Dance/NYC Symposium Gets Down
Stepping into the annual Dance/NYC Symposium last Sunday was an adrenaline rush for dance educators. With a record number of 500 attendees, we were all embracing old friends and respected colleagues. Sprawling out over six studios at the Gibney Dance space on Chambers Street, the all-day affair covered topics from technology to fundraising to diversity initiatives. The glamour event of the day was a simulcast talk between Misty Copeland and Virginia Johnson; the film event was the showing of the Emmy-nominated documentary PS Dance!
Misty Copeland and Virginia Johnson, all photos by Christopher Duggan
I attended two back-to-back events that I would call serious fun. The serious part was the panel on diversity and inclusion in dance education, and the fun part was Camille A. Brown’s exhilarating master class titled “Journey through Juba and other social dances.” (See this wonderful “Choreography in Focus” with Camille.)
The first was moderated by Camille, who asked the panelists to spread themselves around the room rather than up on a pedestal (as it were). They were Theresa Ruth Howard, Joan Finkelstein, Maria Bauman, Ananya Chatterjea, and Zazel-Chavah O’Garra. Also in the room were dance educators Charmaine Warren, Ron Alexander, Davalois Fearon and many more. The tone ranged from strident to uplifting, but the comments were always stimulating. Some memorable moments:
Ananya Chatterjea speaking
Theresa Ruth Howard: “The small dance studios are feeders to the big companies, but they are not part of the conversation. They are doing the work of diversity, but the big studios get the funding.”
Joan Finkelstein: “From my experience, the dance community is the most diverse of all the arts in NYC.”
Ananya Chatterjea: “There is no support to bridge the gap between studios and the university. The university system collects students of color. The women of color are the bodies of excess.”
Davalois Fearon: “A photo of me was posted on the University of Milwaukee’s website even before I got there. But the training was all about pointed feet and erect spines. It was European-based and everything else was Other. So I said, ‘If you’re gonna put me on your website, you can’t ignore my perspective.’ Then they started to listen.”
Davalois Fearon speaking
A disabled dancer: “The groups working to find their place in the diversity agenda are sometimes pitted against each other. We’re the new kids on the block. Dance pedagogy, casting directors etc have the opportunity to enrich the conversation but we’re seen as a problem. We need to talk openly about these ideas.”
A public school teacher: “I don’t need my students to perform at the Joyce. I want them to become responsible, caring citizens.”
Maria Bauman: “We need to undo racism through community organizing, not because dance world is flawed but because we are a microcosm of the community.”
Theresa Ruth Howard: “College should teach the complete dance history. Stop segregating the information.”
Maria Bauman: “I am not always an advocate of diversity. Disabled dancers can get together, black dancers can get together, feeling affirmed and getting together at the same time. Sometimes I just want to dance with my folks.”
Maria Bauman speaking, Charmaine Patricia Warren at left. (I am behind Maria.)
This was a rich discussion with everyone listening to each other and no one shouting down anyone else.
Nevertheless, after hearing these points of view, it was a sweet release to follow the charismatic Camille Brown in a series of shoulder moves, knee-knocking, and clapping with your whole body pitched forward. (For my body, the forward-tipping stance is more comfortable than the held-up spine of ballet.) The drummer kept the momentum up so our energy never flagged. With a positive and encouraging demeanor, Camille showed us basic structures that we could riff off of in our own ways. Her shoulders and hips kept in constant motions while she talked gently about how slave dances evolved. “Find the freedom in oppression.”
Booking a gig on a cruise ship can feel like you're diving into the unknown—dropping everything to live in the middle of the ocean without family, friends or cell service. But cruise jobs can also offer incredible rewards, like traveling the world for free and delving into a new style.
Is ship life the right fit for you? Here are some elements to consider.
We knew that New York downtown dance darling Okwui Okpokwasili was a big deal. Critics and audiences have been raving about her dance-theater works for years, and the new documentary about her, Bronx Gothic, has attracted the attention of the larger arts community.
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Throughout the years, choreographer Seán Curran has worked with a diverse array of talented collaborators—from Kyrgyz music ensemble Ustatshakirt Plus to the the Grammy Award–winning King's Singers. But perhaps none are as meaningful as his most recent group of co-choreographers: At-risk teens from the after school program and nonprofit The Wooden Floor.
Curran has been in residence with The Wooden Floor since June, where he's worked with students to build choreography based on their lives and communities:
Their creation will be shown July 20-22 at The Wooden Floor Studio Theatre in Santa Ana, California.
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This image was captured during a 1978 New York City Ballet tour that took the company to Copenhagen—home turf for Adam Luders (right), who trained at the Royal Danish Ballet School and briefly danced with the company before joining NYCB as a principal dancer in 1975. Next to Luders is (of course) George Balanchine, in conversation with ballerina Suzanne Farrell. And looking on with a smile? NYCB's current ballet master in chief Peter Martins.
On March 8, 2016, Rami Shafi found himself inspired to film an impromptu dance video of his best friend, Aaron Moses Robin, improvising on Gay St. in New York City's Greenwich Village. Thus was born Pedestrian Wanderlust, a collection of dance videos that has grown to include a monthly improv jam.
Shafi works with anyone who wants to take part in the project, filming videos in locations chosen by the dancers and later adding music. The videos are shot on Shafi's iPhone in one take and, other than the starting and ending points, are entirely improvised. The editing afterwards—including the music choice—is minimal. "I don't like to edit too much. It's just what it is," says Shafi. "I usually can do the editing on the train ride home."