(Photo by Andrew Eccles)
A vision of power, grace and beauty, Renée Robinson has become one of the most respected modern dancers of our time. Growing up in Washington, D.C., she began taking ballet classes at the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet at age 10. She went on to study at the School of American Ballet, the Dance Theatre of Harlem and The Ailey School, receiving full scholarships to each, and was a member of Ailey II from 1979 to 1980. In 1981, Robinson joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She is now in her 29th season with AAADT—the longest tenure of any female dancer in the company’s history—and is the only remaining member of the troupe who was hand-picked by Alvin Ailey himself. In addition to dancing with the company, Robinson has performed at the Kennedy Center Awards, President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration and the 2003 White House State Dinner. Don’t miss your chance to see her as AAADT wraps up its 20-city U.S. tour at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, June 10–20. —Michael Anne Bailey
You are an individual. Remember that you have something to offer that is beautiful and unique.
The classes you take every day will give you the strength needed for a long and successful career. In addition to ballet, explore a wide variety of dance techniques, including Horton. You will need a diverse vocabulary for all the works you will one day perform onstage.
As your body is an instrument through which many different choreographers will share their voices, it must always be ready to sing. Cross-training will help you stay strong, balanced and in tune. You need to be able to work your muscles properly and with the right intensity. Knowing how to use your energy in a balanced way will keep the body intelligent.
Continue to grow as a person. A dancer who can bring herself fully to the stage will have something to say to the audience. So never stop learning. Keep your eyes, ears and heart open. Go to the theater, to museums, to concerts—and read everything!
Dance with joy and have faith that your journey will be full of grace and revelations. Feel the music and let the stage lights bathe your body as your story unfolds. The curtain is up and the world awaits.
From top to bottom photo by Andrew Eccles; courtesy Renée Robinson
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.