Joshua Trader Makes Waves at Santa Rosa Dance Theater

"That's the goal," says Trader. "Take a tendu and make a statement with it." Photo by Diana Dumbadse, courtesy of Santa Rosa Dance Theater

For advanced ballet students at Santa Rosa Dance Theater, Joshua Trader's class is a lesson in patience and persistence. “Ballet isn't going to come overnight. You have to be willing to put in the time," says Trader, who danced with Eugene Ballet and then Tulsa Ballet for eight years before transitioning into teaching full-time at the California-based school. To help his students build strength and develop muscle memory, he emphasizes repetition—using the same series of exercises for four to six classes before he shifts gears. “I always tell them to tattoo it into their bones so it never leaves," he says.

A simple tendu to the back is one foundational movement that he constantly refers to. “It's so hard! If you can do a tendu to the back correctly—without having your hip bones pop up and keeping your rib cage together—then that leads to a correct first arabesque," he says. “If your first arabesque isn't correct, you're lost, so we work on tendu back for six to eight months or two years, if we have to."

Although he prioritizes technique, Trader does encourage his dancers to be conscious of their artistry. “We work on the same lesson plan for three weeks, so by the time we get to the fourth or fifth repetition, they can really start playing with it," he says. “I'll ask them, 'What are you going to say with this simple four phrases of eight?' Because that's the goal. Take a tendu and make a statement with it."

For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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Teachers Trending

From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

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Higher Ed
Courtesy Benny Simon

It's safe to say that the 2020 fall semester was a learning experience for college dance departments and students alike.

While Zoom and socially distanced dancing had their obvious frustrations, professors met many of them with creative solutions that not only served as satisfactory replacements for "normal" learning, but also gave students valuable new perspectives that will last beyond the pandemic.

Dance Teacher rounded up four of our favorite examples:

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