Jennifer Stahl, Editor In Chief
Jennifer has contributed to Dance Magazine since graduating from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts with a BFA in dance and journalism. She's danced for California's Peninsula Ballet Theatre, Israeli choreographer Gali Hod and Cirque du Soleil's 25th-anniversary celebration. She has served as a judge for the Capezio A.C.E. Awards and as an adjudicator for the American College Dance Association. A former senior editor of Pointe, she has also written for The Atlantic, Runner's World and other publications.
Raymond Mingst, Creative Director
Raymond discovered his earliest dance inspiration in print in the photographs of Barbara Morgan, specifically her collaborations with Martha Graham. As an art and creative director he has been recognized with numerous awards. Raymond is an interdisciplinary artist, curator and cofounder of the contemporary art gallery Curious Matter.
Madeline Schrock, Managing Editor
A native of Floyds Knobs, Indiana, Madeline studied ballet at Southern Indiana School for the Arts and was later introduced to modern dance by Bill Evans. While completing her BFA in Dance Performance and Choreography at Ohio University's Honors Tutorial College, she was cast in a historical reconstruction of Alwin Nikolais' Noumenon celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth. As an avid dance videographer and editor, she has worked on video projects for Bates Dance Festival and the Regina Klenjoski Dance Company in Southern California. She later served as a marketing and education manager for Lar Lubovitch Dance Company. She is currently the managing editor of Dance Magazine and Pointe.
Marissa DeSantis, Assistant Editor
Marissa joins Dance Magazine having worked as a beauty editor for publications like Teen Vogue and InStyle. She graduated from Rider University with a BFA in dance and journalism, training at the Princeton Ballet School during her studies. She has also danced with The Rock School and South Jersey Ballet Theater.
A native of Lafayette, Louisiana, Courtney danced with Lafayette Ballet Theatre before matriculating to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, where she graduated with a BFA in dance. She has performed in works by Karole Armitage, Netta Yerushalmy, Septime Webre, Vita Osojnik, Cherylyn Lavagnino, Giada Ferrone and Fairul Zahid, among others. She continues to take class, create and perform in the city.
Lauren Wingenroth, Assistant Editor
A native of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Lauren is a graduate of Barnard College with degrees in Dance and English. She has performed works by Annie B Parson, Mark Dendy, Reggie Wilson and Karla Wolfangle, and has danced with with e r a dance collective and TREES. While at Barnard/Columbia she choreographed and collaborated on several original musical theater works, among them the 120th Annual Varsity Show. She now serves as a member of the Dance/NYC Junior Committee.
Kelsey Grills, Audience Engagement Editor
A native Floridian, Kelsey graduated cum laude from Florida State University with a BFA in Dance. While at FSU she had the pleasure of interning at the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, where she assisted artists-in-residence such as Liz Lerman, Big Dance Theatre, Okwui Okpokwasili and Dayna Hanson. In 2014 she received the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Award which provided funding for her documentary, and subsequent dance piece, "Two-Point Stance." This work has been presented at numerous symposiums and festivals, including a TEDx performance in Tallahassee, Fl. Her performance career includes dancing with Jawole Willa Jo Zollar (Urban Bush Women), Jennifer Archibald (Arch Dance Company), and Alex Ketley (The Foundry) as well as assisting Choreographer/Filmmaker, Celia Rowlson-Hall. Kelsey currently resides in NYC where she continues to fuel her curiosity through dance and activism.
Wendy Perron, Editor at Large
Wendy danced with the Trisha Brown Company in the 1970s and has performed with many other NYC choreographers. Her own group, the Wendy Perron Dance Company, appeared at the Lincoln Center Festival, the Joyce, Danspace Project and other venues in the U.S. and abroad from 1983 to 1997. The documentary film Retracing Steps: American Dance Since Postmodernism profiles Perron along with seven other choreographers. She has taught at many colleges including Bennington and Princeton, has given lectures on dance across the country, and was associate director of Jacob's Pillow in the early '90s. In addition to serving as editor in chief of Dance Magazine from 2004 to 2013, she has written for The New York Times, The Village Voice, Ballet Review and Dance Europe. In 2011 she was inducted into the New York Foundation for the Arts' Hall of Fame and was honored by Dancewave in Brooklyn in 2014. She has been artistic adviser to the Fall for Dance Festival and often adjudicates for Youth America Grand Prix and the American College Dance Festival. Currently she teaches a graduate seminar at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and performs occasionally with Vicky Shick. Her book, Through the Eyes of a Dancer, is a selection of her essays, memoirs, and reviews spanning 40 years.
