Music for Class: Gestures of the Heart

Music to connect dancers to the movement

Cherice Barton (right) and her sister, Aszure Barton (left)

After 15 years of teaching and dancing professionally, Cherice Barton found herself a bit uninspired. "I mastered the art of imitation—dance became kind of empty," she says. But something sparked while choreographing Le Rêve, an aquatic acrobat production by Franco Dragone at Wynn Las Vegas. "They weren't trained like dancers, so I was forced to break down the reason behind each movement," she says. "It's not 'contraction on five,' but 'someone punches you in the stomach.'"

It was this lightbulb moment that pushed her to revisit instruction. Barton, who teaches workshops in NYC and most recently worked as assistant and resident choreographer of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, dedicates a portion of her class to a post-warm-up combination focused on gesture work. "You pick something off the ground, you scratch your head—it's kind of like choreography, but not. It has a reason," she says. "I want the dancers to be human again."

As if Barton isn't busy enough choreographing and teaching, she dances for her sister Aszure, artistic director of Aszure Barton & Artists. It's her younger sibling's approach to dance that informs her own class the most. "I know she's my sister, so I'm a bit biased, but she's brilliant," says Cherice, who puts a spin on Aszure's gestural style by adding emotional appeal for students to connect with. "As dancers, we take the way we move for granted," she says. "Don't lose the heart of it." DT

 

Artist: Lhasa de Sela

Album: La Llorona

"She's Montreal-based and sings in Spanish, French and English. Her voice is rich and sultry—perfect for the beginning of my class, which starts with what I like to call a 'feel-good warm-up.'"

Artist: Carney

Song: "Think of You"

"Reeve Carney plays Spider-Man, but he's also a singer/songwriter and has a band called Carney. This solo really helps

you connect. For my warm-up, I like to use music that somehow subconsciously allows the dancers to open their hearts."

 

Artist: Gustavo Santaolalla

Song: "De Ushuaia a la Quiaca"

"I like to do a bit of improv to finish getting everyone warmed up. Gustavo writes a lot of soundtracks. This song has a really even pace and almost meditative feel to it, which helps dancers feel ease during improvisation. The Spanish guitar allows you to feel free."

 

Artist: Elvis Presley

Song: "(Now and Then There's) A Fool Such As I"

"I love to use Elvis for the gestures portion of class. No one ever expects me to use him, so it relaxes everyone a bit and makes them laugh. If they take themselves too seriously, they can’t get into the humanistic quality of the exercise. I'm trying to get them to make their own story within the movement."

 

Artist: Balkan Beat Box (featuring Victoria Hanna)

Song: "Adir Adirim"

"I like to do coordination exercises where I put the gesture phrase over separate footwork to get them thinking. I need something with a great beat, and this definitely has it. And it gives the dancers a naturally grounded reaction into the floor. Everyone always loves this track."

 

Photo: Cherice Barton (right) and her sister, Aszure Barton (left), by George Lange, courtesy of Aszure Barton & Artists

Teachers Trending
Evelyn Cisneros-Legate. Photo by Beau Pearson, Courtesy Ballet West

Evelyn Cisneros-Legate is bringing her hard-earned expertise to Ballet West. The former San Francisco Ballet star is taking over all four campuses of The Frederick Quinney Lawson Ballet West Academy as the school's new director.

Cisneros-Legate, whose mother put her in ballet classes in an attempt to help her overcome her shyness, trained at the San Francisco Ballet School and School of American Ballet before joining San Francisco Ballet as a full company member in 1977. She danced with the company for 23 years, breaking barriers as the first Mexican American to become a principal dancer in the U.S., and has graced the cover of Dance Magazine no fewer than three times.

As an educator, Cisneros-Legate has served as ballet coordinator at San Francisco Ballet, principal of Boston Ballet School's North Shore Studio and artistic director of after-school programming at the National Dance Institute (NDI). Dance Teacher spoke with her about her new position, her plans for the academy and leading in the time of COVID-19.

Keep reading... Show less
News
The author with Maurice Hines. Photo by Anthony R. Phillips, courtesy Hopkins

In March, prior to sheltering in place due to the coronavirus outbreak, my husband and I traveled from New York City to Miami to screen our award-winning documentary, Maurice Hines: Bring Them Back, at the Miami Film Festival.

Our star, Tony Award–nominated dancer and choreographer Maurice Hines joined us in Miami for the festival—stepping and repeating on the opening night red carpet, sharing anecdotes from his illustrious seven-decade career with local tap students, and holding court at a cocktail mixer with lively female fans.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Haruko Photography, courtesy ABT

Gabe Stone Shayer may be American Ballet Theatre's newest soloist, but he never dreamed he'd be dancing with the company at all. Though he grew up in Philadelphia, his sights were always set on international ventures—especially The Bolshoi Ballet and The Royal Ballet.

Even in his early training, he was learning from Russian educators: Alexander Boitsov at Gwendolyn Bye Dance Center, and Alexei and Natalia Cherov, from the Koresh School of Dance. At age 13, he transferred to The Rock School for Dance Education, where he danced until his acceptance to The Bolshoi Ballet Academy at age 14. At 16, Shayer returned to spend his summer in the States and attended ABT's summer intensive—fully intent on going back to Bolshoi to continue his training in the fall. Four weeks in, he was offered a studio-company contract. "I was so surprised," Shayer says. "Having come of age in Russia, I was very Eurocentric. Of course ABT was on my radar, I just never imagined it was for me."

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.