Fuel Your Body For Dance!

Eating right can help you make the most of your ballroom dancing lesson at Fred Astaire Dance Studios as you improve your dance moves!

Ballroom dancing is a fun way to stay active and trim your waistline. Thirty minutes on the dance floor can burn at least 200 calories. That’s more than 30 minutes on the elliptical or rowing machine. Ballroom dancing is an ideal form of exercise you can do year-round from the comfort of your living room or in the fun atmosphere of one of our local studios. Fred Astaire Dance Studios helps you improve your dance moves by offering private and group lessons at our local studios, as well as Online Lessons you can live-stream at home.4 -

Nearly 60% of adults in the United States suffer from a diet-related chronic condition, such as type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Unhealthy food choices may lead to obesity, which raises the risk for heart attack, cancer, and sleep disorders. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends adults limit eating foods high in added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. They advise eating a diet rich in nutrient-based foods, including vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. Experts urge men to target 2,500 calories per day, and for women, 2,000.

Eat Your Vegetables

Dancing can help you get fit, but to ensure you’re ready to get groovy, it’s important to fuel up by making healthy choices. Consuming a healthy diet and making sure to eat the right amount of calories can make you a better dancer.

Stem Muscle Fatigue

Complex carbohydrates from whole grains, beans, and starchy vegetables break down into glucose, which provides your muscles with fuel to give you the energy to perform at a high level for the duration of your lesson.

Prevent Injury

Healthy proteins, like chicken, fish, and turkey, strengthen muscle tissue and decrease the chances of suffering a strain during a high-energy dance, like the salsa or swing.

Strengthen Bones

A common problem, particularly among seniors, is bone loss. Eating calcium-rich foods can help strengthen bones and increase your range of motion while dancing.

Making sure to stay properly hydrated should also be part of your healthy eating plan. Drinking water can help improve your heart health and kidney function. Staying hydrated can also boost metabolism and help lose weight.

What to Expect At Your First Dance Lesson!

Whether you’re learning some new moves for the first dance at your wedding or hoping to drop a few pounds before swimsuit season arrives, your first dance lesson can be a lot to handle.

Knowing what to expect during your lesson will help you stay focused and be ready to hit the dance floor. At Fred Astaire Dance Studios, our instructors will tell you about the first dance you are learning and show you how it’s done. Then it will be time for you to get your toes tapping. Don’t worry if you have trouble mastering the dance right away. With patience and practice, you’ll see amazing improvements!

Fred Astaire Dance Studios recommends taking steps to prepare for your first lesson to ensure you make the most of your time in the studio.

Wear the Right Clothes

Make comfort a top priority. Save the tight leotards and feathery costumes for another day. Dress in loose-fitting clothes that won’t hamper movement. It’s likely you will work up a sweat at your dance lesson, so donning light, breathable fabrics is your best bet.

Focus on Footwear

Wear comfortable shoes that provide adequate support. If sneakers feel too3 - clunky, consider wearing a shoe with a low heel. Ballet heels offer flexibility and are designed to slide without slipping to reduce the chance of injury.

Gather Some Supplies

Fred Astaire Dance Studios recommends bringing a small, exercise towel and refillable water bottle to your lesson. Staying hydrated will help you keep your energy level up and improve your concentration. Some of our students also bring a small notebook to take notes on dance moves so they can practice at home.

Be On Time

Your instructors time is valuable, so please take advantage of it! Showing up on time will ensure you are able to make the most of your lesson. Plus in larger classes, arriving late can disrupt the teaching process and be a distraction for your fellow students. If you miss the pre-lesson stretch, your chances of pulling a muscle or spraining your ankle will be higher!

Have Fun!

Remember, the best way to learn to dance is to have fun. Our dance instructors don’t expect you to be experts at your first lesson and they know it will take time and practice to learn the steps. Be patient, keep smiling, and enjoy your time at Fred Astaire Dance Studios! If you get frustrated after your first lesson, don’t give up. Remind yourself that practice makes perfect!

Beyond the Super Bowl: Dance Artist-Athlete Taja Riley Is Demanding Better Treatment for Dancers

Eight mandatory rehearsals. One nondisclosure agreement. Zero pay. These were a few of the specifications laid out in a casting call for dancers to be a part of the 2022 Super Bowl halftime show. After news got out that some dancers would be working as volunteers, and receiving no real benefits besides the exposure opportunity of a lifetime, Taja Riley was one of many who decided to speak up about how off-putting and disrespectful this offer felt, as well as how accepting jobs like this keeps dancers underpaid and underappreciated.

Just in time for the most-watched sporting event in the country, Riley successfully spearheaded a movement (on behalf of as many as 400 performers) to ensure that all dancers for the halftime show got fully compensated for their time and energy. For dancers in the community and supporters of the movement who helped spread the issue far and wide, this news felt like a game-winning touchdown—the type that calls for a celebratory dance! But the work doesn’t end there. It’s just one part of a continuous conversation.

Speaking up about the mistreatment of professional dancers is nothing new for Riley, a self-proclaimed dancer artist-athlete who, since the early quarantine days, has sparked some important conversations about the realities of the industry on social media. “We need to start educating people on the state of our community, in addition to being clearer with dance jobs about how our time, energy and influence should be valued,” says Riley, who uses she/he/they pronouns.

