Denise Jefferson Honored by Her Daughter in Dance

Harper in The Look of Feeling

In times of grief, artists turn to their craft to cope. Francesca Harper, director of the Francesca Harper Project and a contemporary and hip hop teacher in New York City, is no exception.

In 2010, the modern dance choreographer said good-bye to her mother, Ailey School founding director Denise Jefferson. The entire dance world felt the loss of a luminary.

Just in time for Mother’s Day, Harper will premiere The Look of Feeling, a one-woman show chronicling Jeffferson’s extraordinary life. Using dance, song and a few costume changes, Harper recounts her mother’s family’s escape from slavery, her experiences during the Civil Rights movement, even her battle with cancer.

Channeling her loss into art, Harper offers audiences a rare personal look into the life of the dance education icon we knew only through her work.

The Look of Feeling premieres May 2 at the Susan Batson Studio Theater in NYC. Click here for information and tickets.

The Look of Feeling Promo from The Francesca Harper Project on Vimeo.

Higher Ed
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As we wade through a global pandemic that has threatened the financial livelihood of live performance, dancers and dance educators are faced with questions of sustainability.

How do we sustain ourselves if we cannot make money while performing? What foods are healthy for our bodies and fit within a tight unemployment budget? How do we tend to the mental, emotional and spiritual scars of the pandemic when we return to rehearsal and the stage?

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Teachers Trending
Cynthia Oliver in her office. Photo by Natalie Fiol

When it comes to Cynthia Oliver's classes, you always bring your A game. (As her student for the last two and a half years in the MFA program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I feel uniquely equipped to make this statement.) You never skip the reading she assigns; you turn in not your first draft but your third or fourth for her end-of-semester research paper; and you always do the final combination of her technique class full-out, even if you're exhausted.

Oliver's arrival at UIUC 20 years ago jolted new life into the dance department. "It may seem odd to think of this now, but the whole concept of an artist-scholar was new when she first arrived," says Sara Hook, who also joined the UIUC dance faculty in 2000. "You were either a technique teacher or a theory/history teacher. Cynthia's had to very patiently educate all of us about the nature of her work, and I think that has increased our passion for the kind of excavation she brings to her research."

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News
Clockwise from top left: Courtesy Ford Foundation; Christian Peacock; Nathan James, Courtesy Gibson; David Gonsier, courtesy Marshall; Bill Zemanek, courtesy King; Josefina Santos, courtesy Brown; Jayme Thornton; Ian Douglas, courtesy American Realness

Since 1954, the Dance Magazine Awards have celebrated the living legends of our field—from Martha Graham to Misty Copeland to Alvin Ailey to Gene Kelly.

This year is no different. But for the first time ever, the Dance Magazine Awards will be presented virtually—which is good news for aspiring dancers (and their teachers!) everywhere. (Plus, there's a special student rate of $25.)

The Dance Magazine Awards aren't just a celebration of the people who shape the dance field—they're a unique educational opportunity and a chance for dancers to see their idols up close.

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