For the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Dianna Jones, owner and director of the Jean Leigh Academy of Dance in Denham Springs, LA, has developed a fundraising project to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that provides aid to injured military personnel. Jones came up with the idea for “Freedom Dances” last September after watching a television program commemorating that fateful day. “I started thinking about the dance community,” she says, “and I knew we could do something we’d be proud of, especially teachers, who can get students involved in something bigger than dance—giving back.”
Through Freedom Dances, Jones encourages members of the dance community to create events, such as recitals or raffles, to collect contributions and raise money and awareness for Wounded Warrior Project. And direct donations will be accepted through her site until Veterans Day, November 11. “The outreach and support from our local community has been incredible,” Jones says. “More people than I expected are willing to jump on board for a good cause.”
Jones stresses how grateful the dance community should be for those who defend our freedom. “We have an added layer of gratitude as artists,” she says. “The ability to create is everything.” Info: freedomdances.net
Photo: Claire Albert of The Dance Refinery in Indianapolis, IN, raised $466 by setting up a Freedom Dances booth at her studio’s recital. (courtesy of Dianna Jones)
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The exhibit Radical Bodies: Anna Halprin, Simone Forti, Yvonne Rainer in California and New York, 1955–1972 is filled with exhibits, performances and conferences honoring the three postmodern dance living legends.
"I describe it as organized chaos," says Kimberly Rishi with a laugh, as she hunts for a quiet space inside her 12,000-square-foot studio in Ashburn, Virginia. In any given week, Studio Bleu Dance Center's 11 dance studios accommodate 800 enrolled students, 52 staff members, adults who take drop-in classes, plus kids in vocal and piano programs and an affiliated ballet conservatory. "It may look like there's always a party going on," Rishi says, "but that's not the case. There's a schedule, and everyone knows where they're headed."
When Rishi took the reins in 2003, there were only 80 students, 20 of whom were competitive. Today, 300 dancers are enrolled for the competition program. And just this winter, she launched a musical theater program, taking in triple-threat hopefuls in the area. While the Ashburn area (outside of Washington, DC) is burgeoning, faculty member Heidi Moe says Studio Bleu's growth is due to more than changing demographics. It's the direct result of Rishi's business experience and leadership ability.
Irish dancer Cara Butler remembers the helpful advice that her teacher Donny Golden gave her as a child to ease her mind before competitions.
"I remember that he was really good at calming my nerves as a kid. He would always say, 'Your nerves are a form of energy. Use it as fuel.' That was something, especially when I was younger, that would always get me through it. I find that even today I still get nervous about certain performances. But he taught me to just use it as energy and think of it as a good thing. If you're not nervous, where is the emotion and the passion? Nerves are good."
Dancer and choreographer Chuck Davis, who founded the largest African dance festival, DanceAfrica, and performance company African American Dance Ensemble, died Sunday at his home in Durham, North Carolina. He was 80. Known for his benevolent spirit and powerful presence, he was committed to keeping the roots of African dance alive, as well as fusing together the older traditions with contemporary choreography. In 2004 he was honored with a Dance Magazine Award and a Bessie Award in 2014 for outstanding service to the field of dance.