Maria Baranova, Courtesy Kyle Abraham

Kyle Abraham Is Dance Magazine’s Guest Editor This Week

During my first year at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, there was a grad student in my ballet class who mystified me. At the end of almost every across-the-floor combination, he'd drop the classical positions and improvise for an additional count of eight, mixing hip-hop swagger with contemporary abandon. In ballet class! As a sheltered bunhead who'd always strictly followed the teacher's combinations like they were The Law, watching him find his own groove in the corner blew my mind. Partly because it felt so rebellious, but also because his movement was simply mesmerizing to watch.

That guy was Kyle Abraham. And even back then in 2003, he was already making his own rules.

He would go on to win a MacArthur "genius" grant 10 years later for his bold, haunting works about police brutality and violence, intimacy and vulnerability. And he endeared himself to the dance community by using that money to help fund his A.I.M dancers' 52-week contracts (with health insurance and vacation days—even through a pandemic). Then he became even more beloved by refusing to be presented on any rep program that didn't also include a work by a female choreographer.

I'm thrilled to announce that this week, he's Dance Magazine's first-ever guest editor for our website, taking over starting today with stories that were all his ideas. Stay tuned for pieces about what it's like to join a new company during the pandemic, what goes into titling a dance work, how directors choose rep, what happens to a choreographer after they "emerge" into mid-career and more. It's an exciting lineup with lots of insight for anyone in the dance field.

To celebrate Abraham's week as guest editor, our friends over at The Dance Edit podcast aired an interview with him last Thursday. Check out the episode to listen to him speak about the new piece he's working on now, how he's reevaluating the way he leads as a director, why he misses buying CDs and much more.

Thank you, Kyle, for sharing your insights and ideas with us. You've never stopped blowing my mind.

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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