What’s up in the dance community
Jacob’s Pillow Four-Season Studio
When a rehearsal or classroom space comes with challenges such as rough flooring, dim lighting, low ceilings, or a middle-of-the-room pole, dancers are geniuses at making do. “For a dancer, the studio is a sacred place. It is where possibility for us lives,” said Melissa Toogood, a Merce Cunningham Trust teacher and an alumna of The School at Jacob’s Pillow, at a celebration on October 14 to mark the groundbreaking for a year-round studio at the Becket, Massachusetts, dance festival grounds.
The new Perles Family Studio will have a 3,500-square-foot sprung floor, high ceilings, dressing rooms and offices, a 29-seat observation deck with a separate entrance, and ample room to accommodate both performers and more than 150 audience members during inclement weather. Unlike the Pillow’s longtime rehearsal space—the cramped, 1920s-era Sommers Studio—the new weatherproof and temperature-controlled facility can be used year-round, which will “dramatically increase the number of choreographers and companies who can take advantage of the Pillow to create new work,” Jacob’s Pillow director Pamela Tatge said at the groundbreaking.
The $4.5 million facility, expected to be completed by the end of next season’s 85th-anniversary festival, will also allow the Pillow to host national and international conversations among artists, presenters, educators, and funders, plus workshops and other classes to “help us fulfill our mission” beyond the festival’s 10-week summertime run, Tatge said.
Gift Leads to Doctoral Program in Dance Education
A new doctoral program in dance education at Teachers College, Columbia University, aims to prepare master dance educators who will advocate for dance as a medium that educates all children—not just future performers—through an emphasis on collaboration, citizenship, and the power of the imagination.
The program for master educators (those who teach dance teachers), dance researchers, policy experts, and other leaders in the field was created through a nearly $4.4 million gift from Jody Gottfried Arnhold, a former public school dance teacher and the founder of the 92nd Street Y’s Dance Education Laboratory, and her husband, John Arnhold. The first cohort will be enrolled for fall 2017.
At an announcement ceremony held October 18 at the college, Dance Theatre of Harlem artistic director Virginia Johnson said that the doctoral program “will give voice to one of the most powerful tools of learning” for dance educators at all levels who, through their passion and perseverance, use the art form to enrich the lives of young people.
It’s Good to Be the Ballerina Boss
When Victoria Morgan was hired in March 1997 to lead Cincinnati Ballet, she was one of three women artistic directors of U.S. ballet companies with operating budgets of $5 million or greater. “I thought, ‘Oh good, things are starting to change now,’ ” she said. Morgan told Dance Studio Life that at that time she believed that more women would follow her through the glass ceiling and that “20 years later it would be a different story; but sadly, it’s not.”
This season, Morgan, who counts herself among an elite group of five women artistic directors of large U.S. ballet companies (with Julie Kent at The Washington Ballet, Lourdes Lopez at Miami City Ballet, Virginia Johnson at Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Stoner Winslett at Richmond Ballet), celebrates two successful decades at the company’s helm with a personal marketing campaign, Ballerina Boss.
Promotional photos and videos show her clad in a suit jacket and Romantic-length tulle skirt, pointe shoe ribbons sprouting from executive-style heels. The fun, whimsical campaign also makes a serious statement: women can achieve starring roles both onstage and in the corner office.
The Ballerina Boss concept signifies a role that Morgan, a former principal dancer with Ballet West and San Francisco Ballet, said she wishes she had embraced sooner. When she arrived at the financially struggling Cincinnati Ballet, her first official task was to fire one-third of the company. In 2008, rather than see her dancers’ contracts slashed from 35 to 30 weeks, she also took on the CEO role. Years of reevaluating expenses and fundraising followed, but today the ballet has millions in both its operating reserve and endowment, and Morgan said that she has never felt more confident.
She’s already been working to support female dancemakers—for each of the past five years, the ballet has presented one series featuring all women choreographers. “I have a philosophy of recognizing the place women need to be in our art form,” Morgan said. “Let’s do this.”
Hip-Hop Arrives at NYPL
Hip-hop, an often misunderstood dance style born of the rough New York City streets, has arrived uptown. Michael Holman, a downtown dance impresario, filmmaker, journalist, and musician, has donated an extensive hip-hop-focused archive to New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
A release said that this marks the first hip-hop acquisition for the library, which houses significant documents and memorabilia of industry influencers such as Merce Cunningham, Jerome Robbins, and Mikhail Baryshnikov. “The library is making a statement,” Holman told the New York Times. “Ballet, modern dance, tap—the library is placing hip-hop on the same pedestals as other established dance movements.”
The archive features extensive underground video and film footage of b-boys and breakdancers; it also includes audio recordings, production notes, media clippings, event flyers, and electronic records capturing the earliest days of the art form.