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Rumors are flying that my ballet company is having serious money problems. I couldn’t believe it because we have a loyal audience and the house is packed on tour. Then our director began casting mediocre dancers with rich sponsors in the best parts, while ignoring those of us who depend on the company’s paycheck. Please help before my career goes down the drain!
There could be any number of reasons for a fiscal deficit. Possibilities include overspending on new productions, alienating some donors who don’t like the repertoire or failing to get an endowment that provides the company with financial security. Regardless of the reason, I can see why you’re alarmed since casting does affect your career aspirations. What to do? Aside from socializing at company parties with sponsors who may be willing to take you on, you might consider booking outside dance gigs that could give you more visibility. Don’t forget that you also have the option of auditioning for other companies. Meanwhile, enjoy the positive aspects of being in a professional company—like a consistent paycheck, access to company physical therapists and a large audience to perform for—while developing your artistry and technique.
Why do I drive myself crazy worrying if I can pull off a big performance? I’m an experienced dancer, love being onstage and rehearse till I’m thoroughly prepared. It’s so stupid that I spend weeks worrying.
—Terry, Los Angeles, CA
It’s not stupid to care about the quality of your dancing. However, self doubt can cause excessive worrying, creating more problems than it solves. To keep from becoming overwhelmed, it’s important to break down your ultimate goal, like being prepared for a role, into a couple of smaller ones. That way, you don’t feel like you’re climbing Mount Everest. For example, you could choose a long-term performance goal, such as building your stamina over a certain period of time. Try to be specific (“I’ll run through the piece twice without stopping during the last week of my private rehearsals”) rather than general (“I’ll do my best to be strong”). A nonperformance goal regarding time can also be useful (“I’ll practice by myself after every class for 20 minutes over the next month”). The next step is to create distinct rehearsal goals for yourself, like separating the choreography into two sections and running straight through each one individually over the fi rst two weeks, together the third week, and end with two complete run-throughs the last week. Keep track of your daily progress in a notebook or on your smartphone and consider sharing the results with a supportive friend. Be flexible if you’re lagging behind or are ahead of schedule for a certain benchmark. The point is to focus your attention on something challenging but attainable. As you achieve smaller goals, you’ll improve your overall performance and boost your confidence, while reducing your anxiety. I don’t trust doctors! Several years ago I hurt my foot in class, but none of the orthopedists in my hometown could fi nd anything wrong. It’s like they’d never seen a dancer. My foot still hurts on and off, but I’m reluctant to seek medical help. What should I do?
—Lisa, Atlanta, GA
Dancers have unique orthopedic needs since even minor physical problems can affect your ability to perform without pain. Unfortunately, orthopedists who are unfamiliar with dance injuries often don’t understand what’s required to be a dancer. They may fail to order the appropriate diagnostic tests. Even if you work with a dance medicine specialist, you may run into issues if they do not have specific expertise in foot problems. My advice is to contact nearby professional dance companies for referrals to their orthopedists. Be sure to ask these doctors if they’ve done a foot fellowship and belong to the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (aofas.org), where members receive continuing education on the latest medical advances and procedures in this area. While many dancers are reluctant to seek medical help for fear of getting the wrong advice, a correct diagnosis speeds up the healing process.
Broadway Dance Lab gives choreographers freedom to experiment.
Dancers perform at a Broadway Dance Lab fundraising gala. PC Daniel Robinson, Courtesy BDL
He calls it the Broadway Dance Lab, but Josh Prince doesn’t think parochially. The not-for-profit “dance incubator” he founded in the fall of 2012 has welcomed choreographers from the ballet world (American Ballet Theatre star Marcelo Gomes) and from contemporary concert dance (Bessie winner Larry Keigwin) as well as, of course, the working theater folk you might expect, like two-time Tony winner Andy Blankenbuehler. To Prince, they’re all “theater-dance makers,” and enabling them to do their best work is his mission, and that of BDL.