Along the way, Riley shared their own experiences in a way that pretty much every dancer can relate to. Now they’re building an entertainment company, TKO Quarantainment Inc., and developing a multitude of creative projects. Riley has put their own career dancing with some of the world’s top music artists to the side to “leap into the unknown” in pursuit of a better future, where dancers are valued and the dance community as a whole is elevated.

Riley recently spoke to Dance Magazine about some of the inequities that dancers have faced on set, from unreasonably low wages to questionable contracts and the absence of credit. “Yes, some of these production companies may be trying to undermine us, but I’m starting to discover that most of them just don’t know, or are following previous patterns,” they say.

The message is now en route to millions of people worldwide as Riley continues to use their voice and platform to heal, inspire and empower the dance community to see the worth of its members, so that the rest of the world can too.

What Sparked the Action:

Having worked with a long list of prominent names like Janet Jackson, SZA, Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez, Riley has experience to pull from when addressing industry issues. Despite the great experiences that they’ve had throughout their career, it was the few bad experiences—and the normalized fear of speaking up about them—that inspired the action Riley is taking today.

Feeling the need to walk out on a dream job in 2011, due to their moral standards being tested, helped Riley to understand the deeper implications of how dancers were viewed in the industry and led them to focus on redefining those standards. “I expressed my concerns with some of the other dancers on set, and there were multiple that felt the same way,” they say. “I was in a state of shock,” but eventually Riley pulled the choreographer aside to express appreciation, and kindly let him know that they weren’t willing to compromise who they were. “In this moment, when I was asked to do choreography that I felt went against my faith, the way that I viewed the dance industry completely shifted, and it actually latched onto my love for dance,” they add.

As a second-generation entertainer, Riley had always viewed themself as a business, and that’s part of the reason they’re fighting so hard for dancers to understand the importance of honoring the craft while honoring personal boundaries.

On Dancers Viewing Themselves as a Business:

“Do you have a mission statement? When you’re working, do you have a vision or a purpose for why you’re there? As a dance professional, that’s what you stand on. That’s your foundation. Who you are can then be broken down into concepts and statements, which can help you organize your value and the definition of your product, which is your likeness.”

These are crucial factors to take into consideration so that dance artists can stand firmly on what they believe in while on the job, and easily discern what they’re willing to stand for, fall for or sacrifice when it comes to certain dance jobs.

Tuning In to “TAJTV”

Taja Riley. Photo by Lee Gumbs, Courtesy Riley. Design by The Circle & The Square

Riley plans for TKO Quarantainment’s debut television program series, “TAJTV,” to serve as a resource to help uplift the dance community. It’s a unique talk show that’ll feature a number of special segments featuring an elite cast of mainstream entertainers, and tap into topics of concern within the industry, while discussing how to build solutions. “I want to be able to show the great parts of the dance industry, as well as touch on some of the things that need more awareness.”

“We’ve already shot some of the pilot, and I’m so thankful to all of the donors to the GoFundMe! We would love to finish it so that we can pitch it for up-fronts.” You can find updates on Riley’s GoFundMe page as they inch toward the $15,000 goal to get the show off the ground and onto television screens. 

The Day-to-Day of a Dance Activist:

As someone who’s working to improve the reality of dance artists, daily life is “unpredictable,” Riley says. “Some days are very empowering, productive and triumphant, and other days feel very sad and draining.”

“There’s also the physical work and outreach, like contacting media, and a long to-do list for projects in progress: The continual development, executive producing, going out to get people on board, contracting, developing, templating, creating, reading, amending and delegating to the team. Then, of course, there’s leaving space for my emotional work, which I find in my dance training, and even horse training! Awakening myself dance-wise has been crucial for grounding myself during this process. ”

Riley feels the busy schedule is worth it because they’ve focused on the bigger picture: impacting the dance community—and beyond. Inspired by the openness of Oprah Winfrey, Riley is hoping that this movement can have the same impact for dance as major media figures and publications of that level have had on other fields.

On Memes and Bringing Humor Into the Mix:

Many of the memes on Riley’s Instagram page use humor to shine a light on some seriously shady issues that dancers face. “I think that the best way to heal is to laugh and cry,” they say. “Being a part of meme culture is being able to captivate the subconscious of the alter egos inside of you in a way that feels relatable.”

How Others Can Get Involved:

“We must unify! We have so much power, and we’re so much stronger together,” Riley says. “When you read this article, go talk to someone about it. Bring it to your parents, your dance teacher, your dance peers, and have a discussion about it.”

Making Dance History:

The bottom line is that despite the popularity that dance artists have helped make possible for so many brands and music artists over the years, they are often still grossly underappreciated. Riley believes that professional dancers should be treated and paid equally to professional athletes and musicians. For a lot of folks, such drastic change just isn’t fathomable, but Riley continues to push the vision forward and unapologetically highlight the mistreatment of dancers, so that positive change can be applied within the industry little by little.

Riley is inspiring dancers to move past unethical traditions just because “that’s the way things have always been.” Questioning is the new cool. Respect is a must. Dancers are artists and athletes, and should be treated as such. And Riley reminds us of the need to continue the fight for progress: “This whole movement is just beginning.”

Grow Your Knowledge:

The Ins and Outs Podcast

DanceSpeak Podcast

Pro Cheerleading Podcast

The post Beyond the Super Bowl: Dance Artist-Athlete Taja Riley Is Demanding Better Treatment for Dancers appeared first on Dance Magazine.

Relieve Daily Stress With Dance!

Fred Astaire Dance Studios urges people to cut loose on the dance floor to help reduce stress and alleviate anxiety during trying times.

Watching Russia’s invasion of Ukraine unfold on national television and social media is mobilizing Americans to take action by providing humanitarian aid and support for the people of the democratic nation. At the same time, the onslaught of grim news is contributing to rising stress levels throughout the United States. A new report from the American Psychological Association reveals global unrest, inflation, and supply chain troubles are significant sources of stress for Americans. Results from the poll are particularly troubling, given the undue stress people are still coping with due to the ongoing pandemic.

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Fred Astaire Dance Studios is doing its part to help Americans de-stress. Our local studios provide a safe haven where people can briefly cast their worries aside and let their bodies move to the music. While reducing screen time, eating a healthy diet, and meditation can all help reduce stress, we recommend hitting the dance floor. Here are a few reasons dancing is the best stress reliever.

  • Boosts Mood. Dancing releases endorphins, which are natural painkillers and can help elevate mood and improve focus.
  • Fosters Creativity. Dancing provides a creative outlet for expressing your emotions in a positive atmosphere. Trying out new routines is a great way to keep your mind busy and active, another great stress relief habit.
  • Soothes Body. Dancing helps increase flexibility, which will help relieve the tension and stiffness caused by stress. Make sure to do your stretches first though!


Fred Astaire Helped Americans Cope During Stressful Time

Our founder, Fred Astaire, brought ballroom dancing to the masses during another stressful time in American history. During the Great Depression, watching films showcasing Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing their hearts out helped many Americans weather a period in history full of hardship. Astaire took his commitment to helping the American people a step further when he co-founded Fred Astaire Dance Studios in 1947. He wanted to establish a chain of studios under his name to make sure that his techniques would be preserved and passed onto the public, and that’s a legacy we are proud to carry forward to this day!

Is Dance “Enough” to Meaningfully Address Something Like Black Lives Matter?

2016: I was asked to create a duet for RAWdance (Ryan T. Smith and Wendy Rein) in San Francisco at a time when my heart was caught in a perpetual state of reeling from the constant murders of African Americans by law enforcement, most recently the murder of Walter Scott, who was shot in the back in South Carolina after being stopped for a nonfunctioning brake light. I knew I had to address the killings, but I didn’t know how. I felt incompetent, my work felt inadequate. So after a career dedicated to the intersection of choreography and social activism, I created Enough?, a piece that asks whether dance can meaningfully address social movements like Black Lives Matter.

1991: I was finishing Urban Scenes/Creole Dreams, my first commission for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, a work juxtaposing the early 1900s stories of my sharecropper Creole­ grandmother in the swamps of Louisiana with my own stories as a gay African American in New York City’s East Village at the apex of the AIDS pandemic. The work called out the sexism, racism and homophobia that extended from my grandmother’s era into my own. One night after rehearsal I participated in ACT UP’s (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) takeover of Grand Central Terminal at rush hour in order to bring that evening’s commute to its knees and force attention to America’s anemic response to the AIDS pandemic.

And take over we did. Being part of hundreds of screaming protesters taking up space in Grand Central turned an act of desperation into an act of empowerment. AIDS received the attention we demanded. What AIDS did not receive was empathy. We were hated by the understandably livid commuters; they spat at protesters, shouted AIDS-phobic slurs, and the event was one step from erupting into violence. Our protest was necessary and I was honored to be there. But I wondered what the impact might be if the commuters could deeply feel the enormity of the grief that propelled us into this takeover?

Creating this empathy was not the purpose of our takeover. But it became the purpose of my art-making. Without losing the political urgency of my work, I now wanted to create those bridges of empathy that would better transcend the boundaries of difference and allow the disenfranchised to shout tales of their personal and political histories while also allowing viewers to see themselves in the lives of these very disenfranchised. As a politics major at Princeton, I understood that a necessary first step in oppression of any kind is to dehumanize the oppressed. At that protest, my mission consciously became to “re-humanize.” Urban Scenes remained an urgent calling out of racism, sexism and homophobia, but the piece became less about those “isms” and more about the eternality of devastating loss due to those “isms.”

David Roussève performing in Stardust. Yi-Chun Yu, Courtesy Roussève.

1991–2016: I created a body of work with this new mission at its expressive core. These works often contained text that told the nonlinear narratives of marginalized BIPOC and LGBTQ people. But it was dance’s ability to speak deeply through an abstract metaphoric language that gave these works their emotional wallop and potential to jump the boundaries between us. I knew how to speak most accessibly through text, but I knew how to speak most deeply through dance. If the goal was to create bridges, then abstract kinetic languages were the stepping-stones to those bridges. And making work in this way was enough.

Until it was not.

2022: With the advantage of time, I look back at the creation of Enough?. I had entered the studio filled with both the despair of watching the slaughter of Black bodies and the hope of watching the response by millions that became BLM, as if life were a roller coaster plummeting between heaven and hell. That roller coaster became the core of Enough?.

The piece begins with the first in a series of projected tweet-like text passages: “I have been thinking a lot about what a dance can ‘do’.” We see the performers, Ryan and Wendy, in stillness as Aretha Franklin’s rendition of “A Change Is Gonna Come” begins, a recording that is lushly beautiful even as it calls for deep change. The dancers begin one long single phrase of sumptuous movement that matches the lushness of the music. As Aretha hits a gospel-inflected high note and bends it as only Aretha can, the text passages read “YUUUUUUMMM!!” “Did your heart jump like your toes were skipping ’cross the clouds?” The intersection of words, music and dance feels sublime. The dancers repeat the same exact phrase over and over, all the while dancing faster and faster; the swirling curves of lushness slowly transform into a jagged thrashing frenzy. At the apex of this superhuman speed the intersection of words, music and dance feels like a whirlwind of despair. Media coverage of Walter Scott being shot by law enforcement is projected into the work as the core of Enough? is revealed to be a searing indictment of the murder of African Americans. The text reads “A dance can show you how my heart feels when I see that video.” “Because that video makes my heart feel like Ryan and Wendy are dancing.” “Right now.” “A dance can tell you how quickly life moves from toes touching clouds to hearts mired in hell.” Aretha’s voice ends. The only sound is the dancer’s gasping breath as Ryan and Wendy fall to the ground exhausted. The final passages of text read, “Yep, dance can do all that.” “But when I see that video, I am left to wonder…is it enough?”

Enough? altered again my choreographic tactics towards­ creating socially engaged choreography. The text asks whether­ we can act while its deeper undercurrents—the movement—insists that we must act. The “narrator” (assumedly­ the choreographer) is less someone to identify with than a neutral voice to propel the conversation forward. Questioning the adequacy of my own response invites you to question the adequacy of your response; our viewing the news footage “together” asks whether your heart also feels like Ryan and Wendy are dancing when you view an assault on Black bodies. Enough? does not seek empathy towards a character. It seeks empathy towards a political movement; it seeks to spur you into action not because you care about the narrator, but because you care about Walter Scott, because you care about humanity.

I went to protests. I made donations. But when I was truly lost I did the one thing I could rely on: I made a dance. Was that Enough? That is for the viewer to decide. But tapping into the immense power of performance to provoke, to prod, to move, to have heartfelt conversations in a seemingly heartless time—that felt like the most important thing I could do.

Choreographer/writer/director/filmmaker David Roussève has created 14 full evening works for his company David Roussève/REALITY.

The post Is Dance “Enough” to Meaningfully Address Something Like Black Lives Matter? appeared first on Dance Magazine.

25 Prompts to Liberate Your Choreographic Practice

I’m a white choreographer based on the ancestral lands of the Ramaytush Ohlone people, otherwise known as San Francisco. My recent book, Shifting Cultural Power: Questions and Case Studies in Performance, imagines equity-based models in dance that decenter whiteness.

Writing about anti-racism work is a fraught endeavor because, as a white person, I’ll always have blind spots. For example, the book includes a list of “25 Practices for Decolonizing Dance (and finding your Poetic Nerve).” In retrospect, I should have used different language.

“Decolonize” has become a ubiquitous term because colonialism is everywhere. Colonial legacies exist not only outside of us, in sociopolitical power dynamics, but also in our bodies. Colonial legacies pervade dominant cultural notions of time, value, space and language.

But Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang’s article “Decolonization is not a metaphor” criticizes use of the term in contexts other than the repatriation of Indigenous land, saying that decolonization “is not a metaphor for other things we want to do to improve our societies.” Holding Tuck and Yang’s article in mind, I want to be more specific with my language when I talk about reorganizing the field to resist complicity with legacies of oppression. We can ask many questions that interrogate power and privilege in the field: How can we compose bodies in space and time without asserting power over those bodies? How can we resist monolithic meaning in dance? How do we disentangle authority from authorship? How can dancemaking be liberatory for everyone involved? How can we anchor dancemaking in authentic community and in trust? How can we dismantle white supremacy in the field? These questions are related to the important economic and political work of decolonization, but not synonymous with it.

“There’s value in putting ourselves in a destabilized space and listening for what comes next.”

Hope Mohr

Courtesy Mohr.

I want to talk about aligning choreographic practice with commitments to mutual liberation. This is necessarily both structural and personal work. We must reorganize the underpinnings of art practice: our organizations, agreements with collaborators and relationships in the studio. We must democratize arts leadership, demand equitable contracting, train arts workers in cultural competency, add Indigenous representation to boards and staff, center BIPOC artists in programming, honor Indigenous protocol by acknowledging Native land, and advocate for reparations for the displacement of Indigenous peoples.

And politics don’t stop at the studio door. How can we integrate political commitments into our dances, our bodies?

With this context in mind, I offer this revised list of prompts from Shifting Cultural Power: “25 Practices for Aligning Choreographic Practice with a Commitment to Mutual Liberation.”

