DT Notes: July 2010 News

  • Choreographer Robert Battle has been named Judith Jamison’s successor as artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. He will assume the title in July 2011 and will serve alongside Jamison as artistic director designate until then. Battle had been artist-in-residence for The Ailey School, and he has created ballets for the main Ailey company and Ailey II since 1999. He will be only the third person to head AAADT since 1958, after Jamison and Alvin Ailey.

 

  • CORPS de Ballet International is holding its 12th Annual Teacher Conference in New York City July 7–11. This year’s conference is titled Bodies of Knowledge: Ballet and Academe, and it’s hosted by the Marymount Manhattan College Department of Dance and the NYU Steinhardt School’s Dance Education Program. Workshops will be held by Susan Jaffe, Irene Dowd, Jessica Lang and Hilary Cartwright. Gretchen Ward Warren will be honored with the 2010 CORPS Lifetime Achievement Award at a banquet on the 7th. Since 1983, she has been professor of dance at the University of South Florida in Tampa, and she has worked as ballet mistress for ABT II alongside Mikhail Baryshnikov and Richard Englund.

 

  • Modern dance choreographer Martha Clarke, who has worked with American Ballet Theatre, the Joffrey Ballet and Martha Graham Dance Company, among many others, was awarded the $50,000 Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement in June, in a ceremony in Durham, NC.

 

  • Complexions Contemporary Ballet founder and co-artistic director Desmond Richardson has joined the faculty of The PULSE On Tour for its 2010–11 regional tour. It kicks off in L.A. July 16–18, and moves to NYC July 22–25.

 

  • In Memoriam: Susan Hartley, founder of Dancemoves Studio in Largo, Florida, and mentor to many young competition dancers, died in a car accident in March. She was 62. Hartley founded Dancemoves in 1988. Her students have won national competitions and danced in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland.

 

  • The School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of New York City Ballet, held its annual workshop performances in June, in celebration of Lincoln Center’s 50th anniversary. Students from SAB performed Balanchine’s Valse Fantaisie and Bourrée Fantasque (which hadn’t been performed in NYC since 1993), and Christopher Wheeldon’s Scènes de Ballet.



  • Former Martha Graham dancer Terese Capucilli received the President’s Award for Distinguished Alumni from Purchase College State University of New York, at the school’s commencement this past spring. She danced with the Graham Company for 26 years, as part of the last generation of dancers to be taught by Graham herself, and partnered both Nureyev and Baryshnikov during her career. Since retirement she has lectured, served on the faculty at Juilliard and reconstructed Graham’s early solos.

 

  • Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet founder and artistic director Marcia Dale Weary received an honorary degree in performing arts from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, at its commencement in May. Dale Weary began her teaching career 55 years earlier in Carlisle, with the Marcia Dale Weary School of Dance. Her students have gone on to dance with just about every major U.S. ballet company.

 

photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy of AAADT

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.


"I like to give dancers a phrase of music and choreography and have them reinterpret it," she says, "to be thinkers and creators and not just replicators."

Osato learned this approach—avoiding the natural temptation of the music always being the leader—while earning her MFA in choreography at California Institute of the Arts. "When I was collaborating with a composer for my thesis, he mentioned, 'You always count in eights. Why?'"

This forced Osato out of her creative comfort zone. "The choices I made, my use of music, and its correlation to the movement were put under a microscope," she says. "I learned to not always make the music the driving motive of my work," a habit she attributes to her competition studio training as a young dancer.

While an undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine, Osato first encountered modern dance. That discovery, along with her experience dancing in Boogiezone Inc.'s off-campus hip-hop company, BREED, co-founded by Elm Pizarro, inspired her own, blended style, combining modern and hip hop with jazz. While still in college, she began working with fellow UCI student Will Johnston, and co-founded the Boogiezone Contemporary Class with Pizarro, an affordable series of classes that brought top choreographers from Los Angeles to Orange County.

"We were trying to bring the hip-hop and contemporary communities together and keep creating work for our friends," says Osato, who has taught for West Coast Dance Explosion and choreographed for studios across the country.

In 2009, Osato, Johnston and Pizarro launched Entity Contemporary Dance, which she and Johnston direct. The company, now based in Los Angeles, won the 2017 Capezio A.C.E. Awards, and, in 2019, Osato was chosen for two choreographic residencies (Joffrey Ballet's Winning Works and the USC Kaufman New Movement Residency), and became a full-time associate professor of dance at Santa Monica College.

At SMC, Osato challenges her students—and herself—by incorporating a live percussionist, a luxury that's been on pause during the pandemic. She finds that live music brings a heightened sense of awareness to the room. "I didn't realize what I didn't have until I had it," Osato says. "Live music helps dancers embody weight and heaviness, being grounded into the floor." Instead of the music dictating the movement, they're a part of it.

Osato uses the musician as a collaborator who helps stir her creativity, in real time. "I'll say 'Give me something that's airy and ambient,' and the sounds inspire me," says Osato. She loves playing with tension and release dynamics, fall and recovery, and how those can enhance and digress from the sound.

"I can't wait to get back to the studio and have that again," she says.

Osato made Dance Teacher a Spotify playlist with some of her favorite songs for class—and told us about why she loves some of them.

"Get It Together," by India.Arie

"Her voice and lyrics hit my soul and ground me every time. Dream artist. My go-to recorded music in class is soul R&B. There's simplicity about it that I really connect with."

"Turn Your Lights Down Low," by Bob Marley + The Wailers, Lauryn Hill

"A classic. This song embodies that all-encompassing love and gets the whole room groovin'."

"Diamonds," by Johnnyswim

"This song's uplifting energy and drive is infectious! So much vulnerability, honesty and joy in their voices and instrumentation."

"There Will Be Time," by Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal

"Mumford & Sons' music has always struck a deep chord within me. Their songs are simultaneously stripped-down and complex and feel transcendent."

"With The Love In My Heart," by Jacob Collier, Metropole Orkest, Jules Buckley

"Other than it being insanely energizing and cinematic, I love how challenging the irregular meter is!"

For Parents

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

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

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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