Kat Wildish knows ballet. After performing with New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, she became certified to teach the ABT National Training Curriculum (Primary–Level 7). Currently on faculty at The Ailey Extension, she also trains teachers for the Dance Educators of America. Wildish loves finding new variations on traditional ballet music. “I get a lot of my ballet music from www.classicalballetmusic.com. They have a great selection of different performance recordings from around the world,” she says. And while she is fortunate enough to work with a classical pianist for her classes at Ailey, she loves it when he changes things up and plays The Beatles or Edith Piaf. “I find using popular tunes in ballet class makes it so much more fun,” she says. Here, she shares her outside-the-box favorites.
Song: “Hotel California”
“My pianist adapts this to fit as an
adagio, and since many students know this song—many of them even know the words—I think it’s comforting for them to dance to it. Sometimes knowing the music allows dancers to extend through the movement and actually be more artistic with their expressions.”
Artist: Nouvelle Vague
Song: “Just Can’t Get Enough”
“This song is a bossa nova cover of the Depeche Mode classic. It is great for an interesting pirouette combo or even a petite allegro. It’s light and lifts students into their turns and jumps in an unusual way. I find that it also helps transport dancers into a different atmosphere of dance.”
Artist: Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd
“This song is soft, yet perfect for an upbeat waltz across the floor. Jazz music seems to help my students feel comfortable enough to take a chance on multiple turns, or hold that
balance and/or extension just a little bit longer.”
Artist: English Chamber Orchestra & Richard Bonynge
Album: Minkus-Lanchbery: La Bayadère
“The music of La Bayadère is one of my old faithfuls. The male variation is great for a grand allegro. It has the power to motivate students to leap higher. ‘Kingdom of the Shades’ is a wonderful selection for adagio.”
Artist: Edith Piaf
“We had a group of dancers visiting from France recently, and my pianist played this happy allegro for chassé turns across the floor. I found it to be very fun and amusing.”
Orlando Ballet School Students Make Waves
Students of Florida’s Orlando Ballet School have been showing off all over the world lately. Jeffrey Cirio, 18, who left a pre-professional position in Boston to study with OBS’ director Peter Stark, won the gold medal in the sixth annual Helsinki International Ballet Competition.
Cirio went on to place first in the pre-professional male category at the annual World Ballet Competition, held in Orlando. “What’s interesting about Jeff is that he’s done all these competitions but the goal has always been to be a classical ballet dancer. For him, this was always a means to an end. It’s really great that he’s kept that perspective,” says Stark, Cirio’s teacher and coach.
What’s more, Cirio was recently selected to receive this year’s Princess Grace Dance Fellowship, and the money awarded will go toward his salary as he returns to Boston to join Boston Ballet as a corps member.
Another OBS student, Arcadian Broad, was selected to compete in Las Vegas for NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” Broad performed a contemporary dance routine to Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” (which he trained for with an outside teacher, Dawhone Perry), that earned him a unanimous vote from all three judges to continue in the competition. “Arcadian is an incredibly accomplished ballet dancer and pianist,” says Stark, who adds that Broad was closely considered for the role of Billy Elliot on Broadway. “He just enjoys the work and goes from one challenge to the next.”
Info: www.orlandoballet.org —Tracy Krisanits
The dance community mourns the loss of Merce Cunningham, who passed away peacefully in his sleep July 26, 2009. Born April 16, 1919, in Centralia, Washington, Cunningham became one of the most salient figures in dance history. His groundbreaking work as a dancer, teacher, choreographer and innovator redefined modern dance and initiated the postmodern dance movement.
In the wake of his death, the Cunningham Dance Foundation has launched its Legacy Plan, to dissolve the company over three years, yet maintain the integrity of Cunningham’s work through the Cunningham Trust. Selected by Cunningham prior to his death, trustees Laura Kuhn (executive director of the John Cage Trust), Patricia Lent, Allan G. Sperling and Robert Swinston are currently arranging MCDC’s two-year world tour. The Cunningham Studio will relocate. However, open classes and educational and outreach programs held at the current Westbeth location will continue during this transitional period. The Foundation must raise $8 million to fund Dance Capsules to conserve Cunningham’s work and to provide career transitions for dancers and staff. So far, $3.5 million has been committed. For more information or to make a contribution, visit www.merce.org.
