times of classes and any specific directions such as sign-in or warm-up information. It should include any specific procedures that the students should be aware of.
The course description summarizes the content that will be taught at this level.
Instructor information gives details on how to get in touch with you. This can include instructions to call the studio and leave a message, how to contact you via email, or your available office times.
Requirements may include attendance policies and should be in conjunction with studio policy. Your dress code should be included, listing any specific requirements such as the types of tap or pointe shoes you want students at various levels to wear, as well as guidelines for which dancewear, jewelry, and hairstyles the studio permits.
The course calendar outlines the planned content. If you are ambitious, you can outline the general course flow week by week, including pertinent information such as music used or class time focus, to prepare both students and parents for a successful learning experience in your class.
The following is a sample studio syllabus for an intermediate ballet class.
Course title: Intermediate Ballet
Course description: A continuation of ballet technique and theory as taught in the Vaganova system. Class time focus is on the barre and center floor.
Instructor: Jeanne Fornarola
Day: M/W: 6–7:30 p.m.
Through the course of the year, students will gain knowledge in ballet technique as performed at the intermediate student level. Students should be able to correctly execute exercises at the barre and center floor and be able to know and perform the eight body positions as taught in the Vaganova system of ballet. Additional class time emphasis will promote an awareness of ballet history, musicality, and artistry.
Class time emphasis will focus on the concepts of adagio and petit allegro. In adagio the concepts of line, core strength, and port de bras will be addressed in each class. Petit allegro will introduce beats focusing on height, stretched feet in the air, and articulate footwork.
A ballet dance will be choreographed utilizing all of the concepts identified above. This dance will be performed in the annual spring recital. Preparation and choreography will begin after the winter break.
Attendance policy: Students are expected to attend all classes. In the event that you are unable to attend a class, please call the studio office. The dress code for Intermediate Ballet for girls is pink tights, a black leotard, pink ballet slippers, and hair worn securely away from the face in a bun. Demi skirts may be worn. Boys must wear black tights, a white T-shirt, black ballet shoes, and a dance belt.
A written evaluation of student progress will be distributed in December.
Parents may view class during observation week [give dates].
The final performance will assess the progress of both the class and the individual.
September–December 2008 (subject to change at the discretion of the instructor)
|9/7, 9||Review course syllabus; discuss goals for the year. Introduction of gentle stretching, barre and center exercise to ease the class back into technique.||Stretch gently at home.|
|9/14, 16||Full barre: focus on fondu and développé. Introduce Pilates hundreds after barre to build core strength. Center adagio includes développé and fondu.||Practice doing Pilates hundreds each day.|
|9/21, 23||Full barre: focus on changement & royale facing the barre. Continue hundreds after the barre in each class. Center: introduce the 8 body positions with tendu; use changement and royale in petit allegro.||Go over body positions.Written quiz: 10/5Practical test: 10/7|
|9/28, 30||Full barre. Introduce entrechat quatre facing the barre. Center: go over spelling of body positions on dry-erase board; drill body positions; use entrechat quatre in petit allegro. Handout on Vaganova.||Read handout on Vaganova.Practice spelling body positions.Practice beating thighs in entrechat quatre.|
|10/5, 7||Written quiz on Mon.Practical on Wed.Shorter barre and center.||Stretch!|
|10/12, 14||Full barre: focus on line; work on penché. Center: incorporate body positions into adagio, include penché. Practice for lecture-demonstration/parents week.||Practice saying and demonstrating your part for Parents Week.Remind your parents about Parents Week.|
|10/19, 21||Parents WeekLecture-demonstration with full barre and center. Each student will introduce an exercise and explain its purpose.||Discuss the class with those who came to see you. What improvements did they notice?|
|10/28, 30||Focus: “scary” Halloween music for class. Discussion about composers (Bach, Brahms, and Mozart to start). Center: let students improvise and choreograph to Carmina Burana. Use pairs or trios if that suits the class. Present on Wed. after the barre.Recommended music:Bach: Toccata and Fugue in D minor Grieg: In the Hall of the Mountain King Brahms: Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 25Bartok: Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta (movement 3, adagio)Mozart: Requiem, “Dies Irae”Orff: Carmina Burana, “O Fortuna”
Ives: Robert Browning overture
Brahms: Hungarian Dance No. 5 in G minor
Webern: Variations Op. 27, “Ruhig fliessend”
Mussorgsky: A Night on Bald Mountain
|Work on your improvised dance so that you don’t forget it for Wed.|
|11/2, 4||Introduction of the arabesque positions.Full barre: combine royale, entrechat quatre, and changement facing the barre. Center: allegro includes barre work. Drill arabesque positions.||Read and study handout on arabesque positions.Practice arabesque positions.|
