I attended The Juilliard School's annual "Juilliard Dances Repertory" spring concert on Wednesday evening; this year's performance featured repertory from choreographers "José Limón," Nacho Duato and Ohad Naharin.** When watching the dancers, it's entirely possible to forget they're still students. Their technique, maturity of movement, performance qualities—rival those of professional companies.
My first thought was, "Wow, these dancers are really great." And next, "Well, they do get really amazing training at Juilliard." But then it hit me: Students have to audition for Juilliard. Yes, Juilliard faculty members help students attain unparalelled levels of training and artistry; but there are a score of teachers back home.
So I'd also like to applaud the educators who laid the groundwork for the Juilliard dancers: The teachers who took the rolley-polley 3- and 4-year olds and molded them into pre-professional artists; the teachers who instilled the students' indefatigable work ethic; and the teachers who taught the kids to stay in line, hop with two feet and clap on the beat.
If you've read my Ballet Class Blogging series, you know I teach students ages 6–8. It's incredibly rewarding, their giggles and hugs at the end of class always negate the challenges and hair-tearing-out moments in the classroom. But the work is also nerve-wracking: Are they getting it? Am I inspiring a lifelong passion for dance? And my biggest anxiety: will my lessons transcend this class?
We all have memories of our first teachers, our second teachers and so on; but what's amazing is that many of their sayings and technical corrections stay with us forever. In Dance Teacher's e-newsletter, editor Kristin Schwab speaks with today's stars in ballet, modern, tap, hip-hop—you name it—and asks what they remember about their first teachers. Each issue, dancers pay tribute to those most influential, and we learn the lessons that have stayed with them throughout their careers.
If you don't already receive our e-newsletter, sign up here. (You also get a sneak peak of what's coming up next in the magazine and a leg up on the giveaways on our site—especially the DVD and ticket giveaways—don't miss out!)
Photo of Genevieve Custer Weeks of the Tutu School in San Francisco, CA, by Andrew Weeks
** (I put Limón's name in quotations because he never completed the work, The Waldstein Sonata, before he died in 1972, and Daniel Lewis "finished" the choreography and staged it for Juilliard in '76.)
Starting this Saturday, the Children's Museum of Manhattan on the Upper West Side will have an interactive dance exhibit called "Let's Dance!" Basically every facet of dance is featured in the exhibit: kids can explore lighting design with a special child-friendly lighting box; choreograph with the use of props, signs and costumes; create accompaniment with percussion instruments; manipulate posable figures; see incredible dance photography and video; and, best of all, interact with the dance portal, where they can watch, learn and interact with professional and student dance companies like Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dancing Classrooms, Mark Morris Dance Group and Martha Graham Dance Company. Whew. That's a LOT of great stuff.
Kathleen Kelbe, Pembroke School of Performing Arts | Pembroke, MA
Total budget: $100,000
Project timeline: 3 months (ongoing)
Kelbe expanded from 1,600 to 6,000 square feet. She used Rosco's SubFloor and Adagio vinyl and broke her extensive renovation into three phases.
Ellen Marshall, Off Broadway Dance Center | Fulton, NY
Total budget: $60,000
Project timeline: 3 months
Marshall renovated a Methodist church into a 4,000-square-foot studio, with Stagestep Flooring Solutions' marbleized gray Timestep in her two studios.
Diana Griffin, Fusion Dance Company | Palm Harbor, FL
Total budget: $40,000
Project timeline: 45 days
From restaurant to studio! The checkerboard ceilings were a restaurant leftover that Griffin decided to keep. Her O'Mara sprung floors were self-installed in her 7,000-square-foot space.
Barclay Gibbs, Dance Conservatory of Maryland | Bel Air, MD
Total budget: $10,000
Project timeline: 2 days
Gibbs chose Gerstung Floor Systems' AirBase 600 for her 2,000-square-foot studio. This semi-permanent flooring will travel with her, should she change locations in the future.
Nigel Burgoine, Ballet Theatre of Toledo | Toledo, OH
Total budget: $4,000
Project timeline: 1 day
In her work as director of physical therapy for New York City Ballet, Marika Molnar relies on tools like bands, balls and Pilates equipment to rehabilitate and strengthen dancers. She says there's a place for such tools in daily dance classes, as well. Resistance and stability tools can help students develop strength and even break bad habits. "Say someone is compensating because of a weakness or restriction—that's what they're always going to do," she says, even after a teacher corrects them repeatedly. "If you give them something that makes things a little unfamiliar, their brain has to participate more. It becomes not only a physical exercise but a cognitive one." The dancer learns in a new way, and improves.
Molnar has collaborated with Pilates expert Joan Breibart and PTs at Westside Dance Physical Therapy to create a series of tools and exercises with dancers' training and recovery needs in mind. Here, she shares three of her favorites.
Christy Wolverton had a student who often either missed class or seemed to be sick. "When you're in our pre-professional company, attendance is huge," says Wolverton, owner and director of Dance Industry Performing Arts Center in Plano, Texas. She tried to be patient with the dancer and communicate with her parents to get a better idea of what was going on at home. "When she was diagnosed with a serious illness," she says, "we were relieved that we didn't come down on her for something that wasn't her fault."
Laura Glenn can still remember the excitement she felt watching the Limón Dance Company perform at Central Park in the summer of 1962. "I turned to the person next to me and whispered, 'He's going to be my teacher!'" she says. Two weeks later, she started as a Juilliard freshman, where she indeed studied under the legendary José Limón before joining his company in her second year.