Dance for All

Dance for All

 

Earlier this year, I accepted the position of Outreach Coordinator with BalletX. Our program, Dance eXchange, is partnering with three Philadelphia public schools this fall. Dance eXchange is a 13 week program that includes a field trip, mid-term performance for peers, and ends with a final performance on a professional stage open to friends, family, and the community, providing each child with a sense of pride in his or her achievement. Responsibilities with my role include leading the Teaching Artist team, administering the program, and setting future goals for the growth of Dance eXchange.

Dance eXchange is based on the award-winning pedagogy of National Dance Institute, founded by Jacques D’Amboise in 1977. This past summer, I was sent to New York City to train with NDI’s master teachers. Through dance instruction and live musical accompaniment, Dance eXchange motivates students to achieve a standard of excellence while learning basic dance skills such as sequencing, rhythm, tempo, and performance quality. Our method builds choreography sequences through repetition of simple, athletic gestures set to varying rhythms and tempos and competitive group games.

Our approach calls on its teachers to maintain a high energy level and positive attitude to support a respectful and engaging environment designed for success, with the goal to achieve a standard of excellence from all participants. Teaching Artists work to develop students’ listening skills through the use of live musical accompaniment, employing tempo and rhythm changes to heighten students’ focus and sense of timing.

This January, Dance eXchange will have its culminating performances at the Prince Theater. The event will be FREE and open to the public.

We’re off to a strong start! Teachers have already shared with me the positive ways that their students are responding to the program.

I’m grateful to BalletX for the opportunity to lead an effective and inspiring program and I’m excited about everything I’m learning. I’m proud that I get to change lives through dance for a living!

 

-Belle Alvarez, BFA 2014

www.bellealvarez.com

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Complexions Performance and Master Class Review

Complexions Contemporary Ballet was the first of eight companies to perform at the Prince Theatre in downtown Philadelphia, as part of Dance Affiliate’s NextMove series.

Complexions Co-Founder Dwight Rhoden arranged seven of his works for the Philadelphia stage.

The show opened with Ballad Unto… a Philadelphia premiere. With each articulation of the spine and brush of the arabesque, seven couples poured emotions of love and heartbreak into brisk and graceful movements en pointe.  Seamless partnering and gestural unison sections made the piece successful.

Next in the program was Gone, a trio performed by Kelly Marsh IV, Greg Blackmon and Timothy Stickney that illustrated a fight for survival. The men captured this motif beautifully, transitioning with ease from soars and darts through the air to complex floor work. The choreography and concept of the piece illuminated the athleticism of these three professionals.

Addison Ector stole the stage in Choke, a male duet exploding with themes of dominance and competition. Ector’s facials remained casual and royal while he whipped out triple attitude turns followed by a series of controlled extensions.

The final piece took an enormous risk on dance and artistry and succeeded with flying colors. Strum was a full company piece set to the music of Metallica. Watching this piece was like tasting, smelling and touching a rock concert through dance. The walking pathways were one of the most powerful aspects. Timothy Stickney stole the spotlight, expressing qualities of insanity, passion and pure stardom.

 

Master Class with Ashley Mayeux

On Friday, I attended the Complexions master class at Philadanco!, taught by dancer Ashley Mayeux.

I was surprised to find the class was mostly filled with younger dancers, around high school age, with little training in ballet or contemporary techniques. After a standard, fairly easy ballet barre, Ashley taught us part of a Complexions finale dance. The choreography was very basic and more fun than technical. I think this was largely due to the skill level of the class. Although I was somewhat disappointed that the master class was not up to the level or rigor that I expected, I appreciated Ashley’s professionalism and willingness to cater the class to the average ability level of the room. She made the class enjoyable for all of the dancers. If nothing else, I obtained valuable information from watching Ashley in class. I observed her artistic choices and studied how I can apply these choices to my dancing.

 

 

-Meghan McFerran

B.F.A. Dance

B.A. Journalism

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Exclusive Interview with Complexions Contemporary Ballet Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director Desmond Richardson

The New York Times recognizes Complexions Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director Desmond Richardson as “One of the great modern dancers of his time.“ Richardson is praised for his captivating and cutting-edge work in the dance field. I had the privilege of asking Richardson about his life dedication to dance.

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When you were a young boy, you think you would be where you are today in your career?

When I was a young boy, I never thought I’d have the career I have today. Dancing has brought to me a wealth of experience and knowledge of the world, it’s exactly what I imagined it to be.

What inspires you to create new work?

What inspires me to create is my passion and how I view the world around me.

How do you recover from a bad day?

I recover from a bad day by breathing deep and realizing that I’m still standing, living and breathing and perhaps I may get another chance to explore and investigate this life a little bit more.

How would you define the word “success?”

I would define the word “success” as staying curious, on a continuous quest of exploration of myself.

What was a life-changing moment in your dance career?

Working with Michael Jackson.

