School Buzz: Montclair Debuts Studio-Teaching Concentration
Montclair Debuts Studio-Teaching Concentration
Lauren Alvarez, photo courtesy Lauren Alvarez
Dream of running your own studio? Check out Montclair State University’s new dance studio teaching concentration, available to students pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in dance education. “The program will prepare students for both the marketing and education sides of owning and working at a dance studio,” says Dr. Elizabeth McPherson, Montclair’s dance education coordinator. In addition to a full load of technique classes, students enrolled in the program will complete an internship at a local dance studio and take three general education courses, two dance education classes and four business courses.
“I’m hoping to gain more insight into owning my own studio,” says Lauren Alvarez, a dance education major at Montclair who recently added the concentration.
University of Rochester Adds Two Dance Minors
Students perform in the spring 2011 University of Rochester dance concert, photo by J. Adam Fenster/University of Rochester
When Missy Pfohl Smith became director of the University of Rochester’s dance and movement program in 2010, she was blown away by the level of enthusiasm for dance on campus. With 14 student dance groups and about 600 students taking dance classes, Smith decided it was time to add two dance-related minors to the program. “After students take one course, they realize just how broad the dance world is and they want to learn more,” she says.
The two minors launching this year are in dance and movement studies. The dance minor covers technique and choreography in styles such as ballet, jazz and West African dance, while the movement studies minor focuses on Eastern somatic studies, such as yoga, tai chi and qi gong. Unlike the school’s student dance groups that highlight specific genres, like ballroom, hip hop and even South Asian folk dance, the two minors allow students to explore many styles and design a program around their individual interests.
Movin' On Up
Wondering what dancers from the Class of 2011 are up to now that they’ve graduated? We checked in with three top ballet programs to find out.
The School of American Ballet
Meaghan Dutton-O’Hara, Peter Walker, Aaron Sanz, Joseph Gordon and Harrison Ball have joined the New York City Ballet…Pennsylvania Ballet hired Alexandra Hughes…On the West Coast, Chloe Sherman, Bianca Bulle and Ben Winegar have joined the Los Angeles Ballet and Angelica Generosa is now a member of the Pacific Northwest Ballet School’s Professional Division…Dresden Ballet hired Zarina Stahnke.
Miami City Ballet School
Jovani Furlan has been promoted to the Miami City Ballet…Daniel Savetta and Laura Chachich have joined The Washington Ballet…Sarah Chisholm is now a part of Ballet Arizona…Ashley Baszto was hired by Orlando Ballet.
Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy
Derrin Harper Watters has joined the Houston Ballet…Sarasota Ballet has hired Sareen Tchekmedyian…Amy Potter is now dancing with Ballet West II.
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.