Music for Class: Broadway Belle

With razzle-dazzle dance moves, a stunning physique and a powerful voice, Dana Moore has left her mark on the Broadway stage. From Sheila in A Chorus Line to Hunyak (“Not Guilty”) in Chicago, she has shimmied her way through some of our favorite musicals and even worked directly with Bob Fosse on Dancin’ and the 1986 revival of Sweet Charity.

Now, Moore brings her Broadway experience to the next stars of the stage, teaching at Steps on Broadway in NYC, Jacob’s Pillow and Marymount Manhattan College’s musical theater department.

Moore took time away from her busy class schedule to sift through her extensive music collection with DT, and she was barely able to choose just a few favorites to discuss. Spanning all eras and genres, her picks for class have a unifying theme: “All of the artists that I use are great storytellers through their music,” Moore says, “and that is exactly what we should be doing with theater dance. We aren’t just doing steps. We’re doing steps with some life behind them, some story, some character.” DT

Artist: Brian Stokes Mitchell

Album/Songs: Brian Stokes Mitchell, “Something’s Coming” and “Life Is Sweet”

“I’m enamored with Brian Stokes Mitchell’s new CD, and I use it for everything from warm-up to little steps to combinations. His version of ‘Life Is Sweet’ has an Ellington-era big band sound. ‘Something’s Coming’ from West Side Story has a Latin groove, so you can really move to it.”

 

 

Artist: Debbie Gravitte

Album: MGM Album

“I love Debbie Gravitte. I use the MGM Album for combinations, for all kinds of steps and dancing and choreography. Every song is right out of MGM movies, and they are just fantastic to dance to—the arrangements are so great.”

 

 

Artist: Jason Mraz

Album/Song: Waiting for My Rocket to Come, “You and I Both”

“I usually use ‘You and I Both’ for my ankle warm-up and tendu combinations. It just has a great sound because it’s very upbeat. I also like Mraz’s songs ‘Curbside Prophet’ and ‘Geek in the Pink.’”

 

 

Artist: Michael Bublé

Album: Call Me Irresponsible

“Michael Bublé is contemporary but of the same style as Frank Sinatra. He sounds old and classic but also very today. I’ll use pretty much any of his music. Call Me Irresponsible is a great one, but I have three of his CDs that I use interchangeably mostly for big combinations in class.”

 

 

Artist: Tom Waits

Album: Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards

“Tom Waits just has wonderful arrangements. He’s got that real down and dirty feeling. His songs have great rhythm, and his music is a perfect example of really good storytelling. When dancing to his music, it’s easy to tell a story with your movement.”

 

 

Album: Big Deal

Song: “Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar”

“There are some specific musicals I use more than others, like Billy Elliot, Sweet Charity and Chicago, and I love Big Deal. In this musical all of the music used was already

written, but the arrangements are original. ‘Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar’ in particular is really danceable.”

Photo courtesy Jacob's Pillow

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.

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Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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