In Training: To the Beat of the Drum
College students explore African dance.
A University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee student in performance. Photo by Mark Frohna, courtesy UWM.
What makes a well-rounded dancer? A strong base in ballet and modern comes to mind. But African dance, which has unique rhythmic structures and emphasizes use of the full body, can deepen your understanding of musicality and movement. Many college programs are prioritizing the study of the techniques, history and music, while exposing students to rep from African dance–influenced artists working today. “We are providing dancers who are much more marketable,” says Ferne Caulker Bronson, creator of the African dance track at University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee. “The playing field is different now. There are a lot of choreographers out there who are using African dance as a base.”
Degrees offered: BFA or BA in dance with an optional certificate in African Culture Through Music and Dance
No. of dance majors: 50-plus
Courses: All majors take at least two levels of African dance, and intermediate and advanced levels also take music. History and culture courses are offered to all students.
Performance opps: Select students join the OU African Ensemble, which performs in the school’s World Music and Dance Festival Concert and a festival in Athens. They have toured to other cities in the U.S. and Canada.
Guest artists: Recent ones include Urban Bush Women and National Dance Company of Ghana artistic director Nii-Tete Yartey.
Study abroad: OU offers a three-week intensive in Ghana.
- Some students join Azaguno, a professional African music and dance group with ties to OU. This summer, it performed at the National Theatre of Ghana.
University of Florida
Degrees offered: BFA or BA in dance
No. of dance majors: About 60
Courses: BFA students take at least two levels of West African technique. Other courses focus on African history, repertory and performance, and drumming and other percussion.
Performance opps: Dancers can join the school’s African dance ensemble, AGBEDIDI, after taking specific courses. Students perform alongside guest artists in an annual West African concert on campus, participate in African dance-related events in UF’s summer festival and do outreach in the community.
Guest artists: About four guests come each year through UF’s Center for World Arts. Recent ones include Congolese choreographer Faustin Linyekula and Panaibra Gabriel Canda, founder of Mozambique’s first contemporary dance company.
Study abroad: UF has a relationship with Senegal’s Ecole des Sables dance school.
- UF’s Center for World Arts also hosts artists-in-residence from China and Latin America.
University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee
Degrees offered: BFA or BA in dance, with an Africa and the Diaspora track (only available to BFAs)
No. of dance majors: About 100
Courses: Students in the track take six-plus semesters of African dance, plus African percussion and history of Africa and the Diaspora.
Performance opps: UWM holds one major concert for African dance-focused students each year. Ko-Thi Dance Company, an African and Caribbean dance ensemble, is affiliated with the university and rehearses on campus. Students sit in on rehearsals, take workshops with company dancers and sometimes perform and tour with them.
Guest artists: Every semester, a guest has a week-long residency. Artists have included Assane Konte, artistic director of KanKouran West African Dance Company in Washington, DC, and Amaniyea Payne, artistic director of Muntu Dance Theatre in Chicago.
Study abroad: Every other summer, the department leads a trip to Brazil, where students study the influence of African traditions there.
- Ko-Thi Dance Company also offers internships for students, in marketing, administration and development.
Thirty years ago, U.S. Joint Resolution 131, introduced by congressman John Conyers (D-MI) and Senator Alphonse D'Amato (R-NY), and signed into law by President G. W. Bush declared:
"Whereas the multifaceted art form of tap dancing is a manifestation of the cultural heritage of our Nation...
Whereas tap dancing is a joyful and powerful aesthetic force providing a source of enjoyment and an outlet for creativity and self-expression...
Whereas it is in the best interest of the people of our Nation to preserve, promote, and celebrate this uniquely American art form...
Whereas May 25, as the anniversary of the birth of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson is an appropriate day on which to refocus the attention of the Nation on American tap dancing: Now therefore, be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress that May 25, 1989, be designated "National Tap Dance Day."
Happy National Tap Dance Day!
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.
Over the past 15 years, Gesel Mason has asked 11 choreographers—including legends like Donald McKayle, David Roussève, Bebe Miller, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Rennie Harris and Kyle Abraham—to teach her a solo. She's performed up to seven of them in one evening for her project No Boundaries: Dancing the Visions of Contemporary Black Choreographers.
Now, Mason is repackaging the essence of this work into a digital archive. This online offering shares the knowledge of a few with many, and considers how dance can live on as those who create it get older.
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?
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.
Get Dance Magazine in your inbox
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.)
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
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.