February 2017 | FYI

FYI: What’s up in the dance community

NDEO President Thom Cobb Remembered

Thom Cobb (left) shares a laugh with dance educator Carlos Jones at last summer’s NDEO jazz dance conference in Newport, Rhode Island.
Photo by Kim Fuller Photography

Former National Dance Education Organization president Thom Cobb’s enthusiasm for dance, his tender heart, and his gift for building community were remembered by fellow NDEO members after Cobb’s sudden death at his home in New Castle, Pennsylvania, on December 2, 2016.

“We have lost a tireless leader, a passionate educator, a champion of jazz dance, and, for so many, a dear friend,” Lindsay Guarino, co-editor of the book Jazz Dance: A History of the Roots and Branches, told Dance Studio Life. “He was the ultimate dance teacher,” said Karen Clemente, Ursinus College dance professor and department chair, who said that Cobb’s classes were about “love of dance, love of all the people in the room, and love of the possibility of what dance could mean in the world.”

Cobb, 65, was a professor emeritus of dance at Slippery Rock [Pennsylvania] University (SRU), where he taught for 36 years. He had served as president of the Pennsylvania State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, and as dance division vice president for that organization as well as for the national organization’s Eastern District Association. Cobb taught workshops and master classes throughout the U.S. in schools and with organizations such as Dance Masters of America. His honors and awards include the 2013 SRU President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Ballet Companies’ Seasonal Spirit Saves Nutcracker

In Festival Ballet Providence’s The Nutcracker, Ty Parmenter sports a jacket loaned by Joffrey Ballet while Waltz of the Flowers corps dancers perform in tutus provided by Rochester City Ballet.
Photo by Thomas Nola-Rion

A thieving grinch almost stole the show from Rhode Island’s Festival Ballet Providence last year by absconding with 70 Nutcracker costumes, accessories, and props from the organization’s warehouse. When word of the theft got out, ballet companies from across the country came to the rescue, offering to loan tutus, jackets, and party-scene doll outfits.

Thanks to the generosity of 10 organizations such as the Joffrey, Kansas City, and Mobile ballet companies and the International Ballet Academy of Norwell, Massachusetts, which offered a Nutcracker headpiece, Festival Ballet was able to complete its Nutcracker run December 15 to 18 for the public and area schoolchildren.

The Boston Globe reported that by December 20, police in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, had recovered 50 of the stolen pieces.

Liz Lerman Recognized With ADF Educator Award

This summer, American Dance Festival will recognize Liz Lerman’s inclusionary attitude toward dance with the 2017 Distinguished Teaching award.
Photo by Lise Metzger

For four decades, educator Liz Lerman has “erased the boundaries dance has constructed around age, experience, process, and performance,” American Dance Festival dean Leah Cox said in December when she announced that Lerman will receive the ADF 2017 Balasaraswati/Joy Anne Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching. ADF will present the award on July 15 at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

Dance Exchange, founded in 1976 by Lerman, is a multi-generational ensemble built on the premise that people of all ages should be able to create and perform dance. In 2002 Lerman earned a MacArthur “genius” fellowship for her work. Since then Lerman has delved into the connections between art and science, working with institutions such as Harvard and Yale, publishing a collection of essays on choreography, and developing Critical Response Process, a system of analysis and feedback that assists artists with creating new work.

American Tap Company Triumphs Over Travel Woes

American Tap Company members tell a reporter how a Lufthansa strike almost ruined their plans to attend the World Tap Dance Championships in Germany.
Photo courtesy American Tap Company

Last November’s Black Friday was a dark day for American Tap Company. Almost 200 people—82 dancers and family members from 17 states plus four faculty members from Nancy Chippendale’s Dance Studios in North Andover, Massachusetts—were ready to travel to Germany the following day for the International Dance Organization’s World Tap Dance Championships when a Lufthansa Airlines strike threw their plans into chaos.

Choreographer Karen Carberry (one of Chippendale’s three daughters; mom and daughters teach at the studio and work with the team) described her day to Dance Studio Life: learning of the strike at 6am, assuring worried parents and dancers, making fruitless calls to other airlines in an attempt to book new flights, posting social media appeals (tagging everyone from Oprah to Donald Trump), and explaining the predicament to local TV news reporters. Carberry said she attended the final four-hour brush-up rehearsal and traditional send-off showcase “with nothing—people were telling us we would have to cancel.”

Late that night, a studio customer put company organizers in touch with a United Airlines employee, who alerted the airline’s customer care unit about the tappers’ predicament. The next two days were like “an episode of The Amazing Race,” Carberry said, as the 197 travelers were split up on various flights and flown through seven countries. When the competition began Tuesday morning in Riesa, Germany, everyone from the team had made it, but it hadn’t been easy.

Through it all, Carberry said, family members remained positive, and the dancers—who won the competition medal count with six golds—demonstrated resilience. “I think I lost 10 years of my life,” said Carberry of the experience. “We’ve been [taking] the team overseas since 2003. Ironically, this was our thirteenth year. But it was all OK as long as the kids got to dance.”