No Child Left Dance-less
Teaching dance in public schools can be filled with joy—but not all the time. The endeavor has to have the support of school principals as well as access to excellent teachers. This month New York area folks will be able to see PS DANCE! a documentary that gives five examples where those two ingredients line up and every kid gets to dance.
Five master teachers in NYC schools—Catherine Gallant, Ana Nery Fragoso, Michael Kerr, Ani Udovicki, Pat Dye—reveal how they use contagious energy to instill the love of dance in their students. All the kids jump in willingly—the shy, the loud, the nerds, the jocks—and they move without fear or inhibition and they speak on camera about how dance stimulates the imagination.
Nel Shelby directed this film with an eye to the innocence of the children and generosity of the teachers. Jody Gottfried Arnhold, initiator of NYC’s blueprint for dance education (her motto has always been #danceforeverychild), was the mastermind behind the film, and Joan Finkelstein, former director of dance for that NYC Department of Education, was advisor.
For any dancer interested in teaching, this film is valuable and uplifting.
Tune it to where PS DANCE! will be shown:
• Friday, May 15 on Channel Thirteen at 10:30 pm,
• Sunday May 17 on WLIW21 at 3:30 pm and 10:00 pm
• Tuesday, May 26, at NJTV at 10:00 pm.
For more info and to view the trailer, click here.
For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.
New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.
"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "
She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.
Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"
At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.
Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.