|11/9, 11||Full barre: introduction of assemblé battu. Center: arabesque practical in groups facing away from the mirror.||Practice the arabesque positions for practical exam.Practice assemblé battu.|
|11/16, 18||Full barre and center: review all material as incorporated into barre and center combinations. Glissade assemblé battu down the room. Wed.: practical exam in groups facing away from the mirror.||Stretch.|
|11/23 off for Thanks-giving on 11/25||Dance Dice! (www.dancedice.com/index.html)Roll the dice (each die has a ballet term), then put them together in the order they fall and see what happens!Discuss: Chance Dance and Merce Cunningham.||Happy Thanksgiving!|
|11/30, 12/3||Full barre: introduce entrechat trois facing the barre. Center: adagio—focus on port de bras; allegro—combining beats.Begin to learn Sugar Plum variation. Discuss the history of The Nutcracker.||Find the story of The Nutcracker online or in a book. Read it and try to remember details.|
|12/7, 9||Short barre using holiday music , e.g., Christmas Music for Ballet Class (Vol. 2) by Lynn Stanford.Center: “add on the story.” Instructor starts the story of The Nutcracker and each subsequent student adds the next part. (Did they read?)Watch selected variations, including Sugar Plum.Work on Sugar Plum variation.Wed. full barre; perform variation in the center. Parents invited to the end of class.||Listen to the entire score of The Nutcracker. Note your favorite musical moments.|
|12/21||Stretch class. Teach various stretch exercises that students can do over winter break to stay in shape. Work in partners; explain uses of various muscles and why certain exercises are important and helpful.Use relaxing holiday music.||Go to a production of The Nutcracker if possible. Or rent the video and watch the story come to life.Keep stretching! Happy holidays!|
A note about quizzes and practical exams: Formal grading for the written quiz is not necessary. Corrections and words of encouragement work better in this situation. Re-test the students later.
For the practical, allow the students to perform in groups of three facing away from the mirror. There is safety in numbers! Written comments are always helpful.
At AileyCamp, dance is a means to a greater goal
By Cheryl Ossola
As the house lights dim at Zellerbach Hall, on the University of California’s Berkeley campus, two nervous girls stand in a spotlight reciting poems they have written during the six weeks of AileyCamp. Then the curtain rises on a program of dance and spoken word that is endearing and invigorating in its earnestness. The energy-filled performance may lack polish and brilliant technique, but that’s just as it should be. At AileyCamp, dance is a tool that’s used to achieve a much bigger mission.
AileyCampers learn a lot about dance, but they also learn about life, and people, and how to function in society. The single biggest lesson these young people walk away with is not how to do a plié, how a dance is put together, or how to memorize steps. It’s discovering, every day and in various contexts, that they have choices—about who they are and what they will do with their lives, and how art can help them figure out both of those things. In every class, whether it’s learning a jazz combination, experimenting with slam poetry, discussing social and racial tensions, or writing in a journal, these kids learn that self-expression comes in many forms.
Talk to anyone affiliated with AileyCamp and you will find yourself on the receiving end of an impassioned explanation of what makes this program so valuable. Alvin Ailey, founder/director of New York City–based Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT), left a legacy of giving back to the community when he died in 1989. His commitment to young people is the driving force behind the camp, and one can only assume that he would have loved what his successors have achieved. “Mr. Ailey was generous and he was accessible, and those are two words that are everywhere within the Ailey organization,” says AileyCamp national director Nasha Thomas-Schmitt, a former Ailey dancer. “It’s important for young people to know that they can do something. It is a gift to be able to get up and walk. It is a gift to have this instrument that you can use.”
AileyCamp began in 1991 in New York City and now has eight other sites: Berkeley; Boston; Bridgeport, CT; Chicago; Kansas City, MO and KS; and (new this year) Atlanta and Staten Island. Hosting organizations, not the Ailey Foundation, are responsible for funding and running their camps. For the campers, everything is free: two meals a day, camp T-shirts and shorts, dancewear and shoes, field trips, and bus transportation. The Berkeley location, officially called the Oakland/Berkeley AileyCamp at Cal Performances, is hosted and administered by Cal Performances on the UC–Berkeley campus. According to Cal Performances’ director of public relations, Christina Kellogg, the organization raises approximately $250,000 each year to fund the camp, which started in 2002 with a three-year grant from the Hewlett Foundation.
All eligible sites share a common denominator: a history of hosting AAADT or its second company, Ailey II. That allows the program to extend beyond the six weeks of classes to include reunions, at which the campers and their families can see the company perform and take master classes with company members. That connection to the Ailey legacy “is an important part of the process,” says Thomas-Schmitt.