Margaret Jenkins’ CHIME Crosses State Lines
The Margaret Jenkins Dance Company’s Choreographers in Mentorship Exchange program, CHIME, received a $400,000 grant from The James Irvine Foundation, plus an additional $155,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to help fund CHIME Across Borders, an exchange among U.S. choreographers.
Conceived by artistic director Margaret Jenkins, CHIME funds self-selected pairs of professional and emerging choreographers in the San Francisco Bay Area to work together for a year with the simple goal of enriching each other’s work. Past pairings have included prominent Bay Area–based artists: Brenda Way, Molissa Fenley, Charles Moulton, Joe Goode and Julia Adam.
Beginning in January, the new CHIME Across Borders will bring well-known choreographers from outside California to mentor local choreographers in San Francisco. The first artist selected to work with CHIME Across Borders is New York–based David Gordon, who will travel to the Bay Area several times during 2010.
“I really thought it was important to expand the dialogue to people who have been working over decades,” says Jenkins. “One of the things I like about CHIME is that because it is process-oriented and not product-oriented—meaning no one has to finish a dance by the end of the year—you could decide to throw everything out and that would be as successful a year as making a work.” Jenkins says she also has international aspirations for the program: “My hope is that it will reach international exchange.”
Info: www.mjdc.org —TK
Gus Giordano may not have been present at the 16th Jazz Dance World Congress in Chicago this July, but his spirit was everywhere—from the “Gus’s JDWC” that was stamped on every student’s bracelet and black T-shirts imprinted with his smoky image, to an inspiring essence in every class.
The first Congress to take place since the death of its charismatic founder was dedicated to the man who changed the face of jazz dance. The film Gus: An American Icon, written and produced by Pedro Brenner, debuted on the first night. Told through acclaimed jazz dancers and educators, the narrative follows Giordano’s first steps in opening a dance studio to becoming a renowned jazz legend credited with bringing the jazz community together. He started the first JDWC in 1990, and he codified jazz dance for teachers in the Anthology of American Jazz Dance (unfortunately now out of print).
An acclaimed choreographer and director, Giordano is remembered best as an educator, and his students recall his classes fondly. “They don’t walk up the stairs and say, ‘I saw the best performance ever.’ They walk up the stairs and say, ‘I took a class with your father,’” said Amy Giordano, one of the Giordano daughters. “It’s not about the trophies; it’s about the teaching.”
A lunchtime “Ask the Experts” panel discussion brought together master teachers Ray Leeper, Liz Imperio, Jimmy Locust and Pattie Obey. Leeper encouraged teachers to find new ways to approach their corrections and to always identify the purpose of each exercise, while Imperio favored a more time-honored approach: “Make them repeat it until they get it,” she said.
Other master instructors on faculty for the five-day event included Joe Tremaine, Jon Lehrer, Homer Bryant, Randy Duncan, Masashi Mishiro, Susan Quinn, Kirby Reed, Sherry Zunker, Giordano company member Cesar Salinas and of course, Nan Giordano herself, who continues to lead the organization in her late father’s footsteps.
“This is who I am. Not just what I do,” Gus Giordano once said. “And I say, long live jazz dance.”
"So You Think You Can Dance" Launches Dizzy Feet Foundation
Nigel Lythgoe, the co-creator of “So You Think You Can Dance,” has teamed up with “Dancing With The Stars” judge Carrie Ann Inaba, director Adam Shankman and actress Katie Holmes to launch Dizzy Feet Foundation, a nonprofit charity that will provide scholarships and assistance to underprivileged but talented young dancers.
Paula Abdul, Jennifer Lopez, Miley Cyrus, Mia Michaels, Mary Murphy, Debbie Allen, Shane Sparks and others have been tapped to serve on a steering committee—the group responsible for selecting scholarship recipients and following their journeys.
