How Music Inspires Daniel Duell and Patricia Blair

Duell teaching at the School of American Ballet. Photo by Erin Baiano, courtesy of Ballet Chicago

The music comes first for Patricia Blair and Daniel Duell, the couple who co-direct Ballet Chicago. "We get inspired first and foremost by the music that we are listening to, looking at it analytically and structurally," Duell says about their choreographic process. "In our choreography, we always feel a need to provide a thematic shape—a beginning, a development and a conclusion, the way a piece of music goes."

They both have music in their past: Duell was a classical flutist long before his 15 years dancing with New York City Ballet, and Blair frequently staged Balanchine's music-centric ballets throughout her own performing career with Eglevsky Ballet and on Broadway. At Ballet Chicago, they are committed to live accompaniment for all technique classes. “Mr. B preferred live accompaniment, because part of musical education is the experience of listening to music that's created live," explains Duell. “I think that gives an appreciation of music in young dancers from an early age."

When a live pianist isn't available, Blair and Duell turn to tracks recorded by former School of American Ballet accompanists. As Duell says, “Class CDs can memorialize the very beautiful classwork of someone who plays live for you. There really is a ton of wonderful class music on CD these days."

Blair teaching warm-up class for Ballet Chicago's Studio Company. Photo by Erin Baiano, courtesy of Ballet Chicago

Rachel Neville, courtesy DTH

A new three-summer collaboration between Dartmouth College's Hopkins Center for the Arts in Hanover, New Hampshire, and Dance Theatre of Harlem will contribute to conversations on race, activism and equity in the arts, while also exploring creative projects and learning opportunities.

Kicking off the partnership in June, DTH focused on the development of The Hazel Scott Project, a new work by choreographer Tiffany Rea-Fisher. Scott was a Black piano virtuoso and Hollywood trailblazer who risked her life and career through outspoken civil rights activism. In the spirit of her example, Monica White Ndounou, associate professor of theater, and John Heginbotham, director of the Dartmouth Dance Ensemble, co-taught a summer theater course that challenged students to create dance as a tool for social change.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by A Wish Come True
Courtesy A Wish Come True

Studio owners who've been in the recital game for a while have likely seen thousands of dance costumes pass through their hands.

But with the hustle and bustle of recital time, we don't always stop to think about where exactly those costumes are coming from, or how they are made.

If we want our costumes to be of the same high quality as our dancing—and for our costume-buying process to be as seamless as possible—it helps to take the time to learn a bit more about those costumes and the companies making them.

We talked to the team at A Wish Come True—who makes all their costumes at their factory in Bristol, Pennsylvania—to get an inside look at what really goes into making a costume, from conception to stage.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
Courtesy Jill Randall

Fall may be fast-approaching, but it's never too late to slip in a little summer reading—especially if it'll make you all the more prepared for the perhaps crazier-than-usual season ahead.

Here are six new releases to enrich your coming school year:

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.