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.