Moving On, But Still Moving

Directing a top-notch dance program for a quarter century would be success enough for almost anyone. Not for Daniel Lewis. His soon-to-conclude tenure as founding dean of dance at Miami’s New World School of the Arts is just one among his many notable professional incarnations. And, dancer to the core, he plans to keep on moving.

 

“I’m proud of leaving something really good behind in New World: a strong foundation for students that’s well-respected and recognized,” says Lewis, who was honored by the National Dance Education Organization last year with their Lifetime Achievement Award. “We—and I prefer using the plural given the remarkable efforts of my faculty—have made a lasting mark.”

 

The program Lewis developed has grown from a single studio, a couple of teachers, and under 40 students in 1987, to its current enrollment of almost 200 students who, guided by 17 faculty members, enjoy ample facilities, including four studios and a 250-seat theater. Quality has shot up with quantity. New World graduates have joined the ranks of the Martha Graham Dance Company, Urban Bush Women, and H.T. Chen & Dancers, among other noteworthy institutions. Whenever Lewis walks down Manhattan streets, his old stomping grounds, he can point to a musical here, a dance company there, and note with satisfaction how many of these feature NWSA graduates on their rosters. Still, his mind is set on all the miles he wants to travel, to conferences and teaching assignments, spreading the gospel of arts education. “Creativity,” he asserts, “is what makes us different from other animals.”

 

In Miami last February, during an evening of performances paying tribute to Lewis, Robert Battle (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s artistic director designate) joked about the dean’s transition: “Retirement? I’m just not buying it.” Perhaps NWSA’s most distinguished alumnus, Battle extolled the school’s inspiring education, which also helped mold Jamar Roberts and Amos Machanic, Jr., stellar performers in Ailey.

 

Staying creatively active fulfills a deep-seated craving for Lewis. It also obeys a basic tenet of his: to take gains from the past and invest them, refreshed and expanded, in the future of others, continuing the mission of his own mentors. As a kid from Brooklyn, already a step-happy hoofer, Lewis nurtured his talent at New York’s LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts. Yet it was at Juilliard, under the tutelage of modern dance luminary José Limón, that his artistic impulses fully blossomed.

 

“Limón taught me a reverence for the stage and a love for the art form,” Lewis says. And that’s what his direction at New World has always encouraged. In his authoritative book The Illustrated Dance Technique of José Limón, Lewis describes his stance in the studio, a recommendation for all educators: “I think of myself not so much as a teacher but as an artist, sharing my knowledge with other artists.”

 

Even before graduating from Juilliard in 1967, Lewis had commanded the stage with the Limón company. For 12 years he originated roles in A Choreographic Offering, Psalm, and The Unsung, among other landmark Limón works. As assistant to the choreographer, he also got a close-up view of how to run a troupe. That proved invaluable when he took over as artistic director for a year after Limón died and later led his own projects. The repertory group, Daniel Lewis Dance, became a haven for thought-provoking commissions, including works by Anna Sokolow. “From her,” says Lewis, “I learned how to make sure dances got done, then to step back, letting others enjoy their glory.”

 

Lewis never distanced himself from Juilliard, where he taught Limón technique, composition, and production, now all integral to the NWSA curriculum. There also came a chance for him to serve as assistant to Martha Hill, then Juilliard’s indefatigable director of dance. When she learned of a deanship opening at a brand-new arts school in South Florida, she recommended Lewis, knowing he yearned for a new challenge.

 

“I had been just about everywhere except Miami,” says Lewis. NWSA organizers drew him by offering a great deal of leeway in curriculum design while advocating an innovative high school-through-BFA course of study. This unique setup required Lewis to coordinate three degree-granting bodies that work in partnership with NWSA: the Miami-Dade County school system, Miami Dade College, and the University of Florida. “Our students can start earning college credit in high school, going on to get their bachelor’s in just three years,” Lewis explains. “That saves both time and money.”

 

Under Lewis’ guidance, the NWSA dance program has fostered a progressive understanding of “how to keep the body in shape, with all the necessary science behind it,” Lewis says. A respect for world traditions, including different styles of Spanish and African dance, further enhances the curriculum. As Lewis points out, eclectic training allows for “a proficiency that makes getting jobs easier.”

 

Tina Santos-Wahl, a ballet teacher at New World, concurs. Her own background stretching from classical ballet to Luigi, she comments, “Danny gives me the freedom to teach in a style of my own, incorporating different dance forms.”

 

Santos appreciates how Lewis upholds tradition (“he’s a walking history book,” she says), while championing the latest digital media in dance education and production. As a member of the International Digital Media & Arts Association’s advisory board, Lewis has arranged to bring their conference to Miami in 2012. And, as an ongoing resource for New World, he’ll continue to campaign for the establishment of an MFA in Dance and Technology at the school. “Kids in this generation are amazingly attuned to new media,” Lewis says, “and colleges have to be up on this to meet their changing needs.”

 

Guillermo Perez is a South Florida–based performing arts writer.

 

Photo by Rose Eichenbaum, Courtesy Dance Teacher

 



Show Comments ()
News
The company is searching for an artistic director who is "humane"—and who might not be a choreographer. Photo by Paul Kolnik

Update: The full job description has been posted here.

Ever since Peter Martins retired from New York City Ballet this January amid an investigation into sexual harassment and abuse allegations, we've been speculating about who might take his place—and how the role of ballet master in chief might be transformed.

Until now, we've only known a bit about what the search for a new leader looks like. But yesterday, The New York Times reported that the company has released a job description for the position. Here's what we're able to discern about the new leader and what this means for the future of NYCB:

Keep reading... Show less
Popular

Allow me to start with a question.

In the average graduating class of any dance program (in styles that use pirouettes), how many of the graduates can do a quadruple, clean, controlled, pirouette with consistency? Forty percent? Fifty? Seventy percent? Think carefully before you answer.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Jessica is trying to tell Chris something, but does this message have a deeper meaning? Photo courtesy Louisville Ballet

Earlier this summer, strange billboards and bus-stop ads started popping up around Louisville, Kentucky. A woman, Jessica, was sending public messages—that seemed really personal—to a guy named Chris. Things like, "Chris, maybe we should try role playing" or "Chris, let's talk about your performance issues."

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Learning to harness your hormones can help you use them to your advantage. Photo by David Beatz/Unsplash

For dancers, the ups and downs of a menstrual cycle can be inconvenient, to say the least. But learning how the monthly hormone fluctuations affect you can help you understand your mood, energy and appetite, and even your focus, coordination and confidence in the studio. It also makes your cycle that much easier to manage—and even embrace.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance in Pop Culture
Misty Copeland on the set of The Nutcracker and The Four Realms. Photo courtesy Disney

Back in January, we took a look at Hollywood's 2018 dance card. While Red Sparrow and the Tiler Peck documentary Ballet Now have been released, several other films that piqued our curiosity are still in various stages of development. (And some have been radio silent, like the Carmen being helmed by Benjamin Millepied.) From Misty Copeland to Carlos Acosta, new trailers to first looks, here's the latest on the dancing we might just see on the big screen later this year.

Keep reading... Show less
Career Advice
Allison Holker and Logan Hernandez in Christopher Scott's "Say You Won't Let Go," one of the routines that got him an Emmy nomination. Screenshot via YouTube

"So You Think You Can Dance" choreographer Christopher Scott woke up one morning last month, rolled over like he usually does to check his iPhone—and found a barrage of text messages and notifications. The very first text he read was from fellow "SYTYCD" choreographer Mandy Moore: "Congratulations!"

It turned out that he'd just gotten his third Emmy nomination for choreography. (Moore had received one, too.) "We find out at the same time as everyone else," says Scott. "Everything official from the television academy comes through the mail weeks later."

Keep reading... Show less
Dancers Trending
The Joffrey Ballet in Alexander Ekman's Joy won "Most Moving Performance" last year. Photo by Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Silverman Group

Have you seen any shows in 2018 that you can't stop thinking about? Watched any dance videos that blew your mind? Discovered any performers who everyone should know about? We want to hear about them!

Yes, we realize that it's only August. But we're gearing up for our annual Readers' Choice Awards, and it's time to send in your nominations!

It's as easy as filling out the form below. (You don't even have to fill out the whole form—just complete as many categories as you want.) Nominations will be accepted until August 30. You'll then be able to vote on selected nominations beginning September 4, and winners will be announced in our December issue.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Training
Jealousy is normal—it becomes a problem when it affects your dancing. Thinkstock

A classmate lands the role you wanted. Another dancer is always earning compliments from the teacher you can never seem to please. The dance world is full of opportunities to feel envious—and according to psychologist Nadine Kaslow, that is completely normal.

"To say you shouldn't ever feel jealous is unrealistic," says Kaslow, who works with dancers at Atlanta Ballet. "But when you become driven by it, rather than focusing on doing your best to improve, that's when it turns harmful." Luckily, there are ways to channel this negative emotion into positive growth.

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
It doesn't have to be diagnosable by the DSM-5 to be dangerous to your health. Photo by Dominik Martin/Unsplash

When the cat food started smelling good, I knew I had a problem.

I'd always considered eating disorders to be extreme. Someone who never eats. Someone who weighs less than 100 pounds. Someone who gets hospitalized.

My behavior didn't fit the mental health definition of an eating disorder. I ignored it because I didn't know how to articulate it. It took me several years after the cat food smelled good to have the language to describe what was going on.

