Additional Guides and Resource

Music for Class: Lauren Adams

Soulful songs for contemporary choreography

The versatility and quirk in Lauren Adams’ choreography makes her a hit on the convention scene. She attributes her success to a wandering imagination. “I get bored really easily,” she says. “I’m always looking to surprise and push myself, which also pushes the dancers.”

That’s why Adams is always searching for something new to inform contemporary movement. Lately, that something has been ballroom. “I’m studying international Latin and every style has its own timing. The way I hear music has totally changed,” she says. “The movement is so grounded and the hands are almost similar to Balanchine. They’re so three-dimensional.”

In the early stages of a new piece, Adams trusts her intuition. She admits that her choreography often doesn’t make sense, even to herself, until later in the process. “It’s hard to make a dance say something in three minutes. The strongest way is for me to develop variations off a choreographic theme and to make sure the dancers feel something through the work,” she says. “I don’t like to leave a room until I’ve gotten chills.” DT

Artist: Roberta Flack

Song: “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

“This is my favorite version of the song and my favorite live vocal performance of all time. It is great as a warm-up or something to play while just learning movement. It makes everyone take a breath and close their eyes because there’s so much gratitude in the music.”

 

Artist: Aretha Franklin

Song: “Ain’t No Way”

“This is what I wish I sounded like when I sing. It’s very sensual. I love to embrace the woman dancer and I love being feminine. This song is great for a female solo. It will truly make her feel like she’s a star.”

 

 

Artist: Justin Vernon

Song: “Song for a Lover of Long Ago”

“I think this is my favorite song of all time. It’s gritty with lots of silence and clinking. You don’t always know what he is singing, so it’s more about reading his tone. It’s super sad, but I love directing with this because it brings out an honest narrative.”

 

Artist: Perry Como

Song: “Ave Maria”

“I don’t hear anyone ever use this version and I think it’s really special. There’s something about it that makes you feel like you’re spending time with an old companion. It just feels important.”

 

 

Artist: Groove Armada

Song: “History (Love Mix)”

“This song has a joy that just makes me smile. It’s a palate cleanser, especially when I have been working on something dark. I’ll switch to this because it allows me to experience whatever wants to come through my dancing. And I’ll put any phrase to it and it will work.”

 

Artist: Gillian Welch

Song: “Revelator” (explicit)

“There’s a swear word in this, but I love it so much that I edited it out. It has so much fire and power that it puts everyone on the same playing field, men and women. The heat in it makes me want to jump and punch and scream and move.”

 

Photo courtesy Lauren Adams

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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Photo courtesy of DM archives

"It's hard not to get too hurt in this profession."

Ann Reinking got real earlier this month at New York City Dance Alliance Foundation's Bright Lights Shining Stars gala. She was being honored as a 2017 NYCDA Foundation Ambassador for the Arts, and her speech was so moving that we had to share the entire thing with you.

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popular
Photo by Grant Halverson, courtesy of ADF

As a soloist with William Forsythe's Ballet Frankfurt and later as his assistant, Elizabeth Corbett got to experience firsthand the groundbreaking choreographer's influence on contemporary ballet. "I find it fascinating and never-ending," she says of his work. "It was a repertory that was constantly changing over time and still is." Now on faculty with the American Dance Festival, Corbett brings Forsythe's repertory and processes to the dancers in class every summer.

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Dancer Health
During seated stretches, I encourage my students to sit straight on their sits bones and then fold forward at the hips—even if they don't go forward very far. One student tells me that if she sits as I instruct, she can't reach forward at all. Why?
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Teachers & Role Models

In 2011, New York City–based choreographer Pedro Ruiz returned to Cuba after 21 years of dancing with Ballet Hispanico and more than 30 years being away. The experience was so moving that he created The Windows Project as a continuous cultural collaboration between American artists and Cuban dancers.

"I was so overwhelmed seeing all the dancers do Afro-Cuban dance with live music. It was the moment my soul reconnected to Cuba and to my roots," says Ruiz of his first trip back. "I started weeping." He saw that, while Cuban companies and schools have amazing knowledge and passion for dance, they needed access to train with teachers in a variety of techniques, and choreographers outside of Cuba. "Cuba is still struggling economically, so the dancers also don't have good ballet shoes or costumes, and The Windows Project was my way to begin to help," he says.

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How-To
Thinkstock

Midway through every semester at Indiana University Bloomington, contemporary professor Stephanie Nugent notices that her students aren't quite as awake as they were the first week of classes. They're tired from midterm exams and bring less energy to the studio. Nugent, too, feels the lull. "Teaching in academia is an arc with many peaks and valleys," she says, noting that the repetition of exercises can get monotonous. "On days when it feels like we've been doing the same thing over and over, I give students an improvisational prompt, and it reignites all of our interests. It's something to investigate, rather than something to repeat."

Most teachers experience a moment of stagnation at some point. Maybe students aren't progressing as fast as you feel they should, or you feel uninspired by the daily routine. Factors outside the studio, like administrative work, can also deplete your energy reserves. During these low and slow times, consider the following ideas to find inspiration and give yourself—and your students—a boost.

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Teachers & Role Models
Photo by Jennifer Zmuda, courtesy of BalletMet

Long before switching from ballet to Broadway became de rigueur, Edwaard Liang shocked everyone by leaving New York City Ballet to join the Broadway cast of the musical Fosse. Eleven years later, he defied expectations again by taking over as BalletMet's artistic director—without putting his robust freelance choreography career on hold. Liang, it seems, doesn't pay much heed to the conventional approach to a dance career.

In his four years with BalletMet, Liang has sought to challenge his dancers with diverse repertory that goes far beyond the typical confines of classical and contemporary ballet. This month, to celebrate BalletMet's 40th anniversary, the company teamed up with Ohio State University's dance department and the Wexner Center for the Arts to offer a smorgasbord of dance styles: from William Forsythe's singular brand of leggy-brainy dance to Ohad Naharin's exuberant Minus 16, performed alongside OSU dance students. Here, he talks to DT about the effect his choices have had on his career.

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