Angela Dice Nguyen – From Chicago To San Francisco


Angela Dice Nguyen. self-portrait of a woman by Demis Volpi. Photograph by Vin Reed.

How many seasons did you perform with DanceWorks Chicago?

I performed with DanceWorks Chicago for three full seasons: 5, 6, and 7. My finale performance was the company’s first tour of the new eighth season, so my time with DWC correlates fairly well with a common count-off phrase dancers use to come together in preparation for a strong start: “5, 6, 7, 8…”

What did you learn at DanceWorks Chicago and how has it helped you?

When to make a pun, how to “go from good to great,” and what not to wear during a photo shoot: this is what I have learned at DWC, among other things, such as embracing a sense of humor. In all seriousness though, DanceWorks Chicago has changed my perspective of the world. Through dance as the means of exchange and communication, I have learned that I am only one of countless others, and yet I am the only one of me. My curiosity and bravery towards the new and unknown exist because of the respect I have developed for personal exploration, shared experiences, and permission to make mistakes. Julie Nakagawa, through thoughtful guidance, somehow crafts a way to encourage focus in certain areas and emphasizes that the journey matters more than the product or destination. I learned how to learn at DanceWorks, which is an empowering realization, and I can continue moving forward with this invaluable tool.

What was one of your favorite pieces that you danced in for DanceWorks Chicago? Could you describe it a little for us?

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DVD / CD Review : Sur Les Pointes avec une Etoile and Ballet Class Music

Sur Les Pointes avec une Etoile
Ballet Class Music
Sylvain Durand, pianist
Andrey Klemm, producer
Isabelle Ciaravola, dancer

by Emily Kate Long

Sur Les Pointes

This DVD/CD pair highlights the articulate pointe work of Paris Opera etoile Isabelle Ciaravola and the exceptional musical talent of accompanist Sylvain Durand. In the 72-munite Sur Les Pointes DVD, Andrey Klemm leads Ciaravola through a fast-paced, advanced-level barre and center. The accompanying CD features all of Durand’s music from the DVD, 52 tracks for 39 exercises.

Klemm’s combinations showcase Ciaravola’s exquisite footwork. The barre is quite typical, but several center exercises are a pleasing hybrid of Russian and French style, which the Bolshoi-trained Klemm discusses further in a short interview.

Sur Les Pointes post photo 2

Sylvain Durand plays passionately throughout, and the fact that the CD was recorded live gives it tremendous energy. The sensitivity and attention to the subtle differences in dynamic is stellar, especially for the barre and allegro selections. Unfortunately, the short tracks limit the album’s overall usefulness. Only ten are longer that ninety seconds, making longer combinations or reversals inconvenient. In center, there are just a handful of pieces long enough to accommodate more than one or two groups of dancers without restarting the music.

Durand and Klemm both have other music and DVD releases available. This is their only collaboration to date.


Trading My Tutu For An Apron: What Waiting Tables Taught Me About Being A Performer

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Pierre Bonnard’s “The Red Checkered Tablecloth” 1910

by Emily Kate Long

Most dancers have had to take a second job to pay the bills at some point in their career. In high school I cleaned houses and babysat, but throughout my professional life I’ve been lucky enough to have dance-related second jobs: as a teacher, guest artist, and summer chaperone.

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We’re popular for afternoon ice cream stops…occasionally we even stock a flavor called “Nutcracker!”

This summer I tried my hand waiting tables at a casual mom-and-pop restaurant in my neighborhood. After one day shadowing another server, my manager threw me out on the floor still wet behind the ears. It was chaotic and overwhelming and tons of fun…and, I’ve realized, not all that different from performing. I’ll admit, though, that I’m a lot less klutzy when my workday is choreographed!

Working for a small business has the same close-knit feel of dancing in a small company. Everyone has to be really invested in the work for our service to be good so the business can grow. We do the legwork and we see the immediate payoff of a happy table or a transformative moment onstage.

The ebb and flow of serving during a rush feels like getting ready for a performance. You sweat through class every day, you rehearse all your roles, you preset costumes and shoes and headpieces for quick changes, and as soon as that music starts, you get onstage and don’t look back.

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Midwesterners love their brewed sweet tea

I can’t say brewing sixteen gallons of iced tea and rolling dozens of sets of silverware each morning is as satisfying as class and rehearsal, but I can appreciate the importance of being well equipped to confidently serve a full house, whether they’re sitting in red velvet seats or at red-checkered tables.

When I work with other servers during a rush, we divide and conquer to get all the prep work, side work, and cut work done while still making sure our guests are happy. Usually it’s as simple as checking in with one another about the status of each table and whether or not there are cups in the dishwasher. Since we share our tips, we all benefit most when everybody’s on top of things.

