Teachers' Tools: Up Close With Kitty Carter

Teachers share the philosophies and materials that make them successful in their careers and classes.

Carter, a former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, leads classes for the team.

You won’t catch dancers goofing off in Kitty Carter’s jazz class at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas. That’s because Carter has already caught them—and kicked them out. Asking a question that’s already been answered or waving to your friends in the observation window are each as good as a one-way ticket out the door for that class period. “I’m pretty cutthroat as far as class discipline goes,” she says. A former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, Carter learned the tough-love approach from her teachers at Texas’ Southern Methodist University. Though her Graham teacher made her cry on the first day, he turned out to be a favorite professor. “I need to toughen their skin. I’m not mean. I’m to the point,” she says.

Carter’s reputation precedes her, and she says most dancers choose her class for the intensity. She prides herself on wicked across-the-floor combinations and demanding meticulous technical skill. She has dancers prepare for pirouettes in second position instead of fourth to discourage them from winding up the torso before the turn. “I try to help them find their center of gravity,” she says. “Show them you can be a quadriplegic and still turn."

Though she calls herself a stepchild of Luigi and Matt Mattox and imbues her warm-up with the jazz icons’ signature port de bras and percussive isolations, Carter knows the commercial scene is changing. Even the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders do a lot more “booty-popping” today than when she was a member. Still, she maintains that you can keep any choreography clean and classy if you apply technique—plus a little common sense. “You can either do a développé with your hip hiked like a dog on a hydrant or with the hip down,” she says. “You can do a step with your tongue hanging out or with your mouth closed, smiling. There’s just a tasteful way to perform.” DT


For reference: Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet, by Gail Grant. “It’s a great go-to book.”

For inspiration: “A Chorus Line had a huge impact on me as a dancer and teacher. Michael Bennett was such a genius the way he spotlighted the life of a dancer.”

To stay fit: “I had both hips replaced five years ago, so I do cycling classes (easiest on the metal hips) three or four days a week.”

Classwear: Nike Shox iD tennis shoes “help cushion my legs and hips when teaching six to eight hours a day.” A baseball cap keeps her hair back.

Favorite food: “I could eat Tex-Mex every day.

Salsa and chips are my cake and ice cream.”

Photos clockwise from top left: courtesy of Kitty Carter (2); bikes and chips ©Thinkstock; others courtesy of manufacturers

Getty Images

Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

Keep reading... Show less
Robbie Sweeny, courtesy Funsch

Christy Funsch's teaching career has taken her from New York City to the Bay Area to Portugal, with a stint in a punk band in between. But this fall—fresh off a Fulbright in Portugal at the Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa, School of Dance (ESD), teaching and researching empathetic embodiment through somatic dance training—Funsch's teaching has taken her to an entirely new location: Zoom. A visiting professor at Slippery Rock University for the 2020–21 academic year, Funsch is adapting her eclectic, boundary-pushing approach to her virtual classes.

Originally from central New York State, Funsch spent 20 years performing in the Bay Area, where she also started her own company, Funsch Dance Experience. "My choreographic work from that time is in the dance-theater experiential, fantasy realm of performance," she says. "I also started blending genres and a lot of urban styles found their way into my choreography."

Keep reading... Show less
Courtesy Meg Brooker

As the presidential election approaches, it's a particularly meaningful time to remember that we are celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, when women earned the right to vote after a decades-long battle.

Movement was more than a metaphor for the fight for women's suffrage—dancers played a real role, most notably Florence Fleming Noyes, who performed her riveting solo Dance of Freedom in 1914 to embody the struggle for women's rights.

This fall, Middle Tennessee State University director of dance Meg Brooker is reconstructing Dance of Freedom on 11 of her students. A Noyes Rhythm teacher and an Isadora Duncan scholar, Brooker is passionate about bringing historic dance practices into a contemporary context.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.