Heading into Nutcracker season, we are reminded of how many young dancers grow up dreaming of Sugar Plum Fairies. But with “So You Think You Can Dance” on the scene, Clara and her prince now have a significant rival when it comes to youthful dreams. The TV show gives dancers a high-profile alternative to The Nutcracker as a worthy pre-professional ambition.
This month the two newest “SYTYCD” winners grace the cover of our sister publication Dance Spirit. But here in the pages of Dance Teacher, we’re even more excited about what happens behind the scenes. In our cover story about Stacey Tookey, you’ll get an inside look at how the Emmy Award–nominated choreographer works with the dancers to showcase their stellar technique.
Tookey and other audience favorites from the show are also active in the convention scene, making it a popular pathway to “SYTYCD” success. Not only is the convention floor a great place to be noticed by the likes of Tookey, Mia Michaels, Brian Friedman and Tyce Diorio, but it’s where dancers build the chops necessary to ace an audition in the commercial world. Check out the annual Dance Teacher Convention Guide (available in our print, iPad and Nook editions).
As great as conventions are for exposure, nothing can replace the fundamental training and support a dancer receives in her home studio. That’s why we gave the green light to writer Rachel Berman to talk with past season contestants about their early teachers. Berman, a former dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company, wondered why there is so little acknowledgement of teachers on the show. “They never give the teachers enough credit,” she said when she proposed the story. “These whiz kids did not come from nowhere!” In her story, you’ll meet the hometown teachers behind four “SYTYCD” stars.
And there is much more in this issue to inspire and intrigue. Igal Perry, for instance, demonstrates his method for teaching a développé à la seconde in Technique (click here for the video). And in “Left vs. Right," Pennsylvania Ballet principal Julie Diana shares the advice of master teachers on how to develop a dancer’s weaker side.
Wishing you peace and good health for the holidays!
Photo by Nathan Sayers
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.