Mary Day: Grande Dame of Dance in the Nation’s Capital

 

compiled by Elvi Moore
 

The Laurel Fund for the performing arts

 

In a nutshell: A collection of personal conversations with Mary Day, the pioneer of ballet in Washington, DC.

 

At the request of Mary Day, who never wanted her biography written, Elvi Moore tells the story of the legendary teacher and founder of The Washington School of Ballet and The Washington Ballet through transcribed interviews, chronological photographs and personal remembrances. In the book’s first section, Day honestly reveals the high and low points of her personal life and career, including notes on her teaching methods and details about training the daughters of former U.S. Presidents. “Remembering Mary Day” features loving reflections from former students, including Amanda McKerrow, Chelsea Clinton, Virginia Johnson, Patrick Corbin and Kevin McKenzie, who wrote, “Mary Day was like a great gardener . . . I was blessed to be a seedling on whom Mary Day kept her watchful eye; she virtually gave me my life.” The book closes with a section of tour anecdotes in which Moore, former general director of the school and company, shows readers the softer side of the often quick-tempered Day and the company to which she devoted 60 years of her life.


For a chance to win a copy of Mary Day: Grande Dame in the Nation's Capital, click here.

 

Mim’ A Personal Memoir of Marie Rambert
 

by Brigitte Kelly
 

Dance Books Ltd.

 

In a nutshell: An honest portrayal of Marie Rambert, the self-proclaimed “midwife at the birth of English ballet.”

 

Former Rambert Dance Company member Brigitte Kelly highlights the life of Marie Rambert, an often forgotten contributor to English ballet. Through 26 concise chapters, “Breegy” illuminates the many sides of Rambert, or as her friends nicknamed her, Mim: a temperamental yet determined woman whose questionable (sometimes harsh) teaching techniques and lack of business or personal skills did not deter dancers from seeking her tutelage. Kelly reveals that it was, in fact, Mim who nurtured the careers of many notable dance artists, such as choreographers Frederick Ashton, Antony Tudor, Agnes de Mille and Andrée Howard and future Royal Ballet stars Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin. Taking readers on an emotional journey, the author details the eventful life that led Mim to study eurhythmics with Émile Jaques-Dalcroze and at the Ballets Russes with Sergei Diaghilev and, later, to open a school and start her own company, the Ballet Club, which preceded Sadler’s Wells Ballet School by five years. Kelly’s memoir paints a clear picture of the dame responsible for the creation of modern English ballet.

 

 

BRAVURA! Lucia Chase and the American Ballet Theatre
 

by Alex C. Ewing
 

University Press of Florida

 

In a nutshell: The rich history of Lucia Chase and American Ballet Theatre.

 

In his book, Alex C. Ewing, Lucia Chase’s son, weaves together personal insights with stories from his mother’s diary and those who were part of her dance world, to narrate how Chase’s life became an everlasting part of American Ballet Theatre. In the book’s four sections, Ewing reveals that though the widow and mother of two began a career as a ballerina at an age when many dancers would have been considering retirement, her persistent passion led to a 35-year reign as artistic director of one of the world’s greatest ballet companies. Ewing details, with awe and respect for his fearless mother, Chase’s tireless devotion to ABT’s preservation, exemplified by bringing in great dancers like Rudolf Nureyev and working with the legendary choreographers Agnes de Mille, Antony Tudor and Jerome Robbins. His bright descriptions of her sense of comedic timing onstage, contrasted with her harrowing financial troubles offstage, bring Chase to life in a realistic yet nostalgic manner. A true testament to Chase’s character comes from her successor Mikhail Baryshnikov, who said, “When Ballet Theatre dances, it dances for Lucia.”

 

 

Photo by Emily Giacalone

In Motion's senior company dancers and Candice after a showcase performance in Bermuda, (2016). Photo courtesy of Culmer-Smith

When I was 23, an e-mail circulated among my former college dance classmates at Towson University, regarding a teaching position as the jazz director at the In Motion School of Dance studio in Bermuda. I applied, and after a few e-mails, I got offered the job.

