Teaching Tips

How Pamela Pietro Teaches a Spiral Turn

Pietro, left, with Zuri Ford. Photo by Kyle Froman

In Pamela Pietro's contemporary class, "everything has to have lineage," she says. Each early exercise or phrase is a foundation for something that happens later. The floor spirals she begins class with (based on her mentor Irene Dowd's spirals) return in the form of the spiral turns her students do while standing.

Pamela Pietro is an associate arts professor at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts department of dance. She received her BFA from Florida State University and her MFA from the University of Washington. Pietro has danced professionally for Michael Foley Dance, Race Dance Company, bopi's black sheep/dances and Houlihan and Dancers (1991–99). For the last 20 years, she has been on faculty at the American Dance Festival. She is also a certified Pilates instructor and assistant to neuromuscular trainer Irene Dowd. Last summer, she launched a study-abroad program for NYU dancers in Berlin.

Zuri Ford is a third-year dance major at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts.

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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."

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Robbie Sweeny, courtesy Funsch

Christy Funsch's teaching career has taken her from New York City to the Bay Area to Portugal, with a stint in a punk band in between. But this fall—fresh off a Fulbright in Portugal at the Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa, School of Dance (ESD), teaching and researching empathetic embodiment through somatic dance training—Funsch's teaching has taken her to an entirely new location: Zoom. A visiting professor at Slippery Rock University for the 2020–21 academic year, Funsch is adapting her eclectic, boundary-pushing approach to her virtual classes.

Originally from central New York State, Funsch spent 20 years performing in the Bay Area, where she also started her own company, Funsch Dance Experience. "My choreographic work from that time is in the dance-theater experiential, fantasy realm of performance," she says. "I also started blending genres and a lot of urban styles found their way into my choreography."

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Courtesy Meg Brooker

As the presidential election approaches, it's a particularly meaningful time to remember that we are celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, when women earned the right to vote after a decades-long battle.

Movement was more than a metaphor for the fight for women's suffrage—dancers played a real role, most notably Florence Fleming Noyes, who performed her riveting solo Dance of Freedom in 1914 to embody the struggle for women's rights.

This fall, Middle Tennessee State University director of dance Meg Brooker is reconstructing Dance of Freedom on 11 of her students. A Noyes Rhythm teacher and an Isadora Duncan scholar, Brooker is passionate about bringing historic dance practices into a contemporary context.

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