“The financial crisis that the whole world is compromised by is affecting the arts big time,” says steering committee member Allen. “We’re on life support right now because arts funding is the first thing that gets slashed.”
Info: www.dizzyfeetfoundation.org —TK
- Austin Hartel, associate professor of dance at The University of Oklahoma and artistic director of The Hartel Dance Group, was awarded a Fulbright Scholar Grant to choreograph and teach for the National Ballet of Paraguay and the National Institute of Fine Arts in Asuncion, Paraguay, for the 2009–2010 academic year.
- Greer Reed-Jones was named artistic director of Dance Alloy Theater in Pittsburgh. She was the education director at the company and formerly taught at the Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts.
- North Carolina Dance Theatre named Wilson Middle School dance teacher Cherise Hill as Educator of the Year. The Dance Champion of the Year was posthumously awarded to Villa Heights Elementary School principal and Dance Theatre’s Education Committee member James Aiken, who passed away in March. Carol Owen, executive director of East Learning Community, also received a Dance Champion Award.
In Memoriam: John Goding 1958-2009
John Goding, The Washington Ballet’s ballet master, died of a pulmonary embolism while vacationing in Florida this past July. Goding served the company for more than 30 years.
As a featured dancer with TWB from the 1970s through 1998, Goding performed leading roles created for him by Choo-San Goh, TWB’s first artist-in-residence. He choreographed numerous works for the company including Danzon, Mysteries and Rhapsody in Swing. In 1998, he was named ballet master.
The company has set up an e-mail account, email@example.com, for anyone who wishes to share memories of Goding. They will be passed on to his family.
Are you the kind of role model who will do your students proud?
Taking your students to a competition event is not easy. You’ve logged many hours of choreography and rehearsal, ordered costumes and made them fit just right. And let’s not forget about dealing with the parents. Now you’ve got 20 kids in a strange city, about to go onstage for their big moment. It would help if you could clone yourself. You’re frazzled. But every minute becomes worthwhile when your beautiful dancers take the stage . . . and the trophy! The MC calls your name to come forward and accept the award, and you’re so proud as you stand to make your way to the spotlight . . . oops, in your baggy sweatpants.
This isn’t you, right? Or is it? Competition company directors and judges report that teachers don’t always set the best example for their students. They establish rules and maintain a list of appropriate behaviors for their students, but when it comes to competitions, sometimes they assume the rules just don’t apply to them.
“At most competitions, the idea is for the judges to not be aware of what studio the students are from,” says Doug Shaffer, director of DanceMakers, Inc. “But often we find the teachers are the ones who will transgress the most. They stand up [during the performance] and make it very obvious it’s their studio competing.” He notes that while teachers are not allowed backstage with the kids at DanceMakers events, “every once in a while a teacher will push their way through that door and help their kids up onstage and jump up and down and scream and yell.”
Brendan Buchanan of BravO! Dance and Talent Competition says photography is a big issue. “We firmly state, no photography and no videography during performance.” From a liability standpoint and for the safety of the kids, the policy exists to make the environment as safe as possible. “Even though we make consistent announcements, shut down cameras and put our hands in front of a video camera, people still don’t listen,” says Buchanan. “That’s the most frustrating thing. We even take points off for certain routines where parents or teachers—even though they’ve been warned—continually take video.”
It’s also important that you remain professional. You’re the role model who sets the standard for behavior of both your students and their parents. Applaud for all performances, not just your own. Wish the other competitors good luck. And refrain from making fun of other studios. (Yes, this does happen.)
Sandra Coyte of Starbound National Talent Competition says it’s the parents who are often the culprits of the most inexcusable behavior, but you can help get them in line. “It is imperative that teachers be the ones in charge,” she says, noting that parents should never directly approach competition officials. Coyte’s biggest etiquette pet peeve? Teachers who solicit students from other studios. “It’s highly unethical,” she says.
And as for the sweatpants example, Buchanan says that though every good dance teacher knows to always be prepared, some do get caught with their guard down. Don’t let the frenzy and stress detract from your personal moment to shine—take an extra 10 minutes in the morning to dress for success.
