Books/DVDs: Role Models

Pina Bausch
By Royd Climenhaga
In a nutshell: A fundamental guide to understanding the works and methods behind the Tanztheater artistic mind.

Another addition to the Routledge Performance Practitioners series, this book is the first English-language overview of the dance theory of the late German native Pina Bausch—one of the 20th century’s most prominent dancemakers. Within its four analytical chapters, the author spans Bausch’s career, from outlining the historical and artistic context for her work to detailed descriptions of her practical exercises, like helping dancers expand on their relationship with the audience. The text also includes a translated 1987 interview with Bausch, in which she opened up about her developmental process and revealed, “I am scared, content, I hope, just like everyone. Maybe this is why people react very strongly to my pieces, because they feel directly spoken to.” Perhaps the most compelling aspect of this book is the in-depth look at her central piece, Kontakthof. Black-and-white performance photos give readers’ eyes a rest from the book’s text-heavy content. For an artist who rarely documented her methods, Pina Bausch uncovers for dance educators and students the commonly unanswered question: How did Bausch do what she did?

Margaret H’Doubler: The Legacy of America’s Dance Education Pioneer
Edited by John M. Wilson, Thomas K. Hagood and Mary A. Brennan
Cambria Press
In a nutshell: An in-depth anthology that explores the life’s work of a venerable higher-education groundbreaker.

While Margaret H’Doubler is best remembered for establishing the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s dance major, this 17-chapter book allows readers to grasp a deeper understanding of her personal life and career. The editors, including two past H’Doubler pupils, claim their collective work presents a “holistic portrait of this interesting, plain, driven, modest, unyielding, flexible, committed, some might say eccentric woman.” The text is logically split into two parts, separated by a mix of black-and-white photographs spanning her career. The first section includes a collection of memories from friends, family members and colleagues, and an entire chapter dedicated to an editors’ roundtable that discusses her life and works. Part two compiles historical documents, notes and interviews that delve into the critical analyses of H’Doubler’s dance philosophies. While certainly not a casual read, this meticulously detailed book will inspire dance scholars and educators looking to expand their dance-education knowledge.

Musical Theatre Training: The Broadway Theatre Project Handbook
By Debra McWaters
University Press of Florida
In a nutshell: An all-encompassing guidebook to a prominent training program in musical theater.

Debra McWaters, artistic director and co-founder of the Broadway Theatre Project, uses 19 chapters to highlight the program’s training techniques to help students excel in the world of musical theater. While some chapters focus on technical training tactics, others provide compelling insight into topics like: how to create a healthy performer, finding an inspirational teacher and the benefits of developing well-rounded students. Captivating images taken from past BTP classes and workshops held at the project’s base in Tampa, Florida, fill every chapter. In this easily navigable text, aspiring students and musical-theater teachers will learn about the benefits of artistic collaboration, how to prepare students for auditions and training techniques, among other subjects. The book’s concluding chapter, “Passing the Baton,” leaves readers with inspirational quotes from many famous artists, including Julie Andrews who said, “Learn your craft and learn it well.” DT

Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.

"I like to give dancers a phrase of music and choreography and have them reinterpret it," she says, "to be thinkers and creators and not just replicators."

Osato learned this approach—avoiding the natural temptation of the music always being the leader—while earning her MFA in choreography at California Institute of the Arts. "When I was collaborating with a composer for my thesis, he mentioned, 'You always count in eights. Why?'"

This forced Osato out of her creative comfort zone. "The choices I made, my use of music, and its correlation to the movement were put under a microscope," she says. "I learned to not always make the music the driving motive of my work," a habit she attributes to her competition studio training as a young dancer.

While an undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine, Osato first encountered modern dance. That discovery, along with her experience dancing in Boogiezone Inc.'s off-campus hip-hop company, BREED, co-founded by Elm Pizarro, inspired her own, blended style, combining modern and hip hop with jazz. While still in college, she began working with fellow UCI student Will Johnston, and co-founded the Boogiezone Contemporary Class with Pizarro, an affordable series of classes that brought top choreographers from Los Angeles to Orange County.

"We were trying to bring the hip-hop and contemporary communities together and keep creating work for our friends," says Osato, who has taught for West Coast Dance Explosion and choreographed for studios across the country.

In 2009, Osato, Johnston and Pizarro launched Entity Contemporary Dance, which she and Johnston direct. The company, now based in Los Angeles, won the 2017 Capezio A.C.E. Awards, and, in 2019, Osato was chosen for two choreographic residencies (Joffrey Ballet's Winning Works and the USC Kaufman New Movement Residency), and became a full-time associate professor of dance at Santa Monica College.

At SMC, Osato challenges her students—and herself—by incorporating a live percussionist, a luxury that's been on pause during the pandemic. She finds that live music brings a heightened sense of awareness to the room. "I didn't realize what I didn't have until I had it," Osato says. "Live music helps dancers embody weight and heaviness, being grounded into the floor." Instead of the music dictating the movement, they're a part of it.

Osato uses the musician as a collaborator who helps stir her creativity, in real time. "I'll say 'Give me something that's airy and ambient,' and the sounds inspire me," says Osato. She loves playing with tension and release dynamics, fall and recovery, and how those can enhance and digress from the sound.

"I can't wait to get back to the studio and have that again," she says.

Osato made Dance Teacher a Spotify playlist with some of her favorite songs for class—and told us about why she loves some of them.

"Get It Together," by India.Arie

"Her voice and lyrics hit my soul and ground me every time. Dream artist. My go-to recorded music in class is soul R&B. There's simplicity about it that I really connect with."

"Turn Your Lights Down Low," by Bob Marley + The Wailers, Lauryn Hill

"A classic. This song embodies that all-encompassing love and gets the whole room groovin'."

"Diamonds," by Johnnyswim

"This song's uplifting energy and drive is infectious! So much vulnerability, honesty and joy in their voices and instrumentation."

"There Will Be Time," by Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal

"Mumford & Sons' music has always struck a deep chord within me. Their songs are simultaneously stripped-down and complex and feel transcendent."

"With The Love In My Heart," by Jacob Collier, Metropole Orkest, Jules Buckley

"Other than it being insanely energizing and cinematic, I love how challenging the irregular meter is!"

For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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Teachers Trending

From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

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