- The Latest
- Breaking Stereotypes
- Rant & Rave
- Dance As Activism
- Dancers Trending
- Viral Videos
- The Dancer's Toolkit
- Health & Body
- Dance Training
- Career Advice
- Style & Beauty
- Dance Auditions
- Guides & Resources
- Performance Calendar
- College Guide
- Dance Magazine Awards
- Meet The Editors
- Contact Us
- Advertise/Media Kit
- Buy A Single Issue
- Give A Gift Subscription
Technique My Way: Laurel Tentindo
Tentindo in Trisha Brown’s Raft Piece. Photo by Carrie J. Brown, Courtesy Trisha Brown Company.
Trisha Brown Dance Company’s Laurel Tentindo is a study in fluid energy. In a recent rehearsal for Brown’s Set and Reset, the lean redhead sliced across space with blade hands rebounding against the air, the aftershock reverberating up her pliable spine. Even standing still, she appears to move in minuscule vibrations. Turns out, this is no mistake. “I don’t think of the body as bones and blood,” she says. “I think we’re strange water, fluid, fascia balloons moving in space. If we can always find spaciousness in our tissues, from the top of our spine to our heels, we have more freedom to move.” DM chatted with Tentindo, who has been with TBDC since 2007, to find out how she maintains the healthy mind-body balance that informs her dancing and well-being.
Spiraling Into Motion
Growing up in Essex Junction, Vermont, Tentindo studied ballet and non-traditional theater. Instructors from Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal who taught at a local studio, The Movement Center, gave her the unadorned classicism that, along with improvisational skills learned in drama classes, serves as the basis for her technique.
While Tentindo appreciated this early ballet training, the expectations it created were extreme. “The box was too narrow,” she says, “so much so that I developed an eating disorder. I felt sad, spiritually.” When she found contemporary dance, late in high school and then at Sarah Lawrence College, “I felt free. My aesthetic changed. I realized I love the practice, the ritual, the spiritual component of dance more than formal rules. I got to heal.”
Then Tentindo encountered what became a cornerstone of her training and health maintenance, Skinner Releasing Technique. During college, she took Skinner classes each summer in Seattle; she later studied for five years to become an instructor. “Skinner Releasing integrates technical practice with the imagination,” she says. “Hands-on work and imagery of the spine and skull allow you to free the limbs. The tone of the class is safe and supportive and the word ‘allow’ is primary.”
Every morning, Tentindo applies these principles as she takes time to “check in with my energy and spirals,” she says, referring to spiraling the muscles around the spine in opposite directions. “Perhaps I’ll stretch in my bed or on the floor, completing the simple spiral of shifting my bent knees to one side and looking to the other side. I might also put my legs up on the wall, letting the femur drop back, and feel the weight in my body as I breathe. Then, if I’m heading to the studio, I tailor my warm-up to what I’ve found in that initial investigation. I begin by slowly breathing and softening in different areas to practice releasing.” From there, Tentindo might do a modified version of the “spiral series” that she learned from anatomy and kinesiology expert Irene Dowd. “The basis is flexing and extending the major muscles while spiraling.” Then, either standing or lying down, she works in “continuous, multi-directional alignment, traveling through space,” which might manifest in arm swings, tendus, or dégagés.
Dancing for Trisha Brown isn’t all about letting go. “Even though we do so much release work, you can’t flop around. You’ll hurt yourself,” Tentindo says. “You need to engage and draw in the abdomen, back, and sides to protect your body.”
Throughout rehearsal, Tentindo often checks in with her feet because “that’s where the weight should be.” At times, she concentrates on switching “into a tai chi state,” she says. “When I’m first seeing a phrase, I’ve learned to mark, using initiation points but not ripping into it immediately. Knowing how to modulate the volume on your output as you go through rehearsal, softening sometimes and popping at others, is so important for longevity.” She completes her routine on rehearsal days by icing andelevating her legs.
On days without dance, Tentindo keeps her body awake by simply “moving through space,” she says, whether biking, swimming, or walking in the park. “Dancing in Trisha Brown gives you the gift that you’re always in your body, always aware, even if not onstage.”
Of her teenage eating disorder, Tentindo says, “I was eating, but in a way that I was always losing weight. It was destructive as it happened when I was still growing. I reached a point when I couldn’t sustain those eating patterns.” Recognizing her problem, she consulted a college advisor, who directed her to a support group. “The group allowed me to realize the emotions that were creating the disorder, and I learned how to taste and enjoy eating.”
