Meryl Davis and Charlie White Win Olympic Gold in Ice Dancing

Davis and White

No one's ever claimed it's easy to dance on pointe--or even in tap shoes or ballroom heels--but can you imagine trying to be graceful and emotive with ice picks attached to your feet? By now you've heard that Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White took home the gold medal in ice dancing--the first gold-medal win in US history. (US team members Madison Chock and Evan Bates finished in eighth, and Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani finished ninth.) So where do ice skating and dancing overlap?

Just like many professional dancers, ice skaters engage in yoga, Pilates and strength-training off-ice to amp up their on-ice game. Trust is a huge part of ice dancing, just as it is with any ballet pas de deux--in fact, some of the lifts on the ice could be considered a bit more high-risk, since they all occur while the supporting partner is balanced on a few millimeters' worth of blade. (Costumes cost just as much, too: Skating dresses are all handmade to order, and they can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars apiece.)

Choreographers have taken note of the similarities between the two artforms and recently started to bridge the gap. Former New York City Ballet principal and artistic director of Miami City Ballet Edward Villella created Reveries for the Ice Theatre of New York last fall, and "Dancing with the Stars" superstar Derek Hough has been choreographing routines for Davis and White.

Stay tuned for the results of the ladies' figure skating Olympic competition: They'll be competing over the next few days.

 

Photo by Michael Kass, courtesy of U.S. Figure Skating Media Relations

Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

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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The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

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