Farewell, Ella

Norton Owen (left) looks on as John Heginbotham (2014 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award recipient) greets Ella Baff at her farewell celebration.

While others may flock to the beach to enjoy the final days of summer, dancers (and those who love them) take to Jacob’s Pillow in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts. This past weekend was the festival finale, during which the organization celebrated its departing leader, Ella Baff. The charismatic executive/artistic director who has led the institution for 17 years—the longest period since founder Ted Shawn himself—is leaving to join the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as senior program officer for arts and cultural heritage.

We don’t often write in Dance Teacher about behind-the-scenes people like Baff who are so vital to our field. They raise the money, provide the venues and, mostly importantly, connect us with our audiences. Without these people who focus on the business side but also understand to the very core what it’s like to be a dance artistthe needs, the commitment and the rewards—it’s fair to say, concert dance would look much different.

Baff accepted several standing ovations at events this weekend, each of which harkened back to the Pillow’s rich modern dance history. For instance, when she introduced the matinee show of MADBOOTS DANCE, a company of young men formed by recent graduates Austin Diaz (NYU Tisch School of the Arts) and Jonathan Campbell (The Juilliard School), it was impossible not to draw a comparison to Ted Shawn’s Men Dancers from the 1930s.

That connection with history is perhaps the best aspect of a Pillow visit—at least for a dance nerd like me. Norton Owen, the Pillow’s intrepid archivist, organizes a series of pre-show talks. Before the Martha Graham Dance Company curtain on Saturday, Pillow scholar (and frequent DT contributor) Nancy Wozny shared the surprising fact that though Shawn and Martha Graham are linked throughout dance history, her company didn’t perform there until 1984, long after Shawn died.

You don’t have to be a dance historian to appreciate the Pillow archives, though. This summer marks the grand opening of a newly renovated and expanded space for the collection. The Norton Owen Reading Room is open to the public to browse both videos and print documentation of the rich Pillow history, and I highly encourage you to do so. The collection is online, too: danceinteractive.jacobspillow.org.

Photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy of Jacob’s Pillow

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.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Courtesy Shake the Ground

Dance competitions were among the first events to be shut down when the COVID-19 pandemic exploded in the U.S. in mid-March, and they've been among the last able to restart.

So much of the traditional structure of the competition—large groups of dancers and parents from dozens of different studios; a new city every week—simply won't work in our new pandemic world.

How, then, have competitions been getting by, and what does the future look like?

Keep reading... Show less
News
Getty Images

Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.