Inspired by Chance: The Dalton School's Spring Concert

As Dalton School dance department head Randi Sloan introduced the opening number, it was clear this would not be the average high school performance. "Here Here," a collaboration between Sloan and Dalton alumnus Adam Weinert (2003) who now dances with Shen Wei Dance Arts, was based on the principles of chance operations created by Merce Cunningham and John Cage. Live musicians (some students, some professionals) were given music on the spot by a composer and the dancers responded to the sonic cues. Neither the musicians or the dancers knew where the dance would take them. Even the video projections in the background changed in response to the random cues. The result was a complex work that didn't seem spur-of-the-moment at all.

 

The rest of the show was choreographed solely by students of the private Manhattan high school who were inspired by similar concepts. Several pieces were based on scientific themes that incorporated random or chance occurrences.  “Supernova,” choreographed by Amadi Washington, was based on the chance formation of a star. Students wore lights on their wrists, creating unique patterns and shadows as they danced. And “The Butterfly Effect,” choreographed by Charlotte Ray Rosenberg, was based on chaos theory: One brightly colored butterfly brought about everything that happened throughout. Other pieces had performers dance through a huge pile of confetti, and imitate dust motes moving under overhead lights that turned on and off unpredictably.  The effects, lighting, computer animation and sets—all designed by students—were every bit as polished as many professional shows.

 

The evening was particularly impressive considering that composition class isn't usually introduced until college. These high school dancers had it down. They choreographed, incorporated a complex theme, and showed some impressive dancing. (The final number, "Ignis," was particularly well-danced.) Congratulations to Sloan and the Dalton students on a terrific show.

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Photo by Yvonne M. Portra, courtesy Faulkner

It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

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As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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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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