Dance Teachers Trending

Paige Cunningham Caldarella Keeps Cunningham Technique Relevant for Students at Columbia College Chicago

Paige Cunningham Caldarella. Photo by Philip Dembinski

It's the last class of the spring semester, and Paige Cunningham Caldarella isn't letting any of her advanced contemporary students off the hook. After leading them through a familiar Merce Cunningham–style warm-up, full of bounces, twists and curves, she's thrown a tricky five-count across-the-floor phrase and a surprisingly floor-heavy adagio at the dancers. Now, near the end of class, she is reviewing a lengthy center combination set to a Nelly Furtado song. The phrase has all the hallmarks of Cunningham—torso twists atop extended legs, unexpected timing, direction changes—which means it's a challenge to execute well.

After watching the dancers go through the phrase a couple of times, Caldarella takes a moment to troubleshoot a few sticky spots and give a quick pep talk before having them do it again. "I know it's fast," she tells them. "I know it's a lot of moves. And you're hanging in there! But stick with the task of articulating everything—try to hyper-explore that."


She pauses for a moment, and then smiles. "After all," she reminds them, "this is the last class. What do you have to lose?" The pep talk works: This time, the dancers nail the timing, which gives them the freedom to find the length of every développé and hit each step of even the fastest triplet. Class ends on a high note.

In today's higher-ed dance landscape, it's rare to find a technique class devoted to one technique. Few dancers graduate and go on to join a company that is steeped in a single technique, like that of Martha Graham or José Limón. Students now take a variety of modern classes, with a little bit of everything thrown in—release technique, contemporary, Bartenieff Fundamentals. But Caldarella, who performed with Merce Cunningham Dance Company from 2000 to 2004, is committed to keeping Cunningham relevant for this generation of Columbia College Chicago dancers, even as she continues to discover on her own what makes this technique special and worthy of continued attention.

"With the current generation of college students, technology plays such a huge role in their life—this ability to be on six different devices at once," she says. "Cunningham feels like the physical solution for multitasking in the body. You might have your leg out to the side as you're tilting in the opposite direction. A lot has to go on in your body at once."

That multitasking approach can lead to frustration, Caldarella has noticed, which doesn't always sit well with her Generation-Z students. "I was talking with a student the other day who said, 'My generation has been taught not to fail,'" she says. "This whole idea of 'teach to the test' means failure is such a bad thing. But this is a space where you can create, you can make mistakes, you can figure things out. That's what Merce did. He opened up the space to take the time to figure it out."

Caldarella readily admits that she didn't have all of this figured out during her tenure with the company, which she had joined as a brand-new Juilliard graduate. "I don't think I recognized wholeheartedly what I was a part of," she says. "I was very young and naive. At that point, Merce was still teaching class. He was such a gentle soul. He didn't say much, and at the time, I didn't understand that he didn't say much because he was really allowing space for people to figure things out for themselves and not mandating what he wanted them to do."

Now, after honing her teaching style at Columbia for the last 12 years, she has a much clearer idea of how to pass on the knowledge she's accumulated—and had time to let marinate—about this famously difficult technique. "I try to be very transparent from the very beginning, telling the students about my own personal highs and lows, what I struggle with," she says. "It's me letting them know: I recognize what you are doing, and I know how hard it is, and we're in it together."

Much of this year has been spent looking backward in time. This year is the centennial of Cunningham's birth, and Caldarella has taught for an American College Dance Association regional conference in March and three solos for Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in April, where a new generation of dancers performed Cunningham's work for the first time. "I've been looking at a lot of old Cunningham footage, and there's so much about finding your own way into the movement," she says. "When I look at dancers in his company doing the same phrase, they have very different interpretations—all equally gorgeous. There's something about that individuality in this work."

And that's just one more reason why she knows that it makes sense to keep teaching college dancers a technique that's more than 50 years old. "I think about how much this generation is into their individuality," she says. "They really just want to be themselves."


Dance Teacher Magazine Technique Sept/Oct 2019 www.youtube.com

Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Kyle Froman

Darla Hoover was at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet's studios running a rehearsal in 2014 with director Marcia Dale Weary. Hoover had just returned the day before from staging a ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia. Jet-lagged, she mixed up her words when giving a correction.

Weary took Hoover's hand and gently said, "Honey, you work too hard."

