Tracy Inman teaching Horton technique at the Ailey School. PC Eduardo Patino

Why The Classic Modern Techniques Are More Relevant Than Ever

In a competitive dance world where students train to conquer the next big thing, it can feel like historic modern techniques—from Graham to Horton to Cunningham—just aren't a priority. But the truth is, these styles are just as relevant today as when they were created.

University of Taipei students in José Limón's work. PC Yi-Chun Wu


Connect to the Past—And the Present

Experiencing this movement allows dancers to live a part of dance history in their own bodies. But it also brings new context to the contemporary forms that students might be experiencing in other classes. "Anything you're doing now came from something else," says Tracy Inman, Horton teacher and co-director of The Ailey School. Penny Godboldo, co-director of the Institute for Dunham Technique Certification, adds: "If you don't know where dance has come from, how can you understand where it is now and where it can go?"

Penny Godboldo's Dunham class. PC William Robinson

Rethink Your Technique

"The Graham release isn't just letting go of your muscles, but a spread of energy through the body," says University of North Carolina at Greensboro student Kaitlin Clow. "Now in contemporary classes, I can find more control in the releases. It's a regal technique, so I've found that I can broaden my sternum and find the full span of my arms across my chest. It helped me to tune in to smaller muscles, and find movement from within."

Engage with the World

Katherine Dunham incorporated activism into her technique "not because she wanted students to be political," says Dunham teacher Penny Godboldo, "but because she wanted them to be sensitive to what was going on in the world." The Dunham class also incorporates other genres of dance, fusing styles from contemporary to folkloric to jazz.

UNCG students in a Graham work. PC Martin Kane

Transform Your Body

Students may be surprised by the intense physical demands that many of these styles present. Dunham is "a vigorous technique," according to Penny Godboldo, and students who take it see a significant increase in core strength. UNCG student Kaitlin Clow adds that the Graham technique transformed her entire body. "I've used muscles I'd never thought about, and my back is much more defined," she says.

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Courtesy Schelfhaudt

These Retired Ballroom Dancers Started a Dance-Themed Coffee Company

Like many dancers, when Lauren Schelfhaudt and Jean Paul retired from professional ballroom dancing in 2016, they felt lost. "There was this huge void," says Schelfhaudt.

But after over 20 years of dancing, plus United States and World Championship titles, reality shows, and high-profile choreography gigs (and Paul's special claim to fame, as "the guy who makes Bradley Cooper look bad" in Silver Linings Playbook), teaching just didn't fill the void. "I got to the point where it wasn't giving me that creative outlet," says Paul.

When the pair (who are life and business partners but were never dance partners—they competed against one another) took a post-retirement trip to Costa Rica, they were ready to restart their lives. They found inspiration in an expected place: A visit to a coffee farm.

Though they had no experience in coffee roasting or business, they began building their own coffee company. In 2018, the duo officially launched Dancing Ox Coffee Roasters, where they create dance-inspired blends out of their headquarters in Belmont, North Carolina.

We talked to Schelfhaudt and Paul about how their dance background makes them better coffee roasters, and why coffee is an art form all its own:

GO DEEPER