School Buzz: YoungArts Names Silver Winners
YoungArts Names Silver Winners
What do Desmond Richardson, Matthew Rushing and Sarah Lamb have in common? The National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts’ YoungArts program recognized each for their dance talents early in their careers. This year, eight new dancers are being honored with the organization’s Silver Award based on their performances during the annual YoungArts Week, held in January. The prize includes $5,000 and the chance to travel to NYC for an additional week of workshops this spring. —Colleen Bohen
The 2010 Silver Award-winning dancers are:
Kristina Bentz—Jupiter, FL
Kiera Daley—Miami Shores, FL
Austin Goodwin—Plano, TX
Jacquelin Harris—Charlotte, NC
Gianni Howell—Coral Springs, FL
Robert Moore—Porter, TX
Ida Saki—Plano, TX (DS October 2009)
Amanda Vercamen—Ocoee, FL
African Inspirations at Vassar College
This month, Vassar College’s repertory company is teaming up with the Ad Deum Company of Texas and students from the Ailey School in NYC to perform The Griot Dance. The show will feature a collection of African-inspired works choreographed by the college’s dance chair, Stephen Rooks.
Rooks tells DS that the program is his artistic response to his experiences visiting Africa. He describes the show as “autobiographical and personal rather than a historical presentation.”
In addition to traditional African drumming and dance, the evening will include music ranging from contemporary African to neoclassical styles. Rooks says, “This is my response as a modern dancer, using modern and Western music.” —Ashley Rivers
Johns Hopkins Brings Ballet to Baltimore Boys
Watch out Billy Elliot: There are some new ballet boys hitting the scene. The Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, is about to conclude the inaugural year of its Estelle Dennis/Peabody Dance Training Program for Boys. Aimed at Baltimore-area males ages 9-15, the program provides free weekly ballet classes to promising students who otherwise might not have had access to training. It also introduces the boys to dance forms such as contemporary and hip hop. Eventually, boys who demonstrate growth and commitment are invited to take additional dance classes with other Peabody Institute dancers.
According to Barbara Weisberger, artistic advisor of Peabody’s dance program, nearly 70 boys showed up to audition for the program last spring, a number that far exceeded expectations.
Twenty-four students were admitted to the program last fall, and 19 were still enrolled as of January. Weisberger explains that strict policies regarding attendance, class conduct and technical progress account for the decrease in class size. However, she says she considers the program to be a success because of the significant growth she has witnessed in some of the most dedicated students. One dancer has already been invited to take four extra classes. “It’s wonderfully gratifying,” Weisberger says.
The program is set to expand in the 2010–11 school year, with this year’s students continuing their training and a new group starting at the beginning. Auditions will be held next month. Visit www.peabody.jhu.edu for details. —Colleen Bohen
New School Performs Sokolow Work
Jim May, artistic director of the Sokolow Theatre Dance Ensemble, and Lauren Naslund, an Ensemble dancer, are working with students at Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts in NYC to reconstruct Lyric Suite, a work by legendary modern dance choreographer Anna Sokolow. The piece will be performed on April 30 and May 1 in commemoration of what would have been Sokolow’s 100th birthday.
Emily Skillings, a senior dance major, says the piece is both physically and emotionally challenging, but she tells DS that she’s excited to perform such a well-known work. She explains that the choreography contains a lot of familiar dance vocabulary, but that Sokolow always expected dancers to make each movement their own, even something as common as a battement. “It’s hard to imbue traditional movement with our own feelings, to make it seem like more than just lifting your leg,” Skillings says.
The performance marks the culmination of a year-long residency by May. According to the school, a different distinguished artist is invited to take up a similar residency each year. Previous artists have included Martha Graham and William Forsythe. —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!
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.
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.