by Christopher Duggan
This summer at Jacob’s Pillow marked Trey McIntyre Project‘s last performances as a professional dance company before Trey moves on to other projects. I’ve photographed the dance company before, and I’ve always loved Trey’s choreography.
It just seemed like a very special week, so I thought it’d be great to spend extra time with the company making pictures. I photographed the company in dress rehearsal as I usually do, but I also photographed one performance from backstage and I made portraits with four of the dancers around the Pillow grounds and on my family’s trampoline.
Each of these four dancers, Benjamin Behrends, Chanel Da Silva, Amber Mayberry and Brett Perry, really gave me time to explore with them. The nature of a dancer’s schedule is that they just don’t usually have a lot of time to spare. So I approach a portrait with an idea that we try to execute and we may be able to try one other thing after that, but then the dancer needs to go.
Chanel and I had two hours together and there were several photos we tried that are not featured here, because we were able to explore more and figure out the best portraits. The same with Amber Mayberry below – she gave me a nice amount of time to have a relaxed approach and create something together.
To be able to create something together is special. We’re both artists, and we want to make something beautiful. I was able to do that with all of them, because they were so generous with their time and excited to work together. When they had their final performance that Sunday afternoon, I snuck in to the Ted Shawn Theatre at the very end to capture their final bows. I wanted them to have this moment forever.
He photographs dancers in the studio and in performance, for promotional materials, portraits and press, and he often collaborates with his wife, Nel Shelby, and her Manhattan-based dance film and video editing company Nel Shelby Productions (nelshelby.com). Together, they have documented dance at performances from New York City to Vail International Dance Festival.
Christopher Duggan Photography also covers the finest wedding venues in the Metropolitan and Tri-State areas, in Massachusetts and the Berkshires, and frequently travels to destination weddings.
His photographs appear in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Knot, Destination I Do, Photo District News, Boston Globe, Financial Times, Dance Magazine, and Munaluchi Bridal, among other esteemed publications and popular dance and wedding blogs. One of his images of Bruce Springsteen was added to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and his dance photography has been exhibited at The National Museum of Dance and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
His Natural Light Studio (http://www.christopherduggan.com/portfolio/natural-light-studio-jacobs-pillow-photography/) at Jacob’s Pillow is his most ambitious photography project to date – check out his blog to see more portraits of dance artists in his pop-up photo studio on the Pillow grounds.
If you have ever wanted to be a part of a fringe festival, this piece is for you. Get some of the details before you sign on to make the process easier, and hopefully, more enjoyable!
by Katie C. Sopoki Drake
1. Read the fine print
Fringe shows have a lot of rules and fine print. A lot. Some require you to have a website, some require you to have their branding on your advertisement, and all have a lot of very specific deadlines. Read it all and make a checklist. You don’t want to show up at the theater the day of your tech to find out that not only did you have to provide your own lighting designer, but the space is 20×16 and there are no wings.
2. Snazzy Postcards
Everyone has a postcard and you need one too. Here’s the catch, you must make yours stand out without breaking the bank. Funky sizes, color and gloss do this, but they all cost extra. First, figure out what image will instantly scream, “This is the vital essence of my show!” and then pick one of the “extras” that will make your postcard stand out from the others and enhance the message of your advertisement. You will be handing these out like candy, so skip the D.I.Y., “Each of these cards are like a special flower” treatment because people WILL grab them, fold them, shove them in a pocket, or throw them in the trash in front of your eyes.
3. Edit your show description for a non-dance crowd
You know what your piece is about, your dancers get it, but the bad news is that unless you write your title and description to scream, “This is a dance, it is about ____, it the general feel is ____, and it appeals to the ____ crowd!”, then no one but your family and those 3 local die-hard dance fans will come. Stay away from vague and florid language. Keep it short and spell out what the audience will see in as few words as possible.
Here’s a sweet little guide to writing a good Fringe description: http://vicfringeartists.webs.com/apps/blog/entries/show/10703899-fringe-tutorial-1-crafting-a-good-show-description
4. Edit your show for a Fringe audience
Fringe shows are a beast of their own. Fringe audiences are a fun crowd for a reason. They expect a little bit of disaster (intentional or not) with their show-going experience. Because the list of Fringe shows is a mile long, many of your fellow artists will put out their most experimental, bawdy, or hilarious material to get noticed. You will see shows that just don’t fly in a traditional setting here because part of the fun is seeing shows that don’t fit neatly into a regular season. Clowning, one-man/woman shows, and brash political/social commentary all have a welcome home at the Fringe. Knowing what your show will be surrounded by might help you either choose a theme, or a piece from your repertoire that will feel at home too. Comb through show descriptions and reviews from years past to get an idea of what to expect.
5. Shows have 1 or 2 performers for a reason
You read the fine print. Unless you write your own material, dance it yourself, make your own costumes, etc., you will not be able to recoup the price of your rehearsal space rentals in ticket sales. You can’t afford to pay multiple dancers, designers, and rights for text or music. You cannot. So keep it simple, everyone else is too.
Side note: if you are traveling, most Fringe performers stay with friends or local artists near their venue and go grocery shopping for their food. Keep those costs down and get some good friend-time in, but warn your hosts that Fringe-ing will mean late nights and sleeping in.
6. Time your show down to the minute and practice your load in and load out
by Catherine L. Tully
These are two words that form the cornerstone of any healthy long-term relationship—personal or professional. Even so, it’s often hard to check the ‘ol ego at the door for the greater good of the partnership. But take two people from the dance world that have known each other for 16 years, give them a shared vision and complementary skill sets…and wonderful things can happen.
It’s immediately obvious that there’s a deep rapport between Lucy Vurusic-Riner and Michael Estanich, and it is in every sense the foundation that their dance company is built upon. RE|Dance is a collaborative effort between these two long-time friends, and their respective titles provide all the information needed to dig a little deeper and see why they work so well together.
Vurusic-Riner is the Executive Director and handles the majority of the business aspects of RE|Dance. Estanich runs point on the creative arena as the Artistic Director. He choreographs and selects costumes. She writes grants and markets the performances.
Estanich lives in Wisconsin and teaches at University of Wisconsin/Stevens Point. Vurusic-Riner resides in Chicago and is a high school dance program instructor. They do the majority of the work for the company separately, coming together only for short spurts of time where they work together intensely, then return to their respective towns.
This makes for a challenging situation, but the two have learned to embrace it, and even thrive on it. Estanich explains saying, “Our time apart provides privacy to consider the ideas, movements, research etc., on our own (this includes the dancers too). When we are together it is RE|Dance Group nearly 24 hours a day. We are constantly together and with the company and feel a bit of pressure to generate a lot of material during those intensive rehearsals. The time apart gives me the chance to consider what the company and I have generated and see how it influences the direction of a project.”
Daily communication is important to this process, and Estanich believes this enriches the creative ideas that have been generated. “It is rare to have the opportunity to discuss the choreographic ideas so deeply before moving again,” he says, adding, “I think this builds indelible trust in each other, personally, creatively, administratively, and inspirationally.”
So how do the two artists make this arrangement work while teaching full time? They multi-task. Most projects begin with Estanich working with his students to create an initial jumping off point. Vurusic-Riner says, “We then take what they have put together, which is typically a smaller version of the piece, and we expand it to become an evening-length work.”
In the past this has meant learning from video, but for their upcoming project, The Long and Forgotten Winter, the pair used a different approach. “This is an idea that Michael developed for the company specifically and we have had full investment and ownership in it since day one,” says Vurusic-Riner, who took a more direct role in the movement development this time around.
The most interesting area of crossover is the company’s rehearsal time, directed, surprisingly, by Vurusic-Riner. Since home base is Chicago, she is responsible for keeping Estanich’s vision alive in the dancers and putting them through their paces. This creates unique challenges in its execution, but again, the respect for one another provides a through-line. “We trust each other to do what’s best for the company,” says Vurusic-Riner, adding, “We don’t always like the same things and our movement preferences are not always the same, but we do have the same vision when it comes to our artistic philosophy.”
Vurusic-Riner knows Estanich’s style so well that she is often able to “guesstimate” a movement pattern or linking step if it isn’t clear. But even so, the dancers must remain flexible in terms of learning the choreography as it can change in a moment once Estanich appears back on the scene.
RE|Dance has enjoyed steady growth throughout the five years it has been in existence, but The Long And Forgotten Winter is more than just another choreographic vision coming to life. It also represents how dedication, mutual respect and love for one’s art can triumph over distance and time. It may not be the easiest way to work, but for these two artists, it is the only way they can do what they love with the other person at their side.
Even if it’s only some of the time.
The Long And Forgotten Winter will be at the Ruth Page Center for the Performing Arts August 1st and 2nd at 7:30 pm and August 3rd at 3 pm. Tickets are $20.
Read more about this production on Art Intercepts.
*Lucy Vurusic-Riner is a contributing writer to 4dancers.org.
Nathan Owen, originally from Essex, UK, is now a resident of Huntsville, USA. At the age of 19 he moved to the United States to obtain a Bachelor in Nursing in Keokuk, Iowa. However, Nathan changed his degree to Theatre in Denison, Texas where he gained an Associates in Theatre. He now attends Sam Houston State where he will earn his BFA in Musical Theatre.
Can you tell readers how you became involved with dance?
I had not taken a professional dance class before the age of 21, but I had always had a love for dance from an early age. I have inclined towards musical theater since childhood but never been within the dance chorus, always just singing and acting. After moving to the United States at the age of 19 to pursue a career in nursing, I sat in on an open audition for the theater department, was persuaded to audition and was subsequently cast in a small role, but was told if I switched majors to theater I could receive scholarships! So naturally I went back to my first passion of acting at Grayson college in Denison, Texas.
When the next season came I was cast as lead, Luther Billis in South Pacific, and was awarded an Irene Ryan nomination for region VI. I traveled to Louisiana to compete and this is where I saw two productions from Sam Houston State University. Its production of Enron blew me away and I immediately knew this was the school for me. I auditioned in April 2013 and was accepted on my first attempt, even though I stopped during my dance audition due to my lack of training. Being accepted onto the musical theater program here has really expanded my horizons more than I could have ever imagined. Within my first year I have taken multiple dance techniques including ballet, jazz, tap, aerial and theater workshop where we learn stylized dance from within the theater work or whole routines from the stages of Broadway, West End or movies.
What do you find you like best about dance class?
When it comes to dance classes the thing I like most about them is the discovery you make about yourself and what you are capable of. If you go to math three times a week, you don’t have these moments of pure excitement like when you hit a 13 part riff perfectly in sync with your whole tap class, or the first time you do a 360 release from the aviator in aerial! I will never stop being amazed at what I can do if I just put my time and energy into it.
What is the hardest part about dance for you?
The hardest thing about dance for me, is walking in with 30 other musical theater majors and being taught a combination, then having to pick it up in 15-20 minutes and regurgitate it in front of all my extremely talented peers and professors!
What advice would you give to other dancers?
As a new dancer I would say two things; one, it’s never too late to start learning. I have met people who have been dancing for 15 years and come to university and tried a new dance style, and it has an impact and improves all aspects of their dance by gaining an even greater understanding of their body.
My second point would be, don’t let dance be a blood sport. Auditions and competition should never divide this community, we have enough people in our lives saying NO! Or that you can’t do it professionally. So I would say to you out there, let the love of the arts strengthen our ties. Let it create empathy for one another because we all know how hard a ‘no’ is, but also the elation of a ‘yes’. So why not be cast in a chorus of their happiness, instead of the lead of your sadness.
How has dance changed your life?
Dance has changed my life for the better in so many ways. I now have a much greater appreciation of the craft of musical theater and the depth that dance can have within it. From the portrayal of story with movement, to the understanding of dance’s influence within the art, such as Agnes de Mille’s Oklahoma or Bob Fosse’s Cabaret. Dance has broadened my horizons further than I could ever have imagined and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.0
I am delighted to introduce you to Moira McCormack, the chief Physiotherapist (that’s the UK word for Physical Therapist) for the Royal Ballet Company in London, England. Moira is a former dancer who became a PT, and has been working with dancers for over 20 years.
Several months ago we had an article on stretching, and I promised you a follow-up; a piece specifically on hypermobility — so here it is! We are indebted to Moira for writing this for 4dancers, as she is one the leading experts in this area of dance medicine.
- Jan Dunn, Dance Wellness Editor
Everyone knows that dancers need to be flexible. You can work hard to achieve flexibility but while this is not easy or comfortable it is achievable to a certain extent. However, there are those dancers who do not have to work for flexibility – they can already do the splits every which way, often have swayback knees, a very flexible spine and ‘amazing’ feet. These dancers have an inherited joint flexibility. This means the connective tissue, at cellular level, which binds the body together – joint capsule, fascia, ligaments, tendon, and skin – is not as tightly or evenly knit together compared to other bodies.
Just before you wish you were one of those, you need to know the drawbacks. If you have inherited a global hypermobility (hyper=more than normal) there may be some far reaching consequences.
These dancers also have flexibility where they do not need it – the joints of the fingers which bend backwards to an alarming degree, the shoulders that are extremely flexible and the swayback elbows which look distorted. Also the skin is over stretchy, especially at the elbows and knees and over the back of the hand.
Those dancers find it hard to build strength, control and stability. If joint capsule and ligament allow more excursion (movement), this can lead to early wear and tear or even injury if dislocation takes place.
