It was a great weekend for the dance community here in Dallas: Dancers and dance enthusiasts of all ages gathered at the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts for the 15th annual Dance For The Planet Festival. The Dance Council of North Texas once again created a forum where participants could take master classes in an array of dance styles, absolutely FREE. And I wasn’t going to let that opportunity pass me by!
With more than 25 styles to choose from (jazz, tap, Afro-modern, mambo, circus aerial silks and belly dancing, just to name a few), picking a class was a challenge. In the end I decided on classic jazz dance with Danny Buraczeski, associate professor of dance at Southern Methodist University, and Horton technique with Melissa M. Young, associate artistic director of Dallas Black Dance Theatre.
“I love dance festivals,” Young says. “For me, Dance Planet 15 is about sharing information and stepping into the unknown. It’s exciting not knowing what level of students you’re going to get and then watching them all open up and become more confident during class.”
Because classes were only 50 minutes, Young gave us an abridged version of her Horton class which included roll down and flat back exercises, balances, lunges and core strengthening. She told us we would use muscles we hadn’t used before--and boy, was she right!
If you wanted a break from classes you could head over to the Montgomery Arts Theater. Saturday morning I sat in on a Q&A session with “So You Thing You Can Dance” alums and Burn The Floor stars Anya Garnis and Pasha Kovalev. We learned a little bit about their childhood and ascent to dance stardom, and then they performed a saucy cha cha to “History Repeating.”
After my afternoon classes I went back to check out some of the performance showcase. They had every style of dance you could possibly imagine, from African dance and Brazilian rhythms to modern, ballet and jazz. I got to watch a sassy character jazz number by Pilates Squared, a sweet mother/daughter lyrical number by Miriam Project, a modern piece by FireWalk Dance and much more.
“Dance Planet is really an investment in the community,” Buraczeski says. "It’s a way for us to share our methods and keep dance alive.” In my eyes, Dance Planet 15 is solid proof that dance is not only alive but thriving here in the Big D.
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.
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Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?
Corbin Bleu in rehearsal for "Kiss Me, Kate" (Jenny Anderson, courtesy Roundabout Theatre Company)
If you're a hardcore Broadway baby, today is the worst Sunday of the year. Why, you ask? The Tony Awards were last Sunday, so basically there's nothing to look forward to in life anymore—no James Corden being James Corden, no teary acceptance speeches from newly minted stars, no thrilling excerpts from the hottest new shows. Oh yeah, and there are 50 more Sundays to go before our humdrum lives are once again blessed with the next annual iteration of Broadway's biggest night.