Big Grant = Big Ideas

The dance program at Middlebury College in Vermont has been awarded a $310,000 Mellon grant—one of the largest ever given to an arts program at Middlebury—in order to bring interdisciplinary art projects to fruition. Movement Matters, the program funded by the grant, will consist of three phases over several years: First, Middlebury’s dance program will seek out both on-campus professors and off-campus emerging dance artists who are interested in collaborating to create interdisciplinary work. “We want to be an incubator for emerging artists to combine their creative process with a scholarly foundation,” says dance program chair Christal Brown. “Think of Urban Bush Women and the community engagement work they do within an academic structure. We’re trying to do that, but for an artist who isn’t at that stature yet.”

Middlebury will select three choreographers to begin to develop their projects on campus. One of those three artists will be chosen as the Mellon Interdisciplinary Choreographer for a two-year residency with the dance program, complete with a production budget to fully realize his or her project. Such a lengthy application process is necessary, says Brown: “We’re not trying to find the best artist, but the artist we feel we can build the most reciprocal relationship with.” She heralds this project as perfect for the school’s nonconservatory environment—the focus will be on the creative process and creating dance within a context. “Interdisciplinary art-making and the core of what liberal arts education is about are very similar, in that you pull pieces together from various places to make a whole statement,” says Brown. “Once you understand the essence of how things work together, our knowledge bases become tools for change.”

Photo by Brett Simison

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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Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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