What is one piece of advice you would give to young aspiring dancers?

Follow your passion. Be real, be honest and be in the moment so that your work reads across the foot lights.

You and Dwight Rhoden now offer a DVD, “Complexions Technique” in which dancers can receive Complexions training in their own homes. How has this product impacted you in the dance business, and what results have you seen after the DVD’s release?

Dwight and I have realized that it is certainly time to build a school and training ground for the next generation of formidable dancers.

What are your personal goals for the future and how to you set/achieve goals for yourself?

My goals for the future are immense, so to nail it down to one simple goal is daunting. I will tell you that a one man show for me is in the works and a lot of my energies are going toward that endeavor.

 

Meghan McFerran

B.F.A. Dance

B.A. Journalism

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Dancer Tercell Waters

Complexions Contemporary Ballet Comes to Philadelphia

Complexions Contemporary Ballet, an internationally recognized ballet company based out of New York City, will perform at the Prince Theater in Philadelphia from October 14-18.

Founded by former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancers Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden, Complexions is recognized worldwide not only for impeccable training and technique, but dedication to dynamic and passionate movement for more than 20 years. The highly technical dancers of Complexions Contemporary Ballet aim to break all cultural and stylistic boundaries to create an open dance environment that emphasizes multi-ethnicity and connection with life’s journeys.

As a means to share and spread their culture, Complexions recently designed Beyond 20, a campaign that plans to nationally expand the company. Beyond 20’s first initiative is opening a new Complexions office in Atlanta, Georgia. Philadelphia is an important stop along the way in this campaign.

The company is excited to perform and share their art here in the city of brotherly love, says Dwight Rhoden, Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. “Philadelphia has always been a warm and inviting audience for Complexions and what we love about Philadelphia is that there is always an amazing energy in the theater. People seem to be always engaged, ready to love dance,” Rhoden said.

Dancer Ashley Mayeux

Complexions Dancers Ashley Mayeux and Andrew Brader

What can you expect to see at the show next week?

Complexions will premiere three pieces in Philadelphia: And So It Is, Cryin’ to Cry Out, and Strum. Each work aims to pull at various emotional strings to capture human emotion and connect with a range of audience members.

And So It Is is a piece en pointe that reflects love, dreams and fate, set to the elegant music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

The work Cryin’ to Cry Out is inspired by Jazz singer Jimmy Scott and expresses how to cope with pain during times of heartbreak.

Strum is a large group work that emphasizes individual voices and story telling. Set to the music of Metallica, Strum exposes the questioned themes of life, death and evolution.

Amidst these new groundbreaking pieces will be a sprinkling of works from the past 20 years of Complexions’ diverse repertory. The program includes motifs of brotherhood, survival, faith, history, and personal journeys.

The New York Times recognizes Complexions Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director Desmond Richardson as “One of the great modern dancers of his time.“ Richardson is praised for his captivating and cutting-edge work in the dance field. I had the privilege of asking Richardson about his life dedication to dance. Click HERE to read the exclusive interview.

Get your tickets today!

http://princetheater.org/events/complexions

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The performances will take place:

Wednesday, October 14 at 7:30PM

Thursday, October 15 at 7:30PM

Friday, October 16 at 8:00 PM

Saturday, October 17 at 2:00PM and 8:00 PM

Sunday, October 18 at 3:00 PM

 

To stay updated with Complexions in Philadelphia, visit

http://www.complexionsdance.org

Follow @ComplexionsNYC on Twitter

Complexions Contemporary Ballet on Facebook

 

Meghan McFerran

B.F.A. Dance

B.A. Journalism

 

 

 

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Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Laura Katz Rizzo

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Laura Katz Rizzo
This summer, Laura Katz Rizzo danced through achievements in film, literature and ballet.
First, she attended American Ballet Theatre’s National Training Curriculum Course to refresh her work in ballet curricula. She also studied with with Igal Perry and gained new perspectives on the structure and teaching techniques of ballet class.
Laura attended the CORPS de Ballet International Conference, where she took master classes from Virginia Johnson and presented her own work on the dancer/wrestler Ricki Starr. Laura submitted her chapter on Starr, which will be featured in a collected edition of essays entitled Wrestling and Performance.
Laura also spent her summer working with young musicians, conducting interdisciplinary workshops on Baroque dance and history.
Nelly Berman Workshop
In addition to her studies in ballet and dance history, Laura began work on an independent film entitled Tako Vs Sora with film-maker Lauren Wolkenstein, dancer Sun Mi Cho , Ophidian and Closet Champion Mike Quakenbush, and members of Chikara Promotions.
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It doesn’t stop there! This Fall, Laura has been invited for guest residency and lecture appearances for her book, Dancing the Fairy Tale: Producing and Performing The Sleeping Beauty. 
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She recently spoke about the book in several summer ballet intensives, and will next present at Ballet Forte in New Jersey. Laura has also been invited to speak at Smith College this fall. All are encouraged to come out and support our incredibly dedicated faculty member. Here’s to another year of success.
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Professor Spotlight: Dr. Mark Franko

