Career

Why I Choreograph: Andrea Miller

Emily Tendrup

I didn't know what I was getting into when, at the ripe age of 11, I naively resolved to be the next Doris Humphrey. Even today I can't truly grasp where choreography will take me. It probably all began with dancing, loving music, feeling ownership of a little something in a world owned and ruled by adults.

Early on in my dance training, I was aware that I was observing the structure and components of dances as much as the task of dancing them. Around 15, I started making my own dances, performing them at my high school assemblies—much to my initial enthusiasm and ultimate mortification. When I began studying at Juilliard I abandoned the idea of making dance, influenced by the highly competitive environment and an unspoken cultural prejudice that suggested “those who can't dance, choreograph." So I decided just to focus on my training. But even as I was taking our daily classes, I found myself pretending that I choreographed the phrases to enhance my experience of executing them. Contrary to my own prejudice, choreography was moving me to find more satisfaction from dancing, and better technical understanding of it.

After graduating I moved to Israel to dance with Batsheva Ensemble. Training as a professional dancer and being immersed in the creative process, I realized that not only did I want to choreograph, I wanted to build a dance company. I found myself observing the elements of the art, as well as the structure that supported it. The transition into founding Gallim Dance felt very natural, yet there's been so much to learn, so many failures to surpass and milestones to celebrate.

Some of my brightest rewards have come from confronting entrepreneurial challenges to support my commitment to artistic creation. These challenges include the professionalization of the company, the provision of salaries and contracts for the dancers, balancing my work with my family life, and developing a language which allows me to explore the infinite possibilities of curiosity.

Being a choreographer keeps changing me, moving me, pushing me to expand myself—whether this means being an entrepreneur, a leader, a collaborator or a working mom. It's taught me about risk, patience, love, exhaustion, perseverance, joy…there's no end.

Many nights I have dance parties at home with my partner and two children. It's not unusual that I'll throw in “Hey, why don't you guys hold hands and try that in a circle?" It's a force. It can't be helped.

Dancers & Companies
via Rebels on Pointe

You know Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo as the men who parody your favorite ballet variations—and make it look good. But there's more to the iconic troupe than meets the eye.

A new documentary, Rebels on Pointe, goes behind the scenes of the company, and it's full of juicy tidbits about what it's like to be a Trock. These were some of our favorite moments:

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Breaking Stereotypes
AXIS's Lani Dickinson and James Bowen. Photo by Matt Evearitt, courtesy AXIS

After 30 years of pioneering work in physically integrated dance, AXIS Dance Company co-founder Judith Smith has announced plans to retire from the Oakland, California, company. Throughout her tenure, she strived to get equal recognition for integrated dance and disabled dancers, commissioning work from high-profile choreographers like Bill T. Jones. Her efforts generated huge momentum for expanded training, choreography, education and advocacy for dancers with disabilities.

By phone from her home in Oakland, Smith reflected on how far the field has evolved since the early days of AXIS, and what's yet to be done.

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Health & Body
Jim Lafferty for Pointe

You know that how you care for your body before curtain can impact your performance. But with so many factors to consider, it can be difficult to nail down an exact routine. How much rest is enough? How close to showtime should you eat? We asked the experts.

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Popular
screenshot via Jonathan Simkhai.

How do you make your athleisure collection stand out from the pack? Get the ultimate studio-to-street seal of approval by having dancers star in your campaign, of course.

For his second collaboration with activewear brand Carbon38, ready-to-wear designer Jonathan Simkhai traded in his usual top models like Gigi Hadid and Karlie Kloss for the original Hiplet dancers—and the resulting video is as cool as we'd expect from such a fierce collaboration.

