Choreographer Ralph Lemon Honored by President Obama
How does it feel to have President Obama bedeck you with a Medal of the Arts?
“It was crazy! The most intense one-day event of my life, by far.” That was choreographer Ralph Lemon’s reaction last week after President Obama hung the National Medal of Arts around his neck. Lemon was honored for his contributions along with other major American artists like Philip Glass, Berry Gordy, Mel Brooks and Audra McDonald.
President Barack Obama awarded the 2015 National Medal of Arts to Ralph Lemon, photo by Cheriss May
During the National Medals of Arts and Humanities Awards Ceremony, the President began with his usual eloquence: “Michelle and I believe that the arts and humanities are reflective of our national soul. They’re central to who we are as Americans: dreamers, storytellers, innovators and visionaries. They’re what helps us make sense of the past, the good and the bad. They’re how we chart a course for the future while leaving something of ourselves for the next generation to learn from.”
These words are so true of Ralph Lemon and his work. The choreographer from Minneapolis dropped the comfort of his own company and traveled to Africa, Asia and the American South to delve into his heritage. In so doing he questioned everything he knew as a dancemaker and asked instead, What does it mean to be an American? And, What does it mean to be a citizen of the world? Over ten years starting in 1997, he created a monumental trilogy of works at Brooklyn Academy of Music: Geography, Tree and Come home Charlie Patton.
In his more recent How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere? (2010), he again threw out everything he knew. The piece was so exhausting for the dancers that the title could just as well have been "What Kind of Dance Do You Make When Life Falls Apart?" (I was blown away by it.)
Not only a choreographer (or, one might say, an anti-choreographer), Lemon has also been central to the current trend of dancing in museums. He’s been so instrumental as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art that they just published a book about him. (He has also created a book of writings and drawings with each work in the trilogy.)
In a quick email a few days after the ceremony, this is what Lemon said about the people he met: “Obama is a prince, beyond his presidential highness! And 90-year-old Brooks is a genius joke machine; every time he opened his mouth something hilarious filled the room. Met Berry Gordy too. I told him his music made my young life a joyful dance. He was remarkably convivial and generous.”
Fox produced a live broadcast of Rent in January—but could an original musical be next? Photo by Kevin Estrada, Courtesy Fox
When a musical prepares to make the transfer from a smaller, lesser-known venue to Broadway (where theaters hold 500-plus seats), often there's a collective intake of breath from all involved. After all, a bigger house means more tickets to sell in order to stay in the black, and sometimes shows with even the most tenacious fan bases can't quite navigate such a jump. But what about the transfer from stage…to screen? Is Broadway ready to be consumed from the comfort of your couch?
Hive by Boston Conservatory student Alyssa Markowitz. Photo by Jim Coleman
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.
Daphne Lee was dancing with Collage Dance Collective in Memphis, Tennessee, when she received two difficult pieces of news: Her mother had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma cancer, and her father had Parkinson's disease, affecting his mobility and mental faculties.
The New Jersey native's reaction: "I really need to move home."
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.)
Last year's winner: Manuel Vignoulle's EARTH. Jack Hartin Photography, Courtesy McCallum Theatre
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.
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!
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.
When you're a foreigndancer, 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.
Still of Fonteyn from the 1972 film I Am a Dancer. Photo courtesy DM Archives
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.