Orlando Ballet School Students Make Waves

Students of Florida’s Orlando Ballet School have been showing off all over the world lately. Jeffrey Cirio, 18, who left a pre-professional position in Boston to study with OBS’ director Peter Stark, won the gold medal in the sixth annual Helsinki International Ballet Competition.
Cirio went on to place first in the pre-professional male category at the annual World Ballet Competition, held in Orlando. “What’s interesting about Jeff is that he’s done all these competitions but the goal has always been to be a classical ballet dancer. For him, this was always a means to an end. It’s really great that he’s kept that perspective,” says Stark, Cirio’s teacher and coach.
What’s more, Cirio was recently selected to receive this year’s Princess Grace Dance Fellowship, and the money awarded will go toward his salary as he returns to Boston to join Boston Ballet as a corps member.
Another OBS student, Arcadian Broad, was selected to compete in Las Vegas for NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” Broad performed a contemporary dance routine to Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” (which he trained for with an outside teacher, Dawhone Perry), that earned him a unanimous vote from all three judges to continue in the competition. “Arcadian is an incredibly accomplished ballet dancer and pianist,” says Stark, who adds that Broad was closely considered for the role of Billy Elliot on Broadway. “He just enjoys the work and goes from one challenge to the next.”


Info: www.orlandoballet.org —Tracy Krisanits

Cunningham's Legacy

The dance community mourns the loss of Merce Cunningham, who passed away peacefully in his sleep July 26, 2009. Born April 16, 1919, in Centralia, Washington, Cunningham became one of the most salient figures in dance history. His groundbreaking work as a dancer, teacher, choreographer and innovator redefined modern dance and initiated the postmodern dance movement.
In the wake of his death, the Cunningham Dance Foundation has launched its Legacy Plan, to dissolve the company over three years, yet maintain the integrity of Cunningham’s work through the Cunningham Trust. Selected by Cunningham prior to his death, trustees Laura Kuhn (executive director of the John Cage Trust), Patricia Lent, Allan G. Sperling and Robert Swinston are currently arranging MCDC’s two-year world tour. The Cunningham Studio will relocate. However, open classes and educational and outreach programs held at the current Westbeth location will continue during this transitional period. The Foundation must raise $8 million to fund Dance Capsules to conserve Cunningham’s work and to provide career transitions for dancers and staff. So far, $3.5 million has been committed. For more information or to make a contribution, visit www.merce.org.
—Jenny Dalzell

Margaret Jenkins’ CHIME Crosses State Lines

The Margaret Jenkins Dance Company’s Choreographers in Mentorship Exchange program, CHIME, received a $400,000 grant from The James Irvine Foundation, plus an additional $155,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to help fund CHIME Across Borders, an exchange among U.S. choreographers.
Conceived by artistic director Margaret Jenkins, CHIME funds self-selected pairs of professional and emerging choreographers in the San Francisco Bay Area to work together for a year with the simple goal of enriching each other’s work. Past pairings have included prominent Bay Area–based artists: Brenda Way, Molissa Fenley, Charles Moulton, Joe Goode and Julia Adam.
Beginning in January, the new CHIME Across Borders will bring well-known choreographers from outside California to mentor local choreographers in San Francisco. The first artist selected to work with CHIME Across Borders is New York–based David Gordon, who will travel to the Bay Area several times during 2010.
“I really thought it was important to expand the dialogue to people who have been working over decades,” says Jenkins. “One of the things I like about CHIME is that because it is process-oriented and not product-oriented—meaning no one has to finish a dance by the end of the year—you could decide to throw everything out and that would be as successful a year as making a work.” Jenkins says she also has international aspirations for the program: “My hope is that it will reach international exchange.”
Info: www.mjdc.org —TK



Giordano's Legacy

Gus Giordano may not have been present at the 16th Jazz Dance World Congress in Chicago this July, but his spirit was everywhere—from the “Gus’s JDWC” that was stamped on every student’s bracelet and black T-shirts imprinted with his smoky image, to an inspiring essence in every class.
The first Congress to take place since the death of its charismatic founder was dedicated to the man who changed the face of jazz dance. The film Gus: An American Icon, written and produced by Pedro Brenner, debuted on the first night. Told through acclaimed jazz dancers and educators, the narrative follows Giordano’s first steps in opening a dance studio to becoming a renowned jazz legend credited with bringing the jazz community together. He started the first JDWC in 1990, and he codified jazz dance for teachers in the Anthology of American Jazz Dance (unfortunately now out of print).
An acclaimed choreographer and director, Giordano is remembered best as an educator, and his students recall his classes fondly. “They don’t walk up the stairs and say, ‘I saw the best performance ever.’ They walk up the stairs and say, ‘I took a class with your father,’” said Amy Giordano, one of the Giordano daughters. “It’s not about the trophies; it’s about the teaching.”
A lunchtime “Ask the Experts” panel discussion brought together master teachers Ray Leeper, Liz Imperio, Jimmy Locust and Pattie Obey. Leeper encouraged teachers to find new ways to approach their corrections and to always identify the purpose of each exercise, while Imperio favored a more time-honored approach: “Make them repeat it until they get it,” she said.
Other master instructors on faculty for the five-day event included Joe Tremaine, Jon Lehrer, Homer Bryant, Randy Duncan, Masashi Mishiro, Susan Quinn, Kirby Reed, Sherry Zunker, Giordano company member Cesar Salinas and of course, Nan Giordano herself, who continues to lead the organization in her late father’s footsteps.
“This is who I am. Not just what I do,” Gus Giordano once said. “And I say, long live jazz dance.”
—Lauren Green





"So You Think You Can Dance" Launches Dizzy Feet Foundation

Nigel Lythgoe, the co-creator of “So You Think You Can Dance,” has teamed up with “Dancing With The Stars” judge Carrie Ann Inaba, director Adam Shankman and actress Katie Holmes to launch Dizzy Feet Foundation, a nonprofit charity that will provide scholarships and assistance to underprivileged but talented young dancers.
Paula Abdul, Jennifer Lopez, Miley Cyrus, Mia Michaels, Mary Murphy, Debbie Allen, Shane Sparks and others have been tapped to serve on a steering committee—the group responsible for selecting scholarship recipients and following their journeys.
“The financial crisis that the whole world is compromised by is affecting the arts big time,” says steering committee member Allen. “We’re on life support right now because arts funding is the first thing that gets slashed.”
Info: www.dizzyfeetfoundation.org —TK


Honors List

  • Austin Hartel, associate professor of dance at The University of Oklahoma and artistic director of The Hartel Dance Group, was awarded a Fulbright Scholar Grant to choreograph and teach for the National Ballet of Paraguay and the National Institute of Fine Arts in Asuncion, Paraguay, for the 2009–2010 academic year.
  • Greer Reed-Jones was named artistic director of Dance Alloy Theater in Pittsburgh. She was the education director at the company and formerly taught at the Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts.
  • North Carolina Dance Theatre named Wilson Middle School dance teacher Cherise Hill as Educator of the Year. The Dance Champion of the Year was posthumously awarded to Villa Heights Elementary School principal and Dance Theatre’s Education Committee member James Aiken, who passed away in March. Carol Owen, executive director of East Learning Community, also received a Dance Champion Award.


In Memoriam: John Goding 1958-2009

John Goding, The Washington Ballet’s ballet master, died of a pulmonary embolism while vacationing in Florida this past July. Goding served the company for more than 30 years.
As a featured dancer with TWB from the 1970s through 1998, Goding performed leading roles created for him by Choo-San Goh, TWB’s first artist-in-residence. He choreographed numerous works for the company including Danzon, Mysteries and Rhapsody in Swing. In 1998, he was named ballet master.
The company has set up an e-mail account, rememberingjgoding@washingtonballet.org, for anyone who wishes to share memories of Goding. They will be passed on to his family.

—TK



Neuromuscular expert Deborah Vogel with Jordan Lazan, right. Photo by Jim Lafferty

By strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot and ankle, a dancer can help prevent or correct existing pronation. Having strong intrinsic foot muscles keeps the arches aligned, preventing them from dropping inward.

Here, Vogel shares three strengthening exercises to help correct and prevent pronation. She advises dancers to include these in their cross-training regimen.

Mobilize your ankles. (Step 1)

For this ankle mobilization exercise, having a TheraBand wrapped around your ankles puts pressure on your feet to pronate. By resisting that action and keeping your feet centered through the relevé, you're essentially training the ankle where center is.

  • Sitting up straight in a chair, with your feet planted on the floor a few inches apart, tie a TheraBand in a loop around your ankles. You can place a yoga block vertically in between your knees to maintain space between your legs.

Next Page
Photo courtesy of New York Live Arts

Ellen Robbins' modern dance classes for kids and teens are legendary in New York City. Robbins, who has been teaching kids how to dance since the 1970s (and whose pupils included the actresses Claire Danes and Julia Stiles), takes the standard recital model and turns it on its head. Her students—ranging in age from 8 to 18—are the choreographers for the annual concert she produces at esteemed NYC venue New York Live Arts.

If that approach sounds borderline insane to you (we know you're all deep in the throes of recital season right now), consider Robbins' unique teaching philosophy: Improvisation is present in every aspect of class, for every age group. Here are four ways she shapes her youngest dancers into choreographers—almost without their realizing it!

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Former students of Kelley gather around a cardboard cutout made in his honor at the recent tribute. Photo courtesy of Merritt

Every dancer has a teacher who makes an impression. The kind of impression that makes you want to become a dancer or a teacher in the first place. For Mara Merritt, owner of Merritt Dance Center in Schenectady, NY, and countless others, that teacher was Charles Kelley.

Known as "Chuck" to most, Kelley was born December 4, 1936. He was a master teacher in tap, jazz and acrobatics, who wrote syllabuses for national dance conventions like Dance Masters of America. Growing up in upstate New York, Merritt's parents, both dance teachers, took her into Manhattan every Friday to study with Kelley. First at the old Ed Sullivan Theater and the New York Center of Dance in Times Square, then years later at Broadway Dance Center.

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Photo by Grant Halverson, courtesy of ADF

As a soloist with William Forsythe's Ballet Frankfurt and later as his assistant, Elizabeth Corbett got to experience firsthand the groundbreaking choreographer's influence on contemporary ballet. "I find it fascinating and never-ending," she says of his work. "It was a repertory that was constantly changing over time and still is." Now on faculty with the American Dance Festival, Corbett brings Forsythe's repertory and processes to the dancers in class every summer.

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During seated stretches, I encourage my students to sit straight on their sits bones and then fold forward at the hips—even if they don't go forward very far. One student tells me that if she sits as I instruct, she can't reach forward at all. Why?
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In 2011, New York City–based choreographer Pedro Ruiz returned to Cuba after 21 years of dancing with Ballet Hispanico and more than 30 years being away. The experience was so moving that he created The Windows Project as a continuous cultural collaboration between American artists and Cuban dancers.

"I was so overwhelmed seeing all the dancers do Afro-Cuban dance with live music. It was the moment my soul reconnected to Cuba and to my roots," says Ruiz of his first trip back. "I started weeping." He saw that, while Cuban companies and schools have amazing knowledge and passion for dance, they needed access to train with teachers in a variety of techniques, and choreographers outside of Cuba. "Cuba is still struggling economically, so the dancers also don't have good ballet shoes or costumes, and The Windows Project was my way to begin to help," he says.

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