Capezio's 125th anniversary gala (held last night at NYC's City Center) was a star-studded event. Nigel Lythgoe accepted their 125th Anniversary Award on behalf of the Dizzy Feet Foundation and Tommy Tune received the 61st Capezio Dance Award, presented by Ann Reinking. Highlights of the gala included performances by The Rockettes, Mandy Moore (and Break the Floor/JUMP dancers), Twitch, Nick Lazzarini, tapper Cartier Wiliams, Mr. Wiggles, Rock Steady Crew, Dana Moore, Bad Boys of Dance, Momix, Desmond Richardson (who knew he could sing?), Martine Van Hamel, Daniel Ulbricht and ABT's Misty Copeland, Jared Mathews and Craig Salstein, and so, so, so many more. Basically, it was A LOT of awesome dance.

But one of my favorite moments of the night came at the very beginning, when we watched a behind-the-scene video of the Capezio factory, including workers hand-making pointe shoes. As you can probably relate, I've worn a lot of pointe shoes in my day, and it was neat to see the TLC that goes into each pair.

A few interesting tid bits from the evening:

--Anna Pavlova came to the Capezio factory when she toured the US and wanted new shoes.

--The Ziegfeld Follies wore Capezio shoes.

--Isadora Duncan wore Capezio-made customized sandals.

--ABT corps de ballet dancer Nicole Graniero goes through 230 pairs (roughly) of pointe shoes in one year.

After the show, a few of the Dance Media editors were discussing our old pointe shoes. Turns out, we all still have them. (Are we hoarders or just nostalgic??) My first pair is hanging on my door knob to my old bedroom, and others I decorated with pink glitter as centerpieces for my bat mitzvah party—they're still around. (Total disclaimer, I even have a pair of autographed danced-in pointe shoes from PA Ballet principal Amy Aldridge on my desk at work, and one of my best friends collects autographed shoes.) Another woman created a pointe-shoe waterfall over her bed frame in her childhood bedroom, and another editor used them as shelving decoration.  What have you done with your old shoes? Have you saved those (painful and blistered) memories, or thrown them out?

 

 

 

Photo of pointe shoes decorated by Alliza Charbonneau, called "Degas Emulation" for The National Museum of Dance's pointe shoe decorating contest. (Winners will be on display through November.) Also, Ballet West holds a "Shoe-In" each year and invites local artists to create work inspired by the pointe shoes. Pretty cool.  Have you held a pointe-shoe decorating contest at your studio? Tell us about it! It could be a great activity for birthday parties, or a way to keep kids occupied during open houses or registration sessions. 

 

 

Introducing and teaching rhythm can seem easy, but in reality it can prove to be a complicated concept—especially for younger dancers to grasp. At Ballet Hispánico's School of Dance in New York City, Los Explorers for 3- to 5-year-olds uses classic salsa and tango music to help kids acquire rhythmic awareness.

Here Rebecca Tsivkin, early childhood programs associate, and Kiri Avelar, associate school director, offer exercises to help youngsters feel the beat.

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Dance Buzz
Panelists (left to right): Emily Nusbaum, Eric Kupers, Judith Smith, Deborah Karp and Suzanna Curtis. Photo by Aiano Nakagawa, courtesy of Luna Dance Institute

This past Saturday, I visited Luna Dance Institute in Berkeley, California, to attend the Dance & Disability Discourse & Panel—a discussion with five artists, educators and researchers about access and equity for disabled students in dance education. Here are three statements from the discussion that I found eye-opening.

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How-To
Todd Rosenlieb, left, of The Governor's School for the Arts. Photo by Victor Frailing, courtesy of Todd Rosenlieb

You're setting choreography on your class and most of the students are picking it up. One dancer, though, is having difficulty remembering the steps. You review the material several times, but you fear that this is starting to hold back your more advanced students. Still, you're worried the struggling dancer will be left behind. What is the best way to proceed?

Memorizing choreography is an essential skill for dancers. Fast learners have more time to work on the technique and artistry within a combination, and they are often the first to catch the eyes of directors. Like most skills, learning pace can be improved. Encouraging students to develop their own memorization methods will help them approach choreography with confidence.

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Dancer Health
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.

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How-To
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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Teachers & Role Models
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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