Maria Torres' Foundation Is Showing Young Dancers What It Takes to Be a Working Professional

On June 9, we showcased the first group of the IMPACT program in Florida at MAD Performing Arts. Photo courtesy of MTEAF

This weekend, The Maria Torres Emerging Artists Foundation is making the dreams of 12 young girls come true.

MTEAF, co-founded by Torres, award-winning actress Vanessa Williams and John O'Connor, collaborated with Cherilyn Marrocco, the owner of MAD Performing Arts Studio in Florida, to educate emerging artists. With the foundation's main goal of empowering young artists from multi-ethnic and underserved communities at the forefront, IMPACT (Intensive Musical Performing Arts Career Training) was born. From the 50 MAD students who auditioned, a dozen dancers were selected to enter the 12-month mentorship, which included educational training on how to succeed in the entertainment industry, performance and a trip to the Big Apple.

Jeté Dance Latin Jazz Team from Brooklyn, New York, whom the IMPACT dancers will meet with over the weekend

On Friday, August 17, and Saturday, August 18, the MTEAF will host the first IMPACT Program Showcase in New York City. The two days will include a tour of Juilliard at Lincoln Center, educational workshops with Jeté Dance's Tamia Santana and a talk with MTEAF co-founder and artistic director Maria Torres at Ballet Hispánico. To finish the evening, the students will see Frozen on Broadway.

More information about the organization, please visit the Maria Torres Emerging Artists Foundation page on Facebook: @MTEAFoundation.

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.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

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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.

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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.

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