When I first became an editor, there was quite a debate about whether or not to use the word “winning” when it came to dance, so I learned to write about competition using phrases like “she was awarded a trophy,” or “she placed first.” Though I understand the perspective held by many in our field—to focus too much on the win can undermine the artistry of dance—I’ve since come to terms with the word. Who, after all, doesn’t want to be a winner?
But along with the trophies, let’s not forget the quiet wins that occur in daily class or rehearsal—the aha moments when it’s just you and the mirror, and something you’ve been struggling with suddenly clicks. As choreographers, business owners, educators and competition judges, we all appreciate accolades for work well done. Our wins are worth celebrating.
We are pleased this month to celebrate Westchester Dance Academy. Dancers from the studio are consistent finalists at competitions, so when we planned a piece about directors who choreograph their own competition numbers, Kelly Burke was at the top of our list. It was a treat to spend time with Burke and meet her mother and business partner, Sallie, and some of her star students—the tremendously poised young women aged 14 and 16 who are pictured in this issue's “Final Pose.” Click here to hear more from Burke in an exclusive video interview.
In “Bringing Home the Trophy," Burke and other studio choreographers share their strategies for creating award-winning work. Plus we’ve added some tips from “So You Think You Can Dance” celebrities Mandy Moore and Joey Dowling. Be sure to consult the “Competition Guide” as you plan your season. With celebrity teachers, influential judges and a growing emphasis on education, there’s a lot more to consider than geographic proximity when selecting an event to attend.
Speaking of winning moments, we had an incredible time this summer with the more than 1,600 teachers who attended the Dance Teacher Summit. The lively conversations and sense of community were very much on our minds as we put this issue together. Want to continue the discussion? LIKE US! on Facebook and join the conversation as we share best practices and debate hot issues on the Dance Teacher discussion board.
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.