Strong Young Women Set to Graduate

     Over the weekend I attended the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Performing Arts’ (in Manhattan) Graduation Dance Concert 2009. Every dancer displayed a high level of technical proficiency matched by great artistry and performance quality to create a fantastic culmination of their hard work over their high school years. They executed extremely difficult partnering smoothly, and showed their versatility as dancers as they switched between modern and ballet techniques with ease.
     As I began to reflect on each piece, and their individual successes, one piece in particular caught my attention: Adam Barruch’s “The Quiet Room.”  This piece’s success came from the dancers’ clearly directed energy matched with live music played by other students.  Full of distinct shapes and well-crafted movement, it was however, the partnering that I found most interesting—and it was comprised of, thankfully, not just boy-girl pairings.  
     Nathan Trice’s piece “Their Speech Is Silver, Their Silence Is Gold” also featured women in a powerful way. A large group of powerful young women (with a student female vocalist) fiercely mastered the complicated and sudden gestures of Trice’s choreography with a strength and intensity that was unmatched the rest of the evening—definitely deserving the standing ovation they received.  
     What better way to show maturing girls that women are strong and deserving of respect, than through dance that presents women as impressive and commanding artists?  There will always be places for the gentle princesses of ballet, but it was great to witness this art community where young women can really soar.

Teachers Trending
Courtesy Lovely Leaps

After the birth of her daughter in 2018, engineer Lisa McCabe had reservations about returning to the workforce full-time. And while she wanted to stay home with the new baby, she wasn't ready to stop contributing financially to her family (after all, she'd had a successful career designing cables for government drones). So, when she got a call that September from an area preschool to lead its dance program, she saw an opportunity.

The invitation to teach wasn't completely out of the blue. McCabe had grown up dancing in Southern California and had a great reputation from serving as her church's dance teacher and team coach the previous three years (stopping only to take a break as a new mother). She agreed to teach ballet and jazz at the preschool on Fridays and from there created an age-appropriate class based on her own training in the Cecchetti and RAD methods. It was a success: In three months, class enrollment went from six to 24 students, and just one year later, McCabe's blossoming Lovely Leaps brand had contracts with eight preschools and three additional teachers.

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Courtesy Shake the Ground

Dance competitions were among the first events to be shut down when the COVID-19 pandemic exploded in the U.S. in mid-March, and they've been among the last able to restart.

So much of the traditional structure of the competition—large groups of dancers and parents from dozens of different studios; a new city every week—simply won't work in our new pandemic world.

How, then, have competitions been getting by, and what does the future look like?

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Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

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