Hoover, and the students, had a good laugh.

"Are you kidding me?" Hoover replied. "You're the one who made this monster. There is no off switch!"

Weary founded CPYB in 1955, and it quickly became an internationally known school that has produced countless principal dancers. Famous for her high standards and tough work ethic, Weary instilled those qualities in Hoover, who served as associate artistic director at CPYB under Weary, as artistic director at Ballet Academy East's pre-professional division in New York City and as a répétiteur for the Balanchine Trust.

Hoover took over as artistic director at CPYB in the spring this year after Weary died suddenly, and while she's committed to continuing Weary's legacy, students have begun to see some of Hoover's vision as well.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix, has been called the Queen of Fundraising by colleagues. A studio owner and high school dance coach with over four decades of experience, Clough is known for her smart and successful fundraising ideas.

Now, Just For Kix has created a new online tool to help everyone tackle their fundraising goals, whether you're raising money for uniforms, extra classes, or to cover the cost of travel for your dance team's next convention.

Clough shared a few of her best fundraising tips, including everything you need to know about the new tool:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Professions across the globe hold yearly conferences, and the dance industry is certainly no exception. Annual conferences exist for dance teachers, dance medicine professionals, dance educators and more. Taking the time out to attend them can be well worth your while for a number of different reasons. Let's take a closer look at four of them.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by NYCDA
Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Father-daughter dance. Photo by Lisa Lee, courtesy of Dance Academy USA

Your year-end recital is your studio's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not only is it the time for your dancers to celebrate what they've accomplished during the year, it's your opportunity to demonstrate to parents firsthand the value of a dance education. A successful recital can also grant your school an influential role in the local community. Whether a prominent conservatory or a small-town studio, and whether your dancers win competitions or take classes once a week, your year-end recital is the chance for your dancers—and your program—to shine.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Q: How do you approach gender when teaching in 2019? When I was training, male dancers were encouraged to make their movement masculine, while female dancers were encouraged to keep their movement feminine. Today, gender has become much more fluid, and the line between masculine and feminine performance has blurred. How does that impact the way we should be teaching?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Photo courtesy of Z Artists Group

New York City–based pre-professional training troupe Z Artists Group, along with dancers from eight professional companies in the city, are joining together to combat gun violence with, "DANCERS DEMAND ACTION," a performance aligning art with activism at The Joyce Theater, this Monday, November 11, at 7:30 pm.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Infinite Flow

Last week, 2019 DT Awardee Marisa Hamamoto and her partner Piotr Iwanicki brought their boundary-breaking work to the "Good Morning America" stage in a segment highlighting her inclusive dance company Infinite Flow.

Infinite Flow is a Los Angeles–based wheelchair ballroom dance company (the first of its kind in the U.S.) that incorporates an equal number of disabled and nondisabled dancers, as well as a range of styles like hip hop, contemporary and other partner dances.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending

Since she was hired in 2006 to create a dance program at Washington & Lee University in Virginia, Jenefer Davies has operated as, essentially, a one-woman show. She's the only full-time faculty member (with regular adjunct support). Over the last 13 years, she has created a thriving program along with a performance company—at a school with fewer than 2,500 students—by drawing on her admittedly rare strength: aerial dance.

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network

Savion Glover is one of the biggest names in the dance world, and perhaps the biggest in the tap world. The trailblazing hoofer's hard-hitting, rhythmically intricate style has fundamentally altered the tap landscape.

Glover is also a master teacher. But during his many years on the scene, he's never appeared regularly at a major dance convention. That is, until this season: Glover is now teaching at JUMP Dance Convention, scheduled to appear at approximately 15 more cities on its 2019–2020 tour.

We talked with JUMP director Mike Minery, himself a gifted hoofer, about working with a living legend—and how Glover is already changing the convention class game.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Though she loved choreographing, the high school student showcase wasn't quite enough for Julie Deleger, a recent graduate of The College Preparatory School in Oakland, California. The answer for her was an independent-study project during her last semester there. "Choreography is so personal that sometimes you need to take more or less time with it," she says. "Doing it on my own was really helpful. I let the project guide me rather than having to adhere to a specific set of rules."

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Getty Images

Q: My 5-year-old daughter is pigeon-toed. Do you have any suggestions to help her correct this?

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox