Face to Face: Charles Reinhart

Remembering four decades at ADF

Reinhart at ADF in 2008

Since its founding in 1934 as the Bennington School of the Dance, the American Dance Festival has grown from 10 students and four choreographers into an international institution. Now held at Duke University in North Carolina, ADF has two summer schools, a full performance season, community initiatives and a post-baccalaureate certificate and MFA program. The summer festival has commissioned some 630 world premieres, with president Charles Reinhart as the guiding force behind many of them.

Reinhart has held just about every non-performance job in the dance world: producer, curator, manager and consultant. During the 1960s, he found himself in the hotbed of modern dance in New York City, when he managed seminal companies Paul Taylor Dance Company, Meredith Monk/The House and the Glen Tetley Dance Company. When he arrived at ADF in 1968 (then held at Connecticut College), he joined dance educator Martha Myers, and together they worked to move ADF forward until her retirement in 2000. During his tenure, Reinhart has commissioned notable works from choreographers including Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, Laura Dean and Mark Morris.

After this season, Reinhart will step down from ADF, but not before going out with a bang. Paying homage to ADF’s past while continuing to generate new work, the 2011 performance season includes world premieres by Paul Taylor, Pilobolus (in collaboration with Japanese dancer Takuya Muramatsu), Martha Clarke and Shen Wei.

Dance Teacher: How did you get involved with ADF?

Charles Reinhart: They asked me, though it was a conditional move. I said I would stay for a year. They also asked me to work with Martha Myers, and that turned out to be a great professional marriage. Together, we blasted forward while paying respect to the past.

DT: When ADF moved from Connecticut College to Duke University after the 1977 season, were there any glitches?

CR: Duke University was appreciative of having won the festival, but they didn’t quite know what they had gained. When we arrived at Duke and were unloading the truck, Terry Sanford, who was the president of Duke then, mentioned that there were a couple of problems: No one knows what modern dance is, he said. I told him that wasn’t a problem, I’m used to that. Then he mentioned that no one stays for the entire summer. Well, they did.

That first summer in Page Auditorium, there were all these men in suits and women in elegant dresses drenched in sweat. I made sure Terry sat in the first balcony, where it’s really hot. The next year, Page had air-conditioning.

DT: Talk a bit about commissioning, which has been a central mission of yours at ADF.

CR: When you’re in a position to select artists, it’s important to pick people you believe in. And you have to make a commitment to bring those artists back. (If you commissioned Beethoven, you wouldn’t stop after the sixth symphony.) Then you fill the other part of the scale with new artists. That balance is important. You have to help choreographers make new work; commissions fuel the fertility of the choreographer.

DT: You’ve commissioned so many Paul Taylor pieces for ADF, and this year, he’s premiering another. Do you have a favorite?

CR: I don’t have enough fingers to name my favorites, but I do have a particular connection to Aureole. Paul had invited me to his 6th Avenue studio. At the time I had only seen his famous 1957 piece at the 92nd Street Y where he just stood still, a work as avant-garde as it gets. But when the company danced Aureole, my mouth fell open. It was so beautiful and so different. I could not believe what I saw. That piece has always been special to me.

DT: What do you consider your most lasting contribution?

CR: Modern dance was pretty unknown in the 1950s. Even my family had no idea who Paul Taylor was. I remember when I was managing his company, National Endowment for the Arts had a touring program and we did a pilot program in Illinois. We spent a week in Chicago and a week in a small town where they probably thought he was related to June Taylor. But by the end of that tour, they knew. Today, who doesn’t know who Paul Taylor is?

The whole philosophy of supporting the choreographers we believed in, and informing the press and the public of the value of this indigenous American artform—that was our message at ADF. Modern dance is known all over the world now. Martha Myers and I worked hard to spread the seeds. We could not have dreamed we would get this far.

DT: Any thoughts on ADF’s future?

CR: I am so pleased our current co-director Jodee Nimerichter is taking over. She will envision the festival in her own light. We are like evangelicals in the best sense, spreading the word of modern dance. Individual creativity is so important, now more than ever. I know Jodee will keep that going.

 

Nancy Wozny was a 2005 Fellow of the NEA Arts Journalism Institute for Dance Criticism at ADF and is currently a scholar-in-residence at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

Photo by Sara D. Davis, courtesy ADF

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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