Performance Planner: Drawn Together

You've probably noticed that Hollywood's hooked on superheroes. With movies such at Superman Returns, Batman Begins, X-Men 3: The Last Stand and Spider-Man 2 drawing crowds at the multiplexes, why not capitalize on the allure of comic books for your next recital?

 

Sample Numbers!

 

1. Have your advanced jazz dancers mimic The Flash's extreme speed. Use sharp isolations and fast jumps and leaps coupled with a strobe light to create the feeling of velocity. For music, try a techno song such as Etienne de Crecy's "Fast Track."

 

2. Forget the damsel in distress: Cast a boy from your advanced group or a dad as a Louis Lane and have a class of Wonder Women come to his rescue. Choose your favorite cover of "Holding Out for a Hero" from the Shrek 2 soundtrack.

 

3. Create an aerial dance number for your advanced modern class. WIth the help of a rigging expert, your students can become a flock of airborne superheroes accompanied by a pretty instrumental such as Masashi Hamauzu's "A Dream in Flight."

 

4. Calling all villans! Your ballet dancers can use their slinkiest moves for a nnumber full of evildoers, such as The Joker, Lex Luthor, Doctor Doom and the Green Goblin to Michael Jackson's "Bad."

 

5. From The Powerpuff Girls- Heroes and Villans soundtrack, use "Buttercup (I'm a Super Girl)," for an upbeat jazz number for your youngest dancers. Dressed in pastel dresses, your students will love performing to this high-energy, kid-friendly punk rock routine.  

 

Super Scenery

 

From the simple to the snazzy, the comic-book theme provides fodder for exciting sets.

 

1. Set a dance about lonliness and reflection in Superman's Fortress of Solitude with this 'Ice Palace" backdrop from Backdrops Fantastic (www.backdropsfantastic.com).

 

2. Stage a rooftop Spider-Man sequence by building plywood platforms that simulate roofs and water towers. Add an urban touch with Charles H. Stewart's (www.charleshsteward.com) "New York" backdrop.

 

3. Brighten your stage with old-school "Pow!" and "Kaplow!"  signs painted on your cardboard as an homage to the 1960s "Batman" TV show.

 

4. Ask your crew to build some telephone booths for a dance about transformation. Clark Kent becomes Superman with a quick wardrobe change, but your number can have dancers working with slow, languiud movement on the way in, and fast choreography on the way out.

 

5. Borrow a chalkboard and desks from a local school to create a routine based at the X-Men Academy. Your students can demonstrate their super-human abilities in a tap or modern number.

 

Props & Accessories

 

4 extras to make your recital extra special.

 

1. Breakable chains and bendable steel rods from Oriental Trading Company (www.orientaltrading.com) can help you create feats of strength onstage.

 

2. To represent Kryponite, use green glow sticks, such as these from Extreme Glow (www.extremelgow.com).

 

3. While your dancers may be flexible, they may not have the stretch of Elastigirl from the recent movie The Incredibles. To create this effect, attach super-long sleeves to a soloist's solid colored leotard. The sleeves can be rolled up when she takes the stage, but as the dance progresses, her partners can pull them out.

 

4. For a dance about the Human Torch, use the officially licensed Fantastic Four Torch Gloves from BuyCostumes.com with a red unitard. Create the illusion of flames with red, yellow, and orange ribbon sticks.

 

 

Jukebox

 

A few hero-themed songs to get you going

 

1. The Flaming Lips, "Waiting for Superman": A techno-pop song perfect for a large production number to open your show.

 

2. They Might Be Giants, "Particle Man": An up-tempo classic, great for young dancers or a tap routine.

 

3. Sufjan Stevens, "The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts": This song's melody was made for a lyrical number.

 

4. The Ramones, "Spider-Man": Ideal for a creative movement number in which dancers try out spider-like moves, it will creat a flood of nostalgia for your audience.

 

5. XTC, "That's Really Super, Supergirl": Great for a jazz number, this catchy song has a fun rhythm.

 

6. Don't forget movie soundtracks. Superhero movies often have lush instrumentals perfect for ballet or jazz numbers.

 

For an extensive archive of songs sorted by superhero, got to www.urbangeek.net/supersongs. DT

 

 

Music
Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.


"I like to give dancers a phrase of music and choreography and have them reinterpret it," she says, "to be thinkers and creators and not just replicators."

Osato learned this approach—avoiding the natural temptation of the music always being the leader—while earning her MFA in choreography at California Institute of the Arts. "When I was collaborating with a composer for my thesis, he mentioned, 'You always count in eights. Why?'"

This forced Osato out of her creative comfort zone. "The choices I made, my use of music, and its correlation to the movement were put under a microscope," she says. "I learned to not always make the music the driving motive of my work," a habit she attributes to her competition studio training as a young dancer.

While an undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine, Osato first encountered modern dance. That discovery, along with her experience dancing in Boogiezone Inc.'s off-campus hip-hop company, BREED, co-founded by Elm Pizarro, inspired her own, blended style, combining modern and hip hop with jazz. While still in college, she began working with fellow UCI student Will Johnston, and co-founded the Boogiezone Contemporary Class with Pizarro, an affordable series of classes that brought top choreographers from Los Angeles to Orange County.

"We were trying to bring the hip-hop and contemporary communities together and keep creating work for our friends," says Osato, who has taught for West Coast Dance Explosion and choreographed for studios across the country.

In 2009, Osato, Johnston and Pizarro launched Entity Contemporary Dance, which she and Johnston direct. The company, now based in Los Angeles, won the 2017 Capezio A.C.E. Awards, and, in 2019, Osato was chosen for two choreographic residencies (Joffrey Ballet's Winning Works and the USC Kaufman New Movement Residency), and became a full-time associate professor of dance at Santa Monica College.

At SMC, Osato challenges her students—and herself—by incorporating a live percussionist, a luxury that's been on pause during the pandemic. She finds that live music brings a heightened sense of awareness to the room. "I didn't realize what I didn't have until I had it," Osato says. "Live music helps dancers embody weight and heaviness, being grounded into the floor." Instead of the music dictating the movement, they're a part of it.

Osato uses the musician as a collaborator who helps stir her creativity, in real time. "I'll say 'Give me something that's airy and ambient,' and the sounds inspire me," says Osato. She loves playing with tension and release dynamics, fall and recovery, and how those can enhance and digress from the sound.

"I can't wait to get back to the studio and have that again," she says.

Osato made Dance Teacher a Spotify playlist with some of her favorite songs for class—and told us about why she loves some of them.

"Get It Together," by India.Arie

"Her voice and lyrics hit my soul and ground me every time. Dream artist. My go-to recorded music in class is soul R&B. There's simplicity about it that I really connect with."

"Turn Your Lights Down Low," by Bob Marley + The Wailers, Lauryn Hill

"A classic. This song embodies that all-encompassing love and gets the whole room groovin'."

"Diamonds," by Johnnyswim

"This song's uplifting energy and drive is infectious! So much vulnerability, honesty and joy in their voices and instrumentation."

"There Will Be Time," by Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal

"Mumford & Sons' music has always struck a deep chord within me. Their songs are simultaneously stripped-down and complex and feel transcendent."

"With The Love In My Heart," by Jacob Collier, Metropole Orkest, Jules Buckley

"Other than it being insanely energizing and cinematic, I love how challenging the irregular meter is!"

For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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Teachers Trending

From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

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