We Spent an Evening in the Studio with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Jamar Roberts
This past Monday evening, dozens of dancers gathered in one of the top-floor studios of Alvin Ailey's home base in NYC. The studios feature stunning floor-to-ceiling windows, and as the sun set, the city sparkled around everyone, adding to the magical energy. As of late, there's been a special buzz in the air at AAADT—and for good reason: the company's 60th anniversary season is about to kick off on November 28. In honor of that milestone, company member Jamar Roberts hosted a contemporary workshop via Ailey Extension that was open to the public. DS had the chance to sit in on the inspiring evening, and chat with Roberts after it wrapped up. (And if you're in the NYC Tri-State area, and between the ages of 21–30, you're in luck: We're giving away a pair of tickets for Ailey's Young New York Night on November 29. Click here to enter!)
This was the inaugural workshop, as well as Roberts' first time teaching in NYC. "I teach all the time, but never in the city, so it was great that it was at Ailey," he says. His warm, unassuming presence immediately put everyone at ease as he led participants through a dynamic warmup, repeating a phrase that began with dancers carving shapes with their arms, and ended once the entire body was engaged, sinking into a deep plié and shifting weight from one foot to another.
There were lots of references to moves from Members Don't Get Weary (Roberts' first work for AAADT that premiered in 2017 and makes its return this season) sprinkled throughout the combos that dancers learned. According to Roberts, there's a palpable excitement among the company's dancers this season, thanks to the 60th anniversary. But when it came time to start prepping Members Don't Get Weary for its second run, it felt super-familiar, despite all the pressure. "It feels exactly the same. I never felt pressure when I was making the work, and I don't feel it now. It still feels like I'm just playing around in the studio with my friends. There was never a negative vibe, just a lot of fun," he says.
AAADT dancers in Roberts' "Members Don't Get Weary" (photo by Paul Kolnik)
It's safe to say that same element of fun was a big theme of this workshop—Roberts' teaching style is every dancer's dream. He offered corrections via helpful cues and demonstrations ("Literally eat the space up!" was his advice when explaining a combo that involved lots of traveling across the floor), and everyone was chill, loose, and totally responsive to Roberts' movement style. "That was the tricky part about prepping for this," he says. "I don't teach a codified style—it's just me, my movement. It's innate. So that makes it hard to break down and put into a succinct exercise." He prepared by spending hours in the studio alone the day before, working out phrases, combos, and steps between his own crazy rehearsal schedule. "I absolutely hate the feeling of being unprepared," he says. (#Same, Jamar, same.)
In the end, Roberts had just one wish for his students that night (and IMHO, it's a perfect piece of advice for any dancer spending time in a workshop or studio): "I hope they felt like this was a breath of fresh air, a time to break out of their shells, to explore how they want to move in their bodies. I hope they felt free."
In today's dance world, versatility is key. It's not enough to be a master of one style—even when they specialize in one area, dancers are frequently asked to fuse multiple genres, or step out of their comfort zone for specific projects. With their wide variety of summer programs, Joffrey Ballet School aims to prepare dancers for the demands of a professional career. We asked five faculty members to share how they do this:
Happy "Step Up: High Water" eve, y'all! Everyone's favorite internet dance show makes its triumphant Season 2 return tomorrow, March 20th, on YouTube. In anticipation of the premiere, we turned to Kendra Oyesanya (Poppy), Marcus Mitchell (Dondre), and Carlito Olivero (Davis) for the scoop on all things "Step Up"—from on-set shenanigans, to embarrassing stories, to scenes to watch out for this season (hint: Episode 2's dance battle, and the season finale's final number!).
You may think you know Oklahoma!, the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that made history when it first opened in 1943 and is best known for Agnes de Mille's groundbreaking dream ballet. But the latest Broadway iteration of the musical isn't your average trip to the frontier. Opening April 7, the revival features new choreography by Mark Morris alum John Heginbotham, and swaps the traditional windswept-prairie set and full orchestra for an intimate, minimalistic staging and a bluegrass band. Coming fresh off an acclaimed run at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, the daring, unconventional production is sure to turn heads when it begins previews on Broadway tonight. Dance Spirit caught up with Heginbotham to get all the details on the dancing, and what it was like choreographing his first Broadway show.
