Typically, the American Dance Festival honors one educator with the Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching. Named in part for the pioneer in classical Indian dance (DT August 2012), last year’s award went to alignment expert Irene Dowd. Next June, however, three New York City–based educators—Zvi Gotheiner, James Sutton and Jaclynn Villamil—will be recognized during the summer festival at Duke University.
A former ballet master for Ballet Hispanico, Sutton has taught in higher education settings at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, The Juilliard School and as an associate professor of dance at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.
With nearly 40 years of experience, Villamil also taught at Tisch for more than 15 years, where she co-directed the student performance group, Second Avenue Dance Company. She leads open contemporary ballet classes at Manhattan’s Gibney Dance Center.
Israeli-born Gotheiner danced with Batsheva Dance Company and structures his daily open classes at New York’s City Center Studios after his mentor, Maggie Black. He once shared his nontraditional outlook on technique with DT (January 2010): “I don’t agree with that common idea of going in two directions when dancing, like pulling up in your torso as you plié, which is going down. This creates disjointedness. It’s also disrespectful to the body’s intelligence; it knows how to move as one synchronized piece.” He goes on to say, “I think the push-pull ideas come from trying to create an image of a body that’s different than the one you have into something longer, leaner, spiraling. And that’s living in an illusion. It stops dancers from being present in their own bodies.”
Photo by Kesu James, courtesy of Zvi Gotheiner