Buchanan recalls one teacher who is particularly shy and refuses to come onstage to accept any awards. “She’s not about recognizing herself, she’s very selfless and puts the kids first. So every year, in this particular city, we know she is never going to come up. We harass her a bit, but she finds a way to not be accessible where we can pick her out,” he says. By avoiding the limelight, this teacher diminishes the experience of her dancers and misses an opportunity to promote her studio. So, don’t be afraid to show off a bit—guilt-free. After all, this is the moment you’ve worked toward.
Illustration by Emily Giacalone
Most dancers know Maksim Chmerkovskiy from “Dancing With the Stars,” but few are aware that he opened his first dance school, Rising Stars Dance Academy, in Saddle Brook, New Jersey, at age 16. (Today, he also owns Dance with Me Social Dance Studio, in Ridgefield, NJ, and Glen Head, New York.) So it comes as no surprise that Chmerkovskiy knows what type of music students like and dislike, especially beginner boys. “When parents would bring in boys, instead of putting on some boring, cheesy instrumental version of the cha-cha, I would put on stuff like ‘Paralyzer’ by Finger Eleven, and they would go, ‘Oh, I love this song,’” he says. “This is 2009, you have to adapt, you have to innovate, and I try to do that through music.” But that’s not to say that he doesn’t appreciate the traditional ballroom music choices, as well. He relies on classic artists such as Celia Cruz and Tito Puente for cha-cha and Ella Fitzgerald for samba numbers. Says Chmerkovskiy, “Any dancer understands that music is like a second partner; we dance with a person and with the music.
“The Seed” by The Roots featuring Cody Chestnutt
“Paralyzer” by Finger Eleven
“Canoero,” “El Congo” by Celia Cruz
“El Niche” by Habana All Stars
“Mother in Law” by Cubanismo
“Sex Bomb” by Tom Jones vs. Mousse T
“While this dance is traditionally performed to España Cani music, for the correct timing of the accents, I like to use ‘Nightmare’ by Brainbug when I teach it, so my students don’t worry about accents and concentrate on the strong beat of the dance.”
“A-tisket, A-tasket” by Ella Fitzgerald
“Dudu” by Tarkan
“Hi-Fi Trumpet” by Stereo Action Unlimited
“Magalenha” by Sergio Mendes
“Besta E Tu” by Novos Baianos
“Float On” by Modest Mouse
“Fiesta De Um Povo” by Marcos Sales
“King of the Bongo Bong” and “Clandestino” by Manu Chao
“Ole Ole” by Leonid Agutin
“Te Ves Buena” by King Africa
“Mi Swing Es Tropical” by Quantic & Nickodemus
Any song by The Gipsy Kings
“A day in a life of a fool” by Harry Belafonte
“All is full of love” by Björk
“UR” by DJ Tiesto
“Ya Lo Se Que Te Vas” by Juan Gabriel
“Slowly” by Macy Gray
“La Playa” by Chayanne
“I want love” by Elton John
“Stop and stare” by OneRepublic
“By your side” by Sade
“So in love” by Shirley Bassey
“All my loving” sung by Jim Sturgess from the Across the Universe soundtrack
“Hit the Road Jack” by Ray Charles
“Choo Choo Boogie” by The Goodfellas
“Stuck on You” by Elvis Presley
“Shake it” by Metro Station
“Hey Ya!” by OutKast
“Hafannana” by Eli Goulart
“Little Bitty Pretty One” by Dee Clark
Photo courtesy of ABC photo
Germaine Salsberg lives to tap. In addition to being on faculty at Broadway Dance Center for over 20 years and teaching at STEPS on Broadway, she’s worked with Tony Award–winner Danny Daniels on the Broadway and national tours of Tap Dance Kid and has privately coached actors, including Liza Minnelli on the film Steppin’ Out. With a reputation for instilling a strong technical foundation through rhythm elements, it’s no wonder she recently released a CD of music for tap class. Along with pianist Kevin Cole, the two created Tap Tunes: For Tap Class and Practice. “I feel it is my obligation to acquaint students with different styles of tap. Therefore, I utilize different types of music,” says Salsberg. “Music choices need to be interesting enough to dance to, but not overwhelming.”
