Brooke Lipton

Music for lyrical 

For many dancers, conventions are places to see and be seen. Aspiring pros press to the front of the crowd in hotel ballrooms, hoping to get noticed, or even hired, by their favorite choreographer. That’s not how Brooke Lipton’s class works. Though she’s an in-demand instructor with The Pulse, the statuesque redhead scoffs at the perception that convention classes are “only for the front 20 rows” of dancers. She has little tolerance for fashion statements or ego. “I don’t let kids get away with thinking, ‘I have a really cute outfit and you should see me,’” she says. “I’m like, that’s great, but you can’t bend your knees. Take off the pants so we can dance.”

She considers her style lyrical because she creates movement to the words of songs. And she uses this approach to make beginners look fantastic. In fact, she hates to hear students say they aren’t good enough to take her classes. “I enforce technique, but I also gear my class to the male hip-hop dancers at The Pulse. They aren’t trained, and they don’t have the flexibility or facility other dancers do. But I want to show them that lyrical and contemporary can be performed through emotion and storytelling.”

That mission statement is what makes her such a success on the hit TV show “Glee.” She’s worked as assistant choreographer since its premiere and has been the sole choreographer since the fifth season. She likes working with actors, because they are expert storytellers through movement, even when they lack dance training. “They’re all about the emotion and story because there is nothing else to draw from,” she says. Having a scripted story line to express helps, too. “It’s rare that we’re dancing for no reason. There’s always something to get across.” DT

 

Artist: Ani DiFranco

Album: Living in Clip

“Ani DiFranco has to be my all-time favorite artist. She has an original folk sound that combines passion, strength and storytelling, all elements that let me express how I feel. Some artists have a few hits, but she has albums and albums to dig through.”

 

Artist: Vitamin String Quartet

Album: Vitamin String Quartet Goes to the Movies

Classical renditions of famous movie tracks, like “Take My Breath Away” from Top Gun and “Where Is My Mind?” from Fight Club. “They take every amazing song and turn it into a classical piece. You can get lost in the music with no lyrics and create your own story to songs you already know.”

 

Artist: Florence and the Machine

Album: Lungs

“I couldn’t get enough of this album when it came out. The same songs can make me dance so openly with a smile one day and cry like I need a release the next.”

 

Artist: Birdy

Album: Fire Within

“She is a newer artist and still a teenager, but every time I hear her voice, I stop and listen. Just like when a dance performance starts and the whole audience stops talking and is drawn into the art, she has the same effect.”

 

Artist: Beyoncé

Album: Beyoncé

“When I want to dance around in my kitchen and whip my hair, Beyoncé. I don’t think there is much more to say.”

 

 

 

Photo (top) by Lee Cherry, courtesy of The PULSE On Tour

Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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Teaching Tips
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After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

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Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy TUPAC

When legendary Black ballet dancer Kabby Mitchell III died unexpectedly in 2017, two months before opening his Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center, his friend and business partner Klair Ethridge wasn't sure she had what it took to carry his legacy. Ethridge had been working with Mitchell to co-found TUPAC and planned to serve as its executive director, but she had never envisioned being the face of the school.

Now, Ethridge is heading into her fourth year of leading TUPAC, which she has grown from a fledgling program in an unheated building to a serious ballet school in its own sprung-floor studios, reaching hundreds of students across the Tacoma, Washington, area. The nonprofit has become a case study for what it looks like to carry out the vision of a founder who never had the chance to see his school open—and to take an unapologetically mission-driven approach.

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