Kyle Abraham: I Like a Teacher Who Doesn't Forget to Get You Warm

Photo by Steven Schreiber, courtesy of Abraham

In our December issue, we hear what professional dancers have to say about their go-to teachers.

Kyle Abraham

Modern dancer, founder, Abraham.In.Motion

New York, NY

“Teaching goddesses Christine Wright and Cherylyn Lavagnino always think about class structure with a beginning, a middle and an end, considering what they want you to get out of class. That helps bring the right information into your body for a strong foundation.

Many modern teachers are so caught up in the phrase work that they forget about getting you to the point of being warm. And if you’re going to a job after class, you want everything organized in your body so you can do your job well. I look for teachers who remember this.”

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Technique
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.

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"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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"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."

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