In the Magazine

John Heginbotham

Embracing the past—and pushing it away, too

Heginbotham hamming it up at Jacob’s Pillow

It’s almost too easy to compare choreographer John Heginbotham to his former boss Mark Morris, in whose company he danced for well over a decade. Both have an intimate and formidable knowledge of music, and both have a gift for sly humor in their work—rare traits to find working in tandem in modern dance. But where many choreographers might chafe at such a comparison, Heginbotham has embraced it, simultaneously freeing himself to honor his choreographic roots and upend them where he sees fit.

His newest project is a collaboration with fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, who is directing Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis this month. Heginbotham, who is choreographing the imaginative and quest-filled opera, doesn’t want to give away too many details, but he promises typical Mizrahi glamour and a Hollywood influence. He’ll get to stretch his choreographic legs a bit, too, because this production is being conceived as something akin to a story ballet, with plenty of dance.

Creating new work: “I usually walk in with several dance phrases ready to go, something that I’ve choreographed by myself in my apartment. It’s actually really important to me to be alone, at least to create the initial movements. It’s uncomfortable for me to have people standing around watching me while I try to make something up.”

John versus Mark: “I don’t want to be a poor man’s Mark Morris. I’m trying to be the best John Heginbotham. Sometimes I’ll ask the dancers to do a phrase, and I’ll think, ‘Does that feel familiar to me?’ Maile Okamura [Heginbotham’s costume designer and Mark Morris Dance Group member] is a good source of reality. I’ll invite her to a rehearsal, knowing that I want her to look at a specific part of the dance. Homage I love. Plagiarism I want to avoid like the plague.”

Challenges as an artistic director: “Running my own company, I definitely feel responsible for a lot of other people. It’s a welcome pressure, but I do want everybody to have what they need for what they’re going to do onstage. It’s keeping things interesting for the dancers so they’re not bored, making sure that they’re paid well enough that it’s feasible for them to be a part of this and making sure there are enough performance opportunities.” DT

 

Training: BFA from The Juilliard School

Performance: Susan Marshall & Company 1995–1998; Mark Morris Dance Group 1998–2012

Choreography: Founded Dance Heginbotham in 2011

 

Photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy of Heginbotham

How-To

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.

Keep reading... Show less
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.

Keep reading... Show less
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.

Keep reading... Show less
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.

Next Page
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!

Keep reading... Show less
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.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox

Win It!

Sponsored