Big Apple for the Teacher: Christine Colby-Jacques, Winner of the 'Dance Magazine Appreciates Dance Teachers' Essay Contest, Takes New York City by Storm

By Elia, Susan | Dance Magazine, November 1998 | Go to article overview

Big Apple for the Teacher: Christine Colby-Jacques, Winner of the 'Dance Magazine Appreciates Dance Teachers' Essay Contest, Takes New York City by Storm


Elia, Susan, Dance Magazine


Christine Colby-Jacques, winner of the "Dance Magazine Appreciates Dance Teachers" essay contest, takes New York City by storm.

Christine Colby-Jacques experiences a pleasant shock when she steps out of the elevator into the lobby of Dance Magazine. "Oh my gosh, it's me!" she exclaims, pointing to the montage of action photos used as a wall poster for the television series Magic of Dance, hosted by Dame Margot Fonteyn. Sure enough, Christine is the leggy blonde in a vivid green leotard and high heels, representing jazz with a terrific high kick. She'd been a principal dancer in Bob Fosse's 1978 Dancin' (on Broadway at the time) and had already kicked her way through a stint with the Rockettes. The staff, assembled to meet the winner of the first "Dance Magazine Appreciates Dance Teachers" essay contest, was equally surprised and delighted to learn that she wasn't entirely a stranger.

Twenty years after that poster was made, Christine--jazz teacher, professional dancer, and guest artist at the State Ballet of Missouri, and a B.A. candidate at the University of Kansas--still has the same slim body and winning smile. But it was not her appearance nor her impressive resume (which includes the revival and national tour of Fosse's Sweet Charity, and the movies A Chorus Line and Annie) that won her the contest's "Wonderful Weekend of New York Dance" prize but her essay, which we run on page 52. She had succinctly and eloquently described the technique, style, and generosity of jazz maestro Luigi; his effect on her as a dancer; and how she passes his influence on to her students.

On this visit to New York City, Christine is able to take class with her former teacher at the Luigi Jazz Center on the Upper West Side. In the 1:00 P.M. advanced class, she works through floor exercises with an ease, fluidity, musicality, and elegance that draw appreciative attention from her fellow students. The class culminates, fittingly, with Christine and Luigi dancing his choreography to a Harry Connick Jr. recording of "It Had to Be You."

Over lunch at Santa Fe, a nearby restaurant, Christine and Luigi reminisce about their first meeting. "I was twenty-one," says Christine, "but I was about ten or eleven when my Cincinnati teacher, Jane Miles, started teaching us Luigi's technique. So my dream was to get to New York, and one of the reasons that I wanted to go was that I wanted to take Luigi's technique class from Luigi."

Luigi's face lights up at the memory: "I noticed her right away. I thought she was fantastic. She was the most beautiful thing you ever saw in your life. I've never seen anything like her onstage." It wasn't long before Luigi asked her to join his company. "It was such a joy for me to see her do my work. It was like, I've done it, I'm successful, look at her, look at that. That was very important to me, to see such a beautiful dancer in my work. And now she's carrying it on."

When asked specifically about how Luigi has influenced her teaching, Christine turns thoughtful: "I think that what I try to give my students from his work is the same quality and the same polish that a ballet dancer would have, but also a connection between what your body's doing and what you're feeling. I think Luigi really concentrates on making that connection, which I don't think ballet always integrates successfully. I've been able to use that approach, no matter whose choreography I'm doing."

Christine's prize also included a round-trip flight for her and her husband, Steven, on American Airlines; a Zena Rommett floor barre class at Broadway Dance Center; and tickets to Chicago and Eliot Feld's Ballet Tech. "Everyone should know how wonderful Eliot Feld's Ballet Tech is," she exclaims. "He's really assembled quite a group of dancers. They have technique, they have smooth partnering, and they related, they actually related to each other onstage. It was a joy.

"And Chicago was wonderful. …

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