Karole Armitage's The Tarnished Angels (1987)

Almost 30 years ago, Karole Armitage burst onto the dance scene with a brash new choreographic style that combined classical ballet technique with a punk-rock sensibility. In 1986, Vanity Fair fittingly dubbed her the “punk ballerina,” and the moniker stuck. Throughout her long and eclectic career, Armitage has commissioned work for companies and performers ranging from the Paris Opéra Ballet to Madonna. She recently branched out to Broadway, choreographing 2008’s Passing Strange and last year’s hit revival of Hair, for which she earned a Tony nomination.

 

But today, Armitage creates primarily for her New York–based company, Armitage Gone! Dance, which she founded in 2005. For her latest piece, Three Theories, Armitage found inspiration in Columbia University physicist Brian Greene’s best-selling book, The Elegant Universe. (In 2008, her company debuted a work titled The Elegant Universe at the inaugural World Science Festival—an event co-founded by Greene.) Three Theories will premiere in New York City, June 3–6, as part of the third annual World Science Festival.

 

Dance Teacher: How did the idea for Three Theories come about?

Karole Armitage: My father is a scientist and I’ve always loved science, so I was already drawn toward it as a system for understanding the world. I read Brian’s book and, by coincidence, met him at a dinner. He gave a speech about what relativity, quantum mechanics and string theory are, and the way he clearly articulated these ideas was inspiring. I read his book over and over, and finally digested it so deeply that I decided I could do something quite simple with these three theories.

 

DT: How did you develop a movement vocabulary for this piece?

KA: I found one basic physical image for each section. In relativity it’s warping and twisting. Einstein said that gravity is the warping and twisting of space-time fabric. Quantum mechanics is all about off-balance, precarious volatility, so that’s just wild and exciting—like hard rock. And string theory is based on the idea of these folded-up complex geometries. For example, a group of dancers surrounds one person who represents a string, and the shape of the group determines the vibration of the string—the cluster influences the individual.

 

DT: Was the creative process different than, say, choreographing a Broadway musical?

KA: In dance it’s more poetic and you’re illustrating internal states of mind or emotional states, and in a musical you’re helping to create the environment that tells the story. In Passing Strange it was about making the riot in Berlin feel really wild, with the actors pounding their hands and throwing themselves on the ground. There weren’t any dance steps. And with Hair I just let them improvise on images. I wanted it to look like an organic group of people who were spontaneously expressing themselves.

 

DT: You recently said that you’re less interested in pop culture now than in the past. Where do you currently turn for ideas and inspiration?

KA: There’s an energy in pop culture that’s really interesting, but I think art should be something different. These days my inspiration comes from finding new geometries for how dancers can move. I always seem to be drawn to this experience of dreaminess and sensuality. That punk thing is still in there. But I’m really just exploring what the body can do.

 

DT: Do you think the “punk ballerina” label is still relevant?

KA: It’s relevant in a sense—certainly not socially, since punk just doesn’t exist anymore—but in an attitude of something raw and direct and a certain independence of spirit. Punk ballerina—it’s not a bad label. DT

 

Michelle Vellucci writes about the arts in New York City. She holds a master’s in dance and education.

 

Photo of Karole Armitage's The Tarnished Angels (1987) courtesy of Dance Magazine Archives.

Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Kyle Froman

Darla Hoover was at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet's studios running a rehearsal in 2014 with director Marcia Dale Weary. Hoover had just returned the day before from staging a ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia. Jet-lagged, she mixed up her words when giving a correction.

Weary took Hoover's hand and gently said, "Honey, you work too hard."

Hoover, and the students, had a good laugh.

"Are you kidding me?" Hoover replied. "You're the one who made this monster. There is no off switch!"

Weary founded CPYB in 1955, and it quickly became an internationally known school that has produced countless principal dancers. Famous for her high standards and tough work ethic, Weary instilled those qualities in Hoover, who served as associate artistic director at CPYB under Weary, as artistic director at Ballet Academy East's pre-professional division in New York City and as a répétiteur for the Balanchine Trust.

Hoover took over as artistic director at CPYB in the spring this year after Weary died suddenly, and while she's committed to continuing Weary's legacy, students have begun to see some of Hoover's vision as well.

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

Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix, has been called the Queen of Fundraising by colleagues. A studio owner and high school dance coach with over four decades of experience, Clough is known for her smart and successful fundraising ideas.

Now, Just For Kix has created a new online tool to help everyone tackle their fundraising goals, whether you're raising money for uniforms, extra classes, or to cover the cost of travel for your dance team's next convention.

