Photo by Matt Haber, Courtesy Hunter
An award-winning dancer/choreographer and beloved figure in the Bay Area, Antoine Hunter has danced with Savage Jazz Dance Company, Nuba Dance Theatre, and Robert Moses’ Kin dance company. He founded Urban Jazz Dance Company and is co-director/founder of Iron Tri-Angel Urban Ballet. He teaches at the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, Dance-A- Vision Entertainment, and Ross Dance Company, where he also serves as rehearsal director. Hunter has performed and taught in Rome, London, Cuba, and Africa.
I am an African-American Deaf dance artist. My desire for dance began at the age of 4. I can remember seeing everyone break dancing and I wanted to try. I got on the cardboard and did a spin and a kick—but then there was a bam!—I wound up in the hospital with an injured knee.
That knee injury was painful, but not as much as the idea of not ever being able to dance again. My passion for dance was put on hold until I was 8 and my mother took me to see Oakland Ballet. I was so in awe of the dancers’ poise, grace, and their ability to use their bodies to tell a story. They touched the hearts and souls of the audience—of me.
But my mother couldn’t afford to take me to any kind of dance class. We were very poor. At the same time, I found it harder and harder to fit in with the other kids—to be understood, to be heard.
I would want to play outside with the other kids, and their parents wouldn’t let them play with me. Maybe it was because I was black. I wanted to hang out with the other kids of color, but they didn’t want to play with me either. Maybe it was because I was Deaf. I tried to socialize with deaf people, and they didn’t want to hang out with me either.
I began to feel very alone and, at one point, suicidal. But soon, there was a beacon of hope. Dance. It wasn’t until I enrolled in Skyline High School in 1997 that my passion for dance was reignited. At first, the classes were very hard and I felt intimidated. And just like during my childhood years, no one wanted to dance with me. But then my dance teacher, Ms. Dawn James, approached me and told me to create a solo. I decided to dance to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.”
When the music started, I began rocking my head side to side as if a boat were rocking me. I grabbed my shoulders as if I were cold and alone in the dark. Then, letting the music take me over, I was moving all over the room. During the instrumental break of the song, I began to dance as if lightning, fire, wind, water, and finally the earth were attacking me.
When I finished dancing, everyone had so many different expressions on their faces—even before they clapped. Many people told me that they could understand me and feel me.
From that day forward, I went on to learn other “languages of dance”—like African, ballet, and so much more. Soon I began to teach these languages to others. Dance is so powerful. Not only does it have the ability to bring people together, but it also has the power to heal.
I dance because I’m happy. I dance because I’m free. Lordy hallelujah, for the spirit of dance has saved me!
It's not often that a dance video provokes bona fide cackling in our office, but this new episode of BroadwayWorld TV's improv-based series "Turning the Tables" is just too real. For this episode, seven Broadway pros were invited to a mock dance call. With series regulars Ellyn Marie Marsh, Andrew Briedis, Andrew Chappelle and Julia Mattison running the "audition," disaster and hilarity (mostly hilarity) ensue.
First of all, it's amazing to see Broadway dancers like Neil Haskell, Eloise Kropp and Samantha Sturm try to keep straight faces with the amount of deadpan shenanigans happening at the front of the room. And if you've ever been to a Broadway dance call, you're going to be struck by just how on point the jokes are. Plus, it's just really, really funny.
Watch now. Thank us later.
"I don't cook for just one or two people," says James Whiteside, stirring a pot on his stove. "My mom taught me to cook and she had five kids. So when I do cook, I go in!"
Aside from breakfast (usually bacon, egg and cheese on an English muffin), the American Ballet Theatre principal rarely cooks for himself during ABT's seasons. He prefers to "forage" for his lunch and go out or order in for dinner, saving the real cooking for when he has friends or colleagues to feed. "I like to have a lot of people tell me my food is delicious," he quips.
We're not sure what we did to deserve the livestream generosity the dance world is giving us these days, but this weekend, it's getting even better.
PC Joe Toreno
L.A. Dance Project, Benjamin Milliepied's trendsetting contemporary troupe, has been in residence at The Chinati Foundation for the past few days. This weekend, they're showing us what they've come up with—for three days straight.
To create great work, choreographers need the freedom to tackle difficult subjects and push physical limits. But when your instruments are human beings, is there a limit to how far you should go? Five choreographers open up about where they draw the line.
Restaurants have always been a great source of survival gigs for dancers. But today's top chefs aren't just looking for waiters to carry dishes to the table. They're hiring choreographers to give the staff dance-like skills and compose a sort of choreography for the dining room.
Leslie Scott, artistic director of dance theater company BODYART, is one of those choreographers. After working in more typical food industry jobs for 10 years, she's been tapped by top restaurants in both New York City and Los Angeles to lead workshops that finesse servers' non-verbal communication and navigation of tight spaces.
Back in 2002, dancer and choreographer Jonah Bokaer founded an art space in Brooklyn called Chez Bushwick. As Manhattan and Brooklyn were quickly becoming unaffordable, and many studio spaces were closing, Bokaer seized upon "creative placemaking"—the idea that the arts can play an integral role in community-building—before it became a buzzword. "We have been sustaining and maintaining one of the most affordable dance studios in New York State since the very beginning of my career," he says.
Fifteen years later, the challenges for choreographers in expensive urban centers continue unabated, and Bokaer has found his original mission magnified. While Chez Bushwick remains a haven for the next generation, there is also a growing number of young dancemakers who have been inspired to create their own residencies, communities and, ultimately, opportunities.