Bronx High Schoolers Master Camille A. Brown's Complex Work

Matia Johnson of Camille A. Brown & Dancers With Fieldston Students; photo by Rachel Papo

Last September, dance students at Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx started a 12-week series of rehearsals to learn an excerpt from New Second Line by Camille A. Brown. Director of dance Rob O'Neill spoke with DT about this repertory project, led by Matia Johnson of Camille A. Brown & Dancers.

DT: How did you decide on the work of Camille A. Brown?

RO: Each year I look at the makeup of the dance company. It's a two-year commitment. They audition at the end of their sophomore year, and they commit to this dance major and study six hours a week during school. They get to do two rep projects. Last year was Doug Varone —I wanted for them to start to experience authentic partnering. This year I wanted to challenge them to have to move fast—to move as an ensemble and to really communicate with each other.

DT: How does New Second Line do that?

RO: It's a celebration of the culture of New Orleans that Camille created in response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It serves a couple of purposes for the company. One is to see how a choreographer takes something in the world and shapes it into a piece. It was wonderful how she did this quite complex movement—especially for high school. Everyone dances, but they don't have to dance exactly alike, so it has personal interpretation. You must put yourself into this dance.

DT: Did they have any trouble with it?

RO: For some, the challenge is moving that fast and that intricately—weight shifts like you wouldn't believe. And direction changes and dynamic grounded dance that really expressed the guts and souls of these people. It's not something you just pretend you're doing. What it's done for them is both to challenge them to do some really complex dance and also to look out and dance with somebody.

DT: After the rehearsals end and they perform the piece, what's next? How do you follow this kind of experience?

RO: They are preparing to do their own choreography and to take complete charge of their own work for the spring dance concert. The rep project gives them a chance to really absorb themselves in someone else's process and see some of the spatial choices and the vocabulary and some of the ways choreography uses space and time. So they get a taste of that.

DT: Do your students want to pursue dance as a career?

RO: All these kids go to college, and they often choose where they go according to "do they have dance." But dance is not usually primary. They're really smart kids at Fieldston. They go on in a thousand directions. My thing is I want my politicians and my business leaders to have that experience of creativity and respect for the body. I want them to go out in the world and know what it is to tell their truth. Because as we know, if you put it in your body and have the guts to express that, nobody can take it away. You can't take it back. It's present in the world once you express it physically

Photo by Rachel Papo

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
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
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.