Raising the bar for arts education.

Damian Woetzel rehearses George Balanchine's Apollo for the 2009 Vail International Dance Festival.

Longtime New York City Ballet principal Damian Woetzel now shines behind the stage as much as he did dancing on it. After performing 75 lead roles over 23 years, the Boston native retired in 2008 and has since become artistic director of the Vail International Dance Festival in Colorado. Running through August 10, this year’s lineup features Pacific Northwest Ballet, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Larry Keigwin and an Alexei Ratmansky world premiere set on Wendy Whelan.

 

While leading the nationally recognized event to new heights each summer, Woetzel has also been working to further arts education in the community. Celebrate the Beat is a weeklong outreach program initiated in 2007 by Woetzel’s wife and former NYCB principal Heather Watts. Children ages 9 to 11 take half-day music and dance classes at a Vail elementary school and end the workshop with a public performance.  Woetzel also produces Dancing in the Streets, a series of free live performances and interactive dance lessons, where Vail community members and festival-goers learn from the pros.

 

 

Dance Teacher: As a member of President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, what are your hopes for arts education?

Damian Woetzel: To make the arts a more central part of this country’s progress, whether it’s in job creation or education. The committee strives to flip the traditional idea that the arts are in need of support. Instead, we strive to prove that the arts can support our civilization.

 

DT: At a time when school arts programs are being cut back, Celebrate the Beat is expanding. Any tips for

educators who face opposition?

DW: I realize the pressure teachers and principals feel surrounding standardized testing, as scores determine budgets. But when combating budget cuts, I can say to focus on the positives. Explain to school boards how taking an hour to learn dance increases math scores. Fighting to take time away from test preparation requires a great amount of courage, but there is proof that students engaged in the arts are more focused and perform better.

 

DT: What advice do you have for studio owners who wish to create events similar to Dancing in the Streets?

DW: Try to arrange the event so people will feel comfortable and willing to participate. Consider the time of day and location. I use a central area in Vail where people congregate. Get other businesses involved in the planning, so it becomes a cohesive effort. I know it feels risky to keep trying new events or creating new work, but unpredictability piques public interest. There’s always a bit of trial and error.

 

DT: How do you keep an indifferent audience engaged, or help them view a performance as more than just entertainment?

DW: Whether it’s through pre-show discussions or Q&A sessions afterward, supplementing a performance is essential. Add footholds to help unfamiliar audiences hang on to something or reach a higher level of appreciation. Adding something unexpected may awaken new feelings in someone wildly familiar with the program. Like going to a museum with a great artist, you gain a deeper sense of understanding and leave feeling completely different. DT

 

 

photo by Erin Baiano

Bobbi Jene is another poignant film to add to this year's must-see list of dance documentaries.

After 10 years living in Israel and dancing with Ohad Naharin's Batsheva Dance, American dancer Bobbi Jene Smith decides to leave the company –and the life she's come to know–in search of finding her own path as a dancer and choreographer.

Keep reading... Show less
Photo by Jim Lafferty; modeled by Sydney Magruder, courtesy of Broadway Dance Center

"If you don't have strong abdominal muscles, you sag into your lower back, your pelvis usually tips and you're hanging out and slumped into your hip joints," says Deborah Vogel, movement analyst, neuromuscular expert and co-founder of the Center for Dance Medicine in New York City. "It just has this whole chain reaction."

The effects of poor core strength can be dire for dancers: from weak and tight hip flexors, which negatively impact extensions, to lower-back discomfort and misaligned shoulders and necks. "Having well-toned abdominals for your posture is the primary reason why you should do stabilizing exercises," says Vogel. "It will allow you to bring your pelvis into correct alignment and good posture."

Keep reading... Show less
How-To
In Motion's senior company dancers and Candice after a showcase performance in Bermuda, (2016). Photo courtesy of Culmer-Smith

When I was 23, an e-mail circulated among my former college dance classmates at Towson University, regarding a teaching position as the jazz director at the In Motion School of Dance studio in Bermuda. I applied, and after a few e-mails, I got offered the job.

Four weeks later, I packed up my tiny little car in Denver, where I was a dancer for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, and drove across the country to my hometown in Maryland, before flying out for my new life in Bermuda.

Looking back now, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn't have time to think through how I should prepare and what I needed to do to officially apply for a work permit. I was mostly concerned with how I was going to pack all my clothes and belongings into two suitcases. If I could go back, I wish I would've had a more specific guide to what teaching in another country entailed.

In an effort to share my experience, here's what I wish I would've known before I left and what I learned over my 10 years living and working as a dance teacher abroad.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
At age 12, doctors advised Paige Fraser to stop dancing and have surgery. Instead, she chose physical therapy and team of chiropractors and massage specialists to help work through her condition. She has just begun her 5th season with Visceral Dance, based in Chicago.

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine, when viewed from the back, has one or more curves. The vertebrae are abnormally rotated, which creates twisting and more prominent visibility of the rib cage on one side, and it is most commonly seen in adolescents ages 10 and older. Most cases cannot be reversed, but they can be controlled, for example dancer Paige Fraser who despite suffering from severe scoliosis, has thrived as a dancer. Dance teachers can play an essential role in spotting the condition at an early stage.

“Teachers can help to notice that scoliosis is there in the first place," says Sophia Fatouros, a New York City–based dance teacher and and former professional ballet dancer who has struggled with scoliosis since she was 12. “Parents do not always see their children in tight clothes, like leotards."

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Sebastian Grubb (right) runs Sebastian's Functional Fitness in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Grubb

From improved aerobic capacity to better reactivity, cross-training can to do wonders for dancers' health and performance. But with the abundance of exercise programs available, how do you get your dancers on the right routine?

Sebastian Grubb, a San Francisco–based fitness trainer and professional dancer, shares three questions to ask as you consider different cross-training options.

Keep reading... Show less
Videos

When choreographer Cristian Faxola learned he had two days to create, develop and shoot a music video as an audition to choreograph for The Squared Division production house, he and his team embraced the challenge.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Thinkstock

I have heard you say that tight hamstrings prevent full extension of the knees and that you prefer hamstring stretches in a standing position, rather than on the floor. Can you explain why?

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox

Win It!

Sponsored