Hubbard Street's Kevin J. Shannon: What My Teacher Taught Me

Teetering on the edge of total abandon is a scary but often ultimately rewarding place for a dancer to find himself. "My teacher Alphonse Poulin was constantly challenging me beyond what I thought I could do," says Kevin J. Shannon of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. During his training at Juilliard, Shannon was lucky enough to have Poulin as his ballet teacher for all four years. Poulin's colorful personality encouraged his students to explore a comparable openness in their dancing.

"Sometimes Alphonse would come in and say he'd watched these ridiculous videos of dancers doing absolutely crazy things--and then he'd make us do them! It was hysterical. We'd go across the floor doing five pirouettes with a piqué penchée in the middle. I'd take the step as far as I could go, and I just trusted that one day I'd get there. And that's been a mantra for me in my career: I can take a step to its limits and then come back and reevaluate. I can look at the step and say, 'This is where I went; maybe I don't need to go that far.'"

Shannon will perform with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago May 25-26, at New York City's Joyce Theater.

Photo by Todd Rosenberg, courtesy of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

Courtesy Meg Brooker

As the presidential election approaches, it's a particularly meaningful time to remember that we are celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, when women earned the right to vote after a decades-long battle.

Movement was more than a metaphor for the fight for women's suffrage—dancers played a real role, most notably Florence Fleming Noyes, who performed her riveting solo Dance of Freedom in 1914 to embody the struggle for women's rights.

This fall, Middle Tennessee State University director of dance Meg Brooker is reconstructing Dance of Freedom on 11 of her students. A Noyes Rhythm teacher and an Isadora Duncan scholar, Brooker is passionate about bringing historic dance practices into a contemporary context.

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Justin Boccitto teaches a hybrid class. Photo courtesy Boccitto

Just as teachers were getting comfortable with teaching virtual classes, many studios are adding an extra challenge into the mix: in-person students learning alongside virtual students. Such hybrid classes are meant to keep class sizes down and to give students options to take class however they're comfortable.

But dividing your attention between virtual students and masked and socially distant in-person students—and giving them each a class that meets their needs—is no easy feat.

Dance Teacher asked four teachers what they've learned so far.

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Teachers Trending
All photos by Ryan Heffington

"Annnnnnnd—we're back!"

Ryan Heffington is kneeling in front of his iPhone, looking directly into the camera, smiling behind his bushy mustache. He's in his house in the desert near Joshua Tree, California, phone propped on the floor so it stays steady, his bright shorty shorts, tank top and multiple necklaces in full view. Music is already playing—imagine you're at a club—and soon he's swaying and bouncing from side to side, the beat infusing his bones.

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