  1. The space should not be white-dominated. Indigenous people and people of color should be fully integrated, engaged, empowered, acknowledged and respected in the cast, crew and artistic staff.
  2. Practice sustained listening.
  3. Encourage imperfection and doubt (yours and others).
  4. Slow down. Value pause. Waste time. Wander.
  5. Value pleasure.
  6. Invite excess, kitsch, camp, sentimentality and overmuchness.
  7. Orient the dance and its systems outward. Make in relationship. Make dance in the mess of the world.
  8. Allow the dancing to be invisible, ambiguous and illegible.
  9. There is no original, truest version of movement. Movement material is collectively owned and authored.
  10. Allow edges to be a part of the landscape of the dance. Refuse a fixed front.
  11. Be transparent about your needs and your fallibility as an artist. Be clear about the terms of the work with yourself and your collaborators. Name collaborative periods of work. Name when you need to author or edit.
  12. Acknowledge and credit sources of movement, both in the studio (“This is a phrase that Jane made.” “I pulled this idea off of YouTube.”) and in promotional materials (“This dance was co-created by…”).
  13. Allow for multiplicity: multiple voices, multiple variables, multiple vocabularies. Develop a vocabulary of inclusion sourced from multiple bodies. What does it mean to express authorship amidst multiplicity?
  14. Acknowledge and pay attention to how everyone in the room works at different processing speeds. Orient the process to different people’s sense of time.
  15. Explore what it might mean for the dance to be porous. What can you let into the space of the dance?
  16. Practice making without a show in mind. Hold the creative process lightly while still staying engaged,
    accountable and supportive of others in the space.
  17. Allow improvisation to take over the process. Maintain a state of radical uncertainty about what the dance might become.
  18. Allow for sustained movement research outside of the task of making. Find creative modes beyond composition and mimicry.
  19. Collaborate with people and places that destabilize and challenge authorship.
  20. Question your choices. Question instinctual preferences. Work with a palette you despise. Stay with an idea much longer than you think is appropriate.
  21. Invite other people’s emotional lives into the work.
  22. Invite other people to hijack the process.
  23. Practice financial transparency about artist pay, project budget and funding sources.
  24. Show up with no agenda. Work with what and who is in the room.
  25. Be vulnerable.

If I were to implement all of the above prompts, I might not end up making a dance at all. But there’s value in putting ourselves in a destabilized space and listening for what comes next. These are prompts for locating your political and poetic nerve. Poetic nerve does not necessarily mean surrendering authorship. It means going beyond yourself, and then back within again, and then again out past yourself, and so on, in a constant conversation between the dance and the world.

Doing the Work

These ideas are not mine. Throughout the vast and violent span of colonial history, dance artists, especially Native artists and artists of color, have been doing and continue to do this work. There’s Sydnie L. Mosley, advocating for liberation of dance pedagogy through practices such as acknowledging that “all dance forms are specific cultural practice and should be acknowledged and specifically named as such”; Mar Parrilla’s cultural exchange projects with Puerto Rico–based artists and members of the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe to explore colonial legacies; Emily Johnson, whose decolonization rider calls on presenter partners to commit to the “living process” of decolonization, including compliance with Indigenous Protocol, acknowledgment­ of host Nations in all press, and engagement with the Indigenous community. There are countless other examples.

Why am I, as a white person, even trying to talk about decolonization? Because for too long, Indigenous people and people of color have shouldered this work. In the words of feminist writer Judit Moschkovich, “it is not the duty of the oppressed to educate the oppressor.” White people must do this work too.

Q&A: What tools or tactics are you using in the studio to liberate your choreographic practice?

Randy Basso, Courtesy Herrera.

David Herrera, artistic director and choreographer for David Herrera Performance Company:

“I channel movement through emotional recall and muscle memory to return to a time when studio teachings did not dictate how I performed or danced. I swayed, gyrated, stomped, shook my hips, pranced and spun before I ever stepped into a modern dance class. Through this approach, I am actively shedding the heavily calloused, conditioned layers of white modern dance technique. It’s a slow and arduous process; a relearning of feeling, instinct and physicality. I aim to liberate myself from the burden of aesthetics that were not inherent to my cultural upbringing or my brown body.”

Deeksha Prakash, Courtesy Kambara.

Yayoi Kambara, dancer, choreographer, teacher and director of KAMBARA+:
“I dismantle systems of oppression, colonization and power by creating space to liberate our imaginations. I build artistic teams that value curiosity and mistakes. I confront my intentions behind each movement. Ballet is associated with whiteness, but it’s part of my training. When I’m making movement that twists, curves, quirks and springs, something from ballet often appears. I love a good à la seconde. But à la seconde has no inherent value. When à la seconde shows up in my choreography, it can be anything: honest, strong, vulnerable. No two bodies do it identically. Often I pause inside a ballet position and then fall out of it. Just as I consider the values behind my movement, my dances invite audiences to consider their own values.” —As told to Hope Mohr

The post 25 Prompts to Liberate Your Choreographic Practice appeared first on Dance Magazine.

Austin Goodwin Uses Humor to Tell It Like It Is

You caught us. We’re undeniably hooked on Austin Goodwin’s flair for hilarious honesty about the dance industry. In one of his wittiest Instagram videos, he asks his landlord if he can pay rent with “exposure,” since that’s the form of payment he often accepts from freelance jobs. “How many times have we heard ‘Look, there’s no money in this, but it’s going to be great exposure,’” he told Dance Magazine in a recent interview. “I mean, come on, no one’s going to watch this muffin commercial and want to book me for a Broadway show or a European tour. I need to pay my bills.”

