For 20 years, Brian McGinnis lived and worked as a modern dancer in New York City, dancing for Elisa Monte Dance, Parsons Dance and Lar Lubovitch Dance Company before moving to Chicago to pursue a teaching career. “The repertories of these artists are instilled within me, and they inspire me to create combinations that bring awareness to the concert dance arena,” he says.

McGinnis now brings a performance perspective to students at Chicago High School for the Arts, Visceral Dance Center in Chicago and Fine Arts Center in Greenville, South Carolina (where he has been in residency for about 10 years). He helps his students succeed by giving them an outlet to comfortably express their feelings about topics that greatly affect their communities—most recently by creating a series of pieces about gun violence. “My students know what’s going on in their city, but they never really get to talk about it, so I want this to give them a voice,” he says. “I see this as a chance to open up a conversation about a somewhat taboo subject and change the language surrounding it.” DT

 

 

Artist: L.A. Priest

Song: “Night Train”

“Pop meets indy in this selection. The smooth quality of the vocals works perfectly for pliés. I add isolations and chest expansions to this exercise to encourage my students to have three-dimensional awareness of their bodies. The pulse of the music is driving and gives good directional intention.”

 

 

Artist: Coleman Hall

Song: “2 Heads”

“This music gets the students moving. It brings together a variety of contemporary musical qualities. I think the time signature complements a classical rond de jambe exercise. I then add darting gestures, leg extensions and floor-bound movements for a few eight-counts. The culmination of the song and movement invigorates the dancers, and they often ask for this combo to be repeated.”

 

 

Artist: St. Vincent

Song: “Digital Witness”

“I like this piece of music to teach undercurves, one of the fundamentals of modern dance technique. The rhythm anchors the movement to gravity, while the sharp-pitched vocals draw the dancer into suspension.”

 

 

Artist: Disclosure (featuring Lion Babe)

Song: “Hourglass”

“I use Disclosure’s music often in my classes. Their musical accents activate energy. This selection is for a dégagé combination that incorporates a leg swing and pirouette tag at the end. We go on a journey sometimes with certain exercises; the music has phrasing that can be invaluable for a dancer to use as landmarks.”

 

 

Artist: The Roots

Song: “Din Da Da”

“I use ‘Din Da Da’ because its amazing beat and vivacious energy allow me to create a combination with a good culmination. It’s long and hard, and the dancers eat it up!”

 

 

Photo by Nick Matthews, courtesy of McGinnis

 

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