Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy TUPAC

When legendary Black ballet dancer Kabby Mitchell III died unexpectedly in 2017, two months before opening his Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center, his friend and business partner Klair Ethridge wasn't sure she had what it took to carry his legacy. Ethridge had been working with Mitchell to co-found TUPAC and planned to serve as its executive director, but she had never envisioned being the face of the school.

Now, Ethridge is heading into her fourth year of leading TUPAC, which she has grown from a fledgling program in an unheated building to a serious ballet school in its own sprung-floor studios, reaching hundreds of students across the Tacoma, Washington, area. The nonprofit has become a case study for what it looks like to carry out the vision of a founder who never had the chance to see his school open—and to take an unapologetically mission-driven approach.

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Teachers Trending
JayPlayImagery, courtesy Broadway Dance Center

As a performing artist, I have lost two gigs due to the pandemic. Both would have started just weeks after New York City's shutdown. The first was the leading role in one of my favorite musicals, playing opposite my significant other, and the second was an iconic featured role in a workshop for an upcoming Broadway show.

Dancing, acting, singing—they are not just a part of me, they are me. Because of the pandemic, however, my role as an artist is in question. Broadway is officially shut down until at least 2021, and regional theaters are struggling to stay afloat financially.

Lucky for me, I've always had a second passion, something that keeps me both inspired between gigs and grounded while in performances.

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Teachers Trending
Carolyn DiLoreto, courtesy USC Kaufman

Tiffany Bong has spent her career stepping into unexpected territory and making magic—a skill that's made all the difference in the face of COVID-19. As an 18-year-old freshman at Santa Clara University, she took her very first dance class, which set her on a path contrary to the expectations of her traditional Chinese household. "I was told I could either become a doctor or a lawyer," the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance hip-hop teacher says. "I didn't see myself in either of those, so I majored in psychology and dance without my parents knowing."

Upon graduation, Bong joined the Bay Area branch of the international hip-hop company Culture Shock. One year later, she moved to Los Angeles with $1,000 in her bank account, a car and no game plan. "I dove into classes at EDGE and Millennium, making up for lost training," she says. "But my real training came from dancing at the clubs all night long." Soon, she was progressing enough to join (and eventually win) battles.

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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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Teachers Trending
Jason Hill, courtesy Disenhof

On March 13, Katherine Disenhof and her NW Dance Project peers were shocked to learn that their company was shutting down for (an optimistic) two weeks, which soon became an indefinite furlough.

Shortly after walking away from the studio, Disenhof noticed virtual dance classes beginning to pop up on her social-media feed. "I realized this pandemic is a shared, global experience," Disenhof says. "I saw dance as a unifying force that would keep people together."

That's when inspiration struck to bring virtual dance resources to one central place, and Dancing Alone Together was born. The initiative includes a website that curates virtual-class postings from around the world (about 30 per day) that users can search by time or genre. The site also offers dancemaking prompts and opportunities to watch performances online. The best classes of the day are posted on the Dancing Alone Together Instagram, which has 36,700 followers and counting.

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