Final Chapter of Bill T. Jones' Chapel/Chapter

Last year in Boston, I had the opportunity to be a part of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company’s production of Chapel/Chapter, performed at the Institute of Contemporary Art. Chapel/Chapter is a gripping multimedia performance that questions how we evaluate and judge devastating and violent events. In Boston, the Company wanted to include local dancers, and as a Boston Conservatory dance student only a subway ride away, I gladly volunteered. In the performance I acted as a guide for sightless dancers, I shouted answers in a mock game-show, and howled into the audience before reciting a final prayer.  

This past weekend, the Company presented the final performances of Chapel/Chapter at the Harlem Gatehouse in New York, where it premiered in 2006. This time though, I was part of the audience. Though this performance (different because of new casting) was compelling, breath-taking and chillingly beautiful, it was hard for me not to miss the cast of which I had been (however briefly) a part.

It is the impermanence of performance that I love most about dance—how everything hangs on the precise moment, and how an artist can bring new insights and interpretations to each movement. Two dancers can perform the same steps with the same qualities and effort, yet their movement will always be noticeably and gloriously different.

What happened on the Gatehouse in 2006, or even at the ICA last year can never be reproduced; I applaud the dancers for sharing new expressions of Mr. Jones’ masterpiece.  They took risks and new approaches to their characters that replicated, but did not impersonate the previous shows.  

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Photo by Yvonne M. Portra, courtesy Faulkner

It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

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As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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