Inside Dancers' Love-Hate Relationships with their Feet
In all of their swollen and blistered glory, feet are dancers' prized possessions. It doesn't matter whether you treasure your arches, wince at your bunions or wish you could trade the whole kit in for a new pair—you can't help but take pride in the instrument that literally supports you from the ground up. Each foot contains the intricate muscles needed to finish a line, travel the length of a stage, soar through the air with abandon and carry you home after a long day of dancing.
Lloyd Knight, principal at Martha Graham Dance Company
"My feet have been through a lot, and their scars show the work I've done so far as a dancer. We work so much with bare feet in Graham that I have a lot of marley burns, cuts and splits. It's like a badge of honor."
Kathryn Boren, corps de ballet dancer at American Ballet Theatre
"My feet have become my business card. Really, I'm defined by them. I can pick myself out of blurry rehearsal footage because I can recognize my arches. My right arch is better than my left, which is a complex I've had to deal with my whole life."
Soledad Barrio, star of Noche Flamenca
"I give messages with my feet to the guitarists and singers to advise them on when to start and when to stop. There is a very clear vocabulary."
Demi Remick, tap dancer for Postmodern Jukebox and Caleb Teicher & Company
"My feet get injured a lot, so I don't always trust them. As a tap dancer, I need relaxed ankles, and sprains affect that. I have to release them even though I'm scared. But my feet are smarter than I think. I dance on a four-by-four board on tour and my feet memorize the space and what's possible within it."
You know compelling musicality when you see it. But how do you cultivate it? It's not as elusive as it might seem. Musicality, like any facet of dance, can be developed and honed over time—with dedicated, detailed practice. At its most fundamental, it's "respect for the music, that this is your partner," says Kate Linsley, academy principal of the School of Nashville Ballet.
Notable dancer and beloved teacher, Ross Parkes, 79, passed away on August 5, 2019 in New York City. He was a founding faculty member at Taipei National University of the Arts in Taiwan, where he taught from 1984 to 2006. Lin Hwai-min, artistic director of Cloud Gate Dance Theater, said: "He nurtured two generations of dancers in Taiwan, and his legacy will continue."
About his dancing, Tonia Shimin, professor emerita at UC Santa Barbara and producer of Mary Anthony: A Life in Modern Dance, said this: "He was an exquisite, eloquent dancer who inhabited his roles completely."
Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.
Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:
More than once, when I'm sporting my faded, well-loved ballet hoodie, some slight variation of this conversation ensues:
"Is your daughter the dancer?"
"Actually," I say, "I am."
"Wow!" they enthuse. "Who do you dance with? Or have you retired...?"
"I don't dance with a company. I'm not a professional. I just take classes."
Insert mic drop/record scratch/quizzical looks.