Good stability around joints is a result of joint capsule and ligament restriction and deep muscle activation during dynamic movement. All dancers need this, but the hypermobile dancer needs it even more, to counteract the lack in ligamentous restriction and protection.
There is a whole range in flexibility of the human body – from a global tightness which we do not find in dance to a global hypermobility which we do see, but it is not necessarily recognised as a condition to be handled with care.
The hypermobile dancer can make beautiful shapes but the coordination required to achieve a speedy petit allegro can be elusive. Balance and correct alignment can also be compromised in the dancer who is struggling with joints that are more mobile than stable. Overuse injuries and trauma can occur and it is the accumulation of injuries that progress the unfortunate dancer into what we call the Hypermobility Syndrome.
The hypermobile dancer who understands the particular requirements of her / his body will find training more logical and encouraging.
As with all dancers, stability and control starts with the pelvis and spine. The deep abdominal muscles and deep spinal muscles targeted in Pilates exercises are isolated and activated (editor note: In Pilates this is called “core control”, and in dance as often referred to as “center”).
The hip joint needs a balance of muscle around the ball and socket joint to stabilize and protect it. Placement and control should not be compromised by height of legs and ballistic (quick bouncy) movements.
The shoulders also require stabilizing, with exercises targeting the rotator cuff muscles to avoid subluxation (where the joint slips out of place just slightly) or dislocation (where it comes completely out of the socket) – especially in young male dancers who are starting lifting work.
The hyperextended knee needs to gain control throughout range, not just in the locked back position, to allow a global control of posture.
The foot requires correct alignment in order to cope with all dance techniques and needs specific foot exercises to develop the strength required for jumping, landing and pointe work. The very flexible foot, although attractive, is harder to control.
The hypermobile dancer finds it hard to gain and maintain strength – the ability to generate force within contractile muscle tissue. For this, high resistance exercises are necessary in the gym using equipment. This ‘cross training’ really is necessary for this particular body type.
This is the term used to describe the body’s position sense…i.e, knowing where you are in space. Good proprioception of the pelvis develops with core stability exercises, which educate correct spinal position. Good proprioception of the knee is developed with balance and resistance exercises and attention to perfect alignment in class. Take care not to rely on mirrors in studios. Instead try to develop better sense of position by improving alignment through careful repetition. Dancers describe this as ‘getting on your leg’.
Balance mechanisms are challenged in the more flexible dancer. Balance and proprioception are a result of accurate sensory information from joints and muscles via the nervous system. There is some evidence that these mechanisms are slower in the hypermobile body, which has to work harder than others to improve. Balance exercises in conditioning classes, the use of a wobble board and trying simple movements with the eyes closed can improve this.
Good coordination is the integration of all the above. The hypermobile dancer may struggle with speed and complex technique but repetition and determination produce rewards. (Slower work is their forte which can make the most of their exceptional lines.)
Posture and Alignment
The characteristic hypermobile posture – the rounded shoulders on the tucked under pelvis resting over the locked, swayback knees – is not to be recommended. So much time spent locking into the front of the hips and the back of the knees is weakening. Developing good postural habits – taking posture from class outside the studio with you (without the turn out) – can help with stability and control.
Fatigue can occur earlier in the hypermobile dancer simply because dancing can be more challenging for this type of body. Some aerobic exercise should be part of every dancer’s regime – swimming, brisk walking or using gym equipment.
The hypermobile dancer enjoys stretching because it is easy and feels good. However, stretching for long periods at the end of range can simply encourage instability. Sitting in box splits for too long is not good for hip joints and is unnecessary for already flexible muscles. We all prefer to practise what we are good at, while we should work at what does not come naturally. Instead, concentrate on stability exercises.
Frustratingly, sprains and strains can take longer to recover as hypermobile tissues heal more slowly. You may notice that your skin bruises and scars easily. That is because it is thinner and more delicate than normal. Injuries do heal however, but need patience and following all the same rules.
To conclude, the hypermobile body has a number of challenges but also some valuable advantages. Line and flexibility can be truly displayed once strength, stability and coordination have been acquired. In dance, different body types will require a different emphasis in training. Understanding the hypermobile body means you can train with realistic aims.
BIO: Moira McCormack MSc is Head of Physiotherapy at The Royal Ballet Company in London, UK.
After a professional dance career in classical ballet she retrained as a Physical Therapist and has worked with dancers for the last 20 years. She teaches anatomy, dance technique and injury prevention internationally, with a main interest in the management of the hypermobile dancer.0