Rachel Straus - Dance Writer

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Juilliard Dance

 
Published: August 27, 2015
Category: history

In Remembrance: Maggie Black

By Rachel Straus

It is a rare teacher who develops a loyal following among ballet and modern dancers, but such was the case with Maggie Black (1930-2015) who died at age 85 in May on Long Island. This fiercely independent ballet teacher’s transformative effect on dancers’ abilities was famously dubbed “Black Magic” by none other than []

Published: March 1, 2015
Category: history

Cunningham and Cage: Collaborative Spirits

By Rachel Straus

Editor’s Note: Even though Merce Cunningham’s Biped, which is part of this year’s Spring Dances Repertory,was not created with his longtime collaborator John Cage, the work, made seven years after the composer’s death, is very much “in the spirit of their collaboration,” according to dance faculty member Rachel Straus. “It employs the latest []

Published: June 1, 2012
Category: history

Hanya Holm: Bringing German Expressionism to America

By Rachel Straus

Hanya Holm

In 1931, a tiny German woman disembarked from an ocean liner onto a Manhattan pier to open a modern dance school based on principles of German expressionist dance. It was a risky move during the Great Depression, especially with America’s growing anti-immigrant sentiment. But the intrepid Hanya Holm would []

Published: May 1, 2012
Category: history

Michael Kidd: Energizing the golden age of musical theater

By Rachel Straus When approached to choreograph the 1954 film Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Michael Kidd read the screenplay about woodsmen looking for wives and thought, “Surely, those guys would never dance.” His solution was to use a barn-raising competition as a jumping-off point for a number in which the brothers fought for the []

Published: April 1, 2012
Category: history

Maggie Black's transformative approach to ballet training

By Rachel Straus

At the height of her popularity from the late 1960s to the 1990s, Maggie Black could be found teaching a sea of professional dancers, six days a week in her New York City studio. The petite and always charismatic Black was known to demonstrate in pink fuzzy slippers with her hair in pigtails. []

Published: March 1, 2012
Category: history

B.K.S. Iyengar: Making Yoga Accessible to All

By Rachel Straus On a crisp winter morning, only the sound of pranayama (slow, extended breathing) from 20 practitioners can be heard in a class at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of New York. Structured around a gradual intensification of backbends, this particular session, taught by James Murphy, director of Iyengar Yoga Association of Greater New []

Published: February 1, 2012
Category: history

Michio Ito: The forgotten modern dance pioneer

By Rachel Straus

Michio Ito

In 1927, Japanese artist Michio Ito presented his solo work Tango to a New York City audience. Though he dressed the part of a tango dancer, it was not a strict representation of the form. An abstract piece, it was crafted with powerful, sweeping gestures with rhythmic footing. This []

Published: December 1, 2011
Category: history

Isadora Duncan: Mother of modern dance

Isadora Duncan

By Rachel Straus

The moment when Isadora Duncan throws her head back in ecstasy as she dances at the Theatre of Dionysus in Greece (preserved in the 1903 photograph above) captures Duncan’s archetypal performance qualities: supple, improvisatory, transcendent. Arguably the most important American-born dance artist of the early 20th century, Duncan forged her style against []

Published: October 1, 2011
Category: history

Michael Bennett: History Quiz

By Rachel Straus 1. How did Bennett model himself after Jerome Robbins? 2. What was the first Broadway show Bennett saw at age 11? 3. _______ was Bennett’s longtime collaborator. 4. Name a few Broadway shows Bennett directed and/or choreographed? 5. Who organized the 1974 tape sessions that later developed into A Chorus Line? 6. []

Published: October 1, 2011
Category: history

He's the One: Broadway Knight Michael Bennett

By Rachel Straus A dancer’s ornamentally unfurling arms and catlike spine develop under a spotlight. Alone in a dark, empty space, she watches her haloed dancing figure in a mirrored triptych, whose three panels resemble a church altar painting. In this iconic “Music and the Mirror” number of A Chorus Line, director Michael Bennett revealed []