This week in dance

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Fashion and ballet intertwine as well-known ballerinas from the Miami City Ballet strut their stuff on the runway. According the Pointe magazine, Miami Fashion Week featured a few ballerinas, all of whom agreed that pointe shoes are more comfortable than high heels. Who else agrees?

The Amalgamate Dance Company announced that it will be working with the National Aphasia Association to present “Giving Back and Moving Forward,” a performance to raise awareness of aphasia. Check out Broadway World’s article on the new dance work inspired by recent aphasia research.

Students at Western Carolina University have the opportunity to team up with the Radio City Music’s Rockette dancers. Working with alumnae, the WCU dance team will be peform Rockette-inspired dances in New York. Mountain Xpress gives the details at this link.

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Dance news this week

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It has emerged that the ex-director of the English National Ballet asked the principal dancer to consider abortion.  At the time of the incident in 2000, Derek Deane wanted to cast Daria Klimentova as the lead in Sleeping Beauty but saw the child as an “inconvenience.”  Here is the Daily Mail’s article on the matter.

Amanda Brice’s new book, Pas de Death, will be released in stores this month. Apart from a clever title, Dance Spirit says the plot keeps you on your toes with a mystery behind the murder of a dance critic.

UK dancer Aaron Dwyer set up a Zumba mega dance class to raise money for the Great Western Hospital. The class is inspired by Dwyer’s grandfather, who was diagnosed with cancer last year.  Check out This is Wiltshire’s article here.

Tango in Lawrence gains popularity

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With the popularity of tango in Lawrence, Kan., on the rise, I decided to talk to the local Lawrence Tango Dancers group about their favorite parts of tango dancing.

HAYLEY JOZWIAK:  Who would have thought there was Argentine tango in Lawrence, Kansas?  Actually, this type of dance is very popular in the community.  With a Tango Club at the University of Kansas as well as the Lawrence Tango Dancers group, tango dancing is a regular activity for many students and community members.

On Monday nights above the Signs of Life coffee shop, Lawrence Tango holds an instructional ballroom class.  The DJ of the event, Eric Farnsworth talks about his favorite part of the tango.

ERIC FARNSWORTH:  Just the dancing.  It’s unusual in that you don’t have to remember anything.  It’s this sort of body language connection.  So you have this sort of immediate thing where your body just moves the way it moves and after a while you can’t even tell where it’s coming from.  It just sort of happens.

HAYLEY JOZWIAK:  Apart from the tango groups in Lawrence, there are many events around the area where multiple groups come together to dance.  Mandi Alexander, a regular dancer at Lawrence Tango, comments on she likes about the festivals.

MANDI ALEXANDER:  They’ll bring in instructors, maybe from Argentina or Chicago and make a weekend of it.  People come in and dance and learn and just don’t sleep.

HAYLEY JOZWIAK:  For other dancers, like Sophia Loschky, meeting different people is her favorite part of tango in Lawrence.  She said every person you dance with is a different experience.

SOPHIA LOSCHKY:  You know, one person will be like, ‘It’s impossible to make mistakes. It’s not the philosophy of tango.  As long as you’re having fun, you’re having fun.’ And then that guy Saul over there, the really old guy, he’ll be like “Do you really want to learn tango?’ He’s like, ‘These are the exact steps you have to do.’  He’ll be like ‘Where are you going with that foot? You’re doing it wrong.’  But it’s still fun.

HAYLEY JOZWIAK:  This is Hayley Jozwiak with Get to the Pointe.

Bolshoi investigation still underway

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The investigation of the acid attack on Bolshoi Ballet director in January continues. Pavel Dmitrichenko, a lead soloist at the Bolshoi, admits to wanting to “knock him [the director] around” but had no intention of using acid. Check out the New York Times’ update on the situation.

If you are a So You Think You Can Dance fan, you’re probably buzzing about the tWitch and Allison proposal. The two past contestants got engaged this week. Check out the details with this Dance Spirit article.

Three rising star choreographers had their work displayed during the Joffrey Ballet Winning Works:  Choreographers of Color award ceremony today. The event was created to recognize minority choreographers and bring a different perspective to the world of dance. BWWdanceworld.com gives details about the event here.

Dance teachers share inspirations

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What makes a good dance teacher “good?” According to dance.about.com, the top qualities of a good dance teacher include dedication and respect.  In order to understand where the dedication stems from, you have to look at the background of the teacher.

