Plenty of choreographers will argue that finding an audience for dance can be a Herculean task. San Francisco–based choreographer Sean Dorsey has what most would consider an added obstacle: He’s transgender, and the dance-theater work he creates for his company deals mainly with transgender and queer experiences. But he says the work is universally resonant. “Whether you’re transgender, straight, queer, you don’t know, you’re changing your mind—you can relate to the themes of the work,” says Dorsey. “Longing for connection or love or community, feelings of loss or grief. We always hear from our audiences, ‘I saw myself in that.’”

Dorsey’s newest work, The Missing Generation, about longtime survivors of the early AIDS epidemic, recently began a 20-city U.S. tour.

On using text “I’ve always loved creating stories and movement. I’m really excited by the intersection of language and story and cadence and speech. I use ‘dance theater’ to describe my work because there’s always text and language, either in the sound score or spoken live onstage by the dancers. My work is very often rooted in story or character or emotion.”

His process “By the time we land in the studio, I’ve been working for a year or two years on the project—on the score. Every single thing about the movement and the structure is completely informed by the music and the content of the story and the cadence of the text. I will not, generally, have my dancers generate movement ideas to the text. I’ll play them a section so they know what we’re working on, but then I will play unrelated music. I don’t want them creating meaning on top of meaning. There’s no movement that develops separately for movement’s sake.”

Audience reception “The most conservative place we went to was when we drove in the Sean Dorsey Dance family van through Whitewater, Wisconsin. It was election time, and there were signs everywhere. We were like, ‘OK. Let’s keep each other safe.’ They have a state-of-the-art, 1,000-seat theater, and we were on a big LED sign outside—in our boxer briefs, a promotional picture. I said to my dancers, ‘We honestly might have 40 people come to this show. But people need this work. Let’s dance big for them.’ And then we had 600 people show up! In this small town. I think that, again and again, it’s beautiful and surprising how open-hearted people are.” DT

Training: Main Dance, a full-time, pre-professional studio in Vancouver

Performance: Member of Lizz Roman & Dancers 2000–06

Choreography: Founded Sean Dorsey Dance in 2005

Photo by Lydia Daniller, courtesy of Dorsey

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Julianna D. Photography, courtesy of Abreu

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Sponsored by Dance Teacher Web
Courtesy Dance Teacher Web

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James Payne, director of The School of Pennsylvania Ballet, starts class each day by asking students how they feel. "If they're collectively hurting, and I know that the day before they were working hard on something new, I might lessen the intensity of the class," he says. "I won't slow it down, though. Sometimes it's better to move through the aches and get to the other side."

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Derek and Julianne Hough via @juleshough on Instagram

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Courtesy of Roxey Ballet

This weekend, Roxey Ballet presented a sensory-friendly production of Cinderella at the Kendell Main Stage Theater in Ewing, New Jersey, with sound adjustments, a relaxed house environment and volunteers present to assist audience members with special needs. The production came on the heels of three educational residencies held at New Jersey–based elementary schools in honor of Autism Awareness Month in April.

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To Share With Students
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I'm a part of a popular group on Facebook called Dance Teacher Network which consists of dance teachers across the country discussing and sharing information on all things dance. Yesterday morning, I spotted a photo shared in the group of four smiling young boys in a dance studio. And I couldn't help but smile to myself and think, "Wow, I never had that...that's pretty damn amazing."

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