Mills' ballet "Light," for Ballet AustinBallet Austin’s artistic director Stephen Mills knows how to keep busy. In October, National Arts Strategies named Mills one of 50 exceptional leaders who will head The Chief Executive Program. Over the course of a year, this group will focus on finding new ways to tackle big challenges facing the arts field and implementing these strategies in their own organizations.
The best part of this appointment? In an effort to raise arts awareness, National Arts Strategies will be giving Mills some well-deserved face time: The work he does with The Chief Executive Program will be shared on the NAS blog, in video interviews and NAS newsletters and at arts conferences.
Mills was chosen from a highly competitive pool of over 250 applications, but we’re not too surprised. In 2011, DT did a story on his impact with Ballet Austin. Earlier this year, as part of our June News section, we reported on the podcast he did with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum about his 2005 ballet Light/The Holocaust & Humanity Project. Congratulations to Mills and all of Ballet Austin!
Photo by Tony Spielberg, courtesy of Ballet Austin
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"I describe it as organized chaos," says Kimberly Rishi with a laugh, as she hunts for a quiet space inside her 12,000-square-foot studio in Ashburn, Virginia. In any given week, Studio Bleu Dance Center's 11 dance studios accommodate 800 enrolled students, 52 staff members, adults who take drop-in classes, plus kids in vocal and piano programs and an affiliated ballet conservatory. "It may look like there's always a party going on," Rishi says, "but that's not the case. There's a schedule, and everyone knows where they're headed."
When Rishi took the reins in 2003, there were only 80 students, 20 of whom were competitive. Today, 300 dancers are enrolled for the competition program. And just this winter, she launched a musical theater program, taking in triple-threat hopefuls in the area. While the Ashburn area (outside of Washington, DC) is burgeoning, faculty member Heidi Moe says Studio Bleu's growth is due to more than changing demographics. It's the direct result of Rishi's business experience and leadership ability.
Irish dancer Cara Butler remembers the helpful advice that her teacher Donny Golden gave her as a child to ease her mind before competitions.
"I remember that he was really good at calming my nerves as a kid. He would always say, 'Your nerves are a form of energy. Use it as fuel.' That was something, especially when I was younger, that would always get me through it. I find that even today I still get nervous about certain performances. But he taught me to just use it as energy and think of it as a good thing. If you're not nervous, where is the emotion and the passion? Nerves are good."
Dancer and choreographer Chuck Davis, who founded the largest African dance festival, DanceAfrica, and performance company African American Dance Ensemble, died Sunday at his home in Durham, North Carolina. He was 80. Known for his benevolent spirit and powerful presence, he was committed to keeping the roots of African dance alive, as well as fusing together the older traditions with contemporary choreography. In 2004 he was honored with a Dance Magazine Award and a Bessie Award in 2014 for outstanding service to the field of dance.
Sometimes a little video comes along that manages to cheer you on a dreary Wednesday, inspire you to be better and give you all the good feels. Meet Sheila Rozann, an 88-year-old ballet teacher for the National Dance Institute, New Mexico, who's been teaching for more than 66 years (!). She gives great advice on everything from why ballet is so pleasing to the eye to how a teacher can pick out a student destined for greatness. But my favorite jewel of wisdom that she offers is simple, and one that we often hear from the teachers we feature in DT: Dance is something that molds kids into good people, regardless of whether they go on to pursue careers in the field.
This month, Steps on Broadway tap teacher Claudia Rahardjanoto teaches a crossover step—a traditional rhythm tap step first performed by the great Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. The step is usually done three times with a break at the end, and is a great way to practice weigh shifts.
Here, some of tap history's greatest hoofers perform the crossover step.