A performer whose choreography sideline turned into a full-fledged Broadway career with Shrek and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Prince learned firsthand that dance can sometimes be a last-minute, seat-of-the-pants addition to Broadway musicals. And the fact that theater choreographers and would-be choreographers must sometimes beg, borrow or steal to line up the dancers, rehearsal space and time required to practice their craft struck him as not just unfair, but detrimental to the art of musical theater itself. Prince thinks of choreographers as writers, “authors of dance,” despite the fact that unlike the authors of poems and books, they can’t just hole up somewhere with a laptop to do their work. He started Broadway Dance Lab to give others what he craved: “The artistic freedom to create from the ground up.” Choreographers get 20 hours, a company of 12 professional dancers, one of several large borrowed studios and no boundaries or performance deadlines.
Prince likes to say that BDL is the only nonprofit that exists solely to support theater choreographers, but in pursuing that goal, it has ended up supporting dancers, as well. Because BDL pays competitive salaries, provides workers’ comp and enables dancers to work in multiple styles with many different choreographers, it’s become a highly desirable gig. Over 100 dancers tried out for the 12 nine-week contracts in the 2015–16 season, and Prince expects equally large numbers at BDL’s next audition this spring.
When we spoke, Prince was off to Spain to start work on the Disney Cruise Line’s shipboard version of the animated film Frozen. He acknowledges that being both the artistic director of BDL and a working choreographer can be “daunting.” But he feels lucky that he started BDL after getting some Broadway experience. “Working in the commercial world prepared me to start a nonprofit that can run like a business,” he says. There’s an “invaluable staff” of 10, plus interns, to handle day-to-day managerial chores. “If I was doing it all by myself,” he adds, “it would be impossible.It takes so much structural support.” But, he says, it all feels worthwhile when choreographers reach out to tell him how invaluable their BDL residencies have been.
Blankenbuehler is one of those, singing the praises of the “great tool Josh created” and singling out “the safety of the room, the quality of the dancers, and the concentration and passion from all present.” Prince invited him to BDL when he was between projects, “in that tricky phase of being creatively tired and not quite ready to fully focus on the next assignment,” Blankenbuehler recalls. “I went into the room of wonderful dancers with really no idea of what I wanted to accomplish. I decided to throw myself off the cliff and just experiment. And they followed!”
Rural arts venues are continuing to grow.
Gallim Dance performs Practicing Awe at Grace Farms. PC Vanessa Van Ryzin, Courtesy Grace Farms.
While not a new idea, the development of rural sites dedicated to arts creation is trending with renewed intensity, particularly in the Northeast. “Getting out of the city and going where the company lives together, shares meals together, it creates a family,” says Andrea Miller, artistic director of Gallim Dance. Gallim participates in residencies across the country, including several with Jacob’s Pillow and, more recently, Grace Farms. “We can dive into creation more vulnerable and open, leading to new ways of thinking that we bring back to our work in the city.” Here are three organizations growing in new directions.
Jacob’s Pillow Expansion
The pioneer for rural dance retreats and performance, Jacob’s Pillow celebrates its 85th anniversary this summer with the opening of the $4.5 million Perles Family Studio. The studio will not only provide a high-caliber setting for intensive students and festival companies, but will also increase year-round residency space for the Creative Development Residency Program. Invited artists—this season there are 10 residencies, with plans to grow—are provided with free housing for one to three weeks, 24-hour studio access, full access to Pillow archives, and a showing with audience feedback and dialogue. They also receive a stipend for the residency and additional funds for a dramaturg or other outside eye. “The Pillow feels like hallowed ground, and any visiting artist joins the history of those that came before them,” explains director Pamela Tatge. “Many artists feel it renews their commitment to the art form.”
Lumberyard Under Construction
American Dance Institute is rebuilding and rebranding the organization as Lumberyard, named after its new home in a Hudson riverfront lumberyard in Catskill, New York, two hours north of New York City. Due for completion in May 2018, plans include $5 million renovations of the 30,000-square-foot lumberyard building, transforming it into a theater, artist housing, offices and kitchen, followed by renovations of three barns, one including a large dance studio, to be completed at a later date.
Lumberyard distinguishes itself by supporting creation of contemporary multidisciplinary work through Incubator, a curated residency program. “Our goal is to strengthen the artists’ work and put their needs first, to get their city premiere as ready as possible,” says executive and artistic director Adrienne Willis. “We wanted to be far enough from New York City that artists feel like they are getting away, to minimize distractions that pull from creative work.”
