News: Awards

* Daniel Lewis, founding dean of dance at New World School of the Arts in Miami, FL, received the National Dance Education Organization’s Lifetime Achievement award at its annual conference in October at Arizona State University. Deborah Damast of the New York University Steinhardt School of Education received NDEO’s Outstanding Educator award, and the Outstanding Leadership award went to Julie Kerr-Berry, associate professor of dance at Minnesota State University.


* The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has announced that Tony Award–winning choreo-grapher Bill T. Jones will receive a 2010 Kennedy Center Honor on December 28. The presentation will be broadcast on CBS. Other honorees are Merle Haggard, Jerry Herman, Paul McCartney and Oprah Winfrey.


* At the Stella Adler Studio of Acting’s fifth annual Harold Clurman Festival of Arts in September, Alexandra Wells, ballet teacher at The Juilliard School, received the MAD Spirit Award for her work as an artist and humanitarian.


* The Washington Performing Arts Society awarded the 2010 Pola Nirenska Award for Lifetime Achievement to Seda Khoyan Gelenian. In addition to performing with several Washington, DC–area dance companies, Gelenian taught creative dance for children at the Norwood School in Bethesda, MD, for 36 years.


Photo:Daniel Lewis (Jeffery A. Salter, courtesy of Daniel Lewis)

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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Teachers Trending
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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Teachers Trending

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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