For Colette Krogol and Matt Reeves, artistic directors of Orange Grove Dance and adjunct professors at George Washington University, cooking dinner each night is an extension of their collaborative, creative partnership. While the married couple uses this time to unwind from their busy lives, the conversation often returns to their work together, whether it be their newest project, most recent class or simply items left lingering on the to-do list. "Matt anchors it by cooking main courses, and I'm swirling around figuring out side dishes, condiments, drinks and feeding the dog," says Krogol. "Come to think of it, this anchor and swirling connects to many points in our lives in regards to our dancing, creative process, administrative tasks, chores…even our social life."



Photo by Jonathan Hsu, courtesy of OGD

Between teaching, making dances, directing a company and producing multimedia shows—plus all of the minute tasks each of those jobs entails—how do they stay present for each other, much less find time to cook? "We are fortunate because we are able to problem-solve together and share artistic burdens and stresses," says Reeves. "When one of us comes home exhausted, the other person understands."

After a decade together as a couple, skills they initially attributed to one another now feel like an extension of self. Each new work they build, and every class they teach, becomes part of a bigger investigation that is their life together. "There is something very idealistic about creating with someone who is your partner in love and life," says their longtime collaborator, Mark Costello. "It is often said the pinnacle of being an artist is 'living your art,' for better or worse. And in that sense, I find Matt and Colette's relationship to be something to strive toward."

Krogol and Reeves met as freshmen in the dance program of University of Florida in Gainesville. Both are from Florida, but their dance backgrounds could not have been more different. Krogol trained in a more traditional conservatory-style setting at New World School of the Arts, and Reeves came from musical theater and athletics. Yet, almost immediately they were attracted to each other's vastly different approaches. "Our movement preferences are so different," says Reeves. "I always look for diving and falling and throwing weight, and she has precision. She helps us to clean and find shapes, while I can emphasize a feeling."


Photo by Geoff Sheil, courtesy of OGD

By sophomore year, they had decided to create a duet. "We had no idea how to start," says Krogol. They began by making lists of words, opposites and options—"this or that, Coke or Pepsi"—and simply alternating the steps each made. They experimented with taking on each other's natural rhythm, a fascinating gambit, since Reeves is nearly a foot taller.

The work in the studio allowed them to grow as friends and become intimate as collaborators. Things didn't take a romantic turn until their senior year, when they returned to campus after a summer spent in different cities. "I called her, or maybe she called me," says Reeves, "and we never stopped hanging out. That year was a big leap forward for us."

After graduation, the two moved to New York City, and as the work they were doing together began to get produced, it seemed to demand a name. Hailing from different parts of Florida, their reference points to home were different. "But we both had a connection to orange groves," says Reeves, "and wanted to convey a blue-collar work ethic, to make dances for everyone, dances our friends and family would connect with." Orange Grove Dance was born. While dancing for the likes of Mark Dendy and Neta Dance Company and hustling side jobs, they choreographed and developed their new company. Forming a strong bond with a small group of collaborators (composers, dancers, filmmakers and designers), they began to pair their highly kinetic movement with projection and, eventually, dance film.

Photo by Zachary Handler, courtesy of OGD

Elements of the process they forged while making that first duet have stayed with them. "The first time we meet in the studio for an OGD creative process, Matt and Colette come with a list of words that they feel captures the tone and texture of the new work," says Robin Neveu Brown, who was in their undergrad work and has performed with OGD since 2015. From the words, individual choreography is crafted that will then be manipulated through a series of experiments. "Within the creative process, Colette is often more left-brained, handling choreographic details, crafting long movement sequences, setting count structure and generally managing logistics. Matt tends to function as the right half of the OGD brain and communicates in images and textures, making choreographic choices related to energy and space." Outside the studio, Krogol manages the schedule, while Reeves tackles editing and design work.

In 2014, the pair relocated to the DC area to attend the University of Maryland and became embedded in the dance scene there. They were recruited by George Washington University to teach, following the completion of their MFAs. "We have been fortunate thus far that when one of us is considered or recruited for an opportunity, it is difficult for our employers not to be enticed by the potential of having both our skill sets," says Krogol. "I think as we have prioritized OGD as the vessel for our creative work, it has helped to establish the strength of our artistic and teaching partnership." While they still work with collaborators who are now mostly spread between NYC, DC and L.A., a new group has coalesced around them, including a new sound designer, projection designers, costume designer and four to eight performers, who have loyally returned project after project.

In addition to teaching advanced modern and postmodern at GWU, they have been casting a wide net with their OGD projects, including a project at Dupont Underground and, this past March, a new evening-length work with original music composition and production design at the Kennedy Center. As their OGD calendar expands from project-based work toward yearly seasons, a growing need to build a capital campaign to fund it all has become more pressing.

Photo by Jonathan Hsu, courtesy of OGD

"Teaching can be exhausting, but it reenergizes me, and I leave inspired for more," says the high-energy Krogol. Each day is a grind, starting early and ending late, but working with BA students keeps them fresh as artists. "I started to see in grad school how teaching affects our research interests," says Reeves. "Your ability to be your best teacher translates into rehearsals, talk-backs and the ability to translate an idea." While the couple does hope to have a family one day, at the moment their hands are full with all of the costumes, props, marley floor, ladders, suitcases and dancers, who fill up their home before and after performances.

Do they sleep? The short answer is yes, but perhaps only to dream. Because, of course, when you love your work, and work with the person you love, sharing and analyzing those dreams with each other is simply another entry point into the creative process and a new project.

Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Mitchell Button, courtesy of the artist

Dusty Button prefers music with a range. "There needs to be a beginning, a climax and a strong ending. Like a movie," she says. The award-winning dancer, who joined American Ballet Theatre's second company, ABT II, at 18, has always been drawn to lyric-free tracks filled with dynamic phrasing, rhythms and composition. "Whether it's the violin, piano or cello, instrumental music gives me more inspiration. I want the dancers and the audience to feel something new," she adds.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Courtesy Just for Kix

As a teacher or studio owner, customer service is a major part of the job. It's easy to dread the difficult sides of it, like being questioned or criticized by an unhappy parent. "In the early years, parent issues could have been the one thing that got me to give up teaching," says Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a teacher and studio owner with over 43 years of experience. "Hang in there—it does get easier."

We asked Clough her top tips for dealing with difficult parents:

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network

When the news broke that Prince George, currently third in line for the British throne, would be continuing ballet classes as part of his school curriculum this year, we were as excited as anyone. (OK, maybe more excited.)

This was not, it seems, a sentiment shared by "Good Morning America" host Lara Spencer.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Dean College
Amanda Donahue, ATC, working with a student in her clinic in the Palladino School of Dance at Dean College. Courtesy Dean College

The Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College is one of just 10 college programs in the U.S. with a full-time athletic trainer devoted solely to its dancers. But what makes the school even more unique is that certified athletic trainer Amanda Donahue isn't just available to the students for appointments and backstage coverage—she's in the studio with them and collaborating with dance faculty to prevent injuries and build stronger dancers.

"Gone are the days when people would say, 'Don't go to the gym, you'll bulk up,'" says Kristina Berger, who teaches Horton and Hawkins technique as an assistant professor of dance. "We understand now that cross-training is actually vital, and how we've embraced that at Dean is extremely rare. For one thing, we're not sharing an athletic trainer with the football players, who require a totally different skillset." For another, she says, the faculty and Donahue are focused on giving students tools to prolong their careers.

After six years of this approach, here are the benefits they've seen:

Keep reading... Show less
To Share With Students
Photo via Claudia Dean World on YouTube

Most parents start off pretty clueless when it comes to doing their dancer's hair. If you don't want your students coming in with elastic-wrapped bird's nests on their heads, you may want to give them some guidance. But who has time to teach each individual parent how to do their child's hair? Not you! So, we have a solution: YouTube hair tutorials.

These three classical hairdo vids are exactly what your dancers need to look fabulous and ready to work every time they step in your studio.

Enjoy!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Alternative Balance
Courtesy Alternative Balance

As a dance teacher, you know more than anyone that things can go wrong—students blank on choreography onstage, costumes don't fit and dancers quit the competition team unexpectedly. Why not apply that same mindset to your status as an independent contractor at a studio or as a studio owner?

Insurance is there to give you peace of mind, even when the unexpected happens. (Especially since attorney fees can be expensive, even when you've done nothing wrong as a teacher.) Taking a preemptive approach to your career—insuring yourself—can save you money, time and stress in the long run.

We talked to expert Miriam Ball of Alternative Balance Professional Group about five scenarios in which having insurance would be key.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Roshe (center) teaching at Steps on Broadway in New York City. Photo by Jacob Hiss, courtesy of Roshe

Although Debbie Roshe's class doesn't demand perfect technique or mastering complicated tricks, her intricate musicality is what really challenges students. "Holding weird counts to obscure music is harder," she says of her Fosse-influenced jazz style, "but it's more interesting."

Keep reading... Show less
To Share With Students
Via @madisongoodman_ on Instagram

Nationals season is behind us, but we just aren't quite over it yet. We've been thinking a lot about the freakishly talented winners of these competitions, and want to know a bit more about the people who got them to where they are. So, we asked three current national title holders to tell us the most powerful piece of advice their dance teacher ever gave them. What they have to say will melt your heart.

Way to go, dance teachers! Your'e doing amazing things for the rising generation!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Turn It Up Dance Challenge
Courtesy Turn It Up

With back-to-back classes, early-morning stage calls and remembering to pack countless costume accessories, competition and convention weekends can feel like a whirlwind for even the most seasoned of studios. Take the advice of Turn It Up Dance Challenge master teachers Alex Wong and Maud Arnold and president Melissa Burns on how to make the experience feel meaningful and successful for your dancers:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Enrollment is an issue that plagues brand-new and veteran studio owners alike. Without a steady stream of revenue from new students coming through your doors, your studio won't survive—no matter how crisp your dancers' technique is or how well-produced your recitals are.

Enrollment—in biz speak, customer acquisition and retention—depends on your business' investment in marketing. How effectively you get the word out about your studio will directly influence the number of people who register. Successful businesses typically use certain tried-and-true marketing strategies to recruit and retain clients or customers. These four studio owners' tricks for kicking enrollment into high gear are modeled after classic marketing techniques.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by The Studio Director

As a studio owner, you're probably pretty used to juggling. Running a business is demanding, with new questions and challenges pulling your attention in a million different directions each day.

But there's a solution that could be saving you time and money (and sanity!). Studio management systems are easy-to-use software programs designed for the particular needs of studio owners, offering tools like billing, enrollment, inventory and emails, all in one place. The right studio management system can help you handle the day-to-day tasks that bog you down as a business owner, leaving you more time for the most important work—like connecting with students and planning creative curriculums for them. Plus, these systems can keep you from spending extra money on hiring multiple specialists or using multiple platforms to meet your administrative needs.

So how do you make sure you're choosing a studio management system that offers the same quality that your studio does? We talked to The Studio Director—whose studio management system provides a whole host of streamlined features—about the must-haves for any system, and the bonuses that make an excellent product stand out:

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox