DT Notes: In Memoriam

Annelise Mertz, the founder of the Washington University dance program and Dance St. Louis, died in April at age 93. Mertz danced with Kurt Jooss Dance Theatre and as a soloist with the State Opera in Berlin, and she came to the U.S. from Germany in 1955. She began teaching at Washington University in 1957, at a time when most students had never heard of modern dance. She used the women’s gym as a dance studio but fought for her own studio until university officials finally agreed. The program continued to grow from there, leading to the creation of the school’s entire performing arts department.


The chair of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee dance program, Ed Burgess, died in May at age 58. Burgess danced with several companies, including Jennifer Muller/The Works, and joined UWM in 1989. When he arrived, dance had been made a small part of the theater department with few majors, but he transformed it back into an independent department that now attracts talented dance majors from across the country.

Teaching Tips
Justin Boccitto teaches a hybrid class. Photo courtesy Boccitto

Just as teachers were getting comfortable with teaching virtual classes, many studios are adding an extra challenge into the mix: in-person students learning alongside virtual students. Such hybrid classes are meant to keep class sizes down and to give students options to take class however they're comfortable.

But dividing your attention between virtual students and masked and socially distant in-person students—and giving them each a class that meets their needs—is no easy feat.

Dance Teacher asked four teachers what they've learned so far.

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All photos by Ryan Heffington

"Annnnnnnd—we're back!"

Ryan Heffington is kneeling in front of his iPhone, looking directly into the camera, smiling behind his bushy mustache. He's in his house in the desert near Joshua Tree, California, phone propped on the floor so it stays steady, his bright shorty shorts, tank top and multiple necklaces in full view. Music is already playing—imagine you're at a club—and soon he's swaying and bouncing from side to side, the beat infusing his bones.

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Evelyn Cisneros-Legate. Photo by Beau Pearson, Courtesy Ballet West

Evelyn Cisneros-Legate is bringing her hard-earned expertise to Ballet West. The former San Francisco Ballet star is taking over all four campuses of The Frederick Quinney Lawson Ballet West Academy as the school's new director.

Cisneros-Legate, whose mother put her in ballet classes in an attempt to help her overcome her shyness, trained at the San Francisco Ballet School and School of American Ballet before joining San Francisco Ballet as a full company member in 1977. She danced with the company for 23 years, breaking barriers as the first Mexican American to become a principal dancer in the U.S., and has graced the cover of Dance Magazine no fewer than three times.

As an educator, Cisneros-Legate has served as ballet coordinator at San Francisco Ballet, principal of Boston Ballet School's North Shore Studio and artistic director of after-school programming at the National Dance Institute (NDI). Dance Teacher spoke with her about her new position, her plans for the academy and leading in the time of COVID-19.

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