Magazine article Dance Spirit

Beginner's Edge

Magazine article Dance Spirit

Beginner's Edge

Article excerpt


If modern is your thing, the list of choreographers whose works you would like to perform someday probably starts with names like Donald Byrd, David Dorfman, Mark Morris, Twyla Tharp and Doug Varone. While dancing for these major modern movers may seem like a distant dream, for a group of teenage dancers in New York City, it has become reality. How can dancers with your level of experience learn and perform pieces by these renowed choregraphers? They've proven it's not as hard as you may think.


Unlike ballet, modern choreography is often built as a series of abstract movements rather than precise steps. And while the choreographers mentioned above may have been doubtful when first approached by Diane Jacobowitz, the founder of the Brooklyn, NY-based teenage performance troupe Kids Company, all (with the exception of Donald Byrd, who was commissioned to create a new dance for the group) agreed to let the troupe learn works from their repertory. Now the pieces the youth company has performed over the last three years make for an impressive list.

Surprisingly, even when teaching dancers without extensive modern backgrounds, selecting which piece to pull from the repertory isn't always based on its simplicity. Of the first piece he helped teach to the company, Mark Morris Dance Group member John Heginbotham says, "We wanted to choose something that was [contextually] appropriate for kids to do. L'Allegro, Il Penseroso Ed Il Moderato is a very technically advanced piece but it has a very human quality to it, so we thought it would be good for them."

Eddie Taketa, who, with the help of fellow Doug Varone and Dancers member John Beasant set Varone's Strict Love on the company, made a similar choice: "There's a flexibility to Strict Love. It's adaptable regarding level, experience and personality. …

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