The Other Morphoses Performance

“The floor is melting,” Christopher Wheeldon told the audience at 5p.m. on Sunday as he decided to cut the afternoon performance short. Held in the East River Park in Manhattan, this was Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company’s the third outdoor performance this weekend. Yet, unlike the performances presented on the Central Park Summer Stage Friday and Saturday nights accompanied by live music, fancy lighting, costumes and more than 5,000 people watching each evening, this CityParks Dance event was a raw and realistic example of what everyday dancers endure in order to promote their art.

At the start of event, in the almost hidden amphitheater, world-renowned dancers including Maria Kowroski, Edwaard Liang, Jason Fowler and Teresa Reichlen held on to police barricades (makeshift barres) as they demonstrated barrework. Jeff Edwards, the company’s Associate Artistic Director and Ballet Master, led the smiling dancers (clad in leotards, sweats and socks) through a complete, but very brief ballet class, and explained the basics to the few onlookers—many of whom seemed to have stumbled across the performance during their Sunday jog. Next, in the 90 degrees of blazing sunshine (that was now directly in their vision) and on the sticky, un-sprung plastic floor with extremely limited stage space, three dancers showed a thirty-second segment of Wheeldon’s 2007 piece, Fools Paradise, and Tears of St. Lawrence, which just debuted that Friday night. Wheeldon gave the dancers corrections and staged a mock-ten minute rehearsal. Not to say it wasn’t an amazing ten-minutes—they are among the best ballet dancers in the world and didn’t hold back—but it was clear conditions were less than ideal, and understandable why Wheeldon ended the event after only an hour. It was surprising to see such a famous and celebrated ballet company in this situation; however, this truthful performance, which exposed dance in a light without glitz, glamour, or TV cameras, was a welcomed breath of fresh air.

Teachers Trending
Photo by Yvonne M. Portra, courtesy Faulkner

It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

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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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