Educational

Balanchine The Teacher: Fundamentals That Shaped the First Generation of New York City Ballet Dancers

by Barbara Walczak and 

Una Kai

University Press of Florida

In a nutshell: An in-depth manual that sheds light on the teaching methods of George Balanchine.

Walczak and Kai, two former Balanchine students, pay homage to their beloved teacher by sharing his innovative teachings in this exhaustive book. Each recounts personal lessons learned from the ballet master, giving an inside look at how he organized and developed classes between 1940 and 1960. The material includes barre and center exercises for 24 classes, common corrections and appropriate class music. Despite the lack of visual elements, the authors manage to vividly detail his style. This guide is for all levels of teachers who wish to pass on Balanchine’s methodology to advanced students. —Courtney Rae Allen

Dance and Culture: 

An Introductory Reader 

for Middle and High 

School Levels

by Wendy Oliver

National Dance Association

In a nutshell: An insightful textbook designed to help young teens gain a general understanding of dance’s global evolution.

Oliver aims to help high school students “view dance through a cultural lens” in this classroom-friendly manual. She describes how movement traditions from around the world evolved within specific cultures, were influenced by international exposure and came to shape styles in America. (The roots of tap and jazz, for example, can be traced back to Irish step and African slave dance.) Oliver presents the material in textbook format, with bulleted lists, highlighted passages, review questions, class activities and pop references that make it easy to digest. While those wanting to delve deeper into each area will need to look elsewhere, this book is a handy resource for teachers and students seeking to understand dance in cultural rather than purely technical terms. —Kirsten Spearman

Children’s

A Dictionary of Dance

by Liz Murphy

Blue Apple Books

In a nutshell: An easy-to-read, illustrated alphabetical introduction to the fundamental elements of dance.

Murphy presents a fun and colorful way to introduce little ones to the basics of dance. She assigns a dance term to each letter of the alphabet—A for “arabesque,” B for “break dancing,” C for “choreographer,” etc.—illustrating and defining each one so that children will find it easy to grasp the concepts. A variety of dance forms, musical and stage terms and parts of the body are covered in a way that is sure to sustain the interest of budding performers—even male dancers. Murphy’s artwork features a multiethnic cast and has an appealing collage-esque, coloring-book feel. —Tracy Krisanits

Biography

Quick, Before the Music Stops: How Ballroom Dancing Saved My Life

by Janet Carlson

Broadway Books

In a nutshell: A touching tale about restoring life through a passion.

In this memoir, Carlson shares how her unexpected return to ballroom dance, 

after competing successfully for seven years, sparked a midlife quest for self-rediscovery, and ultimately helped her move on from a divorce and reconnect with her daughters. Through dance, she regained her confidence and realized how trust and communication are essential not only in partner dance, but in personal relationships as well. The book’s most important lesson is that having a passion can instill enthusiasm and happiness into one’s life. Carlson’s vulnerable yet   determined tone provides heartwarming inspiration for dancers and non-dancers alike. —Elizabeth Louise Hatt

Photography

Ailey Ascending: A Portrait 

in Motion

by Andrew Eccles

Chronicle Books

In a nutshell: A stunning photographic collage that combines the beauty of still life with the allure of movement as art.

With opening remarks by Artistic Director Judith Jamison and famed   playwright Anna Deavere Smith, among others, this photo book chronicles Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater over the course of its 50th anniversary year. Photographer Andrew Eccles’ images capture everything from Ailey school children to company performances of Revelations and For “Bird”—With Love. Through portraits, performance shots and behind-the-scenes looks, Eccles  highlights the beauty of the company’s dancers and the structural magnificence of their new home, the Joan Weill Center for Dance. —KS

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
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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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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