Cygnets at the Top of the Rock

In a narrow hallway between the uptown and downtown observation decks of New York City’s Rockefeller Center, two dancers from ABT II performed the white and black swan variations on a slick tile floor in soft shoes while the audience of children ages 4–9 sat pretzel style on the floor. ABT II Director Wes Chapman played the part of the evil Von Rothbart, as Meaghan Hinkis (someone to definitely watch in the future) made about three full circles in the manège section of the black swan variation.

To promote this season’s production of Swan Lake, the company raffled off tickets, gave away T-shirts and old souvenir books, and provided ample time for the press to photograph this first-ever children’s workshop. Chapman gave a humorous narration of the ballet along with a brief introduction to ballet technique, and after the performance, Chapman pulled out the pièce de résistance.

What do you do with more than twenty children, limited space, slippery floors and Swan Lake music?  Freeze-dance. This game is a great way to not only round up rambunctious students; but to teach little artists about improvisation and musicality. Chapman put a nice twist on this old standard, as in each round, the children were urged to dance like the meek and shy Odette, or the sly and cunning Odile; actions that seemed to introduce the idea of character work.

Whether the girls were dressed in pink leotards with their hair neatly pulled back, or in sweats, bare-feet and loose, wild hair, every dancer seemed to love the activities.  Toothless smiles and bright eyes lit up the rainy afternoon; for after the obligatory pictures with the swans taken by their mothers, they had played freeze-dance with the very best in the field.

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.

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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.

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Dancer Diary
Claire McAdams, courtesy Houston Ballet

Former Houston Ballet dancer Chun Wai Chan has always been destined for New York City Ballet.

While competing at Prix de Lausanne in 2010, he was offered summer program scholarships at both the School of American Ballet and Houston Ballet. However, because two of the competition's winners that year were Houston Ballet's Aaron Sharratt and Liao Xiang, dancers Chan idolized, he turned down SAB. He joined Houston Ballet II in 2010, the main company's corps de ballet in 2012, and was promoted to principal in 2017. Oozing confidence and technical prowess, Chan was a Houston favorite, and even landed himself a spot on Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch."

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