Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's Dance Lab for Teens Continues Even During Shelter-in-Place

Last fall, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's new teen program, the Dance Lab Choreographic Fellowship, launched with 22 students accepted for its inaugural year. Even as the company and school have temporarily closed their doors this spring, Hubbard Street company member and choreographer Rena Butler continues to direct this exciting choreographic-study project for students in 10th–12th grades.

At the time of shelter-in-place in March 2020, the Dance Lab still had two more workshops left to do together and a final informal performance. Butler and Kathryn Humphreys (director of Hubbard Street Education, Youth & Community Programs), quickly and agilely took the program online and into the students' homes to see it through to completion. Humphreys says: "The current situation has actually allowed us to give the students more."

"I find myself asking the question of how a resting or home space can be generative for any art practice right now," says Butler. "The course was originally designed around the concept of how environment informs identity and how identity can inform environment. Transcribing the class onto a virtual platform worked out beautifully, because it was a matter of applying what the students learned from class onto a different landscape."

As part of the workshops throughout the year, Butler had the students explore numerous artists to learn about choreography, choreographic tools and genres of dance. With students sheltering in place, she reached out to five of her colleagues—Jason Anthony Rodriguez, Connie Shiau, Micaela Taylor, Yara Travieso and Robyn Mineko Williams—to each make a video for Dance Lab students. "It was important that I contacted choreographers in the field who had varying experiences to prompt extremely different tasks each day for the students," Butler says. "The range of incredible artists who have committed to this project is phenomenal. I wanted the students to work through each task using their imaginations to dream within and beyond their environmental confines."

Each video made for the Dance Lab students was 5 to 15 minutes long; an artist introduced themself and modeled the concept the students would be exploring at home. Butler asked the artists to play with the theme of "In My Room," and each gave a choreographic prompt. The videos ranged in topics from "feeling breath" to vogueing.

After exploring the five videos, the 22 students are completing their final solo projects now and will be submitting videos to Hubbard Street to compile a final video in lieu of the performance. Students are working on their own and at times during the week that work for them, instead of scheduled Zoom meetings together. "We reached out to the students and asked them directly," Humphreys says. "We wanted to be sensitive to their capacity right now and their environments. The students are so busy right now; we wanted to be as flexible as possible."

Additionally, HSDC is excited to share these new resources, free of charge, with teachers in the coming weeks.

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
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."

Keep reading... Show less
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.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.