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
Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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Dancer Diary
Claire McAdams, courtesy Houston Ballet

Former Houston Ballet dancer Chun Wai Chan has always been destined for New York City Ballet.

While competing at Prix de Lausanne in 2010, he was offered summer program scholarships at both the School of American Ballet and Houston Ballet. However, because two of the competition's winners that year were Houston Ballet's Aaron Sharratt and Liao Xiang, dancers Chan idolized, he turned down SAB. He joined Houston Ballet II in 2010, the main company's corps de ballet in 2012, and was promoted to principal in 2017. Oozing confidence and technical prowess, Chan was a Houston favorite, and even landed himself a spot on Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch."

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