After dancing all over the United States and internationally in countries like Brazil, Italy, Israel and Mexico, it may seem odd to end up teaching dance Lawrence, Kan., of all places.

For Muriel Cohan, her transition from being part of a nationally and internationally recognized duet company to her position today as the associate professor of dance at the University of Kansas made sense. After transitioning into the academic atmosphere of teaching dance at KU, Cohan and her dance partner/husband still got to perform and choreograph as they did before as a company.

“We were still able to do our touring. We had the chance to enlarge the company, do group work and group choreography and concerts using our students. It was good timing,” Cohan said.

Like Cohan, many dance teachers have had their own inspirations for and transitions into teaching dance. With many different backgrounds and teaching styles, it is important to understand the inspiration behind an instructor’s passion.

Cohan’s inspiration for choreographing and teaching today comes from past teachers. “Just about the style of dance and the way she approached movement.  It just touched me from the very beginning,” Cohan said.

“All the things I love to see in dance, I get to bring that into teaching,” Cohan said. She said she loves everything from fluid choreography movements to meeting new people and students.

However, not every teacher had a transition like Cohan.  Sometimes, the transition really isn’t a transition at all.

Amanda Clutter who teaches at Dance Because studio in Lawrence, decided later in her life that she wanted to teach dance.

After taking many dance classes independently in her 20s, she found that many of her teachers had a hard time communicating with the students in the class.  Clutter stepped in to help the other students understand the steps.

“I’m already here dancing, I’m just going to be a better teacher than they are because of my ability to communicate,” Clutter said.

Focusing mostly on couples with a specialty in wedding dances, Clutter strives to maintain a relaxed, fun environment for her students.

“What I love about my job is that I stay in touch with most of the couples that I teach.  They are beyond students and they become friends,” Clutter said.

Inspired by the community of students she creates, Clutter said she couldn’t picture herself with any other job.

“I love that I get to do something that is purely happy,” Clutter said. “I get to add to their happiness. I can help them do something they can feel good about, and it helps them as a couple.”

Sometimes inspiration for teaching comes from a brand-new idea.  That was the case for Caryn Oyler, an instructor at Dazzlers Dance in Lawrence, Kan.  Caryn and the other founder of Dazzlers brainstormed the idea of a Christian dance studio in Lawrence 15 years ago.

“I had 24 girls signed up the very first day.  Today, we have over 150 dancers at Dazzlers,” Oyler said.

Oyler said that Dazzlers provides a moral environment and the girls feel comfortable expressing themselves through the art of dance.

Oyler said the relationships with her students are the most important reason she teaches.

“I love that the little girls will remember Dazzlers.  Not just me as a teacher but the studio itself — the experience, the spotlight, the sequins.  It’s a place where people were nice to [the girls] and loved them,” Oyler said.

No matter their background and story, each instructor agreed on one thing:  They do it for the love of dance.  Their dedication to the students and dance itself makes each of them qualified, hardworking teachers.

Muriel Cohan, a nationally and internationally recognized dancer and choreographer, talks about her memories of dancing as a young girl.  Cohan is the associate professor of dance at the University of Kansas.

HAYLEY JOZWIAK:  Muriel Cohan, the associate professor of dance at the University of Kansas, talks about her experience with dance when she was young.

MURIEL COHAN:  I took ballet lessons when I was very young.  But I was not a very good ballet student, I wasn’t that interested.  I was interested in dancing.  My mother had been a dancer, so I wanted to dance, you know? But ballet was so dry – not that it really is – but the way that I was introduced to it.  So I kind of would be in the ballet class going on dreaming about dancing.

HAYLEY JOZWIAK:  Cohan remembers how she was introduced to modern dance.

MURIEL COHAN:  And then I was stricken with rheumatic fever and then I recovered. And when I recovered, there was this modern dance going on. And we didn’t know very much about it. A friend of my family took me to a rehearsal, and I fell in love. It was amazing.

HAYLEY JOZWIAK:  Cohan became involved with modern dance through the Philadelphia Dance Theater.

MURIEL COHAN:  And I went to this rehearsal and I said, ‘I have to take class here.’ And I started taking class and they put me in the performance. So, I was in heaven. I was 14.

HAYLEY JOZWIAK:  Cohan remembers one of the most influential teachers in her life.

MURIEL COHAN:  They would bring guests from New York and they would give class, as well. So it was a very intensive kind of training.  One of the teachers was particularly influential with me because I just, something about the style of dance and the way she approached movement just touched me from the very beginning.

