Choreographer Alison Cook-Beatty's Unconventional Approach to Picking Music Challenges Her Dancers

Alison Cook Beatty Dancer's MURMURATION. Photo by Russell Haydn Photography, courtesy of Cook-Beatty

After dancing with Taylor 2 and teaching at the Taylor School in New York City, Alison Cook-Beatty was yearning to find her voice as a choreographer. "I basically ate, slept and rolled out of bed moving like Paul Taylor for six years," Cook-Beatty says. Grateful for all she'd learned from the company and Taylor's influence, she decided to search for new opportunities.

Her validation as a choreographer came in 2012. She was freelancing as a dancer, and she'd choreographed a solo piece for herself, which was seen by BalletNext's founder Michele Wiles, formerly of American Ballet Theatre. Wiles, impressed by Cook-Beatty's work, asked her to create a longer version, and Wiles, along with Jason Reilly and four other dancers of the Stuttgart Ballet, performed the 30-minute piece at Ballet Next's 2012 season at New York's Joyce Theater. This marked the start of Cook-Beatty's company, Alison Cook Beatty Dance.

Cook-Beatty. Photo by Paul B. Goode, courtesy of Cook-Beatty

Breaking away from her traditional ballet and modern training, including the music she chooses, is a component Cook-Beatty is conscious of as a teacher, choreographer and artistic director of ACBD. "The modern dance concepts I learned from Taylor, Graham and Limón have stayed with me," she explains. "But I also want my dancers to have freedom."

Although the music typically informs her choreography, Cook-Beatty has found turning off the music can speak volumes to dancers. Whether she's working with professionals in her company or beginners at the Joffrey Ballet School (where she continues to teach), she encourages students to let the breath guide the movement.

"Dancers are afraid to make noise," she says. "They'll make beautiful lines and shapes in space, but when you ask them to just breathe they don't always allow sound to come out." If she's teaching Limón over-curves and suspending, for instance, she'll encourage the dancers to make an audible sound and to let go. Allowing this exploration, paired with her dedication to training technically strong dancers, takes the movement to a new level. "They can always be perfect. It's taking the perfect and pushing it out of the box."

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.

Keep reading... Show less
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.

Keep reading... Show less
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.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.