Maggie & Nicole Recap the 2014 Capezio A.C.E. Awards Show
Chaz Buzan in Talia Favia's The Difference Between Action and Words (photo by Kyle Froman)
It felt pretty glamorous to be a DS editor this weekend. We all dressed to the nines for the 2014 Capezio A.C.E. (Award for Choreographic Excellence) Awards—one of the highlights of the Dance Teacher Summit, an impressive annual extravaganza presented by our friends over at Dance Teacher magazine. Fellow editor Nicole and I were both first-timers at the event, and we didn't know quite what to expect. Man, were we in for a treat.
The show featured the works of 19 budding choreographers, all finalists vying for this year's big prizes. The winner receives a $15,000 production budget for their very own, evening-length show in NYC, produced by Break the Floor, while first and second runners-up win $5,000 and $3,000 production budgets, respectively. So naturally, all of the choreographers brought their A-games.
Honestly, we haven't been able to stop talking about it since. Nicole and I sat down this morning to debrief.
Maggie: So let's talk Saturday night. How would you characterize the overall vibe of the evening?
Nicole: Super high energy. It was so cool to walk into a ballroom full of dance lovers and professionals, all on the edge of their seats waiting for the show to begin.
Maggie: I completely agree. It was awesome to see that high energy carry into the choreography—especially in the musical theater pieces. Derek Mitchell's We Both Reached for the Gun and Caleb Teicher's A Little Moonlight didn't skip a beat. So much fun.
Nicole: The contemporary pieces were also really strong. I especially enjoyed the complex partnering in Jessie Hartley Riley's No Need to Fear. Our 2014 CMS finalist Alyssa Allen ROCKED that piece.
Maggie: And what about Jake Tribus and fellow CMS finalist Sarah Pippin in Kristen Russell's The Cave? Talk about a feel-good piece. I loved the sweeping movement across the stage—it felt like they were frolicking in a field.
Nicole: Totally. But let's talk about the big winners of the night. Second runner-up Emma Portner's Let Go, Or Be Dragged—I really appreciated the way she incorporated elements of street dance in a contemporary piece. Plus, the super-solid ladies partnering was quite impressive.
Portner entered the competition with another piece: Come Back, Let Me Under!
Maggie: I agree. I thought her movement quality was especially unique. I applaud her dancers for pulling off such complex, idiosyncratic movement with complete precision.
Nicole: First runner-up Cherrise Wakeham's She was completely different but equally impressive. It was romantic and gentle and lovely.
Maggie: And those skirts. Where can I get one? But the big winner of the night was Talia Favia. Her piece, The Difference Between Action and Words, was extremely powerful. The dancers used tape to convey the feeling of being silenced or controlled.
Nicole: The dancers just went for it. It was probably the most technically demanding choreography of the evening. Shout out to January 2012 cover guy Chaz Buzan, who was a real standout in the piece.
Favia entered the competition with another excerpt: The Difference Between Sinking and Drowning.
Maggie: Chills. Saturday night also featured excerpts from last year's runners-up: Lindsay Nelko, Jacob Jonas and Andre Kasten. We really saw how much development can happen in a year!
Nicole: Such a cool part of the evening. I'm really looking forward to seeing more of them during this week's Capezio A.C.E. Awards Winners Festival!
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.
The dancers who take our breath away are the risk-takers, the ones who appear completely fearless onstage. "When you see somebody trying to travel more, go farther, push the limits of their physical abilities, that's always going to be inspiring," says Ballet BC dancer Alexis Fletcher.
But dance training can feel like it's in conflict with that idea. We spend thousands of hours in the studio trying to do steps perfectly, and that pursuit of perfection can make us anxious about taking risks. What if we fail? What if we fall?
Luckily, fearlessness is a mental skill that you can work on, just as you work on your technique. Here's how you can learn to push yourself past your limits.
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!
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.