Fall is upon us, and if you live somewhere with four seasons, you are likely watching the leaves turn glorious colors…
We thought it might be fun to share a few “Autumn-themed” ballet videos with you, to get in the spirit of things–enjoy!
“The Leaves Are Fading” Pas de Deux –Antony Tudor (set at the end of summer)
Autumn Fairy — Frederick Ashton’s “Cinderella”
Autumn from “The Four Seasons Ballet” — Shanghai Dance Academy
The International Association for Dance Medicine and Science held their 25th annual meeting in October at the Marriott City Center in downtown Pittsburgh, PA. Starting off with a day for teachers, the gathering spanned a four-day period that offered networking opportunities, information-sharing, and an overall sense of purpose that was clear and heartfelt.
As a first-time attendee, I thought I’d share some thoughts on the meeting with those who may be interested, and those who might want to consider going in the future. After all, next year’s meeting is in Hong Kong, which would make a lovely trip!
I have to say that I really enjoyed my time with this unique group of professionals, and felt the experience was definitely worthwhile. As most of you are already aware, I’m very passionate about the topic of dance wellness, and I’d love nothing more than to see IADMS continue to grow and connect with dancers and dance teachers everywhere.
So…here are some thoughts on the experience from my perspective, along with a few photos that should give a little context to my narrative.
Without question the single largest benefit to attending this meeting is the networking. The IADMS gathering brings professionals together from all over the world, giving them a chance to compare notes, talk dance medicine, and, perhaps most importantly, get to know one another.
Even with the magic of connecting via the web, there is just no substitute for face-to-face interaction. To that end, I enjoyed having the chance to meet the members of our own Dance Wellness Panel in person for the first time, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the planning time we had to solidify topics we’ll share with readers throughout the year (stay tuned!).
Although IADMS is smaller gathering of professionals than conferences such as Dance USA and the Dance Teacher Summit, it actually works to the advantage of the organization in this case. It simply felt much easier to connect with people here. Faces became familiar after a day or two, and because of that, it made approaching people less intimidating–even for a somewhat introverted person, such as myself.
Several events were incorporated into the meeting’s overall framework that allowed participants the chance to just relax and mingle a bit. Among these were the welcome reception Friday evening, and the “dance party” on Saturday night.
The information presented at the IADMS meeting fell into three primary formats: lectures, movement sessions, and poster presentations. There were also a number of tables on-hand from various supporters and exhibitors. To try and summarize everything offered is quite an impossibility, so an overview of the main categories is offered here instead…each with a few examples…
Throughout the event there were numerous lectures available for attendees to take in — from “Nutritional concerns in vegetarian and vegan dancers“ to “The science of motor learning: creating a model for dance training” to “Anterior hip pain in a dancer – an alternative diagnosis.”
Injury prevention/treatment, teaching strategies, metabolism, and dancer fitness were just some of the topics addressed by professionals from the podium. Lecture sessions were typically brief and specific, with accompanying slides. Following each lecture there was an opportunity for questions/comments.
Poster presentations offered another approach in terms of information sharing and engagement. Posters were displayed in a room where attendees could peruse them and discuss ideas with one another at a leisurely pace. These sessions were lively, and many people took advantage of the opportunity to join in the conversation.
There were two poster presentation slots during the span of the meeting, and a wide range of topics were covered, such as, “Differences in sway area observed in ballerinas en demi pointe and en pointe,” “Can textured insoles improve ankle proprioception and performance in dancers?” and “Building a safe environment for private dance sectors: a business model to provide healthcare for dancers.”
In addition to the posters and lectures, the IADMS meeting also provides numerous “movement sessions” where participants have the chance to explore thoughts and ideas in a more “hands-on,” active environment.
Some of the movement sessions included: “Using technology for movement analysis in the dance studio,” “Incorporating conditioning into a modern dance technique class,” and “Gaga, Ohad Naharin’s movement language,” among many others.
Unlike the lecture sessions which are generally rather short in length, the movement sessions typically run about 50 minutes, giving attendees the chance to dig in a bit and try some things out for themselves.
In my time at the meeting I met a wide range of educators, students and dance medicine professionals — from seasoned, founding members of the field — to brand new faces just joining the ranks after graduation.
It was wonderful to see such a large span of ages and experience levels in attendance, and exciting to think about the possibilities that bringing this group of people together offers to the dance community throughout the world.
For more information on IADMS, please visit their website, and be sure to keep an eye on their blog. Those hoping to attend the 26th annual meeting in Hong Kong can keep an eye out for details on the site, and membership information is there as well.
