He came, he danced, he conquered: Charles Askegard is Heading Home

Askegard coaching Ballet Academy East students, from DT June 2013

Once you’ve performed with two of the nation’s top ballet companies, some might say you’ve accomplished all a dancer could hope to in the Big Apple. Charles Askegard has certainly made the most of his almost three decades in New York City, performing as a soloist with American Ballet Theatre and as a principal with New York City Ballet, where he worked with legends like Mikhail Baryshnikov and Jerome Robbins. After retiring from the stage in 2011, he co-founded the project-based company Ballet Next with former ABT principal Michelle Wiles and began teaching at Ballet Academy East. (He shared tips for teaching partnering in DT June 2013.) Now, Askegard has announced he is going home. Transitioning fully to the role of administrator, he will return to his native Minneapolis as associate artistic director of Minnesota Dance Theatre. As a child, he trained at the company’s school, now called The Dance Institute. He will work with students there, as well.

“It has always been my dream to give back not only to the dance community but the community as a whole,” he said in statement. “I have the highest of hopes for MDT.”

Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

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Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Teachers Trending

Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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