Ripple Effect

Andanza’s impact is felt throughout Puerto Rico.

Last November, the Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture in the Bronx welcomed Andanza, a Puerto Rico–based contemporary dance company. The performance marked the group’s New York debut and displayed Andanza’s range of influences, from modern dance to Puerto Rican cultural heritage, all rooted in classical ballet technique. And each piece, whether playful or contemplative, fluttered with feeling. “Puerto Ricans, when they walk, they dance, and when they speak, they sing,” says Andanza’s artistic and executive director Lolita Villanúa. “That’s something very special about our dancers. Even the most classical, they can swing.”

Andanza performing last November in San Juan, Puerto RicoThat quality is well-known and celebrated in Puerto Rico, where the company has four main annual productions in San Juan. But Andanza, founded by Villanúa and school director María Teresa Robles in 1998, is more than a professional performing ensemble. Its multifaceted mission includes education and community outreach. “We always try to integrate all three aspects—the artistic, the educational and the social,” says Villanúa.

Since the beginning, Andanza has had a dance school. Today, approximately 300 students, from the very young to the very old, take classes in everything from classical ballet to creative movement, hip hop to Pilates. A few may eventually become company members, but that isn’t the primary goal. “Arts and education are basic in a society. It’s like breathing,” says Villanúa. “The arts and dance have an intrinsic value, but they’re also instruments for social change.”

Which is why the organization’s work extends well beyond the school’s walls. Shortly after Andanza’s inception, it began doing outreach, initially offering classes to people in nearby communities. In 2002, it teamed with the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture and began broadening its scope. “We went to visit communities to offer scholarships,” says Villanúa. “And then we found there were too many, too far away.” So rather than bringing individual students to the dance school, Andanza decided to bring dance to the communities.

Now in its 13th year and supported largely by Fundación Banco Popular, the outreach project shares dance with up to 600 students in communities across Puerto Rico. The participants—young and old—take weekly classes with company members and teachers from the school. The sessions closely mimic a studio class, with a warm-up, guided improvisation and choreographed routine. Community participants also see Andanza company performances. “That’s an important part, because most have never been to the theater,” says Villanúa.

Many of the young students come from underserved communities or homes beset by violence, and the results have been profound. “You see that these children become more disciplined and more secure with themselves and learn how to respect their colleagues, and you see that their tolerance is being developed,” Villanúa says. For her, those are invaluable accomplishments. “If we get some professional dancers from all these projects, great. But if we get some sensitive and responsible and good individuals, that’s what Puerto Rico needs and what the world needs.” DT

Katie Rolnick is a frequent contributor to Dance Teacher.

Photo by Robert Villanúa, courtesy of Andanza

Music
Getty Images

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.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

Keep reading... Show less
Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.