Disclosure: 4dancers attended the 25th annual meeting on a press pass granted by IADMS, but no monetary compensation was received for coverage of the event. All transportation, lodging, and meals were paid for by 4dancers.
Before I could even understand the true meaning of ballet, I dreamed about dancing in Swan Lake. I would even fall asleep listening to the music of Tchaikovsky. In 2001, my mom took me to see a performance of American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake. Paloma Herrera danced the principal roles of Odette and Odile. I was so completely entranced. That performance solidified my love for dance.
Years later, while I was dancing with Alabama Ballet, I had the opportunity to perform as Odette and Odile in the four-act Petipa/Ivanov version of Swan Lake.
Swan Lake was first was created by Julius Reisinger in 1877, but redeveloped by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov in 1895. The Petipa/Ivanov version stands as a base for many versions today.0
by Cara Marie Gary
In prepping for the theater today, I was reminded of a beloved teacher and started thinking of the insight she’s given me over the years. My earliest memory of her advice was when I was fourteen years old, competing in the VI Serge Lifar International Ballet Competition. It was the first time I had left the United States and traveled without my parents. I was immersed into a new culture and language while being severely jet-lagged from a lengthy flight to Kiev, Ukraine. But most importantly, this was the first time I learned an important lesson from someone I cherish dearly in the dance world.6
by Jessika Anspach McEliece
Her deafening scream reverberated through the studio.
Remembering it and my stomach still curdles. One moment she was doing petit allegro, the next writhing on the Marley floor in animalistic agony.
There are just some moments you never forget.
Moments you wish you could.
And yet these terrifying incidents are ones rarely thought of, let alone mentioned. It must be human nature to sweep the scary under the rug. Like those cheesy ceramic monkeys I often see in vintage shops, we choose to “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” superstitiously (and aren’t we dancers the worst?) believing that if we don’t speak it, acknowledge it, then it doesn’t exist. Injury won’t happen to us. We keep the lights on and those monsters “safely” under the bed.
But sometimes, no matter our diligence – how often we ice, how much we stretch or see the P.T., no matter how many “Zzz’s” we get, the monsters rear their frightening faces. And sometimes we end up on the Marley floor.
My “Marley moment” came May 15th, 2015. And I actually was on the floor.4
by Andrea Thompson
For the past two summers, I have had the distinct pleasure and challenge of teaching in both Hubbard Street’s level III intensive and the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance’s summer program. This year I taught Hubbard Street 2 repertory in Chicago, aptly named “Andrea Class” in San Francisco, and ballet in both programs. Three summers ago, if anyone had asked me to teach I would have politely and very definitively declined. I didn’t feel ready. I didn’t feel that I was qualified to deliver information as if I were an expert when there was still so much for me to take in from my teachers and peers. After all, I felt, those who are designated as educators in this field should be both veterans of their subject matter and skilled orators, imparting tried-and-true wisdom to their earnest disciples. Though I had tried a lot of things, I hadn’t yet decided what my truths were. As it turns out, two years into my teaching journey I still haven’t, and every time I teach I seem to be amassing evidence that that’s not actually an essential element of it.
What is truth?
What I mean by “truth” is settling on a single approach based on years of building expertise in a particular movement vocabulary/philosophy. There’s certainly value in the long-term, deep study of one such language, just as there is value in having years of experience teaching. With experience come strategies for how to best communicate with and reach dancers of all age groups, skill levels, and dispositions. But in terms of class content and structure, I believe that there are infinite ways to go about challenging students to learn and grow and engage with dance. Personally, my relationship with it has been kept vibrant by the regular overhauling of the perspectives I’ve absorbed, since I have been lucky enough to come across new approaches to dance every few years of my career.
In the current climate of the contemporary genre it seems an urgent necessity to examine and utilize all the information I’ve engaged with, rather than decide that one system or movement language is more valid than another. It stands to reason that in order to stay relevant, delivering the multifarious ideas I like to employ requires a class structure that is fluid.
Reading the room
Needless to say this makes planning a little difficult. And as essential as planning is – more on that later – this summer I found that reading the room while teaching trumps nearly everything else in terms of importance. Depending on how the student-teacher interaction is going, handling the expectations of 30 trusting young dancers can feel like a huge responsibility – or a solo stand-up comedy show, a giant improv score, herding cats, accidentally going onstage naked, being lost in a foreign country, suddenly becoming an omnipotent wizard, a rock concert, or a psychological experiment in which the roles of subject and scientist are unclear.