That teamwork mentality comes easily to dancers. We know that the show is best when each performer takes responsibility for him- or herself and takes joy in the collective effort of putting work onstage. Being accountable to a group is a really powerful motivator, and shared success is a truly special thing.

Screen shot 2014-08-28 at 2.38.39 PMOf course, bad reviews and cranky customers are both inevitable and necessary. They’re a way to either toughen up against unfounded censure or learn something valuable from constructive criticism. Some people are just impossible to please, and for those few snarky ones, it really isn’t worth trying.

Splitting up a full tip jar at the end of a shift is great—for the personal satisfaction of knowing we provided good service, and because everybody gets to go home to lights on and food in the fridge. But it doesn’t even come close to the reward of performing: that somebody in the audience might feel or see or think something new as a direct result of what happens onstage. I’d fold all the napkins in the world for that privilege!


dancer doing arabesque

Emily Kate Long, Photo by Avory Pierce

Assistant Editor Emily Kate Long began her dance education in South Bend, Indiana, with Kimmary Williams and Jacob Rice, and graduated in 2007 from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School’s Schenley Program. She has spent summers studying at Ballet Chicago, Pittsburgh Youth Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School, Miami City Ballet, and Saratoga Summer Dance Intensive/Vail Valley Dance Intensive, where she served as Program Assistant. Ms Long attended Milwaukee Ballet School’s Summer Intensive on scholarship before being invited to join Milwaukee Ballet II in 2007.

Ms Long has been a member of Ballet Quad Cities since 2009. She has danced featured roles in Deanna Carter’s Ash to Glass and Dracula, participated in the company’s 2010 tour to New York City, and most recently performed principal roles in Courtney Lyon’s Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, and Cinderella. She is also on the faculty of Ballet Quad Cities School of Dance, where she teaches ballet, pointe, and repertoire classes.


Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival 2014 – Daniel Ulbricht/Ballet 2014


BALLET 2014 Performance

by Christopher Duggan

I’ve photographed and filmed a lot of top-notch ballet this summer. Nel and I wrapped our fourth season at Vail International Dance Festival, where we filmed some performances by international dance stars from New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Boston Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet and more. Artistic Director Damian Woetzel outdid himself this year, creating beautiful new partnerships and sharing dance classics and world premieres.

         Highlights from International Evenings of Dance, video by Nel Shelby Productions

Tiler Peck, Robbie Fairchild, Daniel Ulbricht and other incredible dancers from New York City Ballet performed in Vail, and it was exciting to see them in new roles, after photographing them this summer​ at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

I photographed the dress rehearsal of Daniel Ulbricht/BALLET 2014 at Jacob’s Pillow​ like I do every performance, every week. But I also had the rare opportunity to photograph a live performance of BALLET 2014 from the front of the house.


BALLET 2014 Performance

I also made portraits with Daniel Ulbricht, ​Georgina Pazcoguin, Tiler Peck & Robert Fairchild. Tiler & Robbie​ are beautiful dancers and newlyweds. We made two portraits together on the Pillow grounds, and then we went and did some pictures on my trampoline.


Tiler Peck & Robert Fairchild

I know they just got married, and, as a friendly gesture from me to them, I wanted to make a romantic portrait. That’s where that lift came from. An intersection of weddings and dance right there!


Tiler Peck & Robert Fairchild

Georgina Pazcoguin found time in her busy dance week to come over and make pictures on the trampoline too. I’ve photographed Gina for American Dance Machine and she is creative and fun. She saw some of my daughter ​Gracie’s balls in our yard, said we should use them for some of the photos we were making, and it turned into a really great portrait!


Georgina Pazcoguin

Daniel Ulbricht had an extremely busy week, but we found time for him to come over to our house and make pictures. Our daughter Gracie jumped with Daniel on the trampoline, and our 13-year-old cousin Mary, also a ballet dancer, was just over the moon when Daniel said he would make a picture on the trampoline with her too. It was definitely the highlight of her summer! Daniel is gracious, generous and thoughtful, and we had a great time.


Daniel Ulbricht and Gracie

Nel and I feel so blessed to work with such mindblowingly talented dancers. We’ve always loved going to the ballet in NYC, and now, high-caliber ballet performances are everywhere we go.


Daniel Ulbricht and Mary


Contributor Christopher Duggan is a wedding and dance photographer in New York City, the Berkshires and beyond. Duggan has been the Festival Photographer for Jacob’s Pillow Dance since 2006. In this capacity, and as a respected New York-based dance photographer, he has worked with renowned choreographers and performers of international acclaim as well as upstarts in the city’s diverse performance scene.
Christopher Duggan, Photo by Julia Newman

Christopher Duggan, Photo by Julia Newman

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 ( 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 ( 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.


Choreography And Collaboration — Spain’s Taiat Dansa

Taiat Dansa

Taiat Dansa’s Meritxell Barberá and Inma García

When it comes to choreography, international collaborations are always interesting. The circumstances that bring people together. The sharing of new ideas–ideas from other places in the world. Today we’re going to take a closer look at one of these collaborations that is happening in Chicago, between DanceWorks Chicago and Taiat Dansa from Spain. We asked founders Inma Garcia and Meritxell Barberá to walk us through the process of bringing their work to the Midwest this summer…

Can you tell our readers a bit about Taiat Dansa?

We first met studying dance when we were young. Both of us continued studying until we graduated with degrees in dance  as adults. We were passionate about dancing but also really motivated to create our own dance pieces and so more than ten years ago we formed our own company, Taiat.

We always work from the perspective of presenting the body. This is an important distinction for us – we do not want to represent the body or to make dance theatrical; our objective is to present the body in movement. At the same time we also always insist on a strong narrative theme for each piece.

At present we are on tour with two pieces. No Half Measures: Episodes of dance in museums is a piece that was originally commissioned to be performed on International Museum Day on May 18. The aim of the performance was to bring the typical museum-going public into contact with dance, it was a way of bringing the plastic arts and the physical arts together. We accompany the performance with a questionnaire that the audience is asked to complete, to give their impression of the experiment. It was a really successful debut and we were booked by another 22 contemporary museums around Spain, France and the USA.  Also, we are performing We are going to make you dance: Chasing Patti Smith. We are also really pleased to perform this piece again as it has been a really enjoyable 3 year run.

Over the past few years we have worked as choreographers for other companies outside of Spain. We find this facet of our work really satisfying.

How did you wind up teaming up with DanceWorks Chicago?

The Cervantes Institute got in touch with us with the project of facilitating a collaboration between our company and a local Chicago company. They offered us rehearsal and performance space and were really helpful. We proposed the idea to Andreas, the Director of DanceWorks, and the rest is history!

What is your collaboration going to look like and what first steps are you taking?

We have had a very short but intense period in which to investigate movement so that the dancers of DanceWorks can become familiar with the dance language that we use. This time has served to delve into the mood and style of Man Ray’s work. What a lot of people don’t know is that Man Ray himself studied dance – in fact people said he was a very good dancer. Later he turned to photography for his artistic expression but for us the inspiration of dance on his work is very clear. So this time with DanceWorks has been for us, and for them, a time to investigate the different ways we can express his vision in dance, a kind of a full circle for his work. Our first step was of course to inspire the dancers, showing them some of Man Ray’s work. The rest is a work in progress that we hope can be developed into a complete show. The progress that we have made so far will be shown in the theatre of the Cervantes Institute on the 25th of August.

What do you think you might be able to bring to this collaboration?

We hope to bring our particular philosophy of dance and movement to the creation of a dance piece around this interesting theme – Man Ray Dancer. We would love to return to Chicago to create the complete work, we are really inspired.

What are you hoping to get from the collaboration?

For us, as we said, choreographing is really satisfying work. We have always created our own pieces, which is something we love doing, but working with other companies we find that our progress and our creativity are really accelerated. The process of creating new choreography  is always dynamic and challenging and when we work with other companies apart from our own then it is also a process of give and take. Every dancer we work with teaches us something. In some moments inspiration can come from a certain attitude or move that a dancer makes, sometimes we take that initial inspiration and develop it, so our choreography is the result of the very personal  interaction we have with the dancers themselves.

Have you done anything like this before?

Over the last few years, as we said, we have worked with other companies. Our last work in the USA was with the Ballet Hispanico. The difference between our work in the past and this work with DanceWorks is that it is a wonderful luxury to have a time to work together that is specifically for experimentation. Normally we have to jump right into the creation phase. Usually we do the investigative work on our own and  arrive ready to begin the choreographic part of the project when we meet the dancers. It is really nice to have time to investigate with the dancers themselves and of course it is different here again because we have the chance to show the public the results of our investigations -  this way we can gauge their reactions and that will help us to direct the course of the work in case it is to be developed properly in the future .

What has it been like to work with DanceWorks so far?

Wonderful, really great. Andreas and Julie have been very supportive and lovely. The dancers themselves have been really enthusiastic and they have understood our philosophy perfectly. We have seen the dancers enjoying the investigation process so you can imagine, when we see them happy it makes us really happy too. They have lived up to our greatest expectations. We are delighted to have the chance to work with a young company that has so much drive. They have a very exciting future ahead of them.


About Taiat Dansa: Meritxell Barberá and Inma García, with degrees in Classical and Contemporary dance from the city of Valencia, founded their own company Taiat Dansa in the year 1999. Since then they have presented their creations in different spaces and festivals within Spain in Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid, the Canary Islands, Sevilla, Murcia and País Vasco; in museum spaces, normally accompanied by an educational work around the country. In the international scene they have performed their work in countries such as France, Germany, Switzerland, the UK and the United States. Also, since 2009 they have worked with other companies as choreographers both nationally and internationally.


DVD Review: Flex Is Kings

by Emily Kate Long

MV5BMTQ4NjY5OTk5OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTA5MjQwMDE@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_AL_Directed by Deirdre Schoo and Michael Beach Nichols

The 2013 documentary Flex Is Kings dives headfirst and somersaulting into the world of Flexing, a style of street dance centered in the Brooklyn neighborhood of East New York.

Schoo has captured a do-it-yourself dance movement in the most appropriate way. In an interview for The Wrap, she describes how she met a Flex dancer on a photo shoot and felt inspired to tell the story of Flex. Flex Is Kings, like Battlefest, is a grassroots, self- and crowd-funded operation.

Much of Flex dancing is narrative, an extreme reflection of life in East New York. It’s athletic, flashy and theatrical, full of aggressive one-ups and punchlines (showstopping stunts involving anything from acrobatics to magic tricks) executed to the soundtrack of “B.A!” cheers from an all-ages crowd, including Flizzo’s finger-gunshooting grandmother.

There’s no discussion of Flex’s evolution as a dance style, and here it doesn’t seem to matter. What’s evident is what Flex is to the dancers: a fleeting escape from the tough realities of life, a way of getting out and bringing home culture with you, a way of shaping the future. As one dancer puts it, “It’s really raw. It comes from us, from the neighborhood.”

Schoo and Nichols focus on three personalities. The unstoppable impresario Reem is the force behind Battlefest, a series of dance battles in Brooklyn. In the film, he’s a guide and anchor for this universe who dreams of leaving “a global imprint of what Battlefest, of what extreme street dancing is all about.” He coaches the dancers that they’re role models in their world and representatives of Flex to the world outside. Without knowing who might show up at Battlefest, they should look clean and presentable, “your jeans not on your knees…You’ve got to understand where you want to go”

For Jay Donn, another featured personality, dancing opens up an entirely new world of opportunities. He’s sought by modern dance group Company XIV to perform in a new Pnicchio, an adventure that takes him on a month-long trip to Scotland for the Edinburgh Fringe Fest. Wide-eyed and speechless, he couldn’t look more incongruous than when passing out flyers outside L’Occitane on the streets of mostly-white Edinburgh.

Unemployed with two young children, Jermaine “Flizzo” Clement uses performing to escape from his rough past and harsh present. As a mentor to neighborhood youth, he uses his talent to help shape a better future for the next generation. He has a mentor in Jay, who urges him to “keep doing your thing…and if you don’t make it here we’re gonna make it somewhere, together. This is the life. I deserve it, so do you.”

The film culminates in a frenetic sequence that cuts back and forth between Pinocchio and King of the Streets. It’s all energy and inspiration from there, neatly finished with a brief epilogue for each of the three principal characters.

Flex Is Kings has appeared at film festivals across the country. This inspiring, don’t-miss-it documentary is available on iTunes and Vimeo OnDemand.

Disclosure: 4dancers previously ran an ad for this DVD.


DVD Review: Basic Castanet and Movement Technique Volume 1

Basic Castanet and Movement Technique Volume 1
JoDe Romano

by Emily Kate Long

Screen_shot_2014-08-11_at_8.32.14_AMIn this thirty-five minute instructional DVD, New York City-based teacher and choreographer JoDe Romano walks the beginning student through a series of six castanet exercises. She begins with simple instructions for putting on and adjusting the castanets, then moves on to finger exercises, and eventually incorporates arm, head, and leg movements. Each new element is added systematically, with emphasis on slow repetition and daily practice to develop strength and accuracy.

Romano’s verbal directions are clear and easy to follow, and each exercise is shown from the front and back. Her demonstrations cleanly show the technique for each combination, and she provides an inspiring example of the strength, passion, and power of Spanish dance.

This DVD is a useful tool for beginners of any age, or any dancer looking for a better understanding of the basics of Spanish castanet movement. Basic Castanet and Movement Technique is the first of a two-part series. Both DVDs can be purchased on Romano’s website,

dance class music
Behind Barres

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