Miracles on Your Lunch Break

On a recent weekday, in the midst of the New York City lunch-hour bustle, The DOORKNOB COMPANY created a small miracle in Bowling Green, a park in Lower Manhattan. Dancers turned heads as they playfully mocked the serious attitude of the NYC business class. “This day is so sad!” they exclaimed. The work, appropriately titled “Death of OPTIMISM,” was staged as a funeral.

In black dresses, sneakers and cone hats with yellow smiley faces, the dancers used movement, gesture, vocalization, music, over-the-top expression and sound to create a work that brought a smile to passersby and, for just a moment, a little joy to the lives of hundreds.

This performance was part of Sitelines 2008, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s site-specific performance series. The 20-minute performance began with static marching and contracted hopping. The movement became more frantic, mirroring the busy street beyond. It then turned calm, as the dancers united in a Tai Chi movement formation. Showstopper dance sequences to the tune “Get Happy” provided a rousing dynamic change.

DOORKNOB co-directors Shannon Gillen and Elisabeth Motley, both BFA graduates from Juilliard, seek to “connect to the audience in a real way… [to] create something true, relatable to people of all kinds.” With this performance, Motley and Gillen hoped to “get New Yorkers to be optimistic in a heightened time in the world, to [open them up to] the possibility of thinking optimistically.”

If changing the world one dance step at a time sounds like something you could get into, look for more events as part of the LMCC’s outdoor Sitelines series. Coming up in July, Risa Jaroslow & Dancers will perform their work “311” at the Municipal Building, and the 360° Dance Company will perform “Maktub” at South Street Seaport, Pier 17.

Higher Ed
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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Teaching Tips
Getty Images

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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Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy TUPAC

When legendary Black ballet dancer Kabby Mitchell III died unexpectedly in 2017, two months before opening his Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center, his friend and business partner Klair Ethridge wasn't sure she had what it took to carry his legacy. Ethridge had been working with Mitchell to co-found TUPAC and planned to serve as its executive director, but she had never envisioned being the face of the school.

Now, Ethridge is heading into her fourth year of leading TUPAC, which she has grown from a fledgling program in an unheated building to a serious ballet school in its own sprung-floor studios, reaching hundreds of students across the Tacoma, Washington, area. The nonprofit has become a case study for what it looks like to carry out the vision of a founder who never had the chance to see his school open—and to take an unapologetically mission-driven approach.

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