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.

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"Music is magical," says Black. "It just transforms kids." Photo courtesy of Black

After 31 years of teaching, Kim Black has mastered how to reach young dancers. Between a studio and private school, she teaches 34 classes per week in Burlington, North Carolina: That's 238 kids from ages 2 to 6 years old. "You have to make them fall in love with dance," says Black. The music, she says, cues this engagement.

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Photo by Lindsay Thomas, courtesy of PNB School

Naomi Glass, teacher at Pacific Northwest Ballet School, knows firsthand the advantages and challenges of hypermobility. As a young dancer, she was told to keep her hyperextended knees in a straight position far from her full range of motion. "It felt too bent to me," she says. "But once I was able to access my inner thighs and rotators, I found strength and stability and could still use the line that I wanted."

Hypermobility occurs when joints exceed the normal range of motion. Dancers can have hypermobility in specific joints, like their knees, or they can have generalized laxity throughout their bodies (which is often measured using the Beighton system—see below). While this condition may enable students to create beautiful aesthetic lines, it can also increase risk for injury. Help dancers gain the strength they need to stay healthy while making the most of their hypermobility.

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I love this level. I see it as the true origin of a student's dance journey. Intermediate students have bought in, caught the fever, chosen to move beyond inquiry about dance to investment in dance. They are yearning to advance past their beginner training and label.

As teachers, we begin to set more stringent expectations for them to commit to class, take ownership of their learning, and comprehend more terminology and skills. Yet, they are still a bit disheveled in their movement and engagement. They still sometimes forget their dance pants and confuse upstage with downstage. Some of them are still, well, terrified.

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2019's movies featured some truly fantastic dancing, thanks to the hard work of many talented choreographers. But you won't see any of those brilliant artists recognized at the Academy Awards. And we're (still) not OK with that.

So we're taking matters into our own jazz hands.

On February 7—just before the Oscars ceremony—we'll present a Dance Spirit award for the best movie choreography of 2019. With your help, we've narrowed the field to seven choreographers, artists whose moves electrified some of the most critically-acclaimed films of the year.

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Kathryn Alter (left). Photo by Alexis Ziemski

In every class Kathryn Alter teaches, two things are immediately evident: how thoughtfully she chooses her words, and how much glee she gets from dancing the movement and style of modern choreographer José Limón. At the 2019 Limón summer workshop at Kent State University, Alter demonstrated a turning triplet with her arms fully outstretched, a smile stretching easily across her face. "It should be as if…" She paused to think of the perfect analogy that would help the dancers find the necessary circularity of the movement. "As if you live in a doughnut!" she finished, grinning broadly. The dancers gathered around her laughed—her smile and love for something as foundational as a triplet was contagious.

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Melanie George (right). Photo by Grace Corapi, courtesy of George

Teachers from coast to coast are pushing students to move outside the constraints of popular music. There is a consensus that the earlier you introduce varied musical forms, the more adept and adaptable a dancer's musicality will be.

New York–based jazz scholar and teacher Melanie George notices that many students' relationships to music can be reductive: They may think exclusively about lyrics or accents. But jazz, for example, is about swinging: an embodied comprehension of instrumentation that only comes with musical acuity. "Students are ready for this specificity, even if we aren't giving it to them," she says. When her students understand that there is a technique to listening, it becomes less about going forward, and more about going deeper into the sound and into their bodies.

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Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron in a scene from An American in Paris. Courtesy Fathom Events.

If you loved Christopher Wheeldon's An American in Paris on Broadway, you can now see the 1951 Oscar-winning movie it's based on in all its Technicolor glory. Fathom Events will present MGM's An American in Paris, starring Gene Kelly and French ballerina Leslie Caron, and with music by George and Ira Gershwin, in select theaters nationwide January 19 and 22.

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Photo by Rachel Papo

Alicia Graf Mack's journey to become director of The Juilliard School's Dance Division—the youngest person to hold the position, and the first woman of color—was anything but a straight line. Yes, she's danced with prestigious companies: Dance Theatre of Harlem, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Complexions Contemporary Ballet and Alonzo King LINES Ballet. But Mack also has a BA in history from Columbia University and an MA in nonprofit management from Washington University in St. Louis; she pursued both degrees during breaks in her performing career, taken to recover from injuries and autoimmune disease flare-ups.

As an undergrad, she briefly interned at JPMorgan Chase in marketing and philanthropic giving, and she later made arts administration central to her graduate work, assuming that she'd eventually take an administrative role with a dance organization.

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Morrissey (left). Photo courtesy of Interlochen Center for the Arts

When Joseph Morrissey first took the helm of the dance division at Interlochen Center for the Arts, a boarding high school in Interlochen, Michigan, he found a fully established pre-professional program with space to grow. And his vision was big, with plans to stage the kind of ambitious repertory he'd experienced during his dance career. But the realities quickly set in. During his first year in 2015, the department was denied by the George Balanchine Trust to license any Balanchine ballets—the dancers were not quite ready.

This early disappointment didn't derail Morrissey. In just four years, he has not only raised Interlochen's training standards, he's staged ambitious full-length ballets and been granted the rights to works by Merce Cunningham, Agnes de Mille and, yes, Balanchine. Guest artists regularly visit, and he's initiated major plans to expand the dance department building. Morrissey is only 37, but it should come as no surprise that he's done so much so fast—his entire life's journey has prepared him to be an artistic leader.

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Dance Teacher Tips
Valerie Amiss with students. Photo by Tracie Van Auken, courtesy of Pennsylvania Ballet

Jared Nelson, artistic director of California Ballet, demonstrates a tight fifth position as he talks to his class about the importance of rotating from the hips. "Having a visual image helped me as a dancer, so I try to demonstrate as much as possible," he says. "But I am also very conscious of word choice. Every dancer is different, and you have to phrase things in a language they will understand."

Teachers should always be aware of how they communicate with their students, including how they choose language for different individuals, classes or situations. Using the right terminology in early stages of training will ensure that students learn the proper names of steps. This foundation is crucial, particularly when so much of the classical vocabulary has been substituted by nicknames and phrases. (Think "lame duck" or "step-up turn" in place of piqué en dehors.) But good use of language also means using imagery and positive reinforcement to ensure the right kind of messaging. What teachers say in the studio could make the difference between dancers who listen—and ones who really hear.

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Dance Theatre of Harlem's Derek Brockington and Da'Von Doane in Claudia Schreier's Passage. Photo by Brian Callan, courtesy of DTH

Back to your routine after the holidays, but still looking for something to watch? Then this new PBS documentary titled Dancing on the Shoulders of Giants is for you. The hour-long film tracks the creation of two dance pieces: Claudia Schreier's Passage for Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Sir Richard Alston's Arrived featuring students of Norfolk's Governor's School for the Arts. Both works were co-commissioned by the American Evolution 2019 Commemoration and the Virginia Arts Festival last May, in recognition of the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of Africans to English North America and the history of slavery that followed.

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Q: My tween is begging me to go to a faraway summer intensive, claiming "all my friends are going." How do I know if she's ready?

A: It can feel like a rite of passage for serious dancers to attend an intensive at a major ballet school. They dance all day and often explore the area's surroundings or attend performances on weekends. But living away from home, having a roommate and living the "dorm life" can be a challenge.

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