Artist: Gene Krupa
Song/Album: “Hodge Podge,” V Disk
“This is an oldie but goodie. It’s really a big-band sound, but it’s not so over-arranged that it takes over. It’s not real fast, but it has the Gene Krupa drive. Good for style, time steps and combinations that could incorporate a musical theater or big-band style.”
Artist: Jo Jones
Song/Album:“Jive at Five,” The Everest Years
“I did some work with Sarah Petronio in Paris, who is so swinging. She introduced me to the music of Jo Jones, a jazz drummer from the ’60s and ’70s, and boy does he swing, too! I love other songs on this album as well, so check out the entire album. The music is good for combinations—it really forces the students to listen and syncopate.”
Artist: Kenny Burrell
Song/Album: “Midnight Blue,” Midnight Blue (The Rudy Van Gelder Edition Remastered)
“This is a medium swing that keeps a very even tempo, and it goes on long enough to do long exercises (shuffles, double shuffles and triplets) at a relaxed pace.”
Artist: Jeff Golub
Song/Album: “Cold Duck Time,” Do It Again
“I fell in love with this song and found out it’s actually a jazz standard, but Golub arranged it in a jazz/funk mode. Warning—there is a variation in phrasing where he throws in a 12 measure once in a while, as opposed to the standard 8 measure. Not a fast-paced song, but there’s lots of room for double time and paddle and roll work.”
Artist: Oscar Peterson & Milt Jackson
Song/Album: “Work Song,” Very Tall
“I started using this song many years ago—and I used it and used it and used it! It’s great for warm-ups utilizing articulations and single-sound warm-ups for beginners, and I even choreographed a competition piece to it. It’s strong and driving, easy to hear, with a
certain amount of musical variation (not tempo) that keeps it interesting.”
Artist: Jane Monheit
Song/Album: “Taking A Chance On Love,” Taking A Chance On Love
“I often shy away from using vocals, because it comes across as too many elements with the tap sounds, music and the voice all at the same time. But Monheit is such a great jazz singer, and this song gives such a lift to the students. It really swings, has a great instrumental break and is quite peppy without being overly fast.”
Artist: Natalie Cole
Song/Album: “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” Unforgettable: With Love
“Cole’s voice really adds to the instrumentation. I use this all the time for my basic and beginner combinations. It is slow enough for them but does not drag and isn’t boring. It has a great musical break, and the students really listen—sometimes they even sing along.”
As founder and artistic director of Jennifer Muller/The Works, Jennifer Muller has been a force in modern dance for 40 years. At age 15, she was already dancing professionally with one of her mentors, Pearl Lang, in the Pearl Lang Dance Company. And after graduating from The Juilliard School, Muller spent nine years as principal dancer with the José Limón Dance Company before becoming associate artistic director of the Louis Falco Dance Company.
Today, Muller has developed her own personalized technique, which she describes as a “polarity technique” that contrasts a relaxed and grounded plié with an extenuated and energized “up.” Her approach is holistic and brings both control and freedom to dancers, while her interest in Eastern philosophy and Chinese energy system concepts (forms such as Qigong and Tai Chi) not only influences her technique but also makes up the core philosophy of her company.
With music in mind, Muller says, “My choices reflect my eclectic taste, travel the globe a bit and are different in texture. I have come to prefer using CDs rather than live accompaniment for the variety and energy that they provide and the fact that they stir the spirit at the same time.” Here are some of her favorites. DT
Artist: Boyz II Men
Song/Album: “Al Final del Camino (Spanish version),” Cooleyhighharmony
“This is one of my favorite choices for grand pliés. The song brings out the heart and spirit of the dancers and takes them past doing an exercise into a deeper, more personal approach to dancing. The English version is good, but I love the Spanish version with its interesting spoken bridge.”
Song/Album: “Iolanda,” Desejos
“I have used this song for stretching exercises for many years. It is just a bit unusual and has a very calming atmosphere. The Portuguese adds a seductive quality. Also try the song “Eu Preciso de Vocé.” It has an extraordinary atmosphere—very moving, if a bit sad—but watch out for the rubato.”