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Dancers & Companies
Quinn Wharton

Everyone knows that training is the cornerstone of a successful career in dance. But as a dance educator, I also take comfort in the fact that high-quality dance training helps shape students into genuinely good people (in addition to creating future artists, which is a wonderful goal in itself.) These are the lessons dance teaches that help make students into better humans:

Improvement Takes Commitment Over Time

In my tap courses at Cal State University, sometimes students are shocked when they can't learn something quickly. In today's world, we're used to getting fast results. You need an answer—Google it. You need to talk to someone—text them. The cooking channel wants your dinner to be easy, the physical trainer wants your workout to be five minutes, Rosetta Stone can have you speaking Mandarin in an hour.

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Health & Body
Alexandra Meister in Serenade. Photo by Anthony Matula, courtesy Meister

I first started pulling out my eyelashes when I was 9, after removing fake ones at a dance competition. A few of my own eyelashes came out and I felt a new sensation. It hurt, but the prick also felt so good.

Eventually, I was pulling even when I was not wearing stage makeup, sometimes unaware of what I was even doing. It happened while I was reading or doing homework, or when I was sad or angry.

For the next five years, I secretly pulled my eyelashes, then moved to my eyebrows and eventually the back of my scalp. Finally, at 14, I told my mom what I had been doing and she took me to see a child psychologist. It turned out I had trichotillomania (a.k.a. "trich"), which is one of a group of behaviors known as Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors in which people repeatedly pull, pick, scrape or bite their hair, skin or nails.

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Breaking Stereotypes
Emily Schoen and Houcem Bouakroucha, Photo by TuniStudio

Again and again, dance teaches me that when the filters fall away between people—when the boundaries of geography, religion and politics soften—the beginning and end of our relationships is always human.

In March, I traveled with Keigwin + Company to Cote D'Ivoire, Ethiopia and Tunisia, on a tour sponsored by the US State Department and facilitated by DanceMotion USA/Brooklyn Academy of Music. Our mission was cultural diplomacy: Simply, to share ourselves with diverse communities, to promote common understanding and friendships.

Our last stop was Tunisia. Until that point, we had mostly been learning varieties of traditional African dance, and sharing American modern dance. But Tunisia was different. The dancers already had a solid grasp of contemporary movement invention. Though we didn't speak the same language, we could make movement vocabulary with surprising ease. Everything about our backgrounds was different, but there was this special intersection through dance that seemed to present an open door to collaboration.

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News

Photo by Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet.

Christopher Wheeldon's new Nutcracker for the Joffrey Ballet was huge news when it premiered last winter. The choreographer shifted the setting from the home of a well-off German family to the Chicago world's fair, making the hero the young daughter of a working-class, Polish immigrant sculptress. This month, WTTW Chicago, the city's public broadcasting station, will premiere Making a New American Nutcracker, a new documentary showing how Wheeldon and his high-profile collaborators made the magic happen. Premieres on WTTW11 and wttw.com/watch on Nov. 16 before appearing on public television stations across the country. Check your local listings.

Dancers & Companies
Chicago's Auditorium Theater

For most dancers, walking into the theater elicits a familiar emotion that's somewhere between the reverence of stepping into a chapel and the comfort of coming home. But each venue has its own aura, and can offer that something special that takes your performance to a new level. Six dancers share which theaters have transported them the most.


GLENN ALLEN SIMS

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Glenn Allen Sims in Alvin Ailey's Masekela Langage. Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy AAADT

Favorite theater: Teatro Real in Madrid, Spain

Royal details: "The theater is gorgeous and ornate, with deep red upholstery and gold trim. There is a huge royal box in the center, which takes you back to when kings and queens were watching performances there."

Impressive facilities: Even the dressing rooms are a sight to see: Amenities for the dancers include large, carpeted rooms, and towel service.

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Career

The business side of dance can often fall second to the art. Contracts, which usually appear after you've done the hard work of securing a job, can seem like an inconsequential afterthought. You might decide to simply sign without reading the terms—or be understandably confused by all the legalese.

Ultimately, though, contracts can play an important part in setting the expectations for your job. A basic understanding of the legal terms you might see can go a long way in making sure that signing is a positive step toward growing your career.

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