Performance Planner: Summertime in the Wintertime

It's only January. As an east-coaster I have three more months of winter to endure, and I can't seem to stop fantasizing about sunglasses, warm breezes and sand beneath my toes. If only I lived in Southern California.

 

If you haven't decided on a theme for your spring piece, a summer-themed routine may help keep you and your students amped through the dull, freezing winter. But whether you're planning a show or you just need a quick break from the snow, here are some suggestions to bring the sunshine to the studio:

  • * Try a lyrical combination to The Mamas and The Papas' "California Dreamin'" in your advanced contemporary class.
  • * “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” Brian Hyland is the perfect song for your tiny tappers.
  • * Teen dancers will love warming up to Jason Mraz's "Summer Breeze" during pre-class stretches.
  • * What summer-themed recital would be complete without The Beach Boys' "Surfin' U.S.A?"

For more California-inspired ideas from Lauren Green, click here.

 

Photo:  In 1973, Twyla Tharp created her first crossover ballet: Deuce Coupe. Set to music by the Beach Boys, the work premiered February 8—smack in the middle of a numbingly cold Chicago winter. Though it was choreographed for the Joffery Ballet, Tharp's modern company dancers performed onstage alongside Joffrey dancers.

Technique
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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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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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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