Former Fosse Dancer Shirley MacLaine Receives Kennedy Center Honors

MacLaine in "Sweet Charity"

This past Sunday, December 8, Shirley MacLaine received the 2013 Kennedy Center Honors. MacLaine, who was honored with Billy Joel, Carlos Santana, jazz musician Herbie Hancock and opera singer Martina Arroyo, has had a 60-year career as an actress. But she’s also a well-known interpreter of Bob Fosse’s work: She starred in both the film version of Sweet Charity and the Broadway run of The Pajama Game. Her debut in the latter happened when another Fosse dancer, Carol Haney, broke her ankle; MacLaine was Haney’s understudy, so she went on for her—and the rest, as they say, is history. At the Kennedy Center awards ceremony, MacLaine’s good friend and fellow actress Kathy Bates spoke on her behalf.

MacLaine said that coming to Washington, DC, to receive the award was something of a homecoming for her—after all, she grew up there and studied at The Washington School of Ballet.

Be sure to tune into CBS on Sunday, December 29, to see the full broadcast!

Teaching Tips
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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Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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Teaching Tips
Getty Images

After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

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