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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.
Bales of hay, black umbrellas, bicycles—this Midsummer Night's Dream would be unrecognizable to the Bard. Alexander Ekman's full-length, inspired by Scandinavian solstice traditions and set to music by Mikael Karlsson, is a madcap celebration of the longest day of the year, when the veil between our world and that of the supernatural is said to be at its thinnest. The Joffrey Ballet's performances mark the seductively surreal work's North American premiere. April 25–May 6. joffrey.org.
"There's an ancient energy in Fana's movement, a deep and trusted knowing," says Jeff, director of the Chicago-based Deeply Rooted Dance Theater. "Because I witnessed the raw humanity of his dancer's souls, I wanted my dancers to have that experience."
When I wrote about my struggle with depression, and eventual departure from dance because of it, I expected criticism. I was prepared to be challenged. But much to my relief, and horror, dancers from all over the world responded with support and stories of solidarity. The most critical response I saw was this one:
"Dance isn't for everyone."
This may as well be a mantra in the dance world. We have become entrenched in the Darwinian notion that the emotionally weak will be weeded out. There is no room for them anyway.
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!' "
Growing up in a family-owned dance studio in Missouri had its perks for tap dancer Anthony Russo. But it also earned him constant taunting, especially in high school.
"There was a junior in my sophomore year health class who was absolutely relentless," he says. "I'd get tripped on my way to the front of the classroom and he'd say, 'Watch out, twinkle toes.' If I raised my hand and answered a question incorrectly, I'd hear a patronizing 'Nice one, Bojangles.' "
Choreographer Sergio Trujillo asked the women auditioning for ensemble roles in his newest musical to arrive in guys' clothing—"men's suits, or blazers and ties," he says. He wasn't being kinky or whimsical. The entire ensemble of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical is female, playing men and women interchangeably as they unfold the history of the chart-busting, Grammy-winning, indisputable Queen of Disco.
Have a scroll through Agnes Muljadi's Instagram feed (@artsyagnes), and you'll notice that in between her ballet shots is a curated mix of lifestyle pics. So what exactly sets her apart from the other influencers you follow? Muljadi has made a conscious effort to only feature natural beauty products, sustainable fashion and vegan foods. With over 500k followers, her social strategy (and commitment to making ethical choices) is clearly a hit. Ahead, learn why Muljadi switched to a vegan lifestyle, and the surprising way it's helped her dance career.
He may not be a household name, but you probably know Brandon Stirling Baker's work. The 30-year-old has designed the lighting for most of Justin Peck's ballets—including Heatscape for Miami City Ballet, and the edgy The Times Are Racing for New York City Ballet—but also Jamar Roberts' new Members Don't Get Weary at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and a trio of Martha Graham duets for L.A. Dance Project.
He's been fascinated by lighting ever since he attended a public performing arts middle school in Sherman Oaks, California, where he had his first experiences lighting shows. He also has a background in music (he plays guitar and bass) and in drawing. Both, he says, are central to the way he approaches lighting dance.
Update: Due to an overwhelming response, the in-person audition has been moved to a larger location to accommodate more dancers. See details below.
For the first time in more than 10 years, Janet Jackson is holding an open audition for dancers.
Even better? You could land a spot in her #JTribe simply by posting a video on social media.
What does it take to become an international superstar? Carlos Acosta might have a few ideas.
At the Oxford Literary Festival earlier this month, the BBC sat down with Acosta to ask for his life lessons. His answers—which he says he will pass on to his kids one day—give incredible insight into how he's become such a beloved worldwide success.