Vicky Shick's voice echoes in the cavernous dance space of St. Mark's Church in New York City's East Village. A sinking plié gets a heavy "uhhhhh," while a swing-and-recover movement is accompanied by a joyous "whoo!" It doesn't take long for the students to join in with deep sighs and sharp yelps of their own. This is the only soundtrack for an hour-long, continuous warm-up that Shick has designed to be a neutral entry point into "everything you need as a dancer: strength, flexibility, alignment, shifting of weight, getting on center, using momentum." Rather than walking around, offering corrections, Shick participates in the warm-up, mirroring the class. "I like to allow time for people to get information from their own bodies," she explains. "There needs to be room to listen."
Choreographer Loni Landon is no stranger to the enticing power of social media. Instagram, for example, makes it very easy for Landon to connect with other artists. "I feel torn about it," says Landon. "On one hand, I think it can be used in a really positive way. I have received so many jobs through connecting with people on social media. But I do think sometimes people are on it for the wrong reasons and it becomes a popularity contest."
Ellenore Scott's stylized version of a layout requires counterbalance and core stability. Be careful not to sacrifice the neutrality of the pelvis for a higher extension.
In a sunny studio at Gibney Dance Center in New York City, Janet Panetta is gearing up to teach Ballet for Contemporary Dancers. She slips on her signature red ballet slippers while chatting with one of her students. At her feet, a tiny white Maltipoo bounds over to a dancer stretching on the floor. "She has a job," says Panetta about her dog, Lulu. "She does something really nice for people. She relaxes them."
Because her class draws a wide variety of dancers—from contemporary to jazz to burlesque—that sense of relaxation is paramount. “It's not terribly important for people in my class to do six pirouettes. I'm not interested in super-high extensions," she says. “I'm interested in the placement of the lines. I want them to be functional." Panetta's relaxed and supportive atmosphere, emphasizing healthy alignment and efficient movement, is a haven for today's contemporary dancers seeking to maintain their technique.