Teaching Tips

Dean College Grad Alicia Burghardt Never Dreamed She'd Dance and Choreograph in the NBA

Photo by Brian Babineau, courtesy Burghardt

When Alicia Burghardt entered Dean College in Massachusetts as a freshman dance major, it hadn't occurred to her that the Boston Celtics had a dance team. A competition kid with aspirations for Broadway, Burghardt never imagined herself as an NBA dancer. But by the time she was finishing her senior year, she'd not only joined the Celtics Dancers, she was choreographing a number for a major playoff game. And after finishing her rookie year, surrounded on that TD Garden parquet floor by uproarious fans, she couldn't help but stay for another. "It's unbelievable performing for Boston fans," she says. "They're so loyal to their team. It could be third quarter, down 20 points, and they're still cheering."


On what first brought her to audition "There were three girls in my program who were Celtics Dancers. They had such positive things to say, I couldn't help but want to join them. I started following the team on social media, and I fell in love with the idea of becoming a Celtics Dancer by watching their Instagram videos. My junior year I felt like I was finally in a place where I was ready to audition, and, thankfully, made the team on my first try."

About the three-day audition process "The first cut includes an across-the-floor, where they look to see our technique and our look. Those who are left are taught a hip-hop routine to audition for the judges. The judges deliberate, then announce the final 40 dancers who will move on to the next round. On day two, there's a group interview with the coach [Marina Ortega]; we learn a technical jazz routine and are provided music to choreograph solos to. The rest of the day is spent preparing what we've worked on up until that point. Day three is open to the public, and families come to watch as we audition these three combos for the judges. When we finish, they deliberate for roughly 30 minutes, then return to announce the 18 girls who have made the team for the following year."

On choreographing for an arena full of die-hard sports fans "Marina had heard that I'd been doing quite a bit of choreography at Dean [College], and asked me to set a piece for a playoff game. She sent me a hip-hop remix to a song called 'Big Bank' and I started creating movement to it. Once I had something to work with, I brought it to her, and she helped me improve it by adding level changes and ripples. She taught me that choreographing for the stage is very different from choreographing for an arena, and I needed to learn to make everything big and exaggerated so that the people way up high could see it. It was a great learning experience for me."

Teacher Voices
Getty Images

In 2001, young Chanel, a determined, ambitious, fiery, headstrong teenager, was about to begin her sophomore year at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, also known as the highly acclaimed "Fame" school. I was a great student, a promising young dancer and well-liked by my teachers and my peers. On paper, everything seemed in order. In reality, this picture-perfect image was fractured. There was a crack that I've attempted to hide, cover up and bury for nearly 20 years.

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Getty Images

Though the #MeToo movement has spurred many dancers to come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and abuse, the dance world has yet to have a full reckoning on the subject. Few institutions have made true cultural changes, and many alleged predators continue to work in the industry.

As Chanel DaSilva's story shows, young dancers are particularly vulnerable to abuse because of the power differential between teacher and student. We spoke with eight experts in dance, education and psychology about steps that dance schools could take to protect their students from sexual abuse.

Keep reading... Show less
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.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.