"I Dance as an Investment in the Next Generation"
I dance to encourage others. The longer I dance, the more I see that much of my real work is to speak life-giving words to my fellow artists. This is a multidimensionally grueling profession. I count it a privilege to remind my colleagues of how they are bringing beauty into the world through their craft. I recently noticed significant artistic growth in a fellow dancer, and when I verbalized what I saw, he beamed. The impact of positive feedback is deeper than we realize.
I dance to teach. This art is passed down in an unbroken chain from one person to another, forming a historically transcendent community. I aim to learn all I can about my art, and to dance as thoroughly as possible, so that I will have a rich artistic inheritance to pass on to my students. In this way, I dance as an investment in the next generation of dancers.
Farley in his Songs from the Spirit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy Farley
I dance for justice. I am part of a great lineage of dancers of color. In a recent rehearsal for the finale of George Balanchine's "Diamonds," I looked down the line and was overcome to see so many radiant faces in different shades of brown. Our very presence in New York City Ballet is both a testament to the perseverance of those who came before us and a dazzling vision of what classical ballet can become.
I dance as thanksgiving. I first encountered dance in the context of Sunday services at my family's church in North Carolina. Nearly all of my six siblings participated in our church's dance program. For me, dance was worship before it was performance. I have that same mentality all these years later. My dancing is a gift I seek to steward and cultivate as an offering back to the divine gift-giver.
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Most people may know Derek Dunn for his impeccable turns and alluring onstage charisma. But the Boston Ballet principal dancer is just as charming offstage, whether he's playing with his 3-year-old miniature labradoodle or working in the studio. Dance Magazine recently spent the day with Dunn as he prepared for his debut as Albrecht in the company's upcoming run of Giselle.
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.
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:
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."