You Won’t Believe Who Used to Dance with Frank Hatchett

At last night’s Bessie Awards at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, we were surprised to hear that New York City’s first lady is a former Frank Hatchett devotee! That’s right: Chirlane McCray, whose husband is mayor Bill de Blasio, told the audience she used to take class from the late jazz icon (and 2013 DT Lifetime Achievement Award recipient) in her hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts. Is there anyone whose life he hasn’t touched?

Megan Williams at the 2014 Bessies

The excitement didn’t end there. The evening, which marked the awards’ 30th anniversary, featured a performance by Megan Williams (DT September 2014) in Mark Morris’ Bijoux, which was honored at the very first Bessies in 1984. And Michelle Dorrance (DT May 2012) and her dancers performed her brand of grounded rhythm tap in 2011’s Bessie-winning Three to One, where dancers are lit only from the hips down.

Michelle Dorrance's Three in One

Ailey’s Linda Celeste Sims, Nora Chipaumire of Urban Bush Women, John Jasperse and Camille A. Brown were honored, as well as Arthur Mitchell, who received recognition for Lifetime Achievement in dance.

Chirlane McCray, Chuck Davis and Wendy Whelan on the red carpet

Photos by Christopher Duggan

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Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

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Robbie Sweeny, courtesy Funsch

Christy Funsch's teaching career has taken her from New York City to the Bay Area to Portugal, with a stint in a punk band in between. But this fall—fresh off a Fulbright in Portugal at the Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa, School of Dance (ESD), teaching and researching empathetic embodiment through somatic dance training—Funsch's teaching has taken her to an entirely new location: Zoom. A visiting professor at Slippery Rock University for the 2020–21 academic year, Funsch is adapting her eclectic, boundary-pushing approach to her virtual classes.

Originally from central New York State, Funsch spent 20 years performing in the Bay Area, where she also started her own company, Funsch Dance Experience. "My choreographic work from that time is in the dance-theater experiential, fantasy realm of performance," she says. "I also started blending genres and a lot of urban styles found their way into my choreography."

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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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