Music for Dance Class: Emotional Flow

Cathy Roe has done it all in the dance world. Her experience as a university dance program director, TV choreographer, studio owner, master teacher and choreographer are all part of what makes her an in-demand teacher today. Roe has also produced more than 150 instructional dance videos and operates her own competition and convention company.

 

Even with all she has going on, finding great teaching music still excites Roe. “Emerging, innovative artists are always my pleasure to discover. Truly, there is no dearth of musical treasures to encounter, but it does take exploration!” she says. “I try to keep in mind that the message I choose my dancers to act out will be rehearsed in body and mind repeatedly. Therefore, the message needs to be one that is age-appropriate, pertinent to their emotional maturity and a positive influence on their young and pliable psyches.” Here, Roe shares just a few of her favorite finds.  DT

 

Artist: Enigma


Album: Enigma MCMXC A.D.
 

 

“This is my favorite CD for technique class. Just play it straight through and it works for opening stretches, pliés, tendus, dégagés, passés, floor stretches and battements.”

 

Artist: Pat Madden and Sally Potter

Album: It’s About Time

 

“If you like instrumentation, the song ‘Jubilee’ has me envisioning a duet for my older students. ‘Forever Young’ works well for younger dancers. I choreographed a dance to it that used sign language.”

 

Artist: UltraMax


Album: Resurrection

 

“Music for lyrical dance doesn’t need the most literal language. I look for music that is emotionally engaging so that I can tell my story without words. Max Formitchev’s music has inspired me many times. My favorite song is ‘Sweet Harp.’”

 

Artist: Gipsy Kings


Album: Cantos de Amor

 

“We can’t get around the fact that teen girls want to dance about love. I try to find different ways to fulfill my budding students without succumbing to the cliché ballads that rock their iPods. My preference is to engage the emotion in different languages. My all-time favorite is ‘Mi Corazon,’ by the Gipsy Kings.”

 

Artist: Second Opinion
 

Album: Last Rose

 

“A cappella songs are a stunning means of capturing the attention of both performers and the audience, especially when the voices are as enchanting as Pat Madden’s (who is also a member of the trio Second Opinion). Listen to ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ and ‘Add a Little Faith.’”

 

Artist: Leonard Cohen

Album: The Essential Leonard Cohen

 

“Leonard Cohen’s music is a springboard for ideas. A prolific poet, he weaves ideas through his lyrics that are fertile ground for visionaries. Many of his songs are covered by other artists, who add their own melodic voices and arrangements—iTunes has numerous versions to consider.”

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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