Grace Farms’ Extraordinary First Year
This past October the impressive Grace Farms in New Canaan, Connecticut, held its one-year anniversary benefit featuring performances by Wendy Whelan and Gallim Dance alongside other visual, literary and performing artists. Kenyon Adams, the Grace Farms Foundation’s Arts Initiative director, describes the unique site as a place for collaboration and dialogue. The $67 million River building sits on an 80-acre property of meadows, woods, wetlands and ponds, and houses a 700-seat indoor amphitheater/sanctuary. The site is open to the general public and artists alike to encourage exploration of five initiatives: nature, arts, justice, community and faith. Admission is free.
“Everyone is invited to come here on their own at any time for peace and solitude, to enjoy the sheer beauty of nature and our building,” says Adams. While this generosity does not equate to free studio time, the site does offer space grants. Grace Farms also engages in thought-provoking discussions, such as hosting artists from a variety of disciplines for arts + mars, a workshop with NASA scientists to learn about NASA’s Journey to Mars mission. “Here you can clarify the priorities that drive your work,” Adams says, “and see the possibilities that arise when you take time to pause.”
The appointment of Sasha Waltz and Johannes Öhman has already proved controversial.
Unrest is brewing in Berlin. In September, local government officials announced that the current director of the Staatsballett Berlin, Nacho Duato, would be replaced in 2019 by a duo of co-directors: choreographer Sasha Waltz and Sweden's Johannes Öhman. In response, the company's dancers, worried about the future of ballet in Berlin, have fought back through an online petition and official protests.
Home to a handful of international stars, including Iana Salenko and formerly Polina Semionova, the 89-strong Staatsballett is one of Germany's biggest classical companies. Born in 2004 from the fusion of Berlin's three ballet ensembles, previously employed by different opera houses, it became a noteworthy classical company under the direction of Ukrainian-born star Vladimir Malakhov. Duato has proved divisive since his arrival in 2014, but his recent choreography has relied on the classical technique.
The selection of Waltz and Öhman, on the other hand, has sparked anxiety about the potential fate of the Staatsballett's classical tradition. While Waltz is a world-renowned choreographer with her own Berlin-based company, she works in the Tanztheater tradition of Pina Bausch, with a contemporary vocabulary. “She comes from a completely different genre," says Elinor Jagodnik, a member of the corps de ballet and union representative. “The dancers will know more about ballet than she does, and the company will no longer attract classical talent."
The inclusion of Öhman, who has been the director of the Royal Swedish Ballet since 2011, was widely seen as an attempt to balance Waltz's avant-garde approach, but the dancers are unconvinced. Waltz stated in an open letter that her planned repertoire would be 50 percent classical, yet included Angelin Preljocaj's modern Snow White among those classical productions. (Waltz and Öhman declined to comment for this article.)
In addition to around 20,000 signatures, the Change.org petition attracted statements of support from the likes of John Neumeier and Lucia Lacarra. The dancers contend the appointment was political in nature. The mayor and cultural senator of Berlin, Michael Müller, appoints the Staatsballett's director, and he made the announcement three years in advance, shortly before standing for reelection. In October, his political party weakened, and it is likely that he'll be ousted as cultural senator, along with culture secretary Tim Renner. Jagodnik says the dancers hope the new directors' appointment will be reversed. “We're open-minded, but audiences in Berlin deserve to see classical ballet."
August intensives can help serious ballet students fill the summer gap.
“If you’ve zeroed in on some place you like, get your foot in the door—physically, literally,” says Kay Mazzo. Here, SAB’s summer course. PC Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy SAB
Last summer, Tessa Freeman spent five weeks at The School of Pennsylvania Ballet’s summer intensive, and then put in three more weeks of serious training at Manhattan Youth Ballet’s annual August Intensive in New York City. Freeman, 17, has studied year-round at MYB for six years, and started attending other intensives to become more well-rounded. “Going away means meeting different teachers and trying different classes,” she says. “But then I come back to MYB, where it feels like home, to make sure I stay in shape for the next year.”
Summer intensives are designed to be just that: intense. They can foster big breakthroughs in a short amount of time. With four- to six-week June and July intensives giving dancers a sense of forward momentum, it’s no wonder that many pre-professional students opt to continue training in August, as well.
