Editor's Note: Fall Studio Session

What a treat it was to attend a working rehearsal with Jill Johnson of Ballet Frankfurt fame, and Sy, a Cambodian-born, School of American Ballet–trained dancer. We joined them at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center for the final afternoon of rehearsal for a solo which Johnson had created for Sy (pronounced See) to perform at the Vail International Dance Festival in August. He told us this was his first exposure to Johnson’s Forsythe-influenced style—angular and off-centered, yet fluid and very pleasing to watch.

 

Johnson allowed our photographer Rachel Papo to click away while the two warmed up, and we left with fabulous shots for the cover and Michael Crabb’s feature story about Johnson’s newest role as head of dance at Harvard University. Her career move has sparked a few conversations: What exactly does it mean for a star like Johnson to join the faculty of a school where dance is largely a secondary pursuit? Her response may raise some eyebrows. We’ll certainly be watching her activity at Harvard with interest.

 

Speaking of second choices, many contemporary dancers arrive at college without much background in classical ballet. If you’re a ballet teacher, how can you engage their interest? Former professional ballet dancer Lorin Johnson, currently on the faculty of California State University–Long Beach, is a great example of a teacher struggling to relate to students who have training and goals that differ from his own. His thought-provoking article opens the annual Dance Teacher Higher Ed Guide.

 

September is a great time for fresh starts. This issue is filled with both inspiration and advice for the fall studio session ahead: a fun list adapted from the book Simply the Best: 29 Things Students Say the Best Teachers Do Around Relationships; Mindy Aloff’s new book on the writings of Agnes de Mille; the story of tap legend John Bubbles; making the best use of guest artists; and preparing your boys for safe partnering. Ana Marie Forsythe of The Ailey School demonstrates a core movement of Horton technique—the lateral T—and Broadway dancer Dana Foglia shares her top selections for dance class music.

 

Did you know Foglia is one of the dancers we follow this season on Dance212? New episodes start on September 19. The series is a great way to show your students what it takes to dance in New York City. www.dance212.com

Teacher Voices
Getty Images

I often teach ballet over Zoom in the evenings, shortly after sunset. Without the natural light coming from my living room window, I drag a table lamp next to my portable barre so that the computer's camera can see me clearly enough. I prop the laptop on a chair taken from the kitchen and then spend the next few hours running back and forth between the computer screen of Zoom tiles and my makeshift dance floor.

Much of this setup is the result of my attempts to recreate the most important aspects of an in-person dance studio: I have a barre, a floor and as much space as I can reasonably give myself within a small apartment. I do not, however, have a mirror, and neither do most of my students.

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Music
Allie Burke, courtesy Lo Cascio

If you'd hear it on the radio, you won't hear it in Anthony Lo Cascio's tap classes.

"If I play a song that my kids know, I'm kind of disappointed in myself," he says. "I either want to be on the cutting edge or playing the classics."

He finds that most of today's trendy tracks lack the depth needed for tap, and that there's a disconnect between kids and popular music. "They have trouble finding the beat compared to older genres," he says.

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Teachers Trending
Courtesy Lovely Leaps

After the birth of her daughter in 2018, engineer Lisa McCabe had reservations about returning to the workforce full-time. And while she wanted to stay home with the new baby, she wasn't ready to stop contributing financially to her family (after all, she'd had a successful career designing cables for government drones). So, when she got a call that September from an area preschool to lead its dance program, she saw an opportunity.

The invitation to teach wasn't completely out of the blue. McCabe had grown up dancing in Southern California and had a great reputation from serving as her church's dance teacher and team coach the previous three years (stopping only to take a break as a new mother). She agreed to teach ballet and jazz at the preschool on Fridays and from there created an age-appropriate class based on her own training in the Cecchetti and RAD methods. It was a success: In three months, class enrollment went from six to 24 students, and just one year later, McCabe's blossoming Lovely Leaps brand had contracts with eight preschools and three additional teachers.

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