Chloé Arnold on Rhythm and Making Connections

Photo courtesy of Chloé Arnold

As soon as she hears a song, Chloé Arnold knows if she wants to tap to it. "I'm a very feeling person. I like to feel the rhythm in my soul and feel like I have no choice but to dance," she says. "Tap is music, so it's a dual experience of creating. I hear rhythms in my head all day, and it's about how those rhythms, the tap rhythms, complement the rhythms that already exist in a song."


Arnold and her tap dance band, Syncopated Ladies, have recently garnered a lot of attention. “I always knew tap was what I wanted to do, and I wanted to put it on film and get it to the world," she says. They won the first dance crew battle on “So You Think You Can Dance," Season 11, and their YouTube views increased after Beyoncé shared their video to her song “Formation." Their performance on “Good Morning America" is Arnold's favorite moment as a performer and choreographer—so far.

When she teaches master classes, Arnold stresses to students the need for connection. “It's the ability to connect that makes an audience feel an artist," she says. “I want students to connect to the space we're in, the time we're sharing, with me and every other person in the room, with the music and with the movement. Through that connection, we're communicating."

Music
Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.

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For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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Teachers Trending

From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

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