This summer, Dr. Mark Franko received the Laura Carnell Professor of Dance. Laura Carnell professorships recognize faculty who devote their lives to teaching, research, scholarship and creative arts. This award honors Temple University’s first dean, Laura H. Carnell, who was known for her energy, passion and dedication as a leader and was an inspiration to thousands of students.
In other news, the revised edition of Dr. Franko’s book, Dance as Text, recently came out with Oxford University Press. Dance as Text examines French court ballet from the late Renaissance to the Baroque time periods. The text includes cultural and political analysis of choreography, performance, and dance literature during this period.
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Dr. Franko feels that these accomplishments have established confidence in his research. We are grateful to have such a distinguished and passionate faculty member in our program. Congratulations Dr. Franko!
 -Meghan McFerran
B.F.A. Dance
B.A. Journalism
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Dr. Dodds Awarded the Gertrude Lippincott Award

Dr. Dodds Awarded the Gertrude Lippincott Award

Dr Sherril Dodds was awarded the 2015 Gertrude Lippincott Award for her essay, “The Choreographic Interface: Dancing Facial Expression in Hip-Hop and Neo-Burlesque Striptease.” Named in honor of its donor, a devoted teacher of modern dance in the Midwest and mentor to many students, Gertrude Lippincott Award was established to recognize excellence in the field of dance scholarship.

The committee commented: In her article, ‘The Choreographic Interface: Dancing Facial Expression in Hip-Hop and Neo-Burlesque Striptease’, published in Dance Research Journal, Professor Sherril Dodds issues a call to arms, or rather, a call to the face. Using a direct and arresting writing style, Dodds identifies the face as a blind spot in dance research, and urges dance scholars to join her in reclaiming the face as an integral part of the dancing body that, nevertheless, has a distinct role in the production of meaning. The article is grounded in a critical engagement with Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of faciality, as well as Darwinian universalism, Richard Schechner’s perspectives on acting, J.L Austin and Judith Butler’s concepts of performativity and Phillip Auslander’s ‘guitar face’. From this discussion, Dodds develops the notion of the choreographic interface, foregrounding interactions between the face, other body parts and other dancing faces. The usefulness of this concept is demonstrated through two popular dance examples, the hip-hop dancer Virgil “Lil O” Gadson, and a performance by neo-burlesque striptease artist Darlinda Just Darlinda. Dodds’ article exemplifies how attention to popular dance practices can reveal and challenge the assumptions underlying dance studies methodologies and ways of seeing constructed around ‘art dance’. Her argument has implications not just for popular dance studies, but also for dance studies more broadly, performances studies and beyond. It this broad contribution to scholarship, as well as the article’s eloquence and clarity, that renders the article deserving of the highest recognition.

 

-Sherril Dodds

Professor, Chair, Dept. of Dance

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Red Earth Calling

Red Earth Calling

Associate Professor of Dance Jillian Harris has brought her career to new heights with the success of her co-produced dance film, Red Earth Calling. This multi-media work is a collaboration with choreographer, director and producer Jennifer Jessum. The dance film explores ideals of love, mystery and spirits. Harris’s work was recently shown at Ririe Woodbury’s 2015 Momentum Festival at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Harris received her B.F.A. in dance at the University of Utah and later traveled nationally with the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company. Momentum is staged each year to celebrate the works of the company’s alumni. Harris was one of six choreographers to present unique work in the festival on August 27 and 28. Red Earth Calling was the first dance film to be shown at Momentum. The film, shot in Moab, Utah at Arches National Park, explores the narrative of a lost man in the desert who becomes enchanted by a spirit of the land. According to Salt Lake City Weekly‘s “Entertainment Picks”, Red Earth Calling serves as an excellent example of how works of Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company alumni contribute to the constantly evolving dance culture.

 

-Meghan McFerran

B.F.A. Dance

B.A. Journalism

 

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Life Lessons in Hip Hop

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Life Lessons in Hip Hop

Dr Sherril Dodds, in collaboration with b-boys Steve “Steve Believe” Lunger and Mark “Metal” Wong, Co-Directors of Hip Hop Fundamentals, have initiated a new research project called “Life Lessons in Hip Hop”. The project focuses on on Temple Bboys, a student-led organization formally affiliated with Temple University, and the local North Philadelphia bboy community. The project has two main aims:

  • to document and preserve the vibrant dance practices of a Philadelphia ‘breaking’  community as its members engage in collective practice sessions and dance battles with other local dancers.
  • to elucidate how bboys draw on their embodied knowledge of breaking and battling to shape and inform other areas of their lives.

For more information on Hip-Hop fundamentals, please visit http://www.hiphopfundamentals.com/

-Dr. Sherril Dodds

Professor, Chair, Dept. of Dance

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