School Buzz: Jacob’s Pillow Awards Excellence
Jacob’s Pillow Awards Excellence
I-Fen Lin dreamed of dancing at Jacob’s Pillow from the moment she first learned of the dance mecca, seven years ago in a Western Dance History class at Taipei National University of the Arts. Little did the Taiwan native know that her fantasy would one day be fulfilled: The School at Jacob’s Pillow recently selected Lin, 26, to be the 2009 recipient of its Lorna Strassler Award for Student Excellence!
Lin, now pursing an MFA in modern dance at the University of Utah, was selected for the award based on her spring audition for the Contemporary Traditions Program at The School at Jacob’s Pillow. It was during this extremely competitive process that she demonstrated her superior technique and performance quality, along with a strong work ethic and unwavering commitment to dance.
The best part: The award comes with a full scholarship to any one of the school’s professional programs and a $2,500 cash stipend. Lin couldn’t be happier. “I was amazed that I had been chosen for this award! I couldn’t stop thinking about how I had read about Jacob’s Pillow in my textbooks and now I was being awarded this great honor,” she says. As for the prize money, Lin already has a plan: “My thesis is going to be amazing now! Just think of all the sets, costumes and props I will be able to use. Maybe I’ll even be able to take it on tour!”
Alexandra May Ballance turns 11 this month and she’s already got a choreography credit on her resumé! In addition to dancing with Washington D.C.’s Joy of Motion Dance Center Youth Dance Ensemble and attending Potomac Elementary School, the Maryland native found the time to create a work called Disconnections. The modern piece premiered in January at a concert for the DC-based CrossCurrents Dance Company.
This fall the dance hit the stage of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where Alexandra and two of her fellow Joy of Motion dancers performed it during Dance/MetroDC’s 9th Annual Metro DC Dance Awards ceremony.
Alexandra created the dance as part of an independent choreography project with the guidance of her teacher Helen Hayes (Hayes was a finalist at this year’s Metro DC Dance Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Dance Education). As for her process, Alexandra says she always begins choreographing the same way. “I turn on the music, I start dancing and I think about what I like,” she says. “I express my feelings through the movement of dance.” Next on her list of goals: middle school!—Colleen Bohen
Tap Takes Chicago
Chicago Human Rhythm Project (CHRP) held its 19th annual Rhythm World tap festival this past summer. Nearly 500 participants took classes with a cast of tap legends, including Jason Samuels Smith, Step Afrika! artistic director Jakari Sherman and Idella Reed Davis – to name a few!
DS caught up with CHRP co-founder and director Lane Alexander to find out his favorite festival moments and hear his thoughts on the future of American tap. Check it out at dancespirit.com/.—Colleen Bohen
Bard Teams with Bill T.
Bard College’s dance program is bridging the gap between the undergraduate and professional dance worlds through a new partnership with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. This fall the program began offering two modern dance technique classes and a methods course focusing on Bill T. Jones’ choreographic process. All are being taught by current and former company members. —Colleen Bohen
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.