K-pop is in the middle of a stateside takeover. South Korea's boy bands and girl groups can always be counted on to produce catchy, upbeat songs—and, most importantly for us dance fans, to feature colorful choreography prominently in their music videos. Over the past few years, the K-pop machine has been churning out a seemingly endless stream of talented groups with choreography worth watching on repeat, and some of them are starting to make names for themselves in the U.S. Check out our list of the dancetastic K-pop bands you need to know.
Have you ever felt that the Duels round on NBC's "World of Dance" was a bit unfair? During the Duels, each act's success hinges not on how objectively good they are, but on how good they are relative to a single challenger. Which means that mediocre acts can move forward if they best slightly-more-mediocre opponents, while frontrunners who're given tougher matchups end up knocked out.
Newly-engaged goddess J.Lo and her team get that. Which is why, last night, "WOD" introduced a twist designed to make the Duels more just: a redemption round. Formerly, five acts were eliminated in each division during the Duels. But from here out, the two highest scorers of those five will go head-to-head to earn a wild card spot. And that made last night's Upper Division Duels significantly more exciting.
Who just dueled it? Who was redeemed? Who made Derek Hough scream like a teenage girl? Onward to the episode highlights!
For professional ballet dancers, the search for the perfect pointe shoe is a lifelong quest. Even the smallest adjustment in manufacturing can make the difference between a shoe that allows a ballerina to soar and a shoe that detracts from her dancing. So what goes into creating the perfect fit? A lot of hard work, patience, and masterful attention to detail. We got the inside scoop on how a Bloch pointe shoe is made from beginning to end, and went inside one of American Ballet Theatre principal Devon Teuscher's touch-up fittings with Bloch owner David Fox in NYC.
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Dance moms: Where would we be without them? We all know how much support and help they give us—in addition to loads of love. Here are 10 reasons real-life dance moms are undeniably the best.
It's the fall of 2018. As the Brigham Young University Cougarettes step onto the field at LaVell Edwards stadium in Provo, UT, a crowd of nearly 64 thousand erupts into cheers. The dancers take their places, and a feeling of anticipation hangs in the air: Their reputation precedes them.
The music—Ciara's banger "Level Up"—begins, and unbelievable precision ensues. Eighteen dancers attack the highly technical choreography, which nods at viral social-dance sensations and continuously builds in energy. The school's mascot, Cosmo the Cougar, joins the team on the field, and the audience goes wild. As the piece ends, the sound in the stadium is deafening. The 16-time national-title-winning group has proved once again why they're the standard for college dance team success—they're just that good.
The extraordinary Paloma Garcia-Lee, who's danced in no fewer than five Broadway shows, can adapt to any choreographer's style. And before heading back to Broadway this spring in Moulin Rouge! (choreographed by Sonya Tayeh), she's tackling the work of one of the most iconic choreographers of all time: Bob Fosse.
Garcia-Lee plays Adrienne in the new FX limited series "Fosse/Verdon," premiering April 9, which follows the romantic and creative relationship of Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and his muse Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams). Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, Steve Levenson, and Andy Blankenbuehler serve as executive producers, with Kail directing and Blankenbuehler choreographing.
With the exception of performing on The Tony Awards, "Fosse/Verdon" marks Garcia-Lee's TV debut. "I'm really setting my sights on more on-camera work," she says. "Getting the chance to flex my muscles as an actress in this different medium, but still have the dance part, is all really exciting." (She's got real acting chops, too: While a student at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she actually quit dance briefly to study acting instead.)
Dance Spirit spoke to Garcia-Lee about "Fosse/Verdon"'s epic final callback, how she got cast, and the transition from stage to screen.