Keep reading... Show less
Cover Story
All hail Queen Marianela. Photo by Laura Gallant

After 20 years at The Royal Ballet, Marianela Nuñez has more than a few words of wisdom to share. As writer Lyndsey Winship points out in our September cover story, over the past two decades Nuñez has never missed a season, and never once had a serious injury. She's stayed with the company through four directors, rising through the ranks to become its star.

So what's the secret of her staying power?

Keep reading... Show less
Career Advice
A successful career takes more than great technique. Photo by Thinkstock

Since its founding in 1999, more than 80,000 ballet dancers have participated in Youth America Grand Prix events. While more than 450 alumni are currently dancing in companies across the world, the vast majority—tens of thousands—never turn that professional corner. And these are just the statistics from one competition.

"You may have the best teacher in the world and the best work ethic and be so committed, and still not make it," says YAGP founder Larissa Saveliev. "I have seen so many extremely talented dancers end up not having enough moti­vation and mental strength, not having the right body type, not getting into the right company at the right time or getting injured at the wrong moment. You need so many factors, and some of these are out of your hands."

Keep reading... Show less
25 to Watch
Yeman Brown in Reggie Wilson's Citizen. Photo by Aitor Mendilibar, Courtesy Brown

It's no wonder Yeman Brown was nominated for a 2017 Outstanding Performer Bessie for his performance in Reggie Wilson's Citizen. Amidst the marathon of broken-up solos, Brown flies through the lightning-fast choreography. His movement is both gestural and athletic—not to mention deeply poetic—and is driven by a particular force which exudes a matter-of-fact command of the stage.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Photo by British Broadcasting Corporation and Polunin Ltd., Courtesy Sundance Selects.

Sergei Polunin has a penchant for unexpectedly bursting into the news. Since DANCER, a feature-length documentary that proved to be a sympathetic portrait of ballet's favorite bad boy, he's been increasingly visible, popping up everywhere from "So You Think You Can Dance?" to Sadler's Wells. So what's the international star got next on his dance card?

Teaching a Master Class

Some very lucky ballet students will be taking class with Polunin at Danceworks London on July 18. (It's currently sold out, but interested students can add their names to a wait list.) It was announced this spring that Polunin would team up with the studio for a scholarship to its summer dance program, the Sergei Polunin Inspiration Scholarship, which has since been awarded to two young dancers.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan (at right) sang and danced as Maria in Jerome Robbins' West Side Story Suite. Photo by Lindsay Thomas, Courtesy PNB

When Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan was 5 years old, her mother took her to a Pennsylvania Ballet production of Swan Lake. "One day, you'll be a ballerina," her mother said. Ryan replied, "I already am one." Even at that age, Ryan was confident about her future; with good reason, it turns out. Sixteen years later, she's starting her third season at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Though still a corps member, she's already danced Sugar Plum Fairy, featured roles in Crystal Pite's Emergence and William Forsythe's New Suite, and the pas de deux in Balanchine's "Rubies."

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun
Why yes, we did just photoshop Jennifer Garner's head onto our 2017 cover with Isabella Boylston.

In case you missed it, our favorite actress/dance fangirl Jennifer Garner hit the studio this weekend to brush up on her technique (stars, they really are just like us). And the end result might be even better than Garner's #TutuTuesday posts. At the request of American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, Garner took to her Instagram story to participate in Lil Buck's #GoinInCirclesChallenge.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance on Broadway
Christopher Gattelli's Broadway choreography, here in My Fair Lady, is rooted in moving the story forward. Photo by Joan Marcus, Courtesy Lincoln Center Theatre.

The 20-somethings doing Broadway Dance Lab's first-ever Choreography Summer Intensive ended their recent tour of Lincoln Center's New York Public Library for the Performing Arts with something special. In the seminar room, Tony-winning choreographer Christopher Gattelli awaited them with a conference table laden with Broadway treasures from the library's collection. Decades-old original sketches and black-and-white production photos from My Fair Lady, The King and I and South Pacific served as visual aids for Gattelli's discussion of these shows' Lincoln Center Theater revivals, as well as My Fair Lady's 2016 60th-anniversary production at the Sydney Opera House, directed by the original Eliza, Julie Andrews.


Prodded by BDL founder Josh Prince, Gattelli talked about tackling those three musical theater classics and the art of Broadway choreography in general. Here are some highlights, edited and annotated for clarity.

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Recovery doesn't always follow your ideal timeline. Photo by Jairo Alzate/Unsplash

You've rested and rehabilitated. But what if an injury still bothers you? Health-care professionals share eight reasons dancers might heal more slowly than expected.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Sponsored

Viral Videos

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Giveaways