Split Sides
By The Merce Cunningham
Dance Company
Cunningham Dance Foundation and ARTPIX
In a nutshell: The Merce Cunningham Dance Company performs Split Sides (2003).

This two-hour DVD set captures the 45th and 46th performances of the late Merce Cunningham’s Split Sides (2003). Known for implementing chance operations to create dance, the iconic modern choreographer rolls dice just before each featured work to determine the set design, costumes, lighting, music, choreography and order in which these elements appear. While there are 32 possible combinations of performances for this dance, this two-disc DVD presents four showings that allow viewers the option to alternate between the original Radiohead and Sigur Rós soundtracks, or watch it in silence. Also featured are set designs by Robert Heishman and Catherine Yass, costumes by James Hall and lighting by James F. Ingalls. Filmmaker Charles Atlas beautifully captures the two chance-determined pieces—each split into two 20-minute sections—in this DVD that will captivate modern dance enthusiasts. —JT





Martha Hill & the Making of American Dance
By Janet Mansfield Soares
Wesleyan University Press
In a nutshell: A lively portrait of Martha Hill’s formative role in modern dance in the United States.

Martha Hill’s story as a catalyst in the development of American contemporary dance is often overshadowed by the likes of Martha Graham and Doris Humphrey. But author Janet Mansfield Soares does justice to the often unsung heroine by shedding light on her struggles and dedication to turning the artform into a serious area of study. In nine chapters, the author chronicles pinnacle moments in this modern missionary’s life, from “Growing Up in Ohio 1900–1922” to “Dancing with Graham 1929–1931” to “Plans for Lincoln Square 1955–1956,” along with her influence on the Juilliard School and the American Dance Festival. Amid the historical backdrop, Soares, a longtime student of Hill’s, reveals Hill’s deep regret of abandoning a performance career, among other secrets she worked hard to conceal from the public. “I am a product of my experiences,” Hill told Soares on sharing private information for this biography. “My life within its social context is an interesting story.” —Erin K. Dean


New Dance: Writings on Modern Dance

By Doris Humphrey
Princeton Book Company, Publishers
In a nutshell: A glimpse inside the mind of Doris Humphrey.

In this short, 132-page book, Doris Humphrey reflects on her perception of modern dance through a collection of never-before-seen notes, essays and lectures. She explains her philosophies of the moving body, composition and teaching dance, and details the application of her theories to choreography, discussing methods used to teach space, rhythm and design. The modern dance pioneer also gives advice on choosing subject matter, accomplishing projection and rejecting isolation and egocentricity to carry on the work; she addresses such questions as: “Do you love to dance?” “Do you love to see someone else moving according to your dream?” and “How do you convey the meaning or the mood of what you are doing to the best possible advantage to the people who are in front of you?” The book’s first part, “Principles,” presents Humphrey’s personal worldview in relation to dance, and part two, “Notes on Dances,” chronicles her creative process for 42 works, including masterpieces like Water Study, New Dance and Passacaglia in C Minor. —Jenny Thompson










The Feldenkrais Method is a somatic technique created by Moshe Feldenkrais in the 1950s. The method has two parts: hands-on sessions with a Feldenkrais teacher (Functional Integration) or group classes comprised of verbal cues (Awareness Through Movement).

Mary Armentrout, a dance teacher, choreographer and Feldenkrais practitioner, shares three ways that this somatic practice can bolster your students' training.

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Your Studio

Oversexualizing young kids has been a hot topic among dance teachers in recent years. It's arguably the most controversial topic teachers and studio owners are faced with. Deciding which choreography, music or costumes are appropriate—or not—isn't always black and white and can be easily overlooked. Is showing the midriff too much for minis? Is this choreography too provocative? Is this popular song too suggestive for a competition piece? The questions can seem endless with no clear objective answers. Until now.

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To make dancers stronger and less injury-prone, Burns Wilson suggest adding floor barre or conditioning classes. Photo courtesy of Burns Wilson

With a career spanning 30-plus years in the dance field, Anneliese Burns Wilson has cultivated a unique perspective on health and injury prevention for dancers. From teaching ballet to teaching anatomy, she then founded ABC for Dance, which publishes dance-teaching materials. Now through research for her next book, which will focus on training the female adolescent dancer, she's delving even deeper into topics many dance teachers have overlooked.

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Erdmann (left) on set for "Hairspray Live" (courtesy of Erdmann)

When Wicked ensemble member Kelli Erdman was training at Westlake Dance Center in Seattle, Washington, her teacher Kirsten Cooper taught her that focussed transitions would be pivotal to her success as a dancer. Now as a professional, she applies this advice to her daily performances, asserting that she will never let the details of her dancing get blurry.

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Khobdeh dancing Taylor's Speaking In Tongues. Photo courtesy of PTDC

For Parisa Khobdeh, music does more than set the tone for a piece—it's enabled her to connect with movement. And once she joined Paul Taylor Dance Company in 2003, Taylor's body of work deepened this connection. "His choreography showed me the music, the architecture and the space," she says. "I now see the music."

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Dance Buzz

We haven't been able to stop watching Lil' Mushroom since she popped and locked her way into Ellen's heart last week. We know you've got a long night of teaching ahead, and this is the dance inspiration you need to get you through. Check it out and tell us what you think about her killer moves over on our Facebook page! (She starts blowing minds at about 2:16.)

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How-To

Because the chassé is often neglected during the execution of this traveling step, Judy Rice asks her students to do a minimum of a six-inch chassé before transitioning into the pas de bourrée. She encourages dancers to pay close attention to their shoulders and hips in effacé, too. "Kids tend to open it up. They look like they're fencing," she says. "You don't want that." Both shoulders and hip bones should be facing the corner.

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