A Look Back: Gus Solomons jr
Today, we know Gus Solomons jr as a legendary dancer, distinguished professor, trusted dance critic, compelling choreographer, pioneering company director—the list could go on. But in June 1964, his story was just beginning.
That month, Solomons was highlighted in Dance Magazine's "Brief Biographies," which, in the 50s, 60s and 70s, was "a monthly series about the dancers you should know." (Other figures in the early years included icons such as Edward Villella, Bonnie Mathis, Yuriko, and Patricia Wilde, among many others.) Solomons had recently moved to New York from Boston, where he grew up. I love how biographer Saul Goodman opens the piece:
"Gus Solomons, Jr.'s instinct for performing first asserted itself during a Sunday school class in Boston when he was four. Responding to a hymn, he stepped into the aisle and did a jig. The impromptu debut earned him a spanking. Today, some twenty years later, the same individual, grown to six feet, four inches, is praised for his performing."
Solomons in Dance Magazine, June 1964
Photo by Zachary Freyman, DM Archives
At the time, the M.I.T. alum—he was an architecture major—was garnering critical acclaim for his performances with Donald McKayle, Pearl Lang, Joyce Trisler and Martha Graham. He was studying dance at the Graham School, and as Goodman writes, had just began taking classes with Merce Cunningham, "whose pure movement creations fascinate him and whose company he would like to appear with." Of course, we know that dream was realized—he performed with Cunningham from 1965–1968. Take a look at this video from the Mondays with Merce series, in which Solomons talks about joining Cunningham's company. You'll also see some amazing and rare archival footage of the two of them in rehearsal and performance.
Goodman also records Solomons' early interest in dance education: "Teaching is particularly valuable, Gus believes. He learns from it and at the same time it provides him with opportunities to experiment with choreographic ideas. So much the better that next month he will be teaching at the University of Colorado; in July at the University of California." Fast-forward forty years: Solomons received the prestigious American Dance Festival’s Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching in 2004.
PARADIGM's Gus Solomons jr, Dudley Williams and Carmen deLavallade in A Thin Frost
Photo by TomCaravaglia in 1999, DM Archives
Close to fifty years later, Solomons continues to be a force in the field, choreographing and performing with PARADIGM, the company he founded in 1996 with Dudley Williams and Carmen deLavallade. (In fact, deLavallade was mentioned in Solomons' bio as a partner in McKayle's Reflections in the Park—it's been quite the professional partnership.) Earlier this month, Solomons co-hosted the 2013 Bessie Awards, also performing Paul Taylor's tableau Duet alongside Martine Van Hamel. And just this week, it was announced that Solomons is the latest dancer to take part in Keigwin + Company's #ShareTheMattress video campaign. It's quite the witty composition, check it out below:
Summer is almost upon us, and whether you're a student about to go on break or a pro counting the days till layoff, don't forget that with warm weather comes a very serious responsibility: To maintain your cross-training routine on your own.
Those of us who've tried to craft our own cross-training routine know it's easier said than done. So we consulted the stars, and rounded up the best options for every zodiac sign. (TBH, you should probably consult an expert, too—we'd recommend a physical therapist, a personal trainer or your teacher.)
The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.
It's become second nature in dance studios: The instant anyone gets hurt, our immediate reaction is to run to the freezer to grab some ice (or, more realistically, a package of frozen peas).
But as routine as icing our injuries might be, the benefits are not actually backed up by scientific studies. And some experts now believe icing could even disrupt the healing process.
I'm a contemporary dancer, and I'm nervous about trying to get pregnant since I can't predict if it might happen during the middle of the season. We have a union contract that is supposed to protect us. But I'm scared because several of my colleagues' contracts weren't renewed for no particular reason. Having a big belly could be a big reason to get rid of me!
—Andrea, New York, NY
It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.
Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
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When the going gets tough, the tough start dancing: That's the premise behind "Dance of Urgency," a recently opened exhibit at MuseumsQuartier Vienna that features photos, video and other documentary material relating to the use of dance as political protest or social uprising.
The groups featured in the show, largely based around clubs and electronic dance music scenes, span the globe and respond to a variety of issues—from inequality and social stratification to racial divides to crackdowns on club culture itself.
Last night, longtime theater legends (including Chita Rivera herself!) as well as rising stars gathered to celebrate one of Broadway's danciest events: the third annual Chita Rivera Awards.
The evening paid tribute to this season's dancer standouts, fabulous ensembles, and jaw-dropping choreography—on- and off-Broadway and on film.
As usual, several of our faves made it into the mix. (With such a fabulous talent pool of nominees to choose from, we're glad that ties were allowed.) Here are the highlights from the winner's list:
When you're a foreign dancer, gaining legal rights to work in the U.S. is a challenging process. It's especially difficult if you're petitioning to work as a freelance dancer without an agent or company sponsorship.
The process requires professional muscle along with plenty of resources and heart. "There's a real misnomer that it's super easy," says Neena Dutta, immigration attorney and president of Dutta Law Firm. "People need to educate themselves and talk to a professional."
Here are four things every foreign dancer who wants to work in the U.S. needs to know to build a freelance dance career here.
What does it take to "make it" in dance? It's no secret that turning this passion into a profession can be a struggle. In such a competitive field, talent alone isn't enough to get you where you want to be.
So what kinds of steps can you take to become successful? Dance Magazine spoke to 33 people from all corners of the industry to get their advice on the lessons that could help us all, no matter where we are in our careers.
On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.
Memorial Day is notoriously one of Chicago's bloodiest weekends. Last year, 36 people were shot and seven died that weekend. In 2017 and 2016, the number of shootings was even higher.
When Garley "GiGi Tonyé" Briggs, a dance teacher and Chicago native, started noticing this pattern, she was preparing her second annual Memorial Day workshop for local youth.
The event's original aim was simple: "I wanted the youth of Chicago to have somewhere they could come and learn from different dancers and be off the streets on the South Side on this hot holiday," she says.
A recent trip I took to Nashville coincided with the NFL draft. As we drove into town, my Uber driver was a fount of information on the subject.
I learned that there are 32 NFL teams and that the draft takes place over seven rounds. That the team that did the poorest during the previous season gets first pick. That during an earlier event called the scouting combine, the teams assess college football players and figure out who they want.
There is also the veteran combine for "free agents"—players who have been released from their contracts or whose contracts have expired. They might be very good players, but their team needs younger members or ones with a certain skill set. All year round, experienced NFL scouts scan games across the country, checking out players and feeding that information back to the teams. Players' agents keep their eyes on opportunities for their clients which might be more rewarding.
While I sat in the traffic of 600,000 NFL fans I got thinking, is there something ballet could learn from football? Could a draft system improve young dancers' prospects and overall company caliber and contentment?
Despite what you might think, there's no reason for dancers to be afraid of bread.
"It's looked at as this evil food," says New York State–certified dietitian and former dancer Tiffany Mendell. But the truth is, unless you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, bread can be a healthy source of carbohydrates—our body's preferred fuel—plus fiber and vitamins.
The key is choosing your loaf wisely.