Curtain Up

July 24, 2007
One way to celebrate the Fourth of July is to watch fireworks. Here at
Dance Magazine
we’re celebrating by tuning in to the dance forms that are uniquely American. After all, modern dance started in this country, with Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis. Tap dance evolved from plantation dances and minstrelsy, and the Broadway musical grew out of burlesque and operettas. Jazz dance was born when dancers mixed modern with African-based isolations. And it was here that the centuries-old classical ballet tradition was transformed into a bold contemporary form by George Balanchine.
Martha Graham became one of the great artists of the 20th century by rooting her movement in the American experience; she was part of the frontier of American modernism. Senior advising editor Doris Hering writes about how the current Graham company crosses a new frontier—striding into the future without Martha.
Robert Joffrey, another giant of the century just ended, created a ballet company with the daring, eclecticism, and respect for individuality we associate with the best of America. His direct legacy, the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, has produced a quintessential American ballerina in Maia Wilkins. Her vibrancy, dramatic range, and willowy elegance—as described by Hedy Weiss in “Born to Be Wild”—make her a classical ballerina of the highest order.
But Joffrey’s legacy was larger than a single company—or school. He was the Johnny Appleseed of ballet, criss-crossing the country many times. Contributing editor—and former Joffrey dancer—Joseph Carman interviews five other former Joffrey dancers who have spread the word according to Joffrey in five cities, some of them right in the heartland.
On the tap front, we headed for the latest sensation. The young tap duo Joseph and Josette Wiggan are, like Fred and Adele Astaire almost a century ago, a dazzling brother and sister act. 
For jazz coverage we interviewed Milton Myers for “Teacher’s Wisdom.” Myers, a beloved Horton teacher, is a fixture in Jacob’s Pillow’s jazz program.
And how did the first Americans dance? Native Americans believe that human movement is inseparable from the movements of our natural environment. Nestled in our Dance Finder is a brief account of a recent powwow.
As with most things American, dance draws from other cultures. The current Graham company is filled with dancers from other countries. Robert Joffrey’s father was an Afghani immigrant. Tap dance borrowed from Irish clog dancing. And the American musical, to hear it from Sylviane Gold in “On Broadway,” has just gotten a new infusion of Latino flavor. American artists have always soaked up the riches of other cultures. Happy Independence Day!
Wendy Perron
Editor in Chief