The Road to Residency
GMU dancers perform Stephen Petronio’s Lareigne during a residency. Photo by Evan Cantwell, Courtesy GMU.
Choreographer Monica Bill Barnes has been an artist in residence at more than 10 universities over the last decade. These gigs have given her the chance to hone her teaching skills and develop and present her work. “I feel so lucky my residencies have always gone well,” she says. “I choreograph not because I know how but because I’m trying to figure it out, quite actively, and to invite people into that conversation.”
College residencies can be a boon to working artists. Funding! Dancers! Space! Audiences! Institutional validation! And artists in turn benefit college dance programs through performing, teaching and perhaps even hiring students they have worked with. There’s rarely an application process, but there are a few steps you can take to work your way toward coveted artist-in-residence status.
Starting the Conversation
Getting considered for a residency starts with researching what college programs might be a fit for you and your work. Sending out press kits (whether in print or by e-mail) to a wide swath of possible presenters is unlikely to get you anywhere. A college administrator is usually overtasked and may not have time to review them, especially if it seems like they were mailed out en masse.
Learn as much as you can about university programs before approaching them—research the aesthetic of institutions that interest you, says Susan Shields, director of dance at George Mason University. Then show the director you’ve done your homework through an e-mail, phone call or letter describing your work and how you think it fits with their program. “What’s helpful is when someone can say, I’ve got this piece—click here. And this is why I think your school might be interested in it,” she says.
Networking is key. Try watching a college company perform at a festival and approaching a faculty member afterward with your card and a reflection on what you saw and why it interested you. Barnes notes that when performing on tour, she used to reach out to nearby universities (if they had dance programs) and offer to teach a master class, sometimes even for free. Faculty who have seen you teach will remember your name when opportunities arise at their institution.
What to Offer
When you approach a director, be clear and articulate about your aesthetic, teaching interests and experience. What parts of the curriculum intrigue you and why? And how might you fit in? Can you teach modern classes? Composition or choreography? Does your work emphasize community engagement? Are you interested in advising or mentoring students? The answers to these questions should be apparent on your resumé or website, or in your conversations with faculty or directors. Some schools may want you to teach, set work or perform; others might be interested in offering lecture demonstrations or master classes in their community. Be clear about what you will and will not be available to do, and how much is included in your artist fee.
In general, your offerings should reflect an interest in college dance. “You have to have a love of students, and no snobbery toward dance in higher education,” says Shields.
Keys to Successful—and Future—Residencies
Once you’ve made it in the door, do your work well and make good on what you offered. “The only thing that has ever gotten me the next job was, whatever job I had, doing it really well,” says Barnes. “I’ve always tried to represent myself accurately. So that when I came somewhere, they didn’t feel disappointed that I didn’t teach Cunningham. It is a small network and people know what they want. And everybody is honest about it. There’s an integrity to the way the system works.”
Timing is critical. Sending out queries in May looking for work that fall is unlikely to yield fruit, beyond maybe a master class or two. For a substantial residency or presenting engagement, most universities work at least one year in advance, and often more if they rely on outside funding for presenting projects. You should also take note of the academic calendar, which will govern the structure and timeline of residencies for any university. Know when the fall and spring semesters begin and end, and when the mid-semester breaks are (usually a couple of days in October and a week in March).
How much should you charge? Ask around to get a sense of the fees other artists ask for. University budgets are tight, and you want to make sure your fee is reasonable. A single master class might vary between $75 and $300. For a teaching residency, anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 per week (excluding travel and lodging) may be suitable, depending on the number of classes taught and what stage you are at in your career. These numbers might be higher if you are setting a work.
It is a great tragedy for dance history that iconic ballet partnerships like Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev or Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov weren't able to document their backstage shenanigans on social media. (Okay, maybe not a great tragedy, but you have to admit that you're curious.)
Lucky for us, that isn't the case with today's star dancers—like American Ballet Theatre principal dancers Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside, aka The Cindies. These two aren't just onstage partners. They're serious #BestieGoals. Our evidence, as documented on Instagram, is as follows:
-Hey. U up?