Clough shared a few of her best fundraising tips, including everything you need to know about the new tool:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Jessica Kubat (center) with her studio staff. Photo by Vincent Alongi, courtesy of Kubat

Jessica Kubat's path to becoming a studio owner wasn't typical or glamorous or the product of a family business, handed down. When she opened MJ's House of Dance in Lindenhurst, New York, this past summer, she had just turned 40, was a mom of three, and had worked at two different studios long-term. Over the last two and a half years, she'd painstakingly saved up $25,000 and had gone to the Small Business Development Center at a local college on Long Island for help creating her business plan. Her area was moderately saturated with studios, so she spent considerable time planning what would set her school apart—live musical accompaniment, for one—and hired a marketing director nine months before the business even opened. It was a methodical, careful approach—Kubat calls it "the old-fashioned way"—to opening a studio, and it's paid off: She started summer classes with 75 students and is well on her way to reaching her first-year enrollment goal of 250 dancers. "When I turned 40, I decided that it was time to do something bigger," says Kubat. "I always wanted to own a studio—it was just never financially available to me."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by NYCDA
Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
From left: Daniel Novikov, Alla Novikova and Mishella Vishnevskiy at Blackpool 2018. Photo by NYC Digital Media, courtesy of Alla Novikova

Alla Novikova began her dance training at a ballroom studio called Edelweiss in Saratov, Russia, when she was 9 years old. She was immediately recognized for her natural talent and work ethic, placing third at the Russian Open just three months after beginning ballroom lessons. The lessons she learned at Edelweiss shaped her career and provided the foundation she needed to open her own ballroom studio: Work hard to prove that you're good enough to be here, and give honor to the experiences that brought you to where you are today.

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

Professions across the globe hold yearly conferences, and the dance industry is certainly no exception. Annual conferences exist for dance teachers, dance medicine professionals, dance educators and more. Taking the time out to attend them can be well worth your while for a number of different reasons. Let's take a closer look at four of them.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Father-daughter dance. Photo by Lisa Lee, courtesy of Dance Academy USA

Your year-end recital is your studio's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not only is it the time for your dancers to celebrate what they've accomplished during the year, it's your opportunity to demonstrate to parents firsthand the value of a dance education. A successful recital can also grant your school an influential role in the local community. Whether a prominent conservatory or a small-town studio, and whether your dancers win competitions or take classes once a week, your year-end recital is the chance for your dancers—and your program—to shine.

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

Q: How do you approach gender when teaching in 2019? When I was training, male dancers were encouraged to make their movement masculine, while female dancers were encouraged to keep their movement feminine. Today, gender has become much more fluid, and the line between masculine and feminine performance has blurred. How does that impact the way we should be teaching?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Photo courtesy of Z Artists Group

New York City–based pre-professional training troupe Z Artists Group, along with dancers from eight professional companies in the city, are joining together to combat gun violence with, "DANCERS DEMAND ACTION," a performance aligning art with activism at The Joyce Theater, this Monday, November 11, at 7:30 pm.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Infinite Flow

Last week, 2019 DT Awardee Marisa Hamamoto and her partner Piotr Iwanicki brought their boundary-breaking work to the "Good Morning America" stage in a segment highlighting her inclusive dance company Infinite Flow.

Infinite Flow is a Los Angeles–based wheelchair ballroom dance company (the first of its kind in the U.S.) that incorporates an equal number of disabled and nondisabled dancers, as well as a range of styles like hip hop, contemporary and other partner dances.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending

Since she was hired in 2006 to create a dance program at Washington & Lee University in Virginia, Jenefer Davies has operated as, essentially, a one-woman show. She's the only full-time faculty member (with regular adjunct support). Over the last 13 years, she has created a thriving program along with a performance company—at a school with fewer than 2,500 students—by drawing on her admittedly rare strength: aerial dance.

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network

Savion Glover is one of the biggest names in the dance world, and perhaps the biggest in the tap world. The trailblazing hoofer's hard-hitting, rhythmically intricate style has fundamentally altered the tap landscape.

Glover is also a master teacher. But during his many years on the scene, he's never appeared regularly at a major dance convention. That is, until this season: Glover is now teaching at JUMP Dance Convention, scheduled to appear at approximately 15 more cities on its 2019–2020 tour.

We talked with JUMP director Mike Minery, himself a gifted hoofer, about working with a living legend—and how Glover is already changing the convention class game.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox