What’s up in the dance community
Two Minutes to Better Ballet
As a student at the School of American Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB), and later as a PNB soloist, Marisa Albee was instructed and inspired by teachers at the top of their craft. Now, as a PNB School teacher for 15 years, she has “loved watching teachers teach,” she says, constantly picking up new ideas for combinations or insights into corrections.
Her desire to collect and share these nuggets of wisdom with ballet teachers everywhere led Albee to create Ballet in Form, a series of approximately 1- to 2-minute teaching videos with master teachers such as Nicholas Ade of Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Sally Rojas of Houston Ballet Academy, and Henriette Muus of Royal Danish Ballet.
Albee handles all the filming and editing—skills she learned while creating the series—and distills each featured teacher’s instruction into a succinct message that can be understood by educators and students alike. She has created a library of 250 elegant black-and-white videos on subjects like adding fluidity to port de bras or improving precision and timing in battements jetés, more than 40 of which are available online at balletinform.com.
Albee, who posts one to three new videos each week on the Ballet in Form website and Facebook page, said creating the series has rejuvenated her teaching. “A whole world of fresh ideas that I can use as seeds opened up to me,” she told Dance Studio Life. “If I repeat a correction or a good visualization and the students’ faces light up, that’s a great moment in class.”
New Center for Choreography
The new National Center for Choreography at the University of Akron [OH] (NCCAkron) plans to work with choreographers from all genres with “the ultimate goal being to strengthen the national dance ecosystem as a dedicated space for research and development,” Christy Bolingbroke, NCCAkron’s first executive and artistic director, told Dance Studio Life.
Bolingbroke, formerly deputy director for advancement at San Francisco-based ODC/Dance, will guide the center as it provides time, space, production technology, and financial resources for up to six choreographers per year to create new work.
Established in 2015 with a $5 million grant from the Knight Foundation, NCCAkron has a shared space/lease agreement with the university, yet the two are independent institutions. Bolingbroke said that the nonprofit seeks to follow the path blazed by Florida State University’s MANCC, the first national choreographic center housed in a major higher-ed research institution. (See “College Close-Ups: Florida State University.”)
Carrie Hanson (The Seldoms), John Jasperse (Thin Man Dance), and Camille A. Brown and Dancers participated in three pilot residencies at NCCAkron in 2015. The next three residencies will begin in 2017.
Zombies Live in Lexington Halloween Event
If you happen down Main Street in Lexington, Kentucky, on October 29, beware: more than 1,000 zombie dancers will pay living tribute to the music video Michael Jackson’s Thriller during a Halloween community participation spectacular that regularly attracts viewing crowds of 15,000 or more.
Organizers Teresa Tomb, director/owner of Mecca Live Studio & Gallery, and Melissa McCartt-Smyth, a staffer in the mayor’s office, believed the first Thriller reenactment, held in 2002 with 50 dancers, would be a one-time deal. Yet the event proved incredibly popular, Tomb told Dance Studio Life, drawing more and more dancers and non-dancers eager to stomp and groan their way through the iconic choreography by Jackson and Michael Peters. A short community parade with floats sets the appropriate Halloween tone before up to six “Michael Jacksons” chosen through audition step up to lead the zombie hoard.
“Everyone gets into it. The whole limping and moaning down Main Street is just liberating and cathartic,” Tomb said, explaining that the event has allowed her studio—which focuses on multicultural dance—to build relationships with people of all ages who otherwise might never have ventured in for a belly dance class, as well as with other dance studios whose students perform during a pre-parade dance showcase.
Each zombie designs his or her own costume and character and must attend at least one choreography rehearsal plus staging rehearsals. “Taking on that zombie character lifts any pressure of having to be good at this,” Tomb said. “All we’re asking is that you have fun.”
Ailey Education Center Expands
Dancers of all ages and technical levels find instruction, beauty, and joy within the walls of Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation’s Joan Weill Center for Dance. So many dancers, in fact, that last month the foundation kicked off a $25 million, 10,000-square-foot expansion that will add four new studios and classroom space to the center, already the largest building dedicated to dance in New York City.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the school’s growing enrollment has caused cramped conditions and scheduling challenges at the 77,000-square-foot center, which became Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s first permanent home when it opened for business in March 2005. Foundation executive director Bennett Rink told the Journal that the center was at the point where “we would have to start turning away students.”
Ailey junior division enrollment has increased by 89 percent since 2005; recreational dance and fitness programs offered through the Ailey Extension served more than 15,000 people in 2015.