-Ya. I'm at the ballet.
-Oh ok. Talk later.
-Nah, it's cool, it's a slow part right now.
Nope, it's not cool. Put your phone away. In the hushed darkness of an auditorium, light explodes from that screen like shrapnel, blasting those around you out of their viewing experience.
2017 felt like we were living the Upside Down of the popular Netflix series "Stranger Things." From Donald Trump becoming president, to the sexual harassment scandals that ricocheted into the ballet world, everything we thought we knew was turned on its head.
Yet while the deconstruction of institutional paradigms is frightening, it also presents an unprecedented opportunity for redesign.
Ballet, much like our political parties, seems to be stuck in an antiquated format that's long overdue for a makeover. With the world changing at lightning speed, if ballet wants to survive it will have to undergo a radical reimagining. But what would that look like?
Dear dancers of the New York City Ballet,
I realize that you are scared because the future of the New York City Ballet is uncertain; you don't know who will man the ship, and your career that you've worked your entire life for feels under attack.
On social media some of you alluded to the idea that Peter Martins' downfall is a result of the times; a maelstrom of allegations sweeping the country, bringing down powerful men, for misdeeds proven and unproven. I understand that for many of you this feels unfair: Peter has helped you personally ascend the ranks of the company by believing in you, and mentoring you. For others the described behavior may feel abstract; it isn't something you've witnessed, and many of the accusations occurred long before your time, maybe even before you were born. And above all, how could you possibly betray the man who plucked you from the school and gave you the chance of a lifetime: to dance with one of the most prestigious ballet companies in the world? How could you see this person, who gave you this chance, this gift, as the monster he's being painted as?
Throughout his remarkable career, the fiercely determined, intelligent and energetic Arthur Mitchell has become accustomed to being called a trailblazer. "Being a typical Aries, I like being the first," he says, laughing. "That's what I've been doing all my life."
This is true, especially when it comes to the discussion at the forefront of today's national dialogue about dance: diversity in ballet.
In the dance world, Mandy Moore has long been a go-to name, but in 2017, the success of her choreography for La La Land made the rest of the world stop and take notice. After whirlwind seasons as choreographer and producer on both "Dancing with the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance," she capped off the year with two Emmy Award nominations—and her first win.
You've come a long way on "So You Think You Can Dance"—from assistant to the choreographer (Season 1) to creative producer (Season 14). What keeps you returning to the show?
"So You Think You Can Dance" was one of my first jobs, so it feels like home. I love the chaos of live television; as soon as one show is over you're on to the next.
Last Saturday night, Dance/NYC, Gibney Dance and the Actors Fund hosted a conversation on sexual harassment in the dance world. The floor was open for anyone in attendance to share whatever they wanted: personal stories, resources, suggestions.
The event brought to light some of the questions the dance world is facing, and though we don't yet have all the answers, it helped lay out the areas we need to address:
What would dance-specific sexual harassment training and policies look like?
Corporate harassment trainings tend to tell employees to avoid touching coworkers and to not wear revealing clothing in the workplace. Obviously, these rules aren't applicable to the dance world. Many in attendance agreed that everyone in the dance world should undergo training, so what should it include?
The ballet world can't get enough of Arthur Pita. With his maverick, surreal imagination, the self-styled "David Lynch of dance" brings a welcome theatricality to everything he touches, from his version of Kafka's The Metamorphosis to 2017's Salome for San Francisco Ballet.
The South African–born Pita competed in disco dancing and later performed with Matthew Bourne's New Adventures. Today, he is Bourne's offstage partner, and the pair live together in London. His latest work, which premiered in November, is a one-act adaptation of Dorothy Scarborough's 1925 Texan novel, The Wind, for The Royal Ballet.
We've been a fan of the space bun look since our Spice Girls days, which is exactly why we were so excited when hair and makeup artist Angela Huff brought the double-bun style back for our January cover shoot with American Ballet Theatre's Erica Lall. To give the '90s style a modern twist, Huff added a few braided details. Here's how to copy the look for your next class:
Photo by Nathan Sayers
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: