12 Days of Holiday Thanks: Kathryn McCormick

Kathryn McCormick certainly isn't camera shy. In her on-screen debut, she played an auditioning dancer in the remake of Fame. Then, we watched her climb to the final three on the sixth season of "So You Think You Can Dance" and return for season seven's "All Star" cast. And most recently, she moved back to the big screen as the star of Step Up's fourth installment, Step Up 4Ever. McCormick credits much of her success to Bea Scheyer, her fifth grade dance teacher from Augusta West Dance Studio in Georgia.

"She would have a jar in class and if we ever said the words 'I can't' we had to pay her a quarter. No fifth grader wants to give up her money! She was more than a teacher--she taught us how dance builds character and that love through art is the most important thing.

I learned to never limit myself and to have confidence in what I do. I also remind myself to put relationships before work, because the person you are is most important at the end of the day. And when you put that effort into yourself and those surrounding you, it really does shine through in your dancing. It brings your work to a completely different level."

Photo courtesy of Go 2 Talent

Technique
Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

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Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Teachers Trending

Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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