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Tiare Keeno Loves Creating a Safe Space Where Dancers Can Explore

Photo by Samantha Clink. Courtesy of BODYTRAFFIC

Tiare Keeno successfully straddles the worlds of concert and commercial dance. She began her training at one of the country's premier competition studios, Center Stage Performing Arts Studio in Orem, Utah, before eventually transitioning to a top-notch classical conservatory, Classical Ballet Academy. All the while, she kept a close relationship with the razzle-dazzle of conventions, attending many each year before joining Nevada Ballet Theatre in 2012. "I've always said I wanted to stay open and try new things," Keeno says. After graduating from The Juilliard School in 2016, she moved to Macau, China, to work on the creation of a new Cirque du Soleil show, and performed in Al Blackstone's Freddie Falls in Love at The Joyce Theater in 2019, before landing her current position with BODYTRAFFIC for the 2019–20 season.

On keeping her feet in both the competition and concert worlds "Dabbling in multiple areas has opened doors for me. While it can be motivating to be focused on one very specific goal, it can also be helpful to broaden and see what other possibilities might be around you. I took voice lessons and acting lessons throughout my adolescence, and I found common threads of information through that and the different genres of dance I do. You never know where your career is going to take you, and it's important to have a wide set of tools to pull from. Even if your professional career keeps you tied to a classical company your whole life, you're going to have choreographers come in and challenge you with new ways of moving. Expanding your training will only make you more prepared."

On doing concert work in the heartland of commercial dance "L.A. is so big in the commercial scene—that's what it's known for in the industry—but when I moved out here, I realized how many dancers and choreographers are actually invested in the concert world, as well. People are moving out here to cultivate a new concert community. I personally really love it, because it shows that multiple fields of the same industry can co-exist in the same area. One doesn't have to be dominant over the other. Just because you live in L.A. doesn't mean you're pigeonholed."

On her teaching emphasis "I try to create a safe space where dancers can play and explore. I love when dancers are open to new things, to scary things, to weird things. I love when I see their fear, and then watch them channel it into their dancing. These moments are when immense growth happens. Diving into an exercise that doesn't feel quite right on your body is preparation for professional work. I help them feel comfortable by being open about my own fears. I put myself in their position and let them know that I'm scared, too, and this is how I'm dealing with it. When they see that in their instructor, it's a bit less daunting."

Training: Center Stage Performing Arts Studio (1999–2002); Wasatch Dance Center (2002–08); Classical Ballet Academy (2008–12); The Juilliard School (2012–16)

Professional: Nevada Ballet Theatre (2012); Al Blackstone's Freddie Falls in Love (2019); BODYTRAFFIC (2019–present)

Mary Malleney, 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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For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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Teachers Trending

From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

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