NYCDA’s "Destiny Rising" Event Awards More Than $100,000 in College Scholarships

Most studio owners who've attended a New York City Dance Alliance competition or convention know that the organization's foundational arm gives out oodles of college scholarship money every year. That's what makes an event like "Destiny Rising," which happened last night at The Joyce Theater in New York City, so special. Amidst truly fantastic performances from professional companies and studios alike, a handful of dancers go home with thousands of dollars for their college dance educations.


Last night, NYCDA director Joe Lanteri announced that the foundation has given away $22 million in scholarships to date (!). He called onstage several dancers who had auditioned and gave out awards of $8,000, $12,000 and $16,000. That's not chump change, people. Those are some lucky—and unbelievably talented—kids.

It's the performances that make the evening for me, though. Many familiar faces were behind the numbers I saw: Rachel Kreiling choreographed the opening, and Desmond Richardson performed a solo by Dwight Rhoden, Imprint/Maya. Kreiling's choreography felt mature for such young dancers, but they were pulling off complicated lifts and careful canons with ease. And Richardson continues to be an unmatched performer: His dynamics, focus, intricacy (not to mention the discipline inherent in his dancer's body) are—and I don't use this word lightly—mesmerizing.

The real showstopper of the night was David Parsons' excerpt of Swing Shift (2002). It requires the eight dancers involved to have impeccable timing to a very fast score, but you could see that, despite the swift pace and how much movement was packed into each count, they were truly enjoying themselves. (In fact, I'm pretty sure I saw one dancer get kicked in the head by another just before the piece's end, and they both laughed it off, mid-phrase.)

Congratulations to all the dancers who walked away with scholarships last night!

Teaching Tips
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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The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

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