David Leventhal guest teaching at Centenary College

For more than 13 years, David Leventhal has delighted audiences around the globe. As a member of the Mark Morris Dance Group, he has performed in 45 of the company’s works, including lead roles in The Hard Nut, L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato and Romeo and Juliet, on Motifs of Shakespeare. Since 2001 the dancer has also been working hard behind the scenes as an instructor at MMDG’s Brooklyn-based school and community dance center.

 

In July, Leventhal, who’s married to fellow company dancer Lauren Grant, turned his focus from touring to broadening MMDG’s reach. His first order of business: guest teaching at Seattle Theatre Group’s one-week summer DANCE This Camp in Port Townsend, Washington. Leventhal often leads MMDG Dance for Parkinson’s Disease workshops at STG, and the company participates in STG-sponsored school residencies when touring through the Evergreen State, so being involved in their summer dance camp only helped establish a stronger partnership between the two groups, says Leventhal. By forming more of these types of educational programs, the company hopes to expose Morris’ imaginative and musical repertory to teen and pre-professional dancers across the nation.

 

Dance Teacher: Mark Morris’ choreography can be difficult to grasp. How do you teach it to new students?

David Leventhal: Mark’s work is incredibly specific and constantly surprising, which works well for teens and young adults because they tend to be naturally curious and get bored easily. I always aim for mental and physical understanding and honest effort in my classes, not perfection. The process is about learning how to learn and forming good placement habits. What we try to achieve in these classes is a conversation between technique and the repertory—Mark’s work—and what’s useful technically and stylistically in order to perform it correctly.

 

DT: What has been the biggest challenge for you about transitioning from a full-time performance career to more teaching?

DL: Transitions are always bittersweet, but they are inevitable in a dancer’s life. I’ll miss being onstage and working with my incredible fellow dancers, as well as Mark. But the opportunity to give back by inspiring and engaging other generations and communities in this work more than makes up for any nostalgia I have about my time performing. MMDG has a tradition of nurturing teachers among its dancers, and those of us who teach are passionate about sharing Mark’s work.

 

DT: Is there one such teacher who inspired your career?  

DL: The late Marjorie Mussman. She had the ability to change the way people danced and to transform our bad habits into good practices. She also had an uncanny way of seeing each dancer’s potential and understanding that the path and process to reach full potential were unique for each dancer. She knew exactly what each student needed to become a better dancer, and she used a firm but disarming manner to get you there. DT

 

 

Seattle-based freelance writer Leslie Holleran holds an MA in dance history from the University of California, Riverside.

 

Photo by Amber Star Merkens, courtesy of Mark Morris Dance Group

Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine

When choosing music for tap, Jason Samuels Smith encourages teachers to start with classic jazz music. Improvisation, call and response, and syncopated rhythms embedded in the genre and its history, in general, help students to understand the structure of tap, which is different than other styles of dance. "Tap dancers have the responsibility to be more than just a visual artist," he says. "They're an instrument and a sound."

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo Courtesy of Ballet Next

In 2011, when former American Ballet Theatre principal Michele Wiles departed the company and formed BalletNext, she found an artistic freedom she'd been longing for. Along with new collaborations with choreographers and musicians, she began working with trumpeter Tom Harrell, who introduced her to the multilayered sounds of jazz. "The dancers are another instrument to a jazz musician," says Wiles. Pairing this music genre with her classical foundation has been pivotal in defining her style. "I have this classical facility, but my mind is more contemporary. Jazz is a good intersection for my work," she says.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by The Studio Director

As a studio owner, you're probably pretty used to juggling. Running a business is demanding, with new questions and challenges pulling your attention in a million different directions each day.

But there's a solution that could be saving you time and money (and sanity!). Studio management systems are easy-to-use software programs designed for the particular needs of studio owners, offering tools like billing, enrollment, inventory and emails, all in one place. The right studio management system can help you handle the day-to-day tasks that bog you down as a business owner, leaving you more time for the most important work—like connecting with students and planning creative curriculums for them. Plus, these systems can keep you from spending extra money on hiring multiple specialists or using multiple platforms to meet your administrative needs.

So how do you make sure you're choosing a studio management system that offers the same quality that your studio does? We talked to The Studio Director—whose studio management system provides a whole host of streamlined features—about the must-haves for any system, and the bonuses that make an excellent product stand out:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Summit
Photo by Rachel Papo

Martin Harvey brought a little movie star charm into morning ballet class at our New York Dance Teacher Summit. (His acting credits include Gossip Girls, All My Children, Dirty Dancing, A Chorus Line, Carousel, plus Metropolitan Opera productions of Carmen and Manon Lescaut.) Educated at the Royal Ballet School in London, he danced many principal roles for The Royal Ballet during his 12-year career.

Mark Your Calendar

Join us in Long Beach, CA, July 26–28, or in NYC, August 1–3, for our 2019 Dance Teacher Summit.

Dance Teacher Tips
Thinkstock

Q: What suggestions do you have for dancers to get their shoulder blades to lie flat on their backs?

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Turn It Up Dance Challenge
Courtesy Turn It Up

With back-to-back classes, early-morning stage calls and remembering to pack countless costume accessories, competition and convention weekends can feel like a whirlwind for even the most seasoned of studios. Take the advice of Turn It Up Dance Challenge master teachers Alex Wong and Maud Arnold and president Melissa Burns on how to make the experience feel meaningful and successful for your dancers:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Summit
Photo by Sarah Ash, courtesy of Larkin Dance

Ask Michele Larkin-Wagner and Molly Larkin-Symanietz what sets them and Maplewood, Minnesota–based Larkin Dance Studio apart, and they immediately give the credit to their mom. Shirley Larkin founded the school in 1950 and continued to oversee the growing business until she passed away in 2011. "She put Minnesota on the map for dance training and made other local studios step up to the plate to become as strong as we are," Michele says. "A lot of people's lives are better because of Shirley Larkin."

For Michele and Molly, following in their mom's footsteps was a no-brainer. "I knew I was going to be a choreographer and take over the studio," Michele says. To Molly, seven years Michele's junior and the baby out of six siblings, the studio was always a second home. The two sisters trained across genres but had distinct specialties: Michele found her niche in jazz, musical theater and lyrical, while Molly excelled in tap. In the summers, they'd travel for workshops in Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles. While Michele was in class with jazz legends like Gus Giordano, JoJo Smith, Luigi and Frank Hatchett, Molly was taking tap classes with the likes of Brenda Bufalino and Phil Black.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Summit
Photo courtesy of Gandarillas

In Macarena Gandarillas' jazz class at California State University, Fullerton, a sign in the studio reads, "Never underestimate the power of determination." This simple mantra embodies what has made this self-described "danceaholic" such an impactful teacher.

When Gandarillas came to Los Angeles at age 6 with her family from Santiago, Chile, the language barrier was beyond overwhelming—until her mom enrolled her in ballet classes. Gandarillas found an instant love. "There were no Spanish-speaking kids at my school," she says. "But with dance I could communicate with my body. I'd finally found my voice."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Q: Is teaching for an after-school program a good way to find a job in K–12?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Summit
Photo courtesy of Inspire School of Arts and Sciences

It was the morning of November 8, 2018, and Jarrah Myles' first-period choreography students were in last-minute rehearsals for their fall dance concert that evening. "All of a sudden my students' phones started ringing like crazy," says Myles, a teacher at Inspire School of Arts and Sciences, a Chico, California, high school whose dance and theater programs Myles helped establish in 2010. "And once they answered, I saw these tragic faces staring back at me."

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox