The Next Paul Taylor Has Been Announced and His First Dance Teacher Wasn't Surprised at All

After years of refusing to choose a successor, Paul Taylor, 87, has named his artistic director designate—PTDC company member Michael Novak. Taylor will make dances and remain the foundation's artistic director until he chooses to stop working, while Novak will continue to perform and focus primarily on the artistic planning and programming of the company. "I'm looking at this as an opportunity to be a curator," says Novak. "Rather than creating work myself, I'll create opportunities for artists to come together and collaborate."


While Novak's appointment was unexpected by many, his hometown-studio dance teacher wasn't shocked. "I can't say I was overly surprised that Mike had accomplished something like this," says Corrinna Lindholm of Bonnie Lindholm School of the Dance. "He's never seemed to have any limits. We are bubbling with pride at our studio. Nothing makes you feel like you've done your job as a teacher like having a dancer accomplish something like this."

Dance Teacher: What was your reaction when Taylor approached you?

Michael Novak: He didn't really present it like a question—it was more of a directive. My initial reaction was shock. I didn't expect this. There was no application—I didn't even know he was actively thinking about this. For most of my career, he's given me roles I didn't think I was ready for, but he believed in me and saw things in me that I couldn't see in myself. This was an even more extreme version of that.

DT: You started dancing at age 10 at a studio in Palatine, Illinois. How did those years prepare you for this?

MN: Because my teacher Corrinna Lindholm was a Rockette, I learned a great deal about how to create patterns and symmetry onstage. It's also something that Paul really draws into his work. He moves dancers from one side of the stage to the other masterfully. The uniformity and teamwork of an ensemble I learned at my studio has given me a mentality that I have carried with me to this day.

DT: Why do you think Mr. Taylor chose you?

MN: I think of myself as introverted. I tend to prefer to watch. I've always been that way, and I wonder if somehow Paul noticed how I would sit back and observe what was happening and take it in. I've just tried to grow as an artist and work on the things that would improve my dancing. Maybe that has something to do with it? Honestly, though, it's hard to ever know what's going on in his mind.

Music
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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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