Friday Film Break: Kayla Farrish in "On the Sunny Side of the Street"

Yes, it's another dance in a living room. But that living room was Louis Armstrong's. And dancer Kayla Farrish brightens it right up with her movement as she channels not only Armstrong's music, but also his spirit with her sly shoulder shrugs, luscious jumps and développés, and stylish struts.

"On the Sunny Side of the Street" is presented by the Louis Armstrong House Museum as part of its Armstrong Now! program, which commissioned four groups of Black artists to each create a short film. Others in the series feature choreographer Martha Nichols and Broadway's Daniel J. Watts.

This is a scene from Farrish's larger Armstrong Now! project called "Inside the Laughing Barrel," for which she worked alongside writer/poet Naomi Extra and flutist Melanie Charles. Farrish writes in the YouTube description: "When I first played this song I couldn't get it out of my head. Louis began grandly on the horn and the words struck me. I wanted to create an intimacy with Louis and an embodied character that represented all of the layers: grit, craft, soul, trauma and magic of his spirit and Black people. A tribute to the layers of pointing your feet towards the 'sunny side of the street' and understanding the meaning of that perspective."

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Stark Photo Productions, Courtesy Harlequin

Why Your Barre Can Make or Break Your At-Home Dance Training

Throughout the pandemic, Shelby Williams, of Royal Ballet of Flanders (aka "Biscuit Ballerina"), has been sharing videos that capture the pitfalls of dancers working from home: slipping on linoleum, kicking over lamps and even taking windows apart at the "barre." "Dancers aren't known to be graceful all of the time," says Mandy Blackmon, PT, DPT, OSC, CMTPT, head physical therapist/medical director for Atlanta Ballet. "They tend to fall and trip."

Many dancers have tried to make their home spaces as safe as possible for class and rehearsal by setting up a piece of marley, like Harlequin's Dance Mat, to work on. But there's another element needed for taking thorough ballet classes at home: a portable barre.

"Using a barre is kinda Ballet 101," says 16-year-old Haley Dale, a student in her second year at American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. She'd bought a portable barre from Harlequin to use at her parents' home in Northern Virginia even before the pandemic hit. "Before I got it, honestly I would stay away from doing barre work at home. Now I'm able to do it all the time."

Blackmon bought her 15-year-old stepdaughter a freestanding Professional Series Ballet Barre from Harlequin early on in quarantine. "I was worried about her injuring herself without one," she admits.

What exactly makes Harlequin's barres an at-home must-have, and hanging on to a chair or countertop so risky? Here are five major differences dancers will notice right away.

December 2020