Dance Business Weekly
Christine Cox and Matthew Neenan with BalletX dancers at Jacob's Pillow. Photo via Instagram

It takes an excellent leader to run a dance company. But Christine Cox, executive and artistic director of Philadelphia's BalletX, knows that it's not only hard work that distinguishes a leader.

Cox started BalletX with Matthew Neenan in 2005, using fellow Pennsylvania Ballet dancers during their summer layoff to populate a startup contemporary ballet troupe. Fast forward 12 years, and BalletX is opening a new $1 million building next month: The Center for World Premiere Choreography. It will not only serve as a home base for BalletX classes and rehearsals, but will also play host to choreographic residencies and community outreach.

Now the sole director of the company, Cox has learned invaluable lessons along the way. Here are seven tips she shares for new and aspiring directors-to-be.

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Gary W. Jeter II in Beasts by Nicolo Fonte

When BalletX dancer Gary W. Jeter II attended The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Ronen Koresh taught him to think about his dancing in terms of grammar and punctuation.

“One piece of advice that he gave me was to have clarity in your movement in the way that it is delivered. For example, is this movement a run-on sentence? Does this movement have a comma in the middle that gives you a slight pause? Does this movement have a period at the end or an exclamation point, or is it a question mark? In order to convey that question mark, you have to deliver the phrase a certain way.”

See Jeter in BalletX’s Summer Series at The Wilma Theater in Philadelphia tonight through Sunday, July 17.

Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy of BalletX

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Watch these kids, but more importantly, watch the teachers!

The first thing you’ll notice in this video is how many children are dancing. And if you’re like me, the next thing you’ll see is all the teachers (in orange and blue) who are on the floor, dancing full-out to keep the kids moving in unison and with energy.

As part of a new outreach program called Dance eXchange, Philadelphia-based contemporary company BalletX is spending 11 weeks teaching dance at Andrew Jackson, a local pre-K–8 public school.

In preparation for the residency, BalletX company members and staff trained with teachers from New York’s National Dance Institute to learn the organization’s methods for building dance skills while promoting self-confidence.

Watching the video, you can feel the positive vibe in the room and see the progress third- to fifth-grade participants have made just one week into the voluntary after-school program. Since students have not necessarily been exposed to dance before, teachers stick to simple choreography with waving, bouncing, clapping and counting out loud. In addition to this performance, Dance eXchange will present a mid-semester and final showcase that will be open to students, families and the public.

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