Now, Tentindo approaches nutrition in the same holistic way she dances. “I choose delicious, nourishing foods so that when I eat it’s fully satiating,” she says. “I also find that the food you cook, or that someone you love cooks for you, is best.” While Tentindo doesn’t rule out many options (“Sometimes you need dessert and sometimes you don’t!”), she steers clear of hydrogenated oil and high-fructose corn syrup. Breakfast is a must. “You have to eat in the morning,” she says, “to stabilize your blood sugar for the entire day.”
Get a Life
Having a full life outside the studio is crucial for Tentindo. She enjoys doing film and puppetry projects with her husband, former dancer and puppeteer Luis Tentindo. “The more fun I’m having being creative in my whole life, the more I’m able to feel in the studio. And being creative in your overall life allows you to drop the idea that there is something perfect. You need to gain nourishment from outside of the studio to give dance what it deserves.”
Lauren Kay, a Dance Spirit contributing editor, is a dancer and writer in NYC.
Is it any surprise a world premiere by choreographer Uri Sands and musician Justin Vernon, both renowned for the profound beauty and gorgeous musicality of their work, immediately sold out? We're hungry for creative collaborations that take reflective deep dives into what constitutes our humanity—and then there's the undeniable cool factor. Nine members of TU Dance will perform alongside Bon Iver (Vernon's band) during the evening-length piece. Presented as part of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's Liquid Music Series. April 19–21. The work will also appear at the Hollywood Bowl Aug. 5. tudance.org.
Ah, the quest for the perfect, foot-flattering, technique-enhancing pointe shoe: It can feel like a never-ending saga. Still on the hunt for that ideal pair? Then you won't want to miss The School at Steps' annual Pointe Shoe Workshop and Fair, happening this Sunday, April 22nd, at 6:30 pm in NYC.
As always, the event—which is sponsored by our friends at Pointe—will feature an impressive panel of experts. This year's lineup includes orthopedist Dr. Andrew Price, professional fitter Mary Carpenter, master teacher Linda Gelinas, Pointe style editor Marissa DeSantis, and New York City Ballet star Sara Mearns (eee!).
Jennifer Nichols was rehearsing barefoot this winter when she got a split in the bottom of her foot. An independent choreographer, she was preparing a self-made solo to be performed as part of a new music show in Toronto, and the studio's Marley floor was usually used by winter boot–wearing musicians.
A split may not seem like a big deal. But this one led to a serious infection that would land Nichols in hospital and almost end her performing career.
You might feel like the second choice when you look at the casting sheet, but understudies are necessary, valued team members who are regularly called off the bench to perform—even with very little prep time. "It is like the ultimate trust exercise with your director," says Mia J. Chong, who understudied many roles in ODC/Dance's The Velveteen Rabbit as an apprentice before becoming a company dancer this year. "Often, you do a lot of the homework on your own to make sure you can produce a quality performance, even if you don't have the chance to demonstrate it right away."
Here's what to expect when you're learning from the back of the room and—when you're needed—how to step into the part with confidence.
In his final bow at New York City Ballet, during what should have been a heroic conclusion to a celebrated ballet career, Robert Fairchild slipped and fell. His reaction? To lie down flat on his back like he meant to do it. Then start cracking up at himself.
"He's such a ham," says his sister Megan Fairchild, with a laugh. "He's really good at selling whatever his body is doing that day. He'll turn a moment that I would totally go home and cry about into something where the audience is like, 'That's the most amazing thing ever!' "
I found a great boyfriend in my ballet company. I love how he understands my life as a professional dancer. The problem is we've started fighting whenever one of us gives the other a correction during partnering. Is dating him a bad idea?
—Lovesick, Toronto, Ontario
The #MeToo movement has made its way to France's biggest ballet company.
An anonymous survey recently leaked to the French press revealed major turbulence at the Paris Opéra Ballet. The Straits Times reports that the survey was conducted by an internal group representing POB's dancers. In it, there are numerous claims of bullying, sexual harassment and management issues.
Nearly all of the dancers (132 out of 154) answered the questionnaire, but they didn't know it would be made public. (Around 100 of them later signed a statement saying they didn't consent to its release.)
Merce Cunningham would have been 99 years old today, and, as a present to the dance world, the Merce Cunningham Trust has announced a dizzying array of celebrations to unfold over the next year in honor of the groundbreaking choreographer's 2019 centennial.
"Merce liked saying he didn't want to celebrate his birthday, and yet he always enjoyed when we threw parties for him," Trevor Carlson, producer of the Merce Cunningham Centennial, said in a press release. Though the Merce Cunningham Dance Company shuttered in 2011 (two years after the choreographer's death, per his wishes), plans to celebrate his legacy range from performances to film screenings to workshops to education programs to dinner parties.