#WhyNotWednesday: Center Stage Is Making Us Feel Old

Am I the only one who just noticed what infants Ethan Stiefel and Sascha Radetsky were in this movie? Center Stage you grew up so fast!

One of recent history's best beloved-dance movies may be as old as some of your high-school students. That’s right, “Center Stage” was released on May 12, 2000, meaning it turned 15 this week. That’s old enough to get a driving permit in some states.

Aside from the cheesy acting and one-liners—“You didn’t have the feet—I don’t have the heart!”—you have to love the dance trivia and celeb-spotting in the (in)famous flick, not to mention the priceless glimpse at Y2K dancewear trends in the jazz class scene. (I think that alone qualifies the film as a dance history lesson.) Beyond American Ballet Theatre’s Sascha Radetsky and Ethan Stiefel immortalized in their youth as high-jumping, dueling love interests, there’s also Julie Kent as established prima and, if you look closely, a brief cameo of ballet master Kirk Peterson leading men’s class. Plus, the ballet where Eva makes a surprise appearance in Maureen’s role was choreographed by none other than Christopher Wheeldon. The rest of the choreo (besides clips of classics like Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet) is courtesy of Susan Stroman.

Have your students seen the climactic closing dance sequence? We’re still trying to figure out how they pull off those costume and hair changes.

Center Stage Final Show from emajid mahjoubi on Vimeo.

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Photo by Yvonne M. Portra, courtesy Faulkner

It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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