(3BL Media/Justmeans) – One source of optimism today comes from confirmation that the U.K. economic downturn has not dented people's desire to reduce their impact on the environment or spend on ethical products, in spite of some big U.K.
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Judith Mackrell: People with Parkinson’s and other diseases are benefiting from a growing recognition of the therapeutic benefits of dance
Dance is having a moment that’s not about knuckle-headed judging on Strictly, star ballerinas or a cool new choreographer, but about the fascinatingly therapeutic uses to which the art form is increasingly being put. Dancers are being used in the training of doctors, helping them develop skills of empathy and communication, but dance is also being utilised to engage more directly with the patients themselves.
A new film, Capturing Grace, spotlights the work being done at the Mark Morris Dance Center (MMDG) in Brooklyn. Dance for Parkinson’s Disease is a project that started in 2001 when Olie Westheimer, director of the Brooklyn Parkinson Group (BPG), approached Morris about the possibility of the centre leading a programme of serious, rigorous, dance classes for members of her group.
Westheimer knew how valuable the dancers’ expertise in balance, rhythm, control and sequencing might be to those with Parkinson’s disease. Learning to dance might allow them to push against the physical and creative limitations imposed by the disease. Two members of the Mark Morris Dance Group, with a composer and pianist, began giving free monthly classes for the BPG. The sessions have since developed into an extensive programme.
The motor problems that affect people with Parkinson’s disease principally affect voluntary rather than instinctive movements. No one quite knows the science of it, but it seems that something about dancing to music – about imitating a teacher, about developing a muscle memory of dance sequences – seems to temporarily alleviate that problem.
It is not a cure, but while it’s happening it can feel like a liberation. Certainly, as Dave Iverson’s film traces Parkinson’s Dance participants, following them as they train towards a public performance, it shows them gaining confidence and a moving sense of physical freedom.
The success of this programme in transforming lives and expectations has been publicised by the MMDG wherever they appear, and there is now a network of affiliate programmes across the US and in nine countries around the world. In Britain it’s been picked up by English National Ballet, who’ve been running classes at their Kensington base since 2012 as well as operating the scheme at centres in Oxford, Liverpool and elsewhere.
Dancers know about the power of their discipline to combine mind, body and emotion – to create a concentrated, of-the-moment experience – and that’s why dance has also become so useful in the treatment of patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Initiatives like the Centre of Excellence in Movement Dance and Dementia or Circle Dance in Dementia or the American Dance Therapy Association work on the principle that, as individuals lose command of the world they have always known, dance sessions can build a temporary alternative of sound, movement and rhythm. Dance can also introduce a regular experience of physical intimacy and touch, often the things of which patients feel most bereft.
In societies far older than ours, dance was integrated into the daily fabric of people’s lives: in religious dances, war dances, fertility dances, child-birthing dancers, even dances that incorporated the rituals of trading. It is curious that, as we become increasingly hi-tech and ever more in thrall to Big Pharma in our handling of illness, we’re also learning to access and exploit the traditional ways.
Get toes tapping in the classroom and celebrate International Dance Day with our lessons plans and ideas
Albert Einstein was better known for his groundbreaking moves in physics than on the dancefloor, but he had respect for cutting a rug, claiming that “dancers are the athletes of God”. Since 1982, 29 April has been designated International Dance Day, with events taking place across the globe to encourage greater attention and respect for the art form.
And there are plenty of reasons to shimmy. With childhood obesity on the rise, it could add some much-needed activity and, for the adults, research suggests that shaking your stuff has the same effect on happiness as a £1,600 pay rise (take that, performance-related pay). So why not take the opportunity to teach your students about the benefits of busting a groove?Primary
Before we go all macarena, this series of lessons from BBC School Radio uses the classical music project Ten Pieces to guide students through a series of nature-based movement tasks. Themes include the sea, on the mountain and planet Mars. The activities are interactive and high-energy, challenging pupils to move in collaboration with others, respond to changes in musical tone, and create their own dance-based narratives.
For a less physically demanding celebration of dance, try this reading comprehension activity from PrimaryLeap. It details the story of Louise, a six-year-old who loves to dance. Students can read her account of how much she likes to rock out in various places (including the kitchen and garden), before demonstrating understanding by answering a series of simple questions.
The Grammar Dance is a great way to add to the creative chaos by bringing in singing, as well as dancing. It is an English-themed song, written by Mr A, C and D, that helps to counter pupils’ nerves about grammar tests. Lyrics include: “Let’s get inventive/Think of a posh word for connective/To make a sentence function/Use the word conjunction.”
