#LetUsLessonPlanForYou: A Cunningham Warm-Up and the Man Behind the Technique

Former Cunningham dancer Gus Solomons jr includes this exercise in his warm-up, following an initial 10 minutes of floor work. The combination's constant plié-and-rise dynamic is designed to help students find the ease and weight of the pelvis. As in Cunningham technique, the top of the body moves independently from the bottom half.

Want to know more about the man behind the technique that bears his name?

Cunningham Technique

Combining a pronounced use of the legs from ballet with modern's strong emphasis on the torso, Merce Cunningham named five positions of the back: upright, curve, arch, twist, tilt. His codified, repetitive warm-up exercises and quick direction changes help develop coordination, strength and flexibility, particularly in the spine.

The Legacy Lives On

Cunningham's work exists in the repertory of many companies, including the Paris Opéra Ballet, Boston Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. Notable alumni include original company members Paul Taylor and the late Viola Farber, postmodern choreographers Douglas Dunn and Gus Solomons jr, Karole Armitage (known as the “punk ballerina") and of the most recent company, contemporary collaborators Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener. Cunningham stipulated that after his death his company would perform an extended world tour and then dissolve. Today, the Merce Cunningham Trust serves as the custodian of his work. Weekday classes take place at New York City Center Studios.

Don't miss a single issue of Dance Teacher.

Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"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.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending

Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"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."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.