We’ve all had those same hushed thoughts before, but this past year, Goodwin has brought them out into the open. Through short videos on his Instagram account—usually a close-up of him acting out two sides of an awkward conversation—he riffs on real-life dance situations and uses humor to offer relatable takes on auditions, creative processes and more. With a career spanning from Sleep No More to Broadway’s Fiddler on the Roof and Netflix’s Tick, Tick… Boom!, the Juilliard-trained dancer certainly knows the ins and outs of the industry. And thousands of likes, shares and comments later, the laughs he provides have sparked important conversations and united the community in a much deeper purpose.

What was your personal inspiration to make these videos?

I think we’re in such a strange, wonderful and sometimes kind of awful industry that people don’t really understand. And I thought a way to help people understand, and also to help other dancers connect about the personal things we hold on to, was to make everyone laugh at it.

But there’s a larger conversation happening too, and I think the pandemic has allowed dancers to sit back and really look at their experiences and see the way we’re often treated. A lot of us have had our jobs literally ripped away from us, and if we’re freelancers, we’re left with no protection. I don’t always want to be hypercritical of the dance industry because I’m obviously a part of that community and it’s a community I love and have great respect for. But I think we’ve had an opportunity to look at the systems that are not working. And to look at our experiences with choreographers, with schools, with bodies…to see the way we fit ourselves into this mold that really is not healthy in some ways. It can be a relief to feel like “Oh, my god. I’ve done that. I’ve been there. That’s happened to me or that’s happened to someone that I know.”

In your ideal world, what changes do you hope these videos could bring about?

I hope people can start asking for things that would allow someone who pursues dance as a career to really have a livelihood without holding multiple jobs at the same time. We want to be able to start families and buy homes and pay off our student loans. I hope to have more support from the government, from each other. I want dancers to not be afraid to ask for what they deserve. What they really deserve. I think we so often dismiss it all because we really want the job. But you can want the job and also ask for the things you deserve as a human being.

For example, I hope to have a dialogue about dancers generating material and recognizing the creative contributions that they’re not given credit for. How can companies look at that process and pay their dancers accordingly? And if those pieces are then remounted elsewhere, how can royalties be implemented? Even if it’s just a small royalty. It’s still the act of doing it that shows care and respect.

Whenever I watch your videos, I can’t help but wonder what else is going on in the room around you at that moment.

It’s usually just my partner, Paul, sitting in the kitchen, watching me go off on a tangent.

But sometimes he’s the cameraman, and we often have to start over because he’ll just laugh hysterically to the point where we both end up in fits, unable to move on.

But that must be so therapeutic for you!

Oh, that’s a huge part of why I do it. Some of the videos are based on things I’ve really been through, and being able to find humor in them has been fun but also incredibly healing.

So how can humor help us stay grounded during difficult times?

Right now it’s scary. It’s emotional. Everyone is carrying around a lot of anxiety. There’s political turmoil, environmental distress. And everyone is having their own personal awakening, whether they’re talking about it or not. In this pandemic, we’ve been forced to look at ourselves straight on, and I think humor allows us to do that and to unite with other people in the process. Everything is funny in some way. It helps. It keeps us in check. Humor brings empathy. And at the end of the day, if you can find a way to laugh at it, you can get through it.

Check out a few of Austin’s greatest hits:

Dance process

Dance Auditions

Dance Auditions pt.2

When a dancer sees a doctor for a cold

Dancer interviews for a tech job

The post Austin Goodwin Uses Humor to Tell It Like It Is appeared first on Dance Magazine.

Find Your New Year’s Dance Resolution!

The new year is here, and that means it’s time for New Year’s resolutions, promises, and challenges to sweep across the world, and then be promptly forgotten by next month. At Fred Astaire Dance Studios, we believe in setting realistic, achievable goals that help you better yourself. To this end, we’ve compiled a short list of dance resolutions for you to try out in the New Year!


Try a new dance style!

Whether you are a fitness dance enthusiast coming off a history of hardcore Zumba classes, a new student just getting comfortable with the ballroom basics, or an experienced ballroom dance veteran with years of competition under your belt, there’s no better way to start the year off right than trying something new! Those salsa classes you’ve been unsure of? Sign up and give it a try! Did you see something cool online that inspired you? Ask your teacher about it! Even if the novelty fades quickly, the experience and perspective you can gain from stepping outside your comfort zone cannot be understated!


Meet new dance partner(s)!

In the spirit of new beginnings, connections, and ventures, try expanding your horizons by dancing with a new partner! Attending a social dance party at Fred Astaire Dance Studios is the perfect opportunity: Look for an acquaintance or new face, and ask if they’d like to give it a try! You just might find a new friend, partner, teacher, or student in that new face you extend a welcome arm to. Grow your dance family in 2022!


Take part in a performance or competition!

While we believe that dance is a worthwhile activity even when alone, it can become truly magical when you perform for an audience! The pressure of performance and competition drives dancers to perform at their peak, and helps the most dedicated find purpose and motivation through many hours of hard work and practice. Even if you are a new or shy dancer, it can be a great way to push yourself out of your comfort zone and truly experience the visceral experience 


Start a dance journal!

