University of Utah professor Molly Heller choreographs works that demand 100 percent commitment from her dancers. Her most recent piece Very Vary saw her cast of six speak, scream, laugh, cry and make a range of radical facial expressions in movement that was technically challenging, dynamic and highly expressive.
Getting that level of commitment from your dancers isn't easy, especially when it comes to facial expressions and vocalization. Heller shares six ways that she brings out excellent performance quality in her dancers. Try them with your students.
As a dancer and the assistant director of New York City–based contemporary dance troupe Kate Weare Company, Douglas Gillespie takes to the floor like a duck takes to water. Whether he's sliding, falling, pushing, rolling or holding a plank, he knows just what he needs to do to protect his body. Here, Gillespie shares three tips for keeping floorwork safe, easy and fun.
Mikhail Nikolaevitch Baryshnikov is one of the greatest male ballet dancers of all time, ranked with Vaslav Nijinsky and Rudolf Nureyev. Hailed for his performances with American Ballet Theatre in the 1970s and '80s, Baryshnikov has had a wide-ranging career, spanning the realms of choreography, performance, direction, film, television and theater.
For most teachers, owners and students, the holiday season means listening to Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker suite on repeat, until heads explode. And while there's a definite thrill to hearing the opening notes of that overture, sometimes you need to get out of Nut-land and recharge your holiday spirit. Why not see a dance performance this December that'll shake things up for you? (Or just own your bottomless love for all things Nutcracker and see THAT.) Here are three ideas:
When Kathleen Crofton arrived in the unlikely destination of Buffalo, in 1967, she carried with her an astonishing legacy. Many of her students at the Ballet Center of Buffalo, myself included, had no idea that she had danced in Anna Pavlova's company (1924–28) and was a close colleague of Bronislava Nijinska. We were unaware that she had partnered with Frederic Franklin in the Markova-Dolin Ballet, had performed with the Opéra Russe à Paris where Nijinska was ballet master/choreographer, and taught at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in New York and The Royal Ballet in London. Crofton didn't boast that Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev were frequent drop-ins at the school she owned in London for more than 15 years.
My pointe isn't very good, and when I try to improve it, I get spasms in my arch. It's frustrating to see other ballet dancers with their toes nearly touching the ground, while my feet are flat. Is there any way I can improve my feet?
Whenever I hear someone describe their feet as flat, I wonder if they mean pronated. There's a difference. Flat feet are structurally strong, but without much instep or arch in standing. Pronated feet occur in dancers when the arches roll in toward the big-toe side, flattening the print of the foot on the ground. Pronation goes hand in hand with weak arch muscles, and that is where I would focus your attention.
Practice lengthening through the ankle, keeping the toes separated as you slowly extend them. This is easiest to do while sitting on the ground with your legs in front of you, so you can watch your toes. You might cramp before you get to a full point. If so, you're doing it right. You've found your intrinsic muscles and need to keep your commitment to strengthening them.
From there, your next focus should be to correctly work your turnout at your hips in order to not pronate.
To your success,
Director, The Body Series
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For as long as there have been dancers, there have been diets. But dancers should be spending their time dancing, not manipulating their diet and restricting calories. "If they greatly reduce their caloric intake and reduce grains and bread, their energy is going to drop, and they're going to go into a brain fog," says The Ailey School's nutritionist Marie Scioscia, referring to a feeling of disorientation caused by undernourishment.
Nevertheless, your students are bound to encounter—and consider trying—popular diets. The constant stream of conflicting information about ever-changing diet trends can be especially misleading for young dancers who are eager to get ahead in a field that demands athletics and rewards aesthetics. To help you sort through some of the noise, DT looked at three trendy diets of 2017—some with more science than others—and checked in with registered dietitians about how they stack up for dancers.