Music for Class: Alex Ketley

Music for contemporary dance and improvisation

Even during his studies at the prestigious School of American Ballet, Alex Ketley knew his ultimate goal was to become a choreographer. So after just four years of dancing with the San Francisco Ballet, he abandoned performance to follow that initial creative spark. “There’s something very romantic about being saturated in your own artistic process,” he says. “It was dreamy and fun. I was completely unstable financially. I had no idea what I was doing. It felt so open and crazy.”

That in-the-moment feeling is what he’s trying to impart to his students at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, where dancers learn current contemporary repertoire and try their hands at choreographing. Aside from ballet, Ketley teaches a class called Hot Mess, which is all about getting students to open up, act crazy, be vulnerable and let go of their technique. “I might ask them to growl like a dinosaur that has spasms in its body, while acting like a cheerleader. And it’s proved to be a tool to get into their playful sides,” he says. “So much of dance training is about the control of the body. But it’s really valuable to feel out of control. And everyone has to drop the idea of pleasing me, because there’s no way to do it well.” DT

Artist: Tommy Four Seven

Song: “Armed 3”

“I play a lot of really aggressive electronica in the beginning of rehearsals, partially because I want dancers to root down into their bodies and get out of their heads. The aggression and momentum in this music gives the studio a sense that we’re going to have fun, and that dancing doesn’t always have to be pleasant. It can feel messy and lost and still be radiant.”

Artist: Philip Jeck

Song: “Veil”

“This track has a lot of weight to it. And it makes me feel that all the movement we do is important. Each small decision and choice has significance. Movement has the most gravity when it’s invested.”

 

 

Artist: Gregory Alan Isakov

Song: “Master & a Hound”

“I’m interested in the full span of emotions in dancers. Something about this track makes room for fragments of emotion that we can attach to when exploring movement.”

 

 

Artist: Lil Wayne and Cory Gunz

Song: “6 Foot 7 Foot”

“I’m a big fan of hip hop because I’m obsessed with rhythm. Rappers are unique architects of how our perception of time can be squashed, drawn out, shattered and restructured. And hip hop always gets the room bouncing.”

 

Artist: TV on the Radio

Song: “Wolf Like Me”

“I grew up skateboarding and listening to punk music, so I feel nostalgic toward that culture, and sometimes, I want to bring that into the studio. It feels important to acknowledge the freedoms of childhood against the seriousness that dance practice can have.”

 

Photo by Andrea Basile, courtesy of Alex Ketley

Teacher Voices
Getty Images

In 2001, young Chanel, a determined, ambitious, fiery, headstrong teenager, was about to begin her sophomore year at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, also known as the highly acclaimed "Fame" school. I was a great student, a promising young dancer and well-liked by my teachers and my peers. On paper, everything seemed in order. In reality, this picture-perfect image was fractured. There was a crack that I've attempted to hide, cover up and bury for nearly 20 years.

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Getty Images

Though the #MeToo movement has spurred many dancers to come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and abuse, the dance world has yet to have a full reckoning on the subject. Few institutions have made true cultural changes, and many alleged predators continue to work in the industry.

As Chanel DaSilva's story shows, young dancers are particularly vulnerable to abuse because of the power differential between teacher and student. We spoke with eight experts in dance, education and psychology about steps that dance schools could take to protect their students from sexual abuse.

Keep reading... Show less
Technique
Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.