Books and DVDs: Summer Sampler

Ballet Pedagogy: The Art of Teaching

by Rory Foster

University Press of Florida

 

In a nutshell: A must-have manual for ballet teachers.

 

With this book, author Rory Foster, professor of dance emeritus at DePaul University, provides a valuable instruction tool for ballet teachers of all experience levels and training methods, whether Bournonville, Royal Academy of Dance, Vaganova or Cecchetti. The former American Ballet Theatre dancer urges teachers to focus on not only what to teach but also how they utilize their pedagogical skills. In nine chapters, including a foreword by master teacher David Howard, Foster explains the mechanics of teaching ballet. He briefly covers the genre’s extensive history—encouraging teachers to incorporate historical facts into lessons—and all aspects of conducting class, including musicality, the student/teacher relationship, injury prevention, proper demonstration, corrections and counting. Foster even gives readers advice on establishing a dance school. But what teachers will find most useful are the precise diagrams and photographs that illustrate how to correctly work with a dancer’s body.

 

 

On Technique

by Dean Speer

University Press of Florida

 

In a nutshell: Insight into the teaching philosophies of 18 respected artists.

 

Dean Speer, director of Chehalis (Washington) Ballet Center, presents a well-rounded cast of respected teachers, including Finis Jhung, Gwenn Barker and Yvonne Cartier. Each contributor provides a context for their training philosophies and addresses the questions: What is the difference between skill and technique? What does a good class look like? What are the expectations of a good teacher? Readers will learn how Pacific Northwest Ballet Artistic Director Peter Boal defines technique and how Nina Novak of Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo describes the always elusive concept of perfection. By allowing contradictions to exist amongst the various viewpoints, Speer lets readers decide which methods work best for their teaching practices.

 

 

Site Dance: Choreographers and the Lure of Alternative Spaces

edited by Melanie Kloetzel and Carolyn Pavlik

University Press of Florida

 

In a nutshell: A window into the theory and practice of site-specific dance.

 

Two university dance faculty members have produced the first anthology ever to examine site-specific dance performance. Editors Melanie Kloetzel of the University of Calgary and Carolyn Pavlik of Western Michigan University seek to raise awareness about the lack of support for this 40-year-old dance genre and push it into the realm of serious art. Through poignant personal interviews and essays from American choreographers, including Meredith Monk, Joanna Haigood and Eiko Otake, the editors reveal “what compelled these artists to find a way of working outside the norm, why site dance developed when it did and what continues to make it relevant in our current cultural framework.” Readers will find the book’s four sections easy to navigate—the choreographers are grouped together by similar themes in their processes and works—and will enjoy seeing the dances come to life through more than 80 black-and-white photographs.

 

 

Photo by Emily Giacalone

News
Getty Images

Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

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Robbie Sweeny, courtesy Funsch

Christy Funsch's teaching career has taken her from New York City to the Bay Area to Portugal, with a stint in a punk band in between. But this fall—fresh off a Fulbright in Portugal at the Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa, School of Dance (ESD), teaching and researching empathetic embodiment through somatic dance training—Funsch's teaching has taken her to an entirely new location: Zoom. A visiting professor at Slippery Rock University for the 2020–21 academic year, Funsch is adapting her eclectic, boundary-pushing approach to her virtual classes.

Originally from central New York State, Funsch spent 20 years performing in the Bay Area, where she also started her own company, Funsch Dance Experience. "My choreographic work from that time is in the dance-theater experiential, fantasy realm of performance," she says. "I also started blending genres and a lot of urban styles found their way into my choreography."

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News
Courtesy Meg Brooker

As the presidential election approaches, it's a particularly meaningful time to remember that we are celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, when women earned the right to vote after a decades-long battle.

Movement was more than a metaphor for the fight for women's suffrage—dancers played a real role, most notably Florence Fleming Noyes, who performed her riveting solo Dance of Freedom in 1914 to embody the struggle for women's rights.

This fall, Middle Tennessee State University director of dance Meg Brooker is reconstructing Dance of Freedom on 11 of her students. A Noyes Rhythm teacher and an Isadora Duncan scholar, Brooker is passionate about bringing historic dance practices into a contemporary context.

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