It’s a constant conversation, and the same way that you would adjust your wording if you see you’re not getting your point across, or your listener is getting bored, you adjust your words or your physicality or your plan for the day in order to arrive at your point in class. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s this weird power of insistence that you have as a teacher that you might not use in polite conversation with a peer. I was surprised to find that sometimes, “try harder,” “stick with it,” and “just do it because I say so” were valid and effective demands that produced dramatic results. The beautiful simplicity of setting higher expectations in the room could be just as enabling of student improvement as wracking my brain for synonyms of the same idea and the resultant assumption that I, as a teacher, was failing to articulate what was needed.
But regardless of my ambitions for the environment I wanted to create and the growth I wanted to facilitate, this summer with Andrea Class I had to come up with the “what” of the class as well as the “how.” Most of my plans for Andrea Class began with an objective: a larger idea about dance or performance I wanted to explore, or a result I wanted to curate for the students, i.e. a feeling of freedom, the joy of digging into effort, or mastering some ubiquitous elements of floorwork. I compiled exercises that lent themselves to that end, mixing things I’d done before with new games and improv tasks. Next came playlist planning, since I have yet to find a streaming service whose musical tastes match my own. Occasionally I made a phrase to provide context for the research and highlight movement pathways I felt would be beneficial to work on.
The “plan-n-scrap method”
After all that, most of my Andrea Classes played out thusly: armed with ideas and music, I would begin, and within a few minutes of moving around together surveying my surroundings, realize the majority of my planning was useless. I had picked the wrong theme of the day, or there was something else lacking in the atmosphere that needed to be addressed. I once played an improv game called “what the room needs,” and never has there been a better time to use it than while teaching, even if I’m the only one playing. After a handful of unsuccessful-feeling classes in which I stuck rigidly to my curriculum, I started applying that idea to my teaching and consequently scrapped most of my plans. I began to trust that my own experiences as a professional dancer (and not-too-distant student) would work together with my instincts and empathy to steer the spontaneous class structure. I tried to dance as much as possible in my classes so I could feel what I was asking of my students, and I found that my physical participation was often a better indicator of what needed to happen next than what I could divine from the front of the room. My dancing was also, I found out, much more effective than words in helping people figure out unfamiliar pathways in floorwork.
This plan-n-scrap method is evidenced in the hilarious log I kept of my Andrea Class teaching. In it I wrote my idea for each class followed by what actually happened when I got in there. I always started with a plan, and what I discerned was that my brain needed to go through the steps of making it in order to kickstart itself into curious-leader mode. Inevitably by the time class began my thoughts would be miles down the road from where they started, but my cranial engine did not rev up properly unless I truly applied myself to planning. My own class-taking within the Conservatory’s summer program also sparked ideas about what does and doesn’t work in dance education, and what my optimal role might be within the existing structure of it. Some of my reflections emerged days later while teaching, having stewed subconsciously until the right opportunity presented itself. Another advantage to all the planning was that I knew if I ever choked, I had not just a plan B written down, but C, D, E, and F to choose from.
At SFCD I had the luxury of working consistently with the same group of people over the course of four weeks. We got to know each other, trust each other, sweat together, grow together. I haven’t taught any “Andrea Classes” outside of that program, but I’m now very interested in continuing to explore my teaching voice as an ongoing aspect of my development within this field.
I almost wrote “find” my teaching voice, but I have a feeling that for as long as I continue to teach, I will never fully pin down my approach to dance or dance pedagogy as an absolute. It feels like the discoveries I made about myself as a teacher this summer have already begun to influence my own dancing, and have set the course for my approach to shift once again.
I once heard the brilliant ex-Forsythe dancer Christopher Roman confide to a teaching colleague, “I’m always changing my mind. I can’t do one thing today and expect it to still feel right tomorrow, but if it was right for that moment then it was the right thing.” So it went with my Andrea Classes this summer, and so it goes with my Andrea Teaching. Having moved past the fear of unpreparedness from three years ago, I’m now looking forward to charting the unknown seas ahead.
Contributor Andrea Thompson trained at the American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, the Ailey School, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. Those schools and programs with Springboard Danse Montréal, Nederlands Dans Theater and Batsheva Dance Company brought opportunities to perform works by William Forsythe, Ohad Naharin, Alex Ketley, Christian Burns, Marina Mascarell Martinez, Gregory Dolbashian, Idan Sharabi, Danielle Russo, and Robyn Mineko Williams.
Professionally, Andrea has danced with the Foundry, Zhukov Dance Theatre, and LoudHoundMovement. Most recently she danced with Hubbard Street 2, where she performed works by Loni Landon, Alex Soares, Alejandro Cerrudo, Ihsan Rustem, Bryan Arias, and Victor A. Ramirez. She joined Shen Wei Dance Arts this spring.0
by Karen Musey
September is here! The back to school vibe is high in the air and your dance year is about to begin! It is an exciting time and now is the perfect time to figure out your goals for this dancing season.
