What My Teacher Taught Me: Daniel Gwirtzman

Choreographer Daniel Gwirtzman can vividly remember his first dance class with Shelly Taplin in Rochester, New York. Gwirtzman was a tall and lanky 12-year-old; Taplin, reed-thin and tall herself, was a star with Garth Fagan's company. Taplin, who has since passed away, taught modern classes in association with Fagan's company at SUNY's Educational Opportunity Center. For Gwirtzman, their meeting was teacher-and-student love at first sight.

"The first class I went to, I showed up with my mom, and she stayed and watched from the balcony. I'd come into a class that had already met on previous days, and there wasn't a lot of verbal instruction. Afterward, my mom made a comment like, 'I guess he's not prepared for this.' And Shelly said, 'What do you mean? I expect to see Danny on Thursday.' Her encouragement of my creativity was there from the very beginning."

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company, Gwirtzman is releasing 15 weeks' worth of dance videos, beginning February 14.

Photo by Richard Brownbill
Teachers Trending
Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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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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