If you’re already a practiced, experienced dancer, try starting a dance journal! You can document things like progress and notes you’ve made during lessons, reflections on your current routines and steps, and even fun notes and reminders you get from other dancers about new steps to try or songs to check out! You’ll be amazed at the virtues of journaling your dance journey, and eventually you’ll have a treasured record of your growth as a dancer.


Hopefully, we’ve given you some ideas and inspiration to seize the new year and start dancing! We can’t wait to continue dancing with you in 2022, so make sure to schedule your lessons, eat well and take care of yourself, and come ready to make the world a more beautiful place!

Jennifer Archibald Responds to the Tulsa Race Massacre With a Multimedia Premiere for Tulsa Ballet

Jennifer Archibald’s professional roles almost mirror the breadth of the dance field itself. A Canadian now based in New York City, she runs her own dance company and its ArchCore40 Dance Intensives; is a guest artist at several universities and teaches at the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale University; has commercial clients like Nike and MAC Cosmetics; and is resident choreographer at Cincinnati Ballet.

This month, Tulsa Ballet premieres her multimedia Breakin’ Bricks after a yearlong creative process. Made for the company plus eight Black dancers hired for the project, Breakin’ Bricks reflects upon—and responds to—the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, which terrorized the city’s prosperous Black community of Greenwood. The piece is, Archibald says, “one of the most difficult projects I’ve ever done.”

You’ve called Breakin’ Bricks a “documentary-format ballet.” What does that mean?

I went into the field with a videographer, Guy de Lancey, to interview people about what life in Tulsa is like today from a racial perspective. I put myself in a journalist’s shoes, in a way. What was challenging was getting people to talk transparently. It was hard to peel back the layers and get answers to “What’s the difference between North and South Tulsa? Do you cross the tracks? Will Greenwood be prosperous again?”

When Marcello [Angelini, Tulsa Ballet’s artistic director] approached me, the only ways I could see this being authentic and successful were, one, if we hired Black dancers and, two, if we brought local voices into the story. I didn’t think I would be able to honor the spirits and authentically commemorate Black people if I didn’t have film and audio sharing space with the movement onstage. That’s why documentation has been so attractive to me, because I feel like, when we watch ballets, they can be so abstract. We don’t usually know who these people in front of us are.

There was an audition in June to hire Black dancers for Breakin’ Bricks. What were you looking for?

Initially, I wasn’t sure if I wanted ballet versus contemporary movers, so I said, “Let’s keep it general and see who’s interested.” What was great about that process were the dancers who reached out to say, “Listen, I’m really interested in this, but I’m concerned about” this or that. It was eye-opening in terms of my responsibility to make sure the Black dancers I chose felt supported.

All while ballet itself is reassessing and metabolizing its relationship to white supremacy culture. How will you bring this history and this art form into meaningful dialogue?

I do not have a black-and-white answer, but it is something that has kept me awake numerous nights. It’s important that we all know that, in this process, we can make mistakes and make amends and learn from it. I’ve tried to be as transparent as I can be with all of the dancers, who sometimes email me questions about this process in the middle of the night. It’s a learning curve that extends to how we’re going to market the show, and how we’re going to do outreach during the residency for these Black artists, because they’re interested in teaching workshops and reaching the community that never shows up to the ballet. I really, really want to make sure the audience is diverse and that we’re not just presenting to a predominantly white audience, which is what I do all the time.

Ideally, it’s a productive process.

That’s the thing: The company has to realize this is not like any other commission, and all of the departments need to realize they are included in that transformation. These dancers can’t come in, as guests, and feel isolated. The residency for the Black dancers we’ve hired is just five weeks. That in itself is a testament to why ballet companies need to be more diverse, so these stories can live for more than just three or four nights.

The post Jennifer Archibald Responds to the Tulsa Race Massacre With a Multimedia Premiere for Tulsa Ballet appeared first on Dance Magazine.

Why Some Dancers Are Finding an Outlet in Burlesque

If you hear that someone’s a burlesque performer, you might call to mind Gypsy Rose Lee’s journey from vaudeville youngster to snobby stripper in Gypsy, or even the painted ladies of Moulin Rouge! Burlesque, however, is neither. And for the growing number of women who have found their way to nightlife performance from a concert-dance background, burlesque can feel pretty close to a feminist utopia—one where women’s bodies and choreographic voices are celebrated.

Yes, stereotypes and tokenism remain an issue. But burlesque performers often find an outlet they never imagined in formal dance studios. “It really fills my cup,” says Marcy Richardson, who marries aerial dance, opera and pole dancing in her nightlife act, and also performs with the burlesque troupe Company XIV. “I get to be my most authentic self and let go of any expectations that people have.”

Burlesque’s history in the U.S. has deeper roots than modern dance or even ballet. It grew out of Victorian music hall, Victorian burlesque and minstrel shows in the second half of the 19th century. Today’s version of burlesque best resembles that of the early 1900s, when vaudeville reigned supreme. The form flourished during prohibition, and, pushed partially underground, the striptease took center stage. A wave of censorship shut down shows in the late ’30s, but burlesque came roaring back in the ’40s and ’50s, thanks to female trailblazers like Lili St. Cyr and Tempest Storm.

