“City.ballet.” Season 2, Episode 3 Recap: The Man in Charge

Peter Martins has been ballet master in chief for more than 30 years at New York City Ballet. (He transferred from the Royal Danish Ballet after falling in love with the musical West Side Story.) Thirty years at the helm is pretty impressive, but what’s even more remarkable is his lack of ego in the studio. In this episode, we get to watch Martins mount a revival of his ballet Morgen (created in 2001) for NYCB’s 2014 Fall Gala. He is surprisingly cavalier about the original choreography. He encourages his dancers to make the steps their own and says that with dance, you can “fix” parts of your work down the road—unlike painters, who must content themselves with what ends up on the canvas once a painting is sold.

Martins in rehearsal for Morgen<morgen< em="">

My favorite part of the episode was Martins talking about how he worries over the dancers’ reactions to his choreography. He describes their poker faces as he goes over the steps with them, wishing he had more insight into whether they like the choreography for Morgen or not. Listening to the artistic director of New York City Ballet express his doubts reminds me that all choreographers—famous ballet makers or studio teachers or guest artists—share the same fears and face the same obstacles.

Click here to watch the full episode.

Teachers Trending
Photo by Yvonne M. Portra, courtesy Faulkner

It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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