President Obama awarding Bill T. Jones the National Medal of Arts. Photo by Pete Souza via Obama White House Archives

Trump Hasn't Given Out the National Medal of Arts. Here's Why That Matters.

Every year since 1985, the President of the United States has recognized our country's greatest artists with the National Medal of Arts. Many dancers and choreographers—from Martha Graham to Tommy Tune to Edward Villella—have received the award.

But President Trump has yet to award any artists (the deadline for the 2016 medals was last February, and historically the ceremony has been held later the same year). Though the White House says it will "likely" issue awards later in 2018, this is the longest gap between ceremonies since the founding of the award—and it speaks to the current administration's general disinterest in the arts.

Since taking office a year and a half ago, President Trump has held no dance performances at the White House, and aside from the military band, no performances whatsoever. He has frequently disparaged artists, from Meryl Streep to the cast of Hamilton. The fate of the National Endowment for the Arts has also come into question. If the President does indeed continue with the award, we wonder how his attitude toward artists will affect who is chosen—and whether artists will even accept the honor. (Carmen de Lavallade and several other Kennedy Center honorees skipped the White House reception last year to boycott the President.)

None of this will stop us from continuing to celebrate worthy dance artists—or from remembering the many dancers and choreographers who've been honored by past Presidents:


Martha Graham, 1985 (President Ronald Reagan)

Via Wikimedia Commons

Agnes de Mille, 1986 (President Ronald Reagan)

By Semo, Courtesy DM Archives.

Alwin Nikolais, 1987 (President Ronald Reagan)

By Pierre Petitjean, Courtesy DM Archives

Jerome Robbins, 1988 (President Ronald Reagan)

Via Wikimedia Commons

Katherine Dunham, 1989 (President George H.W. Bush)

Courtesy DM Archives

Merce Cunningham, 1990 (President George H.W. Bush)

Via Wikimedia Commons

Pearl Primus, 1991 (President George H.W. Bush)

Via Wikimedia Commons

Paul Taylor, 1993 (President Bill Clinton)

By Jayme Thornton

Gene Kelly, 1994 (President Bill Clinton)

Via DM Archives

Arthur Mitchell, 1995 (President Bill Clinton)

Via Wikimedia Commons

Edward Villella, 1997 (President Bill Clinton)

Via DM Archives

Jacques d'Amboise, 1998 (President Bill Clinton)

Courtesy National Dance Institute

Gwen Verdon, 1998 (President Bill Clinton)

Via Wikimedia Commons

Maria Tallchief, 1999 (President Bill Clinton)

Mikhail Baryshnikov, 2000 (President Bill Clinton)

Via Wikimedia Commons

Judith Jamison, 2001 (President George W. Bush)

Trisha Brown, 2002 (President George W. Bush)

By Johan Elbers, courtesy DM Archives

Suzanne Farrell, 2003 (President George W. Bush)

By Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy The Kennedy Center

Tommy Tune, 2003 (President George W. Bush)

By Franco Lacosta, courtesy Tune

Twyla Tharp, 2004 (President George W. Bush)

Tina Ramirez, 2005 (President George W. Bush)

Via Wikimedia Commons

Cyd Charisse, 2006 (President George W. Bush)

Via Wikimedia Commons

Joan Myers Brown, 2012 (President Barack Obama)

Bill T. Jones, 2013 (President Barack Obama)

Via Wikimedia Commons

Meredith Monk, 2014 (President Barack Obama)

Via Flickr

Ralph Lemon, 2015 (President Barack Obama)

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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.

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December 2020