Dance Magazine Premieres “Behind the Curtain” Web Series

Melissa Toogood (left) in rehearsal with Pam Tanowitz's dancers

When we watch our favorite dancers onstage, it’s hard not to wonder what their lives are like outside the theater. And the bigger the fan you are, the more details you want: Where do they eat, take class, live, work and generally exist when they’re not performing? Who are their friends and loved ones? What does their streetwear look like? I guess it’s pretty nosy of us, but all I can say is I’m glad Dance Magazine knows their audience. In their new web series, “Behind the Curtain,” they deliver all those everyday life details and more.

In each episode, DM follows an established dancer during a day in his or her life. Plus, they’ve captured some gorgeous original footage in classes and rehearsals. Besides being a tantalizing peak at an artist’s personal life, it’s a reminder of the dedication (and long days) it takes to maintain a professional career.

The debut episode follows former Cunningham dancer Melissa Toogood during a full day as a freelancer in NYC. The first thing I notice is that she and her husband wear adorable matching hats when they leave their Brooklyn apartment. She hits up morning Pilates, then takes a Cunningham class at City Center before leading rehearsal for Pam Tanowitz, who she works for as rehearsal director. Toogood regularly teaches Cunningham classes, too, but admits she loves coaching most of all. “I like teaching technique, but I prefer addressing the interpretation of movement,” she says. “I want to help them figure out the best way to do the movement in their bodies.”

Toogood is featured in a story and photo essay in the June issue of DM. We can’t wait to see who will be spotlighted next!

Watch Toogood’s “Behind the Curtain” episode here.

Photo by Jim Laffery for Dance Magazine

Music
Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.

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For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

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In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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Teachers Trending

From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

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