Billy Bell

Music to inspire creativity

Billy Bell’s dance career revolves around creation—crafting new opportunities for himself, inventing new movement and inspiring new dancers. After his remarkable technique and ethereal movement quality got him to the Top 5 on “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 7, he founded his own company, Lunge Dance Collective; performed for two and a half years with the recently disbanded Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet; and, in February, joined the cast of the interactive show Sleep No More in New York City. Despite his performance schedule, Bell still finds time to teach improvisation—the ultimate incubator for creation.

As a faculty member for several popular conventions, Bell is an expert at adjusting his class to challenge whoever’s in the room. “If I see that students have a gap in their knowledge, I’ll dive more heavily into that—so I guess I sort of improv my improv class,” says Bell, who carefully selects tracks for movement, but often leaves the order of the music to chance, as well. “Sometimes I’ll just click shuffle on my iPod. That way, my students never get to adapt, since they can’t predict what’s coming next. Something completely atmospheric could lead into something like Justin Timberlake.” DT

Artist: Fleetwood Mac

Song: “Albatross”

“I use this for deep inhales and exhales at the beginning of a warm-up. It’s short, and it just makes you want to breathe for a second. It’s the perfect song to start class with positive energy.”

 

 

Artist: Edit

Song: “Jazz Night”

“If I do a more structured warm-up, I’ll use this for abs, arms and upper-body strength conditioning. It’s great for increasing stamina and getting blood flowing.”

 

 

Artist: Pixel

Album: The Drive

“This is an album of buzzing tones. I’ll use this kind of music when I choreograph, since working in a silent room feels stifling. Having an ambient buzz playing low in the background during a rehearsal opens up my headspace.”

 

 

Artist: Byetone

Song: “Heart”

“This song is also pretty much just buzzing. My improv classes are typically built into two sections—the ‘thought’ section, which is about making conscious choices, and the ‘drive’ section, which is about instinct. For the ‘thought’ section, I like using ambient tones like this.”

 

 

Artist: Murcof

Song: “Mir”

“I like this as a transitional song between sections of class. It’s somewhere between a song that’s ambient and one that pushes you. It gets students from that completely cerebral land to a more physical one.”

 

 

Artist: Parov Stelar

Song: “Chambermaid Swing”

“Parov Stelar is a really fun electro-swing artist who I like to use for the ‘drive’ section of class, which is more about impulses. I’ll give certain tasks, like ‘spoking,’ in which you’re not allowed to bend your elbows or knees as you travel across the floor. Limiting choices can help kids learn to improvise. This song pushes them across the floor, but it’s not so fast that they don’t have time to process.”

 

 

Photo (top) by Erin Baiano for Dance Spirit

Teachers Trending
Cynthia Oliver in her office. Photo by Natalie Fiol

When it comes to Cynthia Oliver's classes, you always bring your A game. (As her student for the last two and a half years in the MFA program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I feel uniquely equipped to make this statement.) You never skip the reading she assigns; you turn in not your first draft but your third or fourth for her end-of-semester research paper; and you always do the final combination of her technique class full-out, even if you're exhausted.

Oliver's arrival at UIUC 20 years ago jolted new life into the dance department. "It may seem odd to think of this now, but the whole concept of an artist-scholar was new when she first arrived," says Sara Hook, who also joined the UIUC dance faculty in 2000. "You were either a technique teacher or a theory/history teacher. Cynthia's had to very patiently educate all of us about the nature of her work, and I think that has increased our passion for the kind of excavation she brings to her research."

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News
Clockwise from top left: Courtesy Ford Foundation; Christian Peacock; Nathan James, Courtesy Gibson; David Gonsier, courtesy Marshall; Bill Zemanek, courtesy King; Josefina Santos, courtesy Brown; Jayme Thornton; Ian Douglas, courtesy American Realness

Since 1954, the Dance Magazine Awards have celebrated the living legends of our field—from Martha Graham to Misty Copeland to Alvin Ailey to Gene Kelly.

This year is no different. But for the first time ever, the Dance Magazine Awards will be presented virtually—which is good news for aspiring dancers (and their teachers!) everywhere. (Plus, there's a special student rate of $25.)

The Dance Magazine Awards aren't just a celebration of the people who shape the dance field—they're a unique educational opportunity and a chance for dancers to see their idols up close.


Here's why your dancers (and you!) should tune in:

They'll see dance history in the making.

Carlos Acosta. Debbie Allen. Camille A. Brown. Laurieann Gibson. Alonzo King.

If you haven't already taught your students about these esteemed awardees, odds are you'll be adding them to your curriculum before long.

Not only will your students get to hear from each of them at a pivotal moment in their careers (and Dance Magazine Awards acceptance speeches are famously chock-full of inspiration), they'll also hear from presenters like William Forsythe and Theresa Ruth Howard.

This year, all the Dance Magazine Awards are going to Black artists, as a step towards repairing the history of honoring primarily white artists.

And meet tomorrow's dance legends.

Dance Magazine's Harkness Promise Awards, this year going to Kyle Marshall and Marjani Forté-Saunders, offer funding, rehearsal space and mentorship to innovative young choreographers in their first decade of presenting work—a powerful reminder to your students that major success in the dance world doesn't happen overnight.

They'll get a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes.

Solely teaching your students how to be a great dancer doesn't give them the full picture. A complete dance education produces artists who are savvy about what happens behind the scenes, too.

In 2018, Dance Media launched the Chairman's Award to honor those behind-the-scenes leaders who keep our field moving. Each year's recipient is chosen by our CEO, Frederic M. Seegal. This year's award goes to Ford Foundation president Darren Walker, who is using philanthropy to make the performing arts—and the world at large—more just.

And, of course, see dozens of great dance works.

Where else could your students see selections from Alonzo King's contemporary ballet classics next to Camille A. Brown's boundary-pushing dance theater works? Or see both Carlos Acosta and Laurieann Gibson in action in the same evening? Excerpts from the awardees' works will show your students what it is exactly that makes these artists so special.

So gather your class (virtually!) and join us next Monday, December 7, at 6 pm. To receive the special student rate, please email dmawards@dancemedia.com.

See you there!

Leap! Executive Director Drew Vamosi (Courtesy Leap!)

Since its inaugural season in 2012, Leap! National Dance Competition has been all about the little things.

"I wanted to have a 'boutique' competition. One where we went out to only one city every weekend, so I could be there myself, and we could really get to know the teachers and watch their kids progress from year to year," says Leap! executive director Drew Vamosi. According to Vamosi, thoughtful details make all the difference, especially during a global pandemic that's thrown many dancers' typical comp-season schedules for a loop. That's why Leap! prides itself on features like its professional-quality set design, as well as its one-of-a-kind leaping competition, where dancers can show off their best tricks for special cash and merchandise prizes.

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