Magazine article Dance Teacher

Karen Arceneaux: How I Teach Horton

Magazine article Dance Teacher

Karen Arceneaux: How I Teach Horton

Article excerpt

Karen Arceneaux is about to deliver some bad news to the group of advanced-beginner Horton students assembled before her. She's cutting the counts in half for an already tricky exercise.

"If it was two counts, now it's one. If it was six, now it's three," she says.

"I'm leaving now," one student announces, semi-laughing.

Arceneaux, without skipping a beat: "The door is locked."

Her quick wit is, as usual, a balm for the dancers' worry. She masterfully walks that careful balance of lightening the mood and centering her students in her Horton technique classes at The Ailey School in New York City-all while instilling a respect and reverence for a time-honored technique.

After Lester Horton began codifying his geometric, shape-oriented modern-dance style in the first half of the 20th century, the choreographer Alvin Ailey (who had danced in Horton's company) skillfully repurposed much of it in his work. It's now an integral part of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's repertory and training program.

But it wasn't a technique Arceneaux discovered until she was in her 20s. A latecomer to dance-she started in college, in Lafayette, Louisiana-she didn't begin training earnestly until a successful audition for the Ailey two-year certification program. There, she studied intensively under Horton master Ana Marie Forsythe.

After a brief stint as assistant to both Forsythe and Denise Jefferson, then-director of The Ailey School, Arceneaux was promoted to school administrator. …

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