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Spotlight: Why Rock Climbing Is Ideal Cross-Training For Dancers, According to Caleb Teicher

Caleb Teicher in "Variations." PC Sally Cohn, Courtesy Richard Kornberg & Associates

At age 24, dancer and choreographer Caleb Teicher already has accolades beyond his years. But this week, the Bessie Award–winning performer adds another impressive feat to his resumé: His company's Joyce Theater debut. Though tap is Teicher's focus, he masterfully combines everything from jazz to Lindy Hop to hip hop in his fresh, clever choreography.

We caught up with him for our "Spotlight" series:


What other career would you like to try?

I'd love to be a pit or studio musician—still contributing to artistic collaborations but with a little less time spent in the spotlight. I started as a percussionist before I found tap dance, and I have dreams about returning to the piano/drum kit someday.

What was the last dance performance you saw?

Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion's Pavement. I'm a huge fan of the company's work!

What's the most-played song on your phone?

"Sweet Pea" by Amos Lee—267 plays. It's a song I use while teaching (dance teachers know how that goes...).

Do you have a pre-performance ritual?

I usually improvise to a couple songs by myself to get some creative juices flowing. Then, I try to find some quiet time so that listening to music onstage feels fresh and focused. I may eat some gummy bears, too.

What's your favorite book?

Tough question! I love reading biographies and learning how people became the humans/artists we know them to be. Some of my favorites are Chet Baker (Deep In A Dream), Ella Fitzgerald (A Biography of the First Lady of Jazz) and Frankie Manning (Ambassador of Lindy Hop).

Where can you be found two hours after a performance ends?

I'm a fan of the post-show hang, but I'm not a huge fan of loud and crowded bars/public spaces. Ideally, I'd find myself on a couch somewhere with good friends or at a social swing dance.

Where did you last vacation?

Los Angeles!

What app do you spend the most time on?

Definitely Instagram; it's my favorite form of social media.

Who is the person you most want to dance with—living or dead?

Ohh I have a list! Camille A. Brown, Sam Weber, Donnetta "LilBit" Jackson, Skye Mattox, Remy Kouakou Kouame, Tiler Peck...

What's the first item on your bucket list?

I'd love to play in a music ensemble someday—a punk band or a huge jazz orchestra would be awesome. I'd also love to direct some crazy circus/Vegas show.

What's your go-to cross-training routine?

I've started rock climbing/bouldering at Brooklyn Boulders in the last year, and I love it. It's intelligent movement, strength training and problem solving rolled into one. Beyond that, social swing dancing, independent practice in a dance studio and yoga/Pilates when I can.

What's the worst advice you've ever received?

"You'll sleep when you're dead!" is a common expression. I disagree—I have to sleep while I'm living, too...

If you could relive one performance, what would it be?

A Shared Evening at Danspace Project choreographed by Michelle Dorrance and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards in March 2011. I think I was too young (17) to really appreciate the unique qualities of that show. It was my first time dancing for Michelle & Dormeshia, and it was, essentially, the first Dorrance Dance performance. If I had known the significance of everything at the time, I would've savored every moment even more.

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Ian Douglas; courtesy Sarah Haarmann. Performing with Pam Tanowitz Dance at The Joyce Theater

Sarah Haarmann stands out without trying to. There is a precision and lack of affectation in her dancing that is very Merce Cunningham. Her movement quality is sharp and clear; her stage presence utterly focused. It's no wonder she caught Mark Morris' eye. Even though she still considers herself "very much the new girl" at Mark Morris Dance Group (she became a full-time member in August 2017), in a recent performance of Layla and Majnun, Haarmann seemed completely in her element.

Company: Mark Morris Dance Group
Age: 27
Hometown: Macungie, Pennsylvania
Training: Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts and Marymount Manhattan College

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In 2012, freelance contemporary dancer Adrianne Chu made a major career change: She decided to try out for A Chorus Line. "Even though I didn't get the job, I felt like I was meant to do this," says Chu. So she started going to at least one musical theater audition every weekday, treating each as a learning experience. After several years of building up her resumé, Chu's practice paid off: She booked a starring role as Wendy in the first national tour of Finding Neverland.

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Health & Body
How do you warmup? Photo by Jim Lafferty

For many dancers, a "warmup" consists of sitting on the floor stretching their legs in various positions. But this strategy only reduces your muscles' ability to work properly—it negatively affects your strength, endurance, balance and speed for up to an hour.

Save your flexibility training for the end of the day. Instead, follow a warmup that will actually help prevent injury and improve your body's performance.

According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a smart warmup has four parts: "a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilization section, a muscle lengthening section and a strength/balance building section."

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Dancers Trending
Screenshot via YouTube

It's easy to feel whiplashed thinking about everything Emma Portner has achieved in such a short amount of time. Last fall, the 23-year-old was the youngest woman ever to choreograph a West End production (it was based on Meat Loaf's greatest hits). This was, of course, after she already choreographed and starred in Justin Bieber's viral hit "Life is Worth Living," and before she charmed major media outlets when she secretly married actress Ellen Page. Now, she's L.A. Dance Project's first-ever artist in residence, and she's working on a commission for Toronto's Fall for Dance North Festival.

We caught up with her for our "Spotlight" series:

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Last month, the International Association of Blacks in Dance's third annual ballet audition for women of color was expanded to include a separate audition for men.

The brainchild of Joan Myers Brown (founder of both Philadanco and IABD), the women's audition was created to specifically address the lack of black females in ballet. However, the success and attention that audition drew made the men feel left out, so IABD decided to give the men equal time this year.

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Students participated in all aspects of Veränderung, from choreography to costumes. Photo by Uwe Stratmann, Courtesy Tanztheater Wuppertal.

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Dance Training
BalletMet in company class onstage before a show. Photo by Jennifer Zmuda, courtesy BalletMet

Before she became the 20th century's most revered ballet pedagogue, Agrippina Vaganova was a frustrated ballerina. "I was not progressing and that was a terrible thing to realize," she wrote in a rough draft of her memoirs.

She retired from the Imperial Ballet stage in 1916, and for the next 30-plus years, devoted herself to creating a "science of ballet." Her new, dynamic teaching method produced stars like Rudolf Nureyev, Alla Osipenko, and Galina Ulanova and later Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov. And her approach continues to influence how we think about ballet training to this day.

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Dancers Trending
PC Lydia Daniller, Courtesy Dorsey

I love being transgender. It's an important part of the story of why I choreograph. Although I loved dance from a very young age, I grew up never seeing a single person like me in dance. So how could I imagine a future for myself there?

The enormous barriers I had to overcome weren't internal: I didn't struggle with feelings of dysphoria, and I wasn't locked down by shame.

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News
via Facebook

The dance community is heartbroken to learn that 14-year-olds Jaime Guttenberg and Cara Loughran were among the 17 people killed during the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.

Guttenberg was a talented competition dancer at Dance Theatre in Coconut Creek, FL, according to a report from Sun Sentinel. Dance Theatre owner Michelle McGrath Gerlick shared the below message on her Facebook page, encouraging dancers across the country to wear orange ribbons this weekend in honor of Guttenberg, whose favorite color was orange.

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News
Former NYCB ballet master in chief Peter Martins resigned in January in the midst of an investigation into allegations of harassment and abuse. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB

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