Nationally, the camps serve approximately 650 middle schoolers, most of whom have had little or no experience with dance. (Although the camp is not a preprofessional training program, the Ailey Foundation tries to arrange scholarships with local dance programs so that talented students can continue their training.) According to the Berkeley camp’s director, David McCauley (also a former Ailey dancer), middle school is the perfect time to reach these students. “It’s a difficult age and it’s the best age,” he says. “They can make decisions; they are still receptive to change; and they know how to enjoy themselves. It’s an excellent time.”
The campers are recruited through presentations at schools in areas where most children have few opportunities to experience the arts. Applicants are interviewed, says Thomas-Schmitt, “so that the director has a better understanding of who this child is, what challenges they might face, how they view themselves, what their family situation is. So everyone has an idea of what they’re getting into. The campers sign a commitment contract, because it’s one thing for parents to say, ‘I want my child to come here,’ and another for the child to say, ‘I commit to coming for six weeks, to having my attire here every day, and to participating.’ And when there are problems, the director can say, ‘Look at what you signed. It says all this, and it’s not happening. What do you think we should do?’ ”
Though the camp rules are strict—hair is pulled back; big jewelry, gum chewing, candy, and soft drinks are banned; and there’s zero tolerance for violence—the results “are great,” says Thomas-Schmitt, and parents are enthusiastic. “The program helps to develop well-rounded young adults. And that is something every parent wants.” But, she adds, “the kids must have the desire to accomplish these things; they have to embody it for themselves. I always say, ‘It’s not about making the right or wrong decision. It’s about making the best choice for you at this particular moment.’ That’s something they can understand.”
Not all of the campers arrive feeling certain that this is the place for them—like 12-year-old Oscar Urquiza. “I wanted to go to a sports camp, but my mom said, ‘Why don’t you give it a shot for a week?’ So I came, and I like it more than sports,” he says. “They cheer you up and tell you not to give up, and if you want to give up they’ll keep on encouraging you. I’m thinking of being a volunteer next year.”
Empowerment is a key concept at AileyCamp. “A lot of these kids don’t have a family structure or support for their goals and dreams,” says Thomas-Schmitt. “We talk about goal setting and the possibility of reaching these goals. Say you tell two kids to write a one-page summary [of a book]. One brings in a typed page and the other brings in a handwritten paper and says, ‘I don’t have a computer at home.’ I’d say, ‘Well, there are computers at school. You could type it there. You’re going to be applying to college in a couple of years, and they’ll look at a typed application much quicker than a handwritten one—they’ll throw that in the garbage.’ It’s all about production and presentation. All of these things are part of what goes into AileyCamp from the first day.”
McCauley tells the kids that what they are learning translates into life outside of camp. “I say, ‘Who wants to be a singer? A writer? This is what you’re going to go through no matter what you plan to do. You’re going to come in thinking you know a lot, and you’re going to find out that you don’t. You have to be willing to accept that and then take your instruction and keep adding onto it. You’ll get there, but it’s going to take the same discipline that we’re asking of you here.’ ”
Camper Kenya Jelks, 12, is a good example of empowerment in action. She gushes about how much fun the campers have, how much she loves African dance, and how much harder ballet is than she imagined. “Willie [Anderson, the ballet teacher] said, ‘It’s not easy, but you have to try.’ He gave me courage, so I tried; if I didn’t get it, I tried again.” When asked to name something important she has learned, she grows serious. “They taught me that if I want something I have to go for it, and I shouldn’t give up on myself. If you keep on trying, there is a way to get through things that you thought were hard, and they will no longer be hard.”
‘These kids are at an age where they can discover the kinds of choices that will show them the road to success. AileyCamp does that, and that’s why I’m involved with it.’ —AileyCamp teacher M’bewe Escobar
In Berkeley the campers start their day with breakfast, then gather onstage for affirmations, led by McCauley. “One of them is to not say, ‘I can’t.’ If you say, ‘I can’t,’ then you can’t do it. If you say, ‘I don’t know how,’ you can always learn,” he says. The roughly 75 students then divide up into four groups (each one monitored by a college-age group leader) and rotate through their classes: Horton-based modern dance, ballet, African, jazz dance, performance techniques, personal development, and creative communications. Fridays are reserved for field trips, like sailing on San Francisco Bay.
