Dance Teacher Awards

Who knew that a virtual awards ceremony could bring our community together in such a powerful way?

Last night, we celebrated the annual Dance Teacher Awards, held virtually for the first time. Though it was different from what we're used to, this new setting inspired us to get creative in celebrating our six extraordinary honorees. In fact, one of the most enlivening parts of the event was one that could only happen in a Zoom room: Watching as countless tributes, stories and congratulations poured in on the chat throughout the event. Seeing firsthand the impact our awardees have had on so many lives reminded us why we chose to honor them.

If you missed the Awards (or just want to relive them), you're in luck—they are now available to watch on-demand. We rounded up some of the highlights:

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Teachers Trending
Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy SAB

Aesha Ash is obsessed with movement. After training at the School of American Ballet and dancing with New York City Ballet, she traveled the world with Béjart Ballet Lausanne, Alonzo King's LINES Ballet and Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company. Ash spent that time watching, absorbing and growing. Continuing to be curious about what can be expressed and achieved through movement, she quietly began teaching, guesting at SAB's Workshop for Young Dancers in California beginning in 2016 and becoming the school's visiting faculty chair from 2018–20; in addition, she earned two Pilates certifications and, through her Swan Dreams Project, created a summer camp in her native Rochester, New York, in partnership with the city.

Ash also has plenty of experience dismantling the boxes that others have attempted to place her in. The latest such instance came in August, when it was announced that she would be joining SAB as the school's first Black female full-time faculty member. Although this news became public in the shadow of worldwide outrage and protests surrounding racial injustice and police brutality, her appointment was first announced to SAB faculty, staff and students in February. Dance Teacher spoke with Ash, a self-described "forever student," about her new position and what she hopes to offer the students of SAB.

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Dance Teacher Awards
Erin Baiano, courtesy NYCB

Missed the 2020 Dance Teacher Awards? Watch them on-demand here.

Most of us know Wendy Whelan for fearlessly approaching difficult tasks, whether creating a role in a new ballet, undergoing hip surgery (on camera, no less), embarking on a self-produced touring project or taking on a brand-new leadership role at New York City Ballet, where she was a principal dancer for 23 years.

But what recently, uncharacteristically, scared the now associate artistic director of NYCB? Teaching her first Instagram Live ballet class from her second home in upstate New York during the pandemic, which she says gave her a panic attack.

"I was insecure about the connection I was going to make," she says. "I was insecure about not being able to see the dancers. I was afraid I was not going to be able to feed every person. I wanted to be a perfect teacher and fulfill everybody's needs perfectly. And I had to throw all that out."

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News
Photo by Suzanne Faulkner Stevens, courtesy of Lincoln Center

How many of us have hovered breathlessly over our iPads, watching grainy YouTube footage of Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov in Theme and Variations? Or Suzanne Farrell in Mozartiana? (Hundreds of thousands of us, to be exact.) Well, get ready: Yesterday, Lincoln Center announced its brand new Dance Week, a series of seven online broadcasts devoted to our favorite art form. Part of Lincoln Center at Home, the organization's new portal for digital offerings, the six-day fest will feature performances by Ballet Hispánico, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, School of American Ballet and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. What's particularly exciting is that some of these—including the aforementioned Theme and Variations and Mozartiana—are legendary performances of yesteryear.

Ready to hear the lineup? Check it out below, then tune in to Lincoln Center's website or Facebook page to watch the performances.

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News
This Bitter Earth. Photo by Sam Wootton, courtesy of NYCB

Create a Watch Party! Here are four free offerings from New York City's most celebrated arts organizations to share with your students and their families.

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Performing with Honji Wang at Jacob's Pillow; photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy of Jacob's Pillow

Celebrated New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns has recently been exploring collaborative possibilities with dance artists outside ballet. Just this year she was guest artist with Lori Belilove & The Isadora Duncan Company, and performed on Broadway in her husband Joshua Bergasse's choreography for I Married an Angel. This summer she appeared in a highly anticipated series of cross-genre collaborations at Jacob's Pillow, titled Beyond Ballet, with Honji Wang of the French hip-hop duo Company Wang Ramirez, postmodern dance artist Jodi Melnick, choreographer Christopher Williams and more. Here she speaks with DT about the effects of her explorations.

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Suzanne Farrell works with Sara Mearns during a rehearsal of George Balanchine's "Diamonds." Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy NYCB.

In a large practice studio inside Lincoln Center's Koch Theater, Suzanne Farrell watches quietly as New York City Ballet principals Sara Mearns and Russell Janzen work through a series of supported poses. As Janzen kneels to face her, Mearns brushes through to croisé arabesque, extending her leg high behind her. "I wouldn't penché there," says Farrell, gently. "You can, but I wouldn't."

"I get so excited here," says Mearns with a laugh. The three are slowly working through the pas de deux of "Diamonds," the ballet George Balanchine created on Farrell and Jacques D'Amboise in 1967 that makes up the third act of his full-length Jewels.

"I know," Farrell says. "But it's more exciting if the arabesque turn afterwards is sustained."

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Suzanne Farrell rehearses Sara Mearns in George Balanchine's "Diamonds." Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy NYCB.

In a large practice studio inside Lincoln Center's Koch Theater, Suzanne Farrell watches quietly as New York City Ballet principals Sara Mearns and Russell Janzen work through a series of supported poses. As Janzen kneels to face her, Mearns brushes through to croisé arabesque, extending her leg high behind her. "I wouldn't penché there," says Farrell, gently. "You can, but I wouldn't."

"I get so excited here," says Mearns with a laugh. The three are slowly working through the pas de deux of "Diamonds," the ballet George Balanchine created on Farrell and Jacques D'Amboise in 1967 that makes up the third act of his full-length Jewels.

"I know," Farrell says. "But it's more exciting if the arabesque turn afterwards is sustained."

Keep reading... Show less

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