I define a goal as something that is specific and measurable, for ex. having clean triple pirouettes on both sides in all of my disciplines; not something vague like I want to be a better turner.
Stating your goal allows you to feel empowered with your progress as a dancer. It is good to stick to one goal at a time, so you can really zero in and complete it. Having too many goals splits focus and often less is accomplished. When youʼve fully integrated a goal into your technique, then you can choose a new one to work towards.
So – where do you want to see yourself a year from now?
Before you race forward, it is helpful to remember your accomplishments and challenges from the previous year. When you take stock of what happened and how you felt about it, you can make informed choices and set realistic goals for the year.
If you had an easy season where your hard work allowed you to easily achieve your intentions, it is important to take a moment and acknowledge your success! Your future goals will build off of the confidence of your last achievements, and you will get a sense of which challenges you are ready to tackle next.
What if you had a challenging year? Maybe you were working through an injury or other obstacles came up. It is important to take a moment to honor your persistence and dedication through that difficult time. You can build great confidence from a challenging year because adversity builds character and hopefully, stronger self care habits. Many (if not most) well known professional dancers had to work through obstacles to be where they are today. Through patience and their determination to succeed, they eventually met their goals.
Your journey may follow a slightly different path than those around you, but if you can trust yourself and your coaches, you will often surprise yourself with what you can accomplish.
How do you want to grow as a dancer this year? Is it mastering a new style of dancing, taking on your first solo, or joining a class as a teacherʼs assistant?
Maybe this is the year that YOU
… choose to be self reliant and remember every step without shadowing another.
… learn the french translation of the steps in your ballet class so you develop a new understanding of the material.
… memorize and accurately pick up the combination the first time it is shown to you.
… be THE cheerleader for yourself and your team – own your success, pump up a friend who feels down, and acknowledge anotherʼs triumph.
…. stand in the front during classes and workshops and really absorb the information given.
…. plan and pack healthier snacks for yourself, to have the energy to carry you through.
…. slow down each technical element to articulate each one 100% correctly, even if you think youʼve already mastered them.
… see yourself as a powerful artist who has something important to offer, every time you look in the mirror.
If your goal feels a little challenging and a bit uncomfortable or scary, and you are still excited to take it on – Congratulations! Youʼve found an awesome way to grow for the year.
Move forward with clarity and confidence
Having a support system is key in accomplishing your goals! Sharing your goals with your fellow dancers and coaches will help you be accountable and stay on track.
Journaling is a popular way to keep tabs on goal progress. Many professional performers keep regular audition and class journals by marking the date and their thoughts of their experience of each performance. This way, they can review their notes and make good decisions moving forward.
For you, setting aside a quick 5 or 10 minutes to write in a short daily or weekly journal is great; just enough time has passed for you to still remember the details of the weekʼs events. Reading your notes can give you clues in how you are moving forward, or if you could approach the goal from a different angle. At the end of the semester when you reread your notes, you will feel fantastic about all of your progress.
All of these small steps will lead you forward to the new challenges you will be rocking later this year. Have an awesome September!
Contributor Karen Musey is a dynamic Canadian born, New York based performer, teacher and dance adjudicator. Her training includes study at Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet Professional Division, The Banff Centre, EDGE PAC (LA), Upright Citizen’s Brigade, The Barrow Group, Kimball Studio, Canada’s National Voice Intensive, Comic Strip Live and more.
Karen Musey judges national and regional dance competitions and festivals across the United States and Canada. She was a Director/Choreographer Observership Candidate during the 2011/12 season with Stage Directors and Choreographers Union and has served as a rehearsal director and dance captain for KOBA Family Entertainment. Karen Musey is an ABT® Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training Intensive in Pre-Primary through Level 5 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum. She is a U.S. Member of the International Dance Council CID, recognized by UNESCO.
Performing highlights – PHISH at Madison Square Garden; World Premiere of the Canadian Opera Company’s Das Rheingold (Wagner Ring Cycle); National Artist Program Gala for the 2003 Canada Winter Games; for HRH Queen Elizabeth II during the Golden Jubliee Tour; Chicago (Rainbow Stage); comedy short Foreign Exchange (72 Hour Asian American Film Shootout); music videos for The Guards and Malynda Hale; international tours and performances with The Young Americans, J.A.R. Productions and KOBA Family Entertainment; stand up and sketch comedy around New York; Bravo! documentaries, films and more. She is currently co-writing a play. www.karenmusey.com2