On a Monday in June during the camp’s third week, the walls in Shawn Nealy’s personal development classroom are lined with statistics: “One child dies every three hours from gunfire.” “Of the 15,000 hours of TV kids watch, they will see 180,000 murders, rapes, robberies, etc.” On a positive note, posters about self-esteem, integrity, and classroom expectations abound. That day’s assignment is to write down three things that affected the campers’ self-esteem in the past week. Nealy’s approach is no-nonsense but polite, peppered with positive feedback. She explains everything carefully, and her immediate response to questions is “I’m listening.” At first, as the kids get to know each other, Nealy says, “there is culture shock. By the second day, conflicts arise, and by the fourth day we’re into conflict resolution. The kids say it helps them come together. I tell them, ‘Attitude is everything. You can’t have fun if there’s conflict.’ ”
The kids’ eagerness to participate is striking. They may not want to share their own writing in creative communications, but eight hands shoot up when teacher Kate Schatz asks the group what someone else’s poem was about. Camper Charles Edwards, 13, describes one of the classes as “really deep. We were all crying because we did ‘I remember’ poems.” In the jazz class, when teacher Rosario Lionudakis asks a question or wants volunteers to move to the front row, there’s a sudden burst of enthusiasm from kids who had seemed inattentive. As small groups finish a combination, their friends give them a high-five.
If kids are the heart of AileyCamp, the teachers are its soul. Apart from looking for accomplished instructors, McCauley tries to get “a broad spectrum of people who can work together and focus on the children. They have to support each other because it can be intense, and the kids see that. And if the students have difficulty with anything, I tell them they can always talk to someone in staff. I try to have a wide variety of people so that just about any student will find someone they can click with.”
According to modern-dance teacher M’bewe Escobar, AileyCamp has a profound ability to transform children. “I know that many of them use their new skills in their academic settings. And given the nature of society today—the abundance of influences that surround young people, the challenges and pressures that affect their choices—in that sense, all children are at risk of making the wrong choice. These kids are at an age where they can discover the kinds of choices that will show them the road to success. AileyCamp does that, and that’s why I’m involved with it. It’s a cool thing for children to be validated if they enjoy writing or the visual arts, to be told it’s a good thing and they should continue exploring it. It’s great to find out about yourself; I think it helps them make good choices. They could choose a group of people who are into something positive and not a situation where the outcome could be negative.”
As director of the New York City camp for three years, Escobar says she saw the program transform families as well. “When parents see their children doing something they didn’t know they could do, it helps them to see them in a different way. So the children get a new sense of themselves and their possibilities, and the families can too.”
Even the structure and process of a dance class helps to teach children life lessons. “One of the benefits of a dance education is that it dispels this crazy myth that dancers are dumb because they’re mute,” says Escobar. “The mind is totally engaged. And whatever technique is being taught, certain principles are universal. The idea of knowing and maintaining their personal space and respecting others’—it’s a big deal for young people this age.” She emphasizes how learning technique and choreography teaches children about follow-through. “Ninety percent of their choreography comes from what they did in class; I build it into class. I want them to see that the process has brought them to a [new] place. They can use this kind of process, of setting goals and working through it, for the rest of their lives.”
Partial proof of the camp’s success is the desire of former campers to return as volunteers; some eventually move into paid positions as group leaders and one now teaches at AileyCamp. Others say that AileyCamp didn’t change their life but, says Thomas-Schmitt, “it enhanced [it] and instilled certain values in them. For some people it’s a life-saver.”
One who changed dramatically, says McCauley, is former camper Yejide Najee-Ullah, a 2007 AileyCamp group leader and a sophomore at Smith College. “Unbeknownst to me [in 2002], she didn’t want to be here,” he says. “The turnaround in her after she saw what was going on was so quick and so complete that she volunteered for us every year since then. She is [the Berkeley site’s] first camper who’s now an employee.” Having former campers in the program is “the ultimate form of mentorship,” says McCauley. “The [campers] know that Yejide was [one of them], and now she goes to this wonderful college. It’s like, ‘Oh—that’s a possibility for me, too.’ ”
McCauley can’t talk about AileyCamp without getting teary. “Every year, there I am, watching them get ready to perform, and it’s been six weeks of ‘Do this,’ and ‘You have to be ready.’ And some of them are just kind of there, and some are about to do the wrong thing at the wrong time, and I’m just like, ‘Whatever happens when the curtain goes up, happens.’ And then to see them pull themselves together, to see that light go on in them when the curtain goes up, to see them change when the audience applauds—it’s terrific.”
“It’s blood, sweat, and tears for six weeks, but it’s one of the most gratifying kinds of teaching that I do,” says Escobar. “Every time I see the children perform it’s like seeing the butterfly emerge from the chrysalis. They have grown their wings and they are ready to fly.”