He might have just had a long day of rehearsals prepping for a performance at the Paris Internationale art fair, yet Dimitri Chamblas is energized as he talks about his new role. The 42-year-old took over this year as dean of The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), and his enthusiasm for the future of dance and dance education is contagious.
"We want to keep recruiting diversity of techniques and bodies, because the future of dance is that," says the former artistic director of Paris Opéra's creative digital platform 3e Scène. "We want students who have temporality, space, precision—where you can consider your body as a space for exploration—and we want to help them develop their singularity and creativity."
As an artist, Chamblas connects dance to the visual arts, filmmaking, new media, digital production and architecture. His past collaborative partners have included Benjamin Millepied, RubberLegz, William Forsythe and Lil Buck.
Photo courtesy of CalArts
"We have to concentrate on how to prepare students for the actuality of a dance career," Chamblas says. A dance career no longer means joining a company until retirement, so he wants his students to learn how to perform or choreograph for nontraditional spaces, social media, films, photography and commercials. Classwork will include guidance on writing business plans, photography/videography tips (in front of and behind the lens) and advice on creating a dance company.
Chamblas' international dance connections will help land guest artists, and he envisions the school being more integrated into the Los Angeles dance scene. He also plans on starting a CalArts dance company with its own repertoire. "Dimitri brings a fresh point of view and vision for the dance program," associate dean of dance Cynthia Young says. "His energy is inspiring and unrelenting."
CalArts president Ravi S. Rajan says that in Chamblas' short tenure, he has already motivated students with such projects as a flash mob during the school president's inauguration ceremony. "This work directly demonstrated the relevance of dance to our lives," Rajan says.
For more: calarts.edu
While regular technique class is the backbone of a young dancer's training, it's also important for all of your dancers—from the tiniest to the most accomplished—to experience creative movement, improvisation and dance making. “Even at age 5 or 6, if the child makes up her own dance, I see a better performance," says Ellen Robbins, a New York City modern teacher and director of Dances by Very Young Choreographers.
Choreographing helps students think more creatively about every aspect of dance, and it gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment. Several veteran teachers who work specifically to develop choreographic skills in students share with DT their tips for guiding the dance making process.
Adam Holms, co-founder and artistic director of the Norwalk Metropolitan Youth Ballet in Connecticut, was once the only boy at a dance studio where his teacher wasn't sure what to do with him. “Recital pieces were always tailored to the girls, and I had to do the exact same choreography," he says. “For this one dance, I had to wear a cheap, sequined vest with blue bell-bottom jazz pants, while all the girls had these beautiful blue tutus. My costume was an afterthought."
If you have a lone male student in a class or the studio, the situation can present a choreographic—not to mention costuming—conundrum. Having a male presence, whether he's 4 or 14, changes the dynamic of a recital piece, and it's important to make him feel comfortable and a part of the team.
When a principal, teacher, or parent walks into a room and sees 20 children rolling around on the floor and then leaping for the sky (learning about level changes), or jumping about like frogs (in a role-playing improvisation activity), they might not always understand what's going on. That's why Deborah Damast, clinical assistant professor and artistic advisor of the dance education program at NYU Steinhardt, offered up several responses as to why this type of movement—often a precursor to formal ballet/tap/jazz classes—is so very important.
The Fred & Adele Astaire Awards have a new name: the Chita Rivera Awards for Dance and Choreography, which took place last night to honor the best of theatrical dance and choreography from Broadway, off-Broadway and film.
"Choreography is critical to a show, and the dancers are often the unsung heroes. It's very important to have a specific award that honors those in such a hard-working and short-lived profession," says event producer Nikki Feirt Atkins, who is founder and producing artistic director of American Dance Machine for the 21st Century (ADM21).
What would it take to create a site-specific work in and around the Bates Mill Complex, a former textile factory in downtown Lewiston, Maine?
It was a question Bates Dance Festival executive director Laura Faure posed to internationally renowned site choreographer Stephan Koplowitz. Four years later, with a $100,000 budget, Mill Town will premiere this week, to close out the festival's 35th-anniversary season and will be Faure's final performance season with the festival.