Why Lar Lubovitch Invited College Students to Perform for His Company's 50th Anniversary
A watershed moment. That's how choreographer Lar Lubovitch recently described his now-classic A Brahms Symphony. Now, a group of 16 George Mason University dance majors are having their own watershed moment with that jubilant work: They will dance it at the venerable Joyce Theater in New York City, where they will close the 50th anniversary season of the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company on April 22. It's such a big deal the college president, Angel Cabrera, likened it to when the basketball team made it to the NCAA Final Four.
The invitation to the George Mason dancers was extended in March, after Lubovitch spent a few days on campus observing and rehearsing the students. Ginger Thatcher, the choreographer's stager for this project, convinced him that the students were strong enough to hold their own among the professionals dancing at the Joyce. "They danced it very accurately, very beautifully and with great maturity, which is the thing one would least expect from people their age," says Lubovitch, who noted that his own first dance experience was a class with Martha Graham as a 19-year-old—about the age of some of the Mason dancers.
Students in the BFA program are no strangers to Lubovitch's works. One of their professors, Susan Shields, danced with the Lubovitch company as a young dancer in New York City. Now the director of the dance program at the Fairfax, Virginia, campus, each year she introduces freshman dance majors to Lubovitch's highly physical and demanding style during their second semester technique class. The students call it "Lar week."
"It's important that students understand their professors' context—where we all fit into dance history," she explains. Her colleague Roger Jeffrey, another Lubovitch alum, also passes on his experiences to the students.
The students began learning A Brahms Symphony from Thatcher last fall, following a two-part audition that Mason's approximately 80 dance majors attended. Thatcher narrowed it down to a dozen, plus five understudies. It's a large piece that demands attention to musicality, detail, and the utmost stamina and technical prowess to make the sweeping gestures, lifts and runs appear effortless.
"I think Brahms can be called a watershed moment for where I was at the time as a dancemaker," Lubovitch says. "I had been making dances for almost 20 years and moving in a lot of different directions. When I did Brahms Symphony, it was a very true moment for discovering who I am. I admitted to my relationship to grand music and—the worst of all sins—sentimentality and emotionality. It was a moment of accepting who I really was as a creator and the essence of what my work really is."
Aside from perfecting the choreography, the students, in particular the four lead dancers, connected via email, phone and then in-person with the originators of the roles—Doug Varone, Nancy Colahan, Christine Wright and Rob Besserer. "The original artists really help us hone in on what is essential to the piece," notes Lauren Stucko, a senior from Middleton, New Jersey. The work "is such an exuberant, long piece that has so many climaxes and peaks, and the trajectories are pretty wild emotionally and physically," she adds.
Marcel Mejia, a junior from Miami who is dancing one of the leads, describes his participation in A Brahms Symphony as profound: "It feels like some form of time travel. Performing the piece feels like I'm back in 1985 embodying the spirit of this extremely prominent work that has stood the test of time."
- Lar Lubovitch Dance Announces Its 50th Anniversary Season - The ... ›
- Lar Lubovitch Dance Company to Celebrate 50th Anniversary ... ›
- Lar Lubovitch Dance Company ›
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.
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.
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?
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."
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
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.
On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.