Four weeks later, I packed up my tiny little car in Denver, where I was a dancer for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, and drove across the country to my hometown in Maryland, before flying out for my new life in Bermuda.

Looking back now, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn't have time to think through how I should prepare and what I needed to do to officially apply for a work permit. I was mostly concerned with how I was going to pack all my clothes and belongings into two suitcases. If I could go back, I wish I would've had a more specific guide to what teaching in another country entailed.

In an effort to share my experience, here's what I wish I would've known before I left and what I learned over my 10 years living and working as a dance teacher abroad.

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At age 12, doctors advised Paige Fraser to stop dancing and have surgery. Instead, she chose physical therapy and team of chiropractors and massage specialists to help work through her condition. She has just begun her 5th season with Visceral Dance, based in Chicago.

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine, when viewed from the back, has one or more curves. The vertebrae are abnormally rotated, which creates twisting and more prominent visibility of the rib cage on one side, and it is most commonly seen in adolescents ages 10 and older. Most cases cannot be reversed, but they can be controlled, for example dancer Paige Fraser who despite suffering from severe scoliosis, has thrived as a dancer. Dance teachers can play an essential role in spotting the condition at an early stage.

“Teachers can help to notice that scoliosis is there in the first place," says Sophia Fatouros, a New York City–based dance teacher and and former professional ballet dancer who has struggled with scoliosis since she was 12. “Parents do not always see their children in tight clothes, like leotards."

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Dancer Health
Sebastian Grubb (right) runs Sebastian's Functional Fitness in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Grubb

From improved aerobic capacity to better reactivity, cross-training can to do wonders for dancers' health and performance. But with the abundance of exercise programs available, how do you get your dancers on the right routine?

Sebastian Grubb, a San Francisco–based fitness trainer and professional dancer, shares three questions to ask as you consider different cross-training options.

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When choreographer Cristian Faxola learned he had two days to create, develop and shoot a music video as an audition to choreograph for The Squared Division production house, he and his team embraced the challenge.

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I have heard you say that tight hamstrings prevent full extension of the knees and that you prefer hamstring stretches in a standing position, rather than on the floor. Can you explain why?

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Teachers & Role Models
Photo by Tim Trumble, courtesy of Arizona State University

Many parents discourage their teenagers from majoring in dance because of fear that their child will become a struggling artist in an unforgiving city, only to end their career in injury. But a dance degree can lead to other corners of the profession, such as marketing, physical therapy and arts administration. "Parents always say their children need something to fall back on," says Daniel Lewis, former dean of the dance division at New World School of the Arts. "They only see the stage time, applause and flowers. But there's choreographing, teaching, PR—the careers are endless."

Others are more concerned with disappointment. "Your daughter doesn't have to be a major ballerina with ABT to be successful," says Lewis. "If she wants to be a dancer, she'll find the work. There's a certain amount of training you have to achieve before you even get accepted into a good college, so if you have the talent, and the drive, you can make it."

As mentors, teachers can be monumentally influential on students' college decision processes. Read on to hear from three dance majors who feel grateful they chose this path—and share their words with your students!

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Teachers & Role Models
To show her support for local studios, Kelly Berick requires all her students to be enrolled in an after-school program. Photo by Stephanie Csejtey, courtesy of Akron School of the Arts

When Kelly Berick began teaching high school students at Ohio's Firestone Community Learning Center within Akron Public Schools 21 years ago, she was newly engaged, newly licensed to teach K–12 dance and thrilled to land what she considered the perfect job. Her enthusiasm quickly soured, however, when after two weeks of teaching she called a local studio to introduce herself. "The owner told me her students didn't like me, didn't like what I was doing and were going to quit my program," she says. Her class of seven became a class of three.

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