News: Ballet Without Borders

When Davis Robertson of the Joffrey Ballet School traveled to Moscow in June 2010, he had no idea what to expect. As program director of the contemporary ballet division, his goal was to broach the idea of a summer student exchange with Bolshoi Ballet Academy. Much to his surprise, he received an enthusiastic response from director Marina Leonova. Bolshoi representatives outlined several other possibilities, including student exchanges during the year, teacher exchanges and an invitation for Robertson to choreograph a new work and run workshops in contemporary ballet.


This summer, Robertson will accompany 15 to 25 specially selected Joffrey Ballet School students to Moscow. They will spend several weeks taking classes and living at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy while he guest-teaches. “There will be two types of education going on,” Robertson says. “One in the studio technically, and one just permeating the air of the Joffrey students’ lives while they are there.”


Plans to continue the exchange include a visit from Bolshoi students and teachers to the Joffrey School in NYC. Info:


Photo: Joffrey Ballet School students in The Nutcracker (by James Culp, courtesy of the Joffrey Ballet School)

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Photo by Yvonne M. Portra, courtesy Faulkner

It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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