DT Notes: Introducing Modern Dance to NYC Public School Populations

Paul Taylor Dance Company in Esplanade

The lobby of the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center was buzzing with patrons waiting to see the spring season premiere of Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance. Among the crowd was a group of New York City public school teachers, students and their parents. For many of these families, it was their first time visiting the prestigious venue—their first exposure, ever, to a live modern dance performance.

These families were part of a project to introduce modern dance to students and their parents. “Since some of these families were coming from Brownsville and East New York, Brooklyn, a visit to Lincoln Center is rarely, if ever, an experience in their lives,” says Rebecca Fagin, principal at PS 29 who participated in the program. “The dance was also so extraordinary and served to bring our community closer together.”

The brainchild of dance educator and advocate Jody Gottfried Arnhold and Taylor board chair Rick Stone, the idea started with a conversation about how to honor the NYC public school dance teachers’ invaluable work. It was decided the teachers would receive free tickets to the Taylor company’s 2015 spring season at Lincoln Center. But then it occurred to Arnhold and Stone: Why not widen the celebration?

The Koch Theater’s otherwise underused Third Ring, or “Tier 3,” seats had the space to accommodate more than just the teachers. So, last March, more than 1,800 NYC teachers, administrators, principals, students and parents attended Taylor performances at Lincoln Center.

This year the program will be enhanced by a number of educational components: a study guide, a pre- and post-performance workshop conducted by a Taylor representative and a professional development workshop for teachers.

“Here in NYC, out of the thousands of public schools, only around 400 have certified dance educators,” says Taylor alumna and director of The Taylor School, Raegan Wood. “Many students have little or no exposure to dance as an artform. Over the long term, it can provide a foundation for students to experience and articulate the richness of life—the inner life as well as the outer.” DT

Betsy Farber is a New York City–based writer and editor who’s written for The L.A. Times and Huffington Post.

Photo by Paul B. Goode, courtesy of Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance



Don’t miss a single issue of Dance Teacher.

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.

Keep reading... Show less
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.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.