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3 Legends Who Danced Like No One Was Watching

Nijinsky in costume for Afternoon of a Faun. Photo by Baron Adolf De Meyer, courtesy of the New York Public Library

Dance history is inundated with risk-takers, but these three legends took it to a whole other level, pushing the boundaries of what was possible. For today's #ThrowbackThursday, take a moment to remember these three iconic figures.


Vaslav Nijinsky: 1890–1950

Russian ballet dancer and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky helped usher in a new era of ballet. He redefined the male presence in classical ballet, bringing athleticism and range to what had previously been a supporting role. His controversial choreographic works, like The Rite of Spring and Afternoon of a Faun, are now considered some of the first contemporary ballets.

Did you know that, during the first rehearsals of The Rite of Spring, the dancers became so frustrated counting Stravinsky's score that they threatened to quit?

Kazuo Ohno: 1906–2010

Butoh, or the "dance of utter darkness," was created in the 1950s by Japanese artists Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno. Marked by distorted body shapes and taboo subject matter, butoh combines elements of theater, German expressionism and modern dance with facets of traditional Japanese dance forms. Ohno adopted an androgynous persona onstage, dressing in both male and female costumes, to highlight transformation and mask his own identity.

Kazuo Ohno in Admiring La Argentina. Photo by Naoya Ikegami, courtesy of Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio

In La Argentina Sho (Admiring La Argentina), an hour-long solo, Ohno transformed into many different characters, from female to male and back again, in homage to Antonia Mercé, a Spanish dancer.

Yvonne Rainer: b. 1934

Yvonne Rainer is a NYC–based choreographer who was a leading member of Judson Dance Theater, the 1960s avant-garde dance collective. In 1965 Rainer wrote her famous "No Manifesto," a public dismissal of the qualities that exemplified then-current concert dance styles: spectacle, glamour, virtuosity. Her resulting choreographic work, Trio A (1966), epitomized the minimalist aesthetic of postmodern dance.

Rainer in Trio A. Photo by Herbert Migdoll, courtesy of Dance Magazine archives

Rainer and her Judson Dance Theater cohort believed that any movement could be considered dance. They sought to eliminate hierarchy, shift the focus from product to process and view the body purely as an instrument to perform movement.
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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Music
Mary Mallaney/USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.

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