But dancers who go the multiple-intensive route should approach August programs with a clear vision of what they hope to achieve. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. They need to be prepared to let their bodies—potentially stronger than at the start of the summer but equally more injury-prone—guide the intensity of their approach.
Put Progress Into Practice
Many students register for August intensives because they fear getting out of shape as the summer winds down. They can also cement new corrections while they’re fresh. “I want to hold on to any improvements I gained at my June/July program,” says Alexandra Lopez, who graduated from the Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts in Connecticut in 2015, and has attended her school’s August program for several years, following midsummer intensives at BalletMet, Ballet Arizona and Bossov Ballet Theatre in Maine. “When I don’t do anything in August, I feel like progress disappears before the start of the school year.”
Teachers at late-summer programs are aware that most pupils have been studying elsewhere. Erin Fogarty, director of programming at MYB, notes that faculty will often ask August students, “What was a correction you learned at program X or Y?” She explains, “We want to continue to work with them on that issue, finding the best way for them to understand it.”
Training vs. Performance
Modern class at Kaatsbaan, PC Gregory Cary, Courtesy Kaatsbaan.
Many—though not all—June/July ballet intensives conclude with a performance. Meanwhile, many—though not all—August intensives are more training-focused. For instance, the two-week August intensive at Nutmeg does end with a studio demonstration, but it’s more about class—variations, pointework, partnering—than the four-week July program, which finishes with an onstage show with costumes, lights and makeup, says Victoria Mazzarelli, Nutmeg’s artistic director.
At Kaatsbaan International Dance Center in Tivoli, New York, each of the summer’s three-week Extreme Ballet intensives concludes with a studio showing, but focuses primarily on study. “When dancers come to our third session after a hard summer at other intensives, they find a low-stress environment where they can work with little pressure,” says Gregory Cary, co-founder and artistic director at Kaatsbaan. “Here, you’re taking class for steady growth, rather than to quickly get work onstage.” By minimizing stressful rehearsals and removing the element of competition for roles, this schedule allows students to home in on technique and artistry.
Part of the purpose of going to a summer intensive is to branch out. Intensives allow dancers to network and encounter new points of view, which can help them plan their careers. But for younger dancers, attending multiple programs in a single summer can mean hearing too many new voices at once. “When there’s been consistency in the training, and when they know the fundamentals, then getting outside that box can be a great experience,” Mazzarelli says. “It’s good for students to grow their roots a little bit.”
Attending summer intensives at two (or more) different schools can put dancers at risk of losing sight of the technical hallmarks of their home studios. For instance, Kay Mazzo, co-chairman of faculty at the School of American Ballet in New York City, points out, “At SAB, we have a very exact syllabus. We don’t want young dancers to learn to turn or jump differently.” Balanchine teachers will have different expectations than Vaganova or Cecchetti instructors.
Dancers who are mature enough to distinguish what their year-round teachers ask of them from what other methodologies demand may be able to avoid this pitfall. Those who are venturing into a new environment for the first time, or who aren’t as confident in their home style, may want to consider one away-from-home intensive, followed by August training in a familiar setting.
Class with Stella Abrera at Manhattan Youth Ballet. PC Erin Fogarty, Courtesy MYB.
The Case for Rest
Spending the entire summer in the studio may not be right for everyone. Students often dance exponentially more at a summer program than they do during the school year. Continuing at that breakneck pace can lead to burnout and injury, putting dancers at greater risk going into the fall semester. And some teachers prefer for their students to do no more than one intensive per summer. Mazzo says, “When you’re young, it’s easy to get back in shape, so we tell our dancers to take the month of August completely off and let their bodies rest. Swim, take walks—but don’t take class!”
Of course, there’s a middle ground between dancing all day, every day and spending August on the couch. Dancers might take a few ballet classes per week, give themselves a home barre each morning, or cross-train with yoga, Pilates or swimming. At Manhattan Youth Ballet, students have the option to sign up for one, two or all three weeks in August. That flexibility frees them up to relax and pursue other interests. “We don’t want our dancers to run their bodies into the ground,” Fogarty says.
With the right attitude and clear goals, dancers who plan a summer packed with training can reap great benefits. “Dancing so much for so many weeks can seem daunting at first,” Lopez says, “but if you use the August intensive to enjoy how you’ve grown, it makes it easy to keep going.” Her bottom line: “You want to be able to look back in the fall and appreciate how far you’ve come.”