HAYLEY JOZWIAK:  This is Hayley Jozwiak with Get to the Pointe.

This week in dance

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We all tune in to the Oscars for the fashion, the jokes and the occasional fall up to the stage (we still love you, Jennifer Lawrence), but it would have been a shame to miss the fun dance numbers from this year. Seth Macfarlane, Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones are only a few of the big-name stars mentioned in Dance Spirit’s article about the dancing at the Oscars.

A new TV show about the “underbelly” of ballroom dancing is now in the works, according to Pointe Magazine. “Underbelly” meaning the darker side of ballroom that is not seen on stage.  Ballroom stars Derek and Julianne Hough will produce the new series titled “Blackpool.”

Dancing with the Stars premieres March 28, and has released its lineup for the 16th season. Stars including Kellie Pickler, a country singer, and Lisa Vanderpump, a Beverly hills Real Housewife, as well as a few new dancers, including Lindsay Arnold from So You Think You Can Dance. Check out Dance Spirit’s full list here.

Local dancers react to rise in dance-related injuries

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You would think that a 37 percent increase in dance injuries would shock most dancers. However, this statistic comes as no surprise to dancers in Lawrence, Kan.

According to a study done Feb. 11 by the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the number of dance-related injuries in adolescents resulting in trips to the emergency room have increased by 37 percent annually in the past 17 years.

Emily Laskowski, 21, a dancer at Point B Dance studio in Lawrence, is unphased by the study results. Laskowski has danced for 18 years. While she has never sustained a major injury, she has witnessed many of her fellow dancers get hurt while rehearsing.

“We need to maximize our dance time at the studio during rehearsals. Therefore, stretching gets left out or left up to the dancers in a few short minutes,” said Laskowski.

The expectations of dancers have increased, and the skills incorporated in a dance are more intense, Laskowski said. There is more gymnastics in dance than there used to be. The bar has been slowly raised over the years, to the point where dancers are expected to have exceptional dance and tumbling skills. Many times, the tumbling comes without the proper equipment.

“I can remember during competition practices there would be people tumbling and I would think to myself, ‘Should you really be doing that without shoes?’” Laskowski said.

The dance studios Laskowski has danced in have hardwood floors, which are only fit for dancing, never for gymnastics.

Another dancer at Point B Dance, Mackenzie Owens, suffered a hernia after practice more than a year ago. Owens says that was her worst injury from dancing.

“I went to the ER on Thursday and was in surgery by Monday,” Owens said as she pointed to the scar on the right side of her stomach.

“The doctors don’t know for sure if it was because of dance, but I didn’t do anything else that would have caused it,” Owens said.

While Owens’ injury is a rare one, sprains and strains are much more common.

The best way to prevent injury is to stretch muscles thoroughly, stay hydrated and learn proper dancing technique.

Dancer “equal to Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly” dies at 91

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Matt Mattox, a talented jazz dancer from the 1940s, died Feb. 18 at his home in France. Known for his role in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and many other Broadway shows, Mr. Mattox taught dancers from around the world, including Barbra Streisand. Learn more about Mattox in this New York Times article.

The first lady has teamed up with comedic genius Jimmy Fallon to deliver a knockout performance of “The Evolution of Mom Dancing.” Leave it to Michelle to make Mom jeans look cool again. Check out the Washington Post’s story at this link.

From FOX’s Glee all the way to Broadway, leave it to Sue Sylvester to strike fear in the hearts of children of all ages. Dance Spirit reports that Jane Lynch will star as Ms. Hannigan in the Broadway show Annie. We love you, Miss Sylvannigan!

Choreography meets social media

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Diablo Ballet in California announced it would allow its audience to tweet suggestions for choreography for its new “Web Ballet.” The suggestion-taking ended this Valentine’s Day, according to Pointe Magazine.

It would be a shame to write about dance in Lawrence, Kan., and not mention the new fad “Harlem Shake.” Click on this link to see why the Washington Post thinks it went viral. Also, check out the KU Men’s Basketball version of the Harlem Shake.

The Miami City Ballet and Miami Heat team up to celebrate 25 years of dance and basketball in Miami. Two very different worlds of athleticism come together for the photo shoot.

The investigation of the attack on the Bolshoi Ballet’s artistic director continues. The Ballet has threatened to sue the principal dancers over matters of questioning the management.