Jumpin' in the Gene Pool
Hi, DS readers! So this past Friday night, I went to the annual "Gene Pool" showcase at NYC's Dance New Amsterdam, which is where faculty from this downtown mostly-modern dance studio have the chance to present new work--often using students. I was really anxious to go for a couple of reasons:
1) One of my regular teachers (who I've also performed with a few times in the past year), Jana Hicks, was presenting a piece and lots of my dancing friends were in it! It's always great to support your friends in their endeavors.
2) Monica Bill Barnes, who we introduced to you in our February issue as one of 8 modern choreographers you should know, also had a work-in-progress on the program. I hadn't seen Monica's work before, and as Abby has been raving about her, I definitely was interested in checking her out.
The show definitely didn't disappoint. Jana's piece, "Dissonance," was great--a very high-energy "pure dance" piece with lots of partnering. I also enjoyed Diane McCarthy's work "Painted Lives," which featured works of art projected on the back wall that the dancers brought to life, both by mimicking the poses of the people pictured and by imagining the emotion and story behind the paintings. Monica's work, "Small Statements," had a political edge. It began with a soloist dancing to a recording of John F Kennedy's inaugural address from 1961, and then, to the audience's surprise, brought out a group of young girls (I'd say probably ages 5-9!!) to sing The Eagles' hit song "Desperado"! The juxtaposition of "serious" modern dance taking place to the score of kids singing live was both amusing and powerful. I can't wait to see how this work-in-progress develops!
But the highlight of the evening came, as sometimes happens, from a technical error. The fourth work on the program, "She's Crazy, I'm Not" by Carol Dilley & Jill Eng, started off as a fairly straightforward modern duet.... until the music began to skip, and then just stopped. The pair started over, but when the music stopped again at the same place, they simply continued to perform the rest of the piece while carrying on a conversation with each other and the audience! "It worked perfectly in dress rehearsal," one of them said while suspended in a handstand. "This is the part where we start to get tired," the other confided during a high-energy section that had lots of running and jumps. Other tidbits of info we never would have learned were it not for the technical gaffe: "I have a knee injury, so I'm just marking this part." "We cut out this part originally because the piece was too long." "We call this the 'fishing' move." (said as one woman seemed to yank the other across the room with an invisible string) And, of course, "this part goes really well with the music. Bum, bum bum bum... ba bum!"
They chatted the whole time, finished the piece to a standing ovation... and my seatmates never even realized anything had gone wrong! They thought the music had stopped on purpose, that the work was supposed to be performed to text rather than a musical score. That, guys, is professionalism at its best. Loved it. :)
catch ya later,
Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.
When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.
In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.
The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."
Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.
Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.
She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.
There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.
We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)
So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.