Dance Teachers Trending

To a recreational ballet student's parents, the differences between the The Royal Academy of Dance's curriculum and American Ballet Theatre's can seem subtle. There are variations in terminology (i.e. a passé is called retiré in the RAD syllabus), and though the pace of each style's syllabus varies, the basic fundamentals of ballet are covered. But for a studio owner who's considering what's best for their students, adhering to a specific curriculum is a much bigger decision.

To break down the pros and cons of the RAD technique, DT spoke with Charlotte Reardon, an RAD-certified teacher and former Merce Cunningham Dance member, as well as Bethany Marc-Aurele, an ABT-certified teacher and ballet director at New Jersey Center of Dance and Performing Arts, to offer an alternative perspective.

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Dance Teachers Trending
Peck in Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux. Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy of NYCB

At 11, while watching a performance of New York City Ballet's Nutcracker, Tiler Peck leaned over to her father and said, "Dad, I'm going to dance on that stage one day." It was a surprising declaration for a competition kid from Bakersfield, California. But her prediction came true: Peck joined New York City Ballet as an apprentice four years later. "It was the challenge that drove me," she says. "I always had natural ability to dance, but when it came to the School of American Ballet, I felt like a jazz dancer trying to do ballet. But I was going to get this. I was going to be a ballerina." Her mastery of timing and crisp lines quickly took her from being a 15-year-old apprentice to a 20-year-old principal. Now, nine years later, she's dazzling audiences at Lincoln Center night after night.

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Dance Teachers Trending
Al Blackstone leads a class at Steps on Broadway. Photo by Daryl Getman/Transmission-Roots to Branches, courtesy of Blackstone

"I totally manipulate the energy in the room with my warm-up music. I start with something really calm and then build to something energetic. I go with sweet songs for pliés, so people soften and are vulnerable. Then I go aggressive with high-energy music for abs, and soothing music for stretches on the floor.

"I finish warm-up with step-touches to a fun song that feels like a party, so everyone can feel good. I couldn't do my splits growing up, and that was always the last thing we did before center, so I would feel bad about myself. When I started teaching, I thought, "Wouldn't it be fun if we ended warm-up with a party instead?"

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Dance Teachers Trending
Halprin in her work The Prophetess (1947), about Deborah, the only female judge in the Bible. Halprin's Jewish heritage guided her morality and, early on, her choreography. Photo by Ernest Braun, courtesy of Dance Magazine archives

In both Anna Halprin's workshops and choreographic ventures, the postmodern choreographer used improv-based exercises that brought dancers' own individual movement impulses to their attention. Halprin made use of the environment surrounding her home, having dancers hike and tumble in nature. Now 98, she still teaches from her home in Marin County.

Here are three of Halprin's most iconic works.

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Peter Frame performing Paul Taylor's solo in George Balanchine's "Episodes." Photo by Monroe Warshaw.

The dance community mourns another loss this week, as we learned former New York City Ballet principal Peter Frame passed away on August 30. Frame, who was 61, trained at the School of American Ballet and was a member of NYCB (his twin brother Paul danced with the company as well) from 1976 to 1990, earning the rank of principal in 1988.

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Dance Teachers Trending
Taylor with PTAMD dancers Annmaria Mazzini and Michael Trusnovec. Photo by Richard Calmes

A person's walk is like a fingerprint, according to four Paul Taylor dancers who are stepping on without their beloved choreographer. Taylor died August 29, passing the legacy of Paul Taylor American Modern Dance to Michael Novak, the second artistic director in the company's history.

"Human movement never lies," says Novak, who sometimes slipped into present tense when describing his mentor. "For auditions, Paul makes dancers walk across the floor in rhythm. The first time I auditioned, I didn't get the job. I was terrified, but now that I'm on the other side of the audition process, 'the walk' is telling."

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Dance Teachers Trending
Thinkstock

Dear Dance Teachers,

We adore you. You help make dancers' dreams come true. You give them the tools to become phenomenal performers and capable human beings. You. Are. Wonderful.

It's because of our undying love and devotion that we feel the need to write to you today. As we approach another exciting year of dance classes, we want to remind you to take care of yourselves.

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Dance Teachers Trending
"Our presence here has been attracting people who are interested in the confluence of technique, improvisation and choreography," says Aiken. Photos by Christopher Duggan

When Chris Aiken and Angie Hauser talk about improvisation together, their ideas flow seamlessly—each building on the other as the two riff, arriving at conclusions all the more convincing because they are shared. They don't so much finish each other's sentences as continue them. As a listener, you find yourself agreeing that improvisation offers a blueprint for fully and ethically inhabiting the world; that dance should be part of core curricula throughout higher education. Their idealism is not only contagious—the energy of these two artists is more like an epidemic.

Hauser, a senior member and collaborator with Bebe Miller Company since 2000, has been described by The New Yorker as "a tremendous performer...who brings everything she has ever known about dance to the stage in a moment." Aiken, a performer and teacher grounded in the practice of improvisation for more than 30 years, collaborates with a network of other artists both nationally and internationally. He has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and his work has been commissioned by such prestigious venues as Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, the former Dance Theater Workshop in New York City and Bates Dance Festival. Together, Hauser and Aiken are breaking new ground at Smith College, where they share a teaching position in the Department of Dance.

Finding (and Creating) the Right Opportunity

The teaching duo's presence has been attracting people who are interested in the confluence of technique and improvisation and choreography.

"It was so funny because we weren't looking for a job," says Hauser about their arrival at Smith seven years ago, "and it was only one job, but we decided to apply, just to present to them everything we had to offer and that they should hire us together. And, indeed they did, so we split a position in half." They teach classes both separately and as a team.

At the time, improvisation was not a focus of the department. Once they began teaching, however, "the students really resonated with it. Particularly the graduate students," says Aiken.



To read the full article, pick up a copy of DT's September issue here.



Dance Teachers Trending
Hope Stone Dance performs coolest news on planet earth, chapter 1, a work in progress at Moody Center for the Arts. Photos by Sam Gentry, courtesy of Hope Stone

When Jane Weiner and her team walk into Browning Elementary School in Houston, the kids yell, "Hope Stone is in the house." Weiner, founder and director of Hope Stone, Inc., jokes that the school teachers wish they received that kind of treatment. "They call it Hope Stone Day," she says, proud of the learning environment she has built at the school through The Hope Project.

ope Stone founder and director Jane Weiner. Photo by Simon Gentry, courtesy of Hope Stone

Browning Elementary is one of 11 sites that Hope Stone teaching artists visit during any given semester, to offer dance, music, drumming, theater—or any combination. Classes are free of charge for the students; some schools contribute for her services, while others are supported by grants, foundations and individual giving. Weiner is quick to point out, "We are not an after-school program. Our classes take place during the day as part of the curriculum."

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Dance Teachers Trending

Though Asadata Dafora isn't widely known today, he blazed a trail for countless African-based dance companies who enjoy a firm foothold on the concert dance stage today. He reworked the spatial orientation of various cultural dances to fit a proscenium stage and made them more presentational to appeal to Western audiences.

Dafora influenced many dance artists directly, most notably Katherine Dunham, Pearl Primus and Charles Moore, and heads a rich African-dance lineage that includes such luminaries as Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and the late Chuck Davis. In 1977, Davis founded DanceAfrica, an annual festival that celebrates African culture through dance, music, art and film.

Here are three of his most iconic works.

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Dance News
Teacher Elias Kababa with students at the 92nd Street Y "Hip-Hop to the Top" workshop. Photo by Todd France, courtesy of Votaw

With hopes of better connecting to young students, dance educators met Saturday at New York City's 92nd Street Y for "Hip-Hop to the Top: Exploring the world through hip-hop dance."

The five-hour workshop provided age-appropriate lesson plans rooted in history and Laban Movement Analysis. But the program also reassured classically trained teachers to "come as you are." After all, a "groove" is just a plié with a grounded "urban edge."

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Photo of dancer Amanda Krische

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."

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Dance Teachers Trending
Jennings and her students on set for "We Are the Future." Photo courtesy of Jennings

The harrowing school shooting in Parkland, Florida, this past February evoked an inspiring amount of youth activism as students across the country protested gun violence. Knowing the power dance can have on social issues, and wanting her students to use their talents to spread a positive message, Club Dance Studio teacher Chelsea Jennings choreographed and produced "We Are the Future," a dance video that has gone viral on YouTube. The dancers dressed in orange to honor 14-year-old dancer and Parkland shooting victim Jaime Guttenberg (whose favorite color was orange), and held signs with messages like: "Over 150 children have died in school shootings since 1999" and "I don't want to be another statistic."

"It's important for teachers to educate their dancers on more than just dance, but life skills as well," Jennings says. "I want my dancers to see they are capable of bringing positivity into the lives of others. A simple conversation, a compliment or even just being there for someone can make a difference. This video was to remind people to be kind."

GO-TO ENERGY BOOSTER

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"I'm a major coffee addict. I have a double shot of espresso from Starbucks in the afternoon during my typical 10- to 12-hour teaching days. I also have a bag of almonds, a protein bar and fruit in my bag to snack on, while I teach."

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