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Spotlight: Why Rock Climbing Is Ideal Cross-Training For Dancers, According to Caleb Teicher

Caleb Teicher in "Variations." PC Sally Cohn, Courtesy Richard Kornberg & Associates

At age 24, dancer and choreographer Caleb Teicher already has accolades beyond his years. But this week, the Bessie Award–winning performer adds another impressive feat to his resumé: His company's Joyce Theater debut. Though tap is Teicher's focus, he masterfully combines everything from jazz to Lindy Hop to hip hop in his fresh, clever choreography.

We caught up with him for our "Spotlight" series:


What other career would you like to try?

I'd love to be a pit or studio musician—still contributing to artistic collaborations but with a little less time spent in the spotlight. I started as a percussionist before I found tap dance, and I have dreams about returning to the piano/drum kit someday.

What was the last dance performance you saw?

Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion's Pavement. I'm a huge fan of the company's work!

What's the most-played song on your phone?

"Sweet Pea" by Amos Lee—267 plays. It's a song I use while teaching (dance teachers know how that goes...).

Do you have a pre-performance ritual?

I usually improvise to a couple songs by myself to get some creative juices flowing. Then, I try to find some quiet time so that listening to music onstage feels fresh and focused. I may eat some gummy bears, too.

What's your favorite book?

Tough question! I love reading biographies and learning how people became the humans/artists we know them to be. Some of my favorites are Chet Baker (Deep In A Dream), Ella Fitzgerald (A Biography of the First Lady of Jazz) and Frankie Manning (Ambassador of Lindy Hop).

Where can you be found two hours after a performance ends?

I'm a fan of the post-show hang, but I'm not a huge fan of loud and crowded bars/public spaces. Ideally, I'd find myself on a couch somewhere with good friends or at a social swing dance.

Where did you last vacation?

Los Angeles!

What app do you spend the most time on?

Definitely Instagram; it's my favorite form of social media.

Who is the person you most want to dance with—living or dead?

Ohh I have a list! Camille A. Brown, Sam Weber, Donnetta "LilBit" Jackson, Skye Mattox, Remy Kouakou Kouame, Tiler Peck...

What's the first item on your bucket list?

I'd love to play in a music ensemble someday—a punk band or a huge jazz orchestra would be awesome. I'd also love to direct some crazy circus/Vegas show.

What's your go-to cross-training routine?

I've started rock climbing/bouldering at Brooklyn Boulders in the last year, and I love it. It's intelligent movement, strength training and problem solving rolled into one. Beyond that, social swing dancing, independent practice in a dance studio and yoga/Pilates when I can.

What's the worst advice you've ever received?

"You'll sleep when you're dead!" is a common expression. I disagree—I have to sleep while I'm living, too...

If you could relive one performance, what would it be?

A Shared Evening at Danspace Project choreographed by Michelle Dorrance and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards in March 2011. I think I was too young (17) to really appreciate the unique qualities of that show. It was my first time dancing for Michelle & Dormeshia, and it was, essentially, the first Dorrance Dance performance. If I had known the significance of everything at the time, I would've savored every moment even more.

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