An entrepreneurial spirit remains firmly embedded in 21st-century burlesque. Like concert-dance choreographers, burlesquers often wear many hats: dancemaker, costume designer, self-promoter, makeup artist. “Generally, we’re independent artists,” says Jeez Loueez, a New Orleans–based burlesque performer who started out in musical theater. “It’s up to you to seek out the jobs—and get your own rehearsal space, edit your own music and design your own costumes.”

One of the most rewarding differences from a formal dance career is how often you get to perform, says burlesquer Dirty Martini. Burlesque acts translate well to myriad venues with the capacity to pull together a show quickly. “When you’re rehearsing for a contemporary-dance work, it takes, what, six months to get a concert together, and maybe you can perform for one weekend,” says Martini. “In nightlife, there are shows four or five times a week. You can take an idea you have, and in a week it’s onstage.”

The need to constantly market yourself in order to generate an audience and a loyal following feels similarly exhausting to the hustle demanded of independent contemporary choreographers, however. For most of Loueez’s burlesque career, she’s had to get enough butts in seats to turn a profit for herself. “Say there’s a bar that wants to have a burlesque show,” she says. “You might reach out to a producer, who’ll say, ‘Great. It’ll cost me $2,000 to produce this event.’ Now you have to sell tickets and match that cost before getting a cut of the door.” Loueez likes to joke that if she worked at Walgreens, she wouldn’t need to constantly post on social media that everyone should come visit her at a certain time. “I wish I could just go to work without having to shout about it every day on social media.”

Despite burlesque’s hustle culture, the transition into nightlife for most dancers-turned-burlesque-performers feels like taking a big gulp of fresh air. “Before burlesque, I would go to auditions, and I could see that I was a better dancer, but I wasn’t getting the job because I looked a certain way or I wasn’t the right height,” says Michelle L’amour, known colloquially as The Most Naked Woman. While she was dancing for an industrial glam-rock band, the front man, whom she was dating, asked her if she’d like to create a burlesque show as an opening act. L’amour said yes (“even though I had no idea what that was,” she says with a laugh). When she did her first striptease, she knew this was going to be her life. (And that front man is now her husband.)

For Zelia Rose, a burlesque performer who is also a swing in Australia’s production of Hamilton, the absence of needing to look or perform better than someone else is a big draw. “Sure, there’s always going to be competition,” she says, “but there’s never a sense of ‘Oh, I’m comparing myself to this person, the way my body looks.’ There’s more of a celebration of coming together.”

Burlesque offers a particular performance haven for plus-size women, who are weary of concert-dance companies that seem to uniformly hire a highly specific body type: thin. When she graduated from Purchase College—a program she says she entered on weight probation—Martini knew the odds of finding a contemporary-dance gig were small. “I auditioned for everyone, and I knew no one was going to hire me, because I was a size 14 or 16,” she says.

A woman staring intensely at the camera, with moody red lighting. She is wearing a decorative bikini style outfit, with a draped cloth running from her hip.
Zelia Rose; Richard Marz, Courtesy Rose

Carving a space for herself and helping to shape the nascent burlesque scene in New York City in the 1990s was thrilling. “It’s exciting for me to present a body that people get excited about,” says Martini, a past winner of burlesque’s version of the Olympics, the Miss Exotic World pageant. “It’s not just men being excited because it’s titillating—the majority are women who are so excited to see a body that’s not reflected in magazines or in television or the movies. They’re like, ‘Oh, thank God! Somebody’s representing the majority of women in the U.S. who are over a size 12.’ “

Of course, stereotyping still exists. “When you look at the ways shows are cast, it might be five thin white girls and a brown girl and a fat girl,” says Jezebel Express, a burlesque dancer who recently began performing out of a specially outfitted school bus. “You still see some idea that people are welcome, but only if they’re achieving at a super-high level.” It’s common for plus-size performers to feel relegated to comedic routines, Express says: “They expect to have to deflect their sexuality.”

Burlesque, like nearly every performance field, still has work to do when it comes to moving beyond tokenism and successfully integrating performers of color. “I get pigeonholed into always being the representation card,” says Rose. “I’ll often be the only POC visible in shows.”

It’s an audience-diversity issue, too, says Loueez. “Producers will ask me, ‘How do I get my audience to be more diverse?’ ” she says. “Well, you booked 10 skinny white ladies! If you’re not seeing yourself reflected onstage, you’re not going to go to those shows.”

Loueez, who 10 years ago founded Jeezy’s Juke Joint, a Black Burly Q Revue, as a way to shine a light on Black burlesque performers, uses her teaching career as a tool for change. “I started teaching because I was tired of seeing appropriation,” she says. “A lot of people were using it for comedic effect: ‘How hilarious is it that I’m white and I’m trying to twerk!’ But if a Black burlesque performer did the same act, it would be too stripper-y or raunchy. I have to remind myself that burlesque is not a sparkly bubble where racism and ableism and classicism don’t exist.”

It is a space, performers argue, that offers a wider range of self-expression than its concert-dance counterpart—and seems more ready to tackle the problematic issues that need fixing. “We live in a culture that created a hierarchy of bodies that serve the patriarchy,” says Express. “But people are slowly hopping off the train, one at a time. And I get to help them off the train—with burlesque.”

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