Rachel Caldwell graduated from the University of North Texas with a BFA in Dance and from Mills College with a MFA in Dance Performance and Choreography. She is from Houston, Texas, where she grew up studying ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip hop and Scottish highland dance. Rachel is a Contributing Editor for Dance Teacher and writes the History and K-12 columns.
When it comes to teaching dance, teachers often find themselves wishing they had 10 more minutes to fit in that final grand jeté sequence across the floor or the last 16 counts of the hip-hop combination they prepared. In a K–12 environment, a time crunch is even more likely. Between increasingly limited slots for arts electives and the challenges of navigating a block schedule, time is a precious commodity. Here, three seasoned K–12 educators share their strategies for making every minute count.
Melecio Estrella, the associate artistic director of Oakland, California–based vertical dance company BANDALOOP, has been an aerial dancer for 15 years. With aerial dance becoming increasingly popular, Estrella shares five things to consider before jumping into an apparatus and up into the sky.
Master teacher, choreographer and artistic director Gus Giordano was a fierce advocate for jazz dance. He created the Giordano technique, organized the first Jazz Dance World Congress and founded Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, the first dance company devoted solely to jazz. When jazz dance had yet to find its footing in American concert dance and education, Giordano legitimized it in the eyes of critics, audiences and dancers alike.
When it comes to the competition circuit, each new year brings a plethora of choreographic, music and fashion trends to the dance floor—from dancing in socks to dancing with props. To cap off a great year of dance, Dance Teacher spoke with competition judge Lauren Renck about four of her favorite trends she saw this year.
In his Bollywood dance classes at AATMA Performing Arts, Amit Shah lets the music dictate which dance techniques the class will hone in on that day. "Bollywood dancing is really depicting a particular song," he says. "It's all about storytelling. So, we focus on the lyrics and emotions of the music first, and then establish the technique that will help tell that story." Because a lot of the music in Bollywood films fuses multiple genres, Shah does the same with the movement. For example, he might combine hip-hop steps with movements from the Indian folk dance bhangra.
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.
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.
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.