What Choreographer Laurieann Gibson Wants in a Dancer

Photo courtesy of Laurieann Gibson

You probably recognize Laurieann Gibson as an expert judge from the TV shows "Making the Band" and "Born to Dance" (or from her DT cover story, June 2011). Maybe you've seen her explosive, original choreography for Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj and now Justine Skye. But for an artist with such a distinctive creative vision, it's surprising to hear that what she really wants is for dancers to be themselves. "When I teach, it's not about me. I don't want you to mimic me, I want you to understand you," she says. "Mimicking the teacher doesn't produce anything: Then it's just a bunch of people making you think you're a great choreographer because the dancers are hitting everything, but they aren't really dancing."

This perspective stems in part from her own background. Growing up in Toronto, Gibson was almost always the lone non-white girl at the barre. But training at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater—and then finding her own choreographic voice—she discovered that difference doesn't have to be an obstacle. “Passion and belief in the gift of dance can supersede what you look like, even what the world says a 'dancer' needs to be," she says. “I'm always aware of the climb and the tough times I went through—and there are still tough times. I teach to arm the dancer with knowledge, with structures to make you the most technical and strong and capable version of yourself possible."

Dance Teacher Awards

Who knew that a virtual awards ceremony could bring our community together in such a powerful way?

Last night, we celebrated the annual Dance Teacher Awards, held virtually for the first time. Though it was different from what we're used to, this new setting inspired us to get creative in celebrating our six extraordinary honorees. In fact, one of the most enlivening parts of the event was one that could only happen in a Zoom room: Watching as countless tributes, stories and congratulations poured in on the chat throughout the event. Seeing firsthand the impact our awardees have had on so many lives reminded us why we chose to honor them.

If you missed the Awards (or just want to relive them), you're in luck—they are now available to watch on-demand. We rounded up some of the highlights:

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Rambert artistic director Benoit Swan Pouffer had input on the new Rambert Grades curriculum. Photo by Camilla Greenwell, Courtesy Rambert

British dance company and school Rambert has launched a new contemporary-dance training syllabus. Rambert Grades is intended to set a benchmark in contemporary-dance training, focused on three strands: performance, technique and creativity. Moving beyond the Graham and Cunningham techniques that form the basis of most modern-dance training in the UK, it includes contributions from current high-profile choreographers Hofesh Shechter, Alesandra Seutin and Rambert artistic director Benoit Swan Pouffer.

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For Parents
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As studios in many areas begin to open up with safety protocols in place, dance students are, of course, itching to get back into class. But just because dancers can go back to in-person training doesn't mean all families are ready for their children to actually do so.

As a parent, it's understandable to feel caught between a rock (your dancer's will to attend in-person class) and a hard place (your concerns surrounding COVID-19). Yet no matter how many tears are shed or how much bargaining your dancer tries, the bottom line is that when it comes to issues of health and safety, you—the parent—have the final say.

Still, there may be ways to soften the blow, as well as best practices for setting or amending expectations. We asked Danielle Zar, a child and adolescent psychotherapist who specializes in parent education, to share some tips for this tricky situation.

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