Meanwhile, this lesson from Sport Relief looks at the power of dance from a philanthropic perspective, exploring how it can be used to raise funds for those in need. Suggestions include hosting a danceathon, creating a sponsored conga, holding a school disco and creating a school dance show.
And for lots more ideas fun dance activities, try these suggestions from Change4Life. They include the DVD game – in which children have to respond to instructions such as fast forward and slow motion – and introduces pupils to the timeless classic that is Village People’s YMCA (a key skill to develop for the wedding receptions they will attend throughout their lives).
And for more cross-cultural fun, try this group task. Working in pairs, students are given an image of art from another culture and have to create a sequence of five moves related to it using just their imaginations. They then work with another pair with the same image and join their sequences together to create a 10-step dance. There are differentiation suggestions – for example, only using certain body parts – and extension activities include researching the cultures they have been working with, or setting their dance to music.
To explore what happens when dance hits the headlines, use this collection of articles from The Day. Topics covered include how posting a Harlem Shake video got some Australian miners fired; the case of a Russian ballet dancer who carried out an acid attack on his boss; and how a sexist song caused debates on dancefloors across the world.
And for a greater understanding of the history of dance and how it has been passed down through the generations, use this article on dance notation. It explains how systems have developed to enable all kinds of dance to be replicated over decades and even centuries.
Finally, take a look at how dance is used on the big screen with these lessons from Into Film. The guide to the 2004 film Bride and Prejudice looks at how dance is key to the Bollywood film tradition, while the resource on Pitch Perfect 2 asks students to consider what is empowering about performing song and dance routines.
Whether you slay or stumble at body-rolling and palm-flashing, a D.C.-area studio emphasizes fun.
It’s easy to be mesmerized by Beyoncé’s rapid-fire dance moves. The dramatic “Crazy in Love” leg strut. The “Run the World” shoulder shrug. And, most famously, the “Single Ladies” hand-wave that inspired endless dance covers, parodies and flash mobs (and hopefully some marriage proposals).
It’s safe to say my jazz hands and box steps (thanks, high school choir) don’t hold a candle to Beyoncé’s body-rolling or booty-shaking.
In preparation for seeing the Queen Bey at the Baltimore stop on her world tour “Formation,” I decided to sharpen my dance skills and embrace my inner diva at a Beyoncé-inspired dance fitness class at District Groove in Chevy Chase.
The two-hour workout features a blend of jazz, African, hip-hop and dance-hall dance styles by incorporating choreography from Beyoncé’s music videos and live performances. The class I chose, “Formation,” combined moves from the singer’s show-stealing halftime performance at the 2016 Super Bowl and the music video that features New Orleans imagery and highlights social activism.
On a recent Saturday, a dozen dancers trickled into the large, mirrored studio space. For the first few minutes, we stretched, preparing physically and mentally to take on Beyoncé’s moves. We went around the room, introducing ourselves and briefly sharing our motivations for taking the course.
Half of the class members were devoted Beyoncé fans; two sisters, Adaisha Kemp and Ashley Garrison, have been fans of the pop star since her Destiny’s Child days. They managed to score tour tickets and are planning to enjoy her Baltimore concert with eight other girlfriends. Johanna Olivas, a soon-to-be Johns Hopkins graduate student, received a package of classes from her husband as an early graduation present. Michelle Jacobs, a high school math teacher, gifted herself five lessons in preparation for her 40th birthday party.
But there was also a small legion of non-Beyhive-members, including Trevor Richardson, 25, a junior at the University of Maryland. The only male in attendance, he had come to the class for a good workout. A self-proclaimed Goo Goo Dolls fan, he had never seen or even listened to the “Formation” track.
As we began to get into our starting formation, Amina Vohra, 33, a professional dancer and owner of District Groove, encouraged us to approach the class with an open mind and to not be too hard on ourselves if our dance skills did not stack up to stadium-level standards. No pressure.
Before we got moving, I set my own class intention: I would embrace my inner Sasha Fierce and if — or should I say when — I stumbled, I would try to recover as fiercely and quickly as Beyoncé at the Super Bowl. Because, unlike B, I was pretty sure my moves would not be flawless.
The class simplifies every few lines of the song into manageable bits of choreography. Moves range from basic gestures (head nodding) to full-body popping (chest out, butt out). Harder moves, in which feet, torso and arms are involved, are broken down even further into easily digestible parts. Vohra routinely surveyed the students to spot troublesome areas and reinforce learned moves by repeating choruses and bridge sequences.
