Push Factor Co. Class

The familiar pain the day after a strenuous dance class is both rewarding and fatiguing, but a fulfilling class is always worth the after-effects. Jacqui Young, director of Push Factor, taught a company class, which I was fortunate enough to attend. Her unique style blends jazz, in its classical and contemporary forms, with rock music from all ages. In a combination about finding one’s inner ugliness, Young seeks to defy traditional “pretty” lines through abstracting positions so that they are irritating and in fact ugly, thus entertaining her theme.

 

As a dancer, contradicting a lifelong philosophy of creating strong beautiful positions was not an easy task. I struggled to find a balance between distorting a shape and maintaining a strong core. Even through this one combination, I could tell that Young likes to work in this limbo between strength and deformation.

 

With her emphasis on high-speed, high-impact athleticism, Young is an expert in the field of leaps and jumps. Perhaps the most meaningful advice for me was her comment on switch leaps. “Release in your hips, “ she said. “ Your flexibility is there, but you grip [upon switching in the air].” A switch leap is more like a breath, where you inhale for the prep and then “exhale through your legs.” I think this feedback is significant for all aspiring dancers who tend to work so hard they can limit their own strengths.

Teachers Trending
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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Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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Dancer Diary
Claire McAdams, courtesy Houston Ballet

Former Houston Ballet dancer Chun Wai Chan has always been destined for New York City Ballet.

While competing at Prix de Lausanne in 2010, he was offered summer program scholarships at both the School of American Ballet and Houston Ballet. However, because two of the competition's winners that year were Houston Ballet's Aaron Sharratt and Liao Xiang, dancers Chan idolized, he turned down SAB. He joined Houston Ballet II in 2010, the main company's corps de ballet in 2012, and was promoted to principal in 2017. Oozing confidence and technical prowess, Chan was a Houston favorite, and even landed himself a spot on Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch."

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