Teacher's Wisdom: Margalit Oved
Margalit Oved thinks and moves in metaphors. Her descriptions of how a foot must reach toward the ground or how an arm must lengthen across one’s body are wrapped in visions of hot, sandy deserts and encounters with people on the street. In a summer master class at the Harvard Westlake School in Studio City, CA, she speak-sings her way through exercises in time with a drum that she plays, keeping students rhythmically engaged. Oved teaches how to perform from your whole body—not merely the one that lives in the studio but the one that moves through the world.
Oved grew up in southern Yemen in the 1930s and was airlifted to Israel at a young age during Yemeni unrest as part of Operation Magic Carpet. She toured the world for 15 years as the lead performer of Inbal Dance Theater. Eventually settling down in Los Angeles, she spent 22 years teaching at UCLA and founded her own dance theater company. In 1994 she revisited Israel to collaborate with Inbal and to support the emerging work of her son, international choreographer Barak Marshall. Dancer Taisha Paggett, who has worked with Marshall, spoke with Oved after her class.
How did you build such a diverse vocabulary for using different parts of the body? Our traditional dance in Yemen was very straight, like the gazelle, but there was influence from Africa, Arabia, India, and Spain. The expressions of the different cultures were so magnificent: the drumming, the ululations, the use of masks to transform into different animals, the way to use the hands and spine and face and feet.
Why do you begin class working the spine, which you compare to the action of riding a camel? We lived on a desert with the waves of the sand. When you ride on a camel, you have to move with the camel—otherwise it could break your back. You have this undulation. We work to imitate that. It is a preparation for the entire body. In ballet they stretch the spine. We stretch it too, but with a wave.
Why do you spend so much time on the hands? It’s about dimensions. You beg and eat with the hands. In the dance, how can you just leave them doing nothing? You stretch and work the hands, then you can see the beautiful lines of the arms.
What do you pass down from your time with Inbal Dance Theater? We collected everything and made a language from it. When you step on hot desert sand, you jump. That became part of our dancing. That’s how we did it, and that’s what I do now. And then three masters came into our lives: Jerome Robbins, Anna Sokolow, and Martha Graham. Sokolow came in and said, “You ought to take your resources and bring them up to date.” She was a powerful woman.
This year marks the centennial of Sokolow’s birth. What did you learn from her work that informs how you teach today? She taught us discipline. The discipline of movement. We were like little children at the time but she taught us how to be professionals. Plan it, get dressed right, face the audience, and so on. It was the beginning of her career but she was sharp. Martha Graham was around too. She said, “You ought to be strong, you ought to have your technique. Two-and-a-half hours every day and then rehearsal. You don’t just go right away to the stage.” They taught us American modern dance.
You formed your own company from the dancers you taught at UCLA. What qualities do you think make up an exceptional dance student? I pick up on dancers’ rhythm, their face, their sensitivity as a mover, their emotion. As a choreographer you never know what kind of dance you are going to do, so a dancer has to be prepared for everything. In order to talk with your body there has to be precision, but not in a way that is dogmatic. Every body brings it differently. The precision comes from the spine, the legs, and the feet. It’s about extending the whole body so nothing stays lazy. Have you seen how an eagle’s legs shift when he goes to fly? If the legs don’t extend back, it won’t fly.
What do you value most about teaching? I learn from the students. I see their eyes and their faces as they are thinking and trying to know the movement. In one hour they pick up a style that I’ve known for many years, one that is very difficult to learn. That’s what I learn from them: Once they’ve got it, I have to be all the more brilliant. [Laughs] Their attention gives me so much confidence. Education is part of the human experience. It makes me be a better person.
Barak says his movement language is based on yours. He puts it through his own filter, but you are the source. Having performed in his work, do you recognize your own creativity within it? Barak uses everything. I mean, his style is different from mine. He brings into his work scholars from all over the world—and Fiddler on the Roof and Brecht. He is a philosopher. He decided to put me in Rooster. I was afraid to death, as if I’d never performed before! For me it’s always like the first time.
What advice would you give to dancers before a performance? It’s about responsibility. A responsibility to fulfill. You cannot just fool around up there. Give everything. Work, don’t delay. Be honest and take care of it. This is your thing to do! I will do everything and if I fall, that’s what it is. But if I come to the stage, I give all of my power.
Oved teaching at UCLA in 2008. Photo by Rose Eichenbaum.
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?
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.
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."
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 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.
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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.
Memorial Day is notoriously one of Chicago's bloodiest weekends. Last year, 36 people were shot and seven died that weekend. In 2017 and 2016, the number of shootings was even higher.
When Garley "GiGi Tonyé" Briggs, a dance teacher and Chicago native, started noticing this pattern, she was preparing her second annual Memorial Day workshop for local youth.
The event's original aim was simple: "I wanted the youth of Chicago to have somewhere they could come and learn from different dancers and be off the streets on the South Side on this hot holiday," she says.