News

Rambert Wants to Codify Contemporary Training—With Help From Major Choreographers

Rambert artistic director Benoit Swan Pouffer had input on the new Rambert Grades curriculum. Photo by Camilla Greenwell, Courtesy Rambert

British dance company and school Rambert has launched a new contemporary-dance training syllabus. Rambert Grades is intended to set a benchmark in contemporary-dance training, focused on three strands: performance, technique and creativity. Moving beyond the Graham and Cunningham techniques that form the basis of most modern-dance training in the UK, it includes contributions from current high-profile choreographers Hofesh Shechter, Alesandra Seutin and Rambert artistic director Benoit Swan Pouffer.


Grades 1–8, suitable for dancers ages 7 and up, will offer a grounding in contemporary-dance technique, but also nurture skills that underpin all dance styles: "to use the floor, to cover space, to understand your body, physical confidence, working as a group," says Rambert School principal and artistic director Amanda Britton. "There's also a creative strand, which is about learning improvisation from an early age, which is so important these days." The framework intends to be inclusive and accessible to all, and to encourage dancers to develop their own styles by drawing on their bodies' natural movement.

Britton developed the syllabus in response to gaps she saw in UK dance training, and the decline of contemporary-dance education in schools in favor of STEM subjects. "I wanted to spread that joy of contemporary dance and allow more people to access that early training," she says.

"It's a way of introducing young dancers to the skills and systems that we're using now," Shechter says, pointing to the genuinely contemporary nature of the syllabus. "It's an attempt to give them something from the world today."

Although UK-based, the Grades can also be taught internationally, with teachers in Cyprus, Malta and Australia currently taking part in the pilot program. The first round of teacher training, which may include a combination of in-person and online sessions depending on safety regulations, begins in October; applications are being accepted on a rolling basis for future trainings, dates to be determined.

Teacher Voices
Photo courtesy Rhee Gold Company

Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, there has been a shift in our community that is so impressive that the impact could last long into our future. Although required school closures have hit the dance education field hard, what if, when looking back on this time, we see that it's been an incredible renaissance for dance educators, studio owners and the young dancers in our charge?

How could that be, you ask?

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It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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