Song/Album: “Must Give Back,” Mother Tongue
“This is a fun choice for fast degagés or any fast feet exercises. It is lighthearted and gets those feet moving.”
Artist: Dr. Didg
Song/Album: “Sun Tan,” Out of the Woods
“This is one of my top 10 CDs—an old standby and trusted friend. It is so versatile, energetic and good for many different types of exercises, like tendus. The Australian instrument, the didgeridoo, is unique and adds a surprising element.”
Song/Album: Bonus Track—#13 on the CD Traveling Without Moving
“I use this track for small jumps. It has energy and gives that extra lift to the dancers’ elevation. I adore almost everything that Jamiroquai does. Many tracks work for barre exercises, but this one is unsurpassed for moving across the floor. It has fantastic propulsive quality and lights a fire under the dancers. Also try the CD High Times, which has two of my favorites: “Corner of the Earth” for light and quick frappés and “Runaway” for rond de jambe en l’air.”
Photo courtesy Jennifer Muller/The Works
Cathy Roe has done it all in the dance world. Her experience as a university dance program director, TV choreographer, studio owner, master teacher and choreographer are all part of what makes her an in-demand teacher today. Roe has also produced more than 150 instructional dance videos and operates her own competition and convention company.
Even with all she has going on, finding great teaching music still excites Roe. “Emerging, innovative artists are always my pleasure to discover. Truly, there is no dearth of musical treasures to encounter, but it does take exploration!” she says. “I try to keep in mind that the message I choose my dancers to act out will be rehearsed in body and mind repeatedly. Therefore, the message needs to be one that is age-appropriate, pertinent to their emotional maturity and a positive influence on their young and pliable psyches.” Here, Roe shares just a few of her favorite finds. DT
Album: Enigma MCMXC A.D.
“This is my favorite CD for technique class. Just play it straight through and it works for opening stretches, pliés, tendus, dégagés, passés, floor stretches and battements.”
Artist: Pat Madden and Sally Potter
Album: It’s About Time
“If you like instrumentation, the song ‘Jubilee’ has me envisioning a duet for my older students. ‘Forever Young’ works well for younger dancers. I choreographed a dance to it that used sign language.”
“Music for lyrical dance doesn’t need the most literal language. I look for music that is emotionally engaging so that I can tell my story without words. Max Formitchev’s music has inspired me many times. My favorite song is ‘Sweet Harp.’”
Artist: Gipsy Kings
Album: Cantos de Amor
“We can’t get around the fact that teen girls want to dance about love. I try to find different ways to fulfill my budding students without succumbing to the cliché ballads that rock their iPods. My preference is to engage the emotion in different languages. My all-time favorite is ‘Mi Corazon,’ by the Gipsy Kings.”
Artist: Second Opinion
Album: Last Rose
“A cappella songs are a stunning means of capturing the attention of both performers and the audience, especially when the voices are as enchanting as Pat Madden’s (who is also a member of the trio Second Opinion). Listen to ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ and ‘Add a Little Faith.’”
Artist: Leonard Cohen
Album: The Essential Leonard Cohen
“Leonard Cohen’s music is a springboard for ideas. A prolific poet, he weaves ideas through his lyrics that are fertile ground for visionaries. Many of his songs are covered by other artists, who add their own melodic voices and arrangements—iTunes has numerous versions to consider.”
If you haven’t seen Beyonce’s video for her new single, “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” check it out. Whether you like the song or not, the choreography (by JaQuel Knight and Frank Gatson) will definitely make you want to get up and dance! And with Thanksgiving just days away, I’m sure many of us could use an extra cardio boost.
“Saturday Night Live” even recently did a skit parodying the video, where they used male backup dancers instead of females. A leotard-clad Andy Samberg, Bobby Moynihan and special guest Justin Timberlake all shake it as a horrified Beyonce yells cut. Their moves will crack you up in addition to Timberlake’s reoccurring catch phrase, “We’re the dancers!”
You can watch the official video on Beyonce’s website by clicking here: