Teachers & Role Models
"We hire dancers based on more than skill," says Nan Giordano. "I ask myself, 'What are they like as people?" Photo by Quinn Wharton

It's no easy task to follow in the footsteps of a legend. It's harder still to not just follow but also take the lead. Nan Giordano, daughter of jazz-dance icon Gus Giordano, has done just that, and she's doing it with unwavering dynamism and a tenacity that has kept her father's company, Giordano Dance Chicago, not only alive but thriving after 55 years.

Gus Giordano, a venerable founding father of jazz dance, traveled the globe teaching his iconic technique, inspired generations of dancers at his school and founded a company that became a staple in the Chicago dance scene and known around the world. Nan has been part of this company for 40 years—as a dancer, a partner to her father and now as artistic director. Today, she has cultivated an eclectic repertoire for its dancers, who have a full performance and tour schedule; she is fostering a growing education-and-outreach program; and she is overseeing the planning of a new home. "We're not just perpetuating my dad's name," Nan says. "We're elevating his legacy and building on the foundation he created."

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Judith Jamison celebrating Alvin Ailey. Photo by Tiba Vieira, courtesy of Ailey Extension

When you're offered a chance to take a class with Judith Jamison, you don't say no.

The company's beloved artistic director emerita rarely teaches open classes. But to celebrate the legacy of Alvin Ailey on what would have been his 87th birthday, she gave a special two-hour workshop at the Ailey Extension on Friday night. I had to try it, even though I was desperately hoping that she wouldn't make us do any Horton coccyx balances. (Spoiler alert: She did.)

So what's it like to take class with the larger-than-life icon?

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Teachers & Role Models
"I had to figure out how Graham technique informs the body in ways that other techniques don't address," says Kim Stroud. Photo courtesy of Stroud

When it comes to teaching dance, teachers often find themselves wishing they had 10 more minutes to fit in that final grand jeté sequence across the floor or the last 16 counts of the hip-hop combination they prepared. In a K–12 environment, a time crunch is even more likely. Between increasingly limited slots for arts electives and the challenges of navigating a block schedule, time is a precious commodity. Here, three seasoned K–12 educators share their strategies for making every minute count.

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Teachers & Role Models
Stuart (right) with Mark Stuart Theatre member Jaime Verazin. Photo courtesy of Stuart

Movement is movement, says Mark Stuart, associate choreographer of Andy Blankenbuehler's latest Broadway hit, Bandstand. But the motivation to dance really comes down to being inspired by music that speaks to you.

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Teachers & Role Models
Zoey Anderson. Photo by Vanessa Rae Merrill, courtesy of Anderson

The decision to go to college is often difficult for aspiring professional dancers to make, but for Zoey Anderson, attending Marymount Manhattan College made all the difference in achieving her goals. Aside from the great education that she says honed her technique and refined her artistry, Anderson was able to meet MMC Dance Department chair, Katie Langan, who was instrumental in helping her book her first post-college job with Parsons Dance.

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Dance Buzz
Photo courtesy of The Chicago Academy for the Arts

Although at first glance Zachary Jeppsen looks like your typical teenager, he's quite extraordinary. A junior at The Chicago Academy for the Arts, he travels from his farm near Whitewater, Wisconsin, to Chicago six hours a day, six days week. Yes, you read that correctly: six hours a day, six days a week!

Defying most of the usual suspect stereotypes associated with your average teenager, he seems to be ingrained with the dream trifecta—an abundance of discipline, passion and talent. He's the kind of student any dance teacher craves to have in their classes. But where does all that motivation come from?

DT talked with Jeppsen about his love for dance, his supportive parents and why that grueling commute has been worth it.

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Teachers & Role Models
Photo by Ericka Haslam, courtesy of Warner

"I worked my whole life to be a dancer," says Matt Dorame Warner, co-director of Creative Arts Academy's Touring Company in Bountiful, Utah. "I danced more hours than a lot of kids did anything else. So now as a teacher, I expect the same amount of professionalism and respect for dance from my students."

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Your Studio
Photo by Benjamin Spell, courtesy of Spell

Did you see our story on three former owners who found the right successors for their studios? Here's another owner with a successful transition story.

After nearly two decades of ownership, Beverly Spell decided to sell her Lafayette, Louisiana–based school, because the licensing of her curriculum for creative movement and beginning ballet was demanding more of her time and travel. "You can be an absent owner," says Spell, "but I didn't want to be." Last August, she sold The Ballet Studio to faculty member Brie Castro. "We offered her a down payment with four-year owner financing," says Spell. She says it's been surprisingly easy to let go of the responsibility. Well, except for one small thing: "We always have fresh flowers at the studio," she says, "and I still tend to pull out the dead ones when I go in."

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