Dance in Unexpected Places

If you haven't seen the documentary Being Elmo, consider renting it for your next movie night. In it, puppeteer Kevin Clash recounts his story of developing what's arguably the most lovable muppet on "Sesame Street"—Elmo. But the best part of the film is the footage of Clash's mentor, Kermit Love.

 

The puppeteer and designer who helped Jim Henson create Big Bird, Mr. Snuffleupagus, Oscar the Grouch and Cookie Monster, Kermit Love first met Henson while working at Judson Dance Theater. But Love's dance roots run even deeper: He's the man behind Twyla Tharp's signature backless tuxedos for Eight Jelly Rolls, the sailor suits for Jerome Robbin's first ballet Fancy Free and the 16-foot Mother Ginger for the Joffrey Ballet's Nutcracker—not to mention his 40 year working relationship with George Balanchine. (Click here to read more about Kermit Love and his work in dance.)

 

Although his dance background isn't mentioned in the film, it's worth seeing the kooky costume designer in action. (And the film is great!)

 

 

Photo of Kermit Love and Mr. Snuffleupagus in 1985, courtesy of Sesame Workshop

 

 

 

 

 

Technique
Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

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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.

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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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