“Okay, ladies, now let’s get in formation . . . prove to me you got some coordination,” Beyoncé belted encouragingly over the sound system.
Vohra has offered dance classes, inspired by mega performers such as Britney Spears and Michael Jackson, since 2011. But when District Groove introduced a Beyoncé-inspired course in 2014 (at the request of her students) she realized she had discovered a gold mine.
Demand spiked, especially among Beyoncé fans, who commonly show up to classes in concert T-shirts and outfits inspired by the singer’s music-video apparel.
“It’s definitely a full-body workout. The simplified version, by itself, is exhausting,” Vohra says. “Just imagine being Beyoncé and having to do the full version, in high heels, while singing.”
I suddenly felt grateful for my old, tattered sneakers.
The first half-hour was shaky, as I tried to control and coordinate my hands and feet to move with the rest of my body. But an hour into it, I felt my confidence building. What I lacked in direction, I made up for in hair flips and attitude.
I caught myself letting go and mouthing along to the lyrics, hoping the words would encourage my two left feet to stay in rhythm: “I dream it, I work hard, I grind till I own it.”
Quick water breaks turned into an exchange of thoughts on Beyoncé’s visual album, “Lemonade,” and friendly chatter.
“What’s your favorite track?”
“Wait, can you do that move again? Tell me you practiced the video at home before class!”
By the end of the course, I had “Formation” fever and was feeling decidedly more divalike. (I’d also burned nearly 500 calories, according to Vohra’s teaching assistant.) Repetition helped my movements became less jerky and more fluid. My favorite move, deemed the “No Boys” (sorry, Trevor), involved waving our hands in front of our faces while confidently leaning back. I have to remember to bring that one to the bar with me.
At the end of class, we recorded two music videos to demonstrate our newly mastered steps. While Beyoncé videos probably have multiple sets, costume changes and takes, we had an iPhone camera on a tripod.
On the first try, I fumbled a bit and felt frustrated. But by the second, I didn’t care. I was laughing, bouncing and greatly amused by my progress.
So, Beyoncé, if you’re reading this, I’ll be in the nosebleed section June 10. If you, for any reason, forget your “Formation” moves mid-show, you know where to look.
The Patriots Tight End puts his footwork to a new type of test
Do superior strength and route-running make for a great ballerina? (No.)
What sometimes gets lost in the collective noise of people laughing at Gronk being Gronk (so:partying and twerking), is that Rob Gronkowski is a truly special athlete. His combination of size, speed, and strength doesn't just make him an offensive coordinator's best friend—it might end up making him the greatest tight end to ever play the game. And though world-class ballerinas come in much smaller form than elite football players, they too possess a unique and rare set of talents, many of which they share with the guys that smash their bodies together for a living: footwork, balance, flexibility. So, naturally, we wondered what Gronk we might have become has his dad handed him a ballet barre instead of bench press. Could he have been the next great ballerina?
Wonder no more. We got Nathalia Arja from Miami City ballet to put the Patriots' monster of a man through some drills that are likely not in Bill Belichick's repertoire: the plié; the arabesque; the thing where you jump and kick your legs together. With all those moves conquered—or, at the very least, attempted—Gronk sets out to give us a full-on routine. How did it go? Well, Nathalia probably said it best, and most graciously: "Well... I think you did a lot better than how we started today."
Dance Now Miami performs Edward Stierle's "Lacrymosa," Thursday, May 19th through Sunday, May 21st at the Fillmore Miami Beach. The ballet was a response
Dance Now Miami performs Edward Stierle's "Lacrymosa,"Thursday, May 19th through Sunday, May 21st at the Fillmore Miami Beach. The ballet was a response to the 1980 AIDS crisis and stands as its creator's own requiem.
People told Edward Stierle he was too short for ballet. He was around 5'6" or 5'8", depending on who you ask. He'd been dancing tap and jazz since he was four or five years old, with his big sister Rosemarie teaching his first classes. But he had a calling for ballet.
His dad didn't like the idea one bit. "I said, 'No, no, no ballet. What are you crazy?'" remembers Bill Stierle, who tells people to call him Pop. Tears well up in his eyes and his throat catches when he remembers that first reaction. He came around though.
Rosemarie helped convince her parents that her brother had talent that needed to be fostered. They agreed to sign him up for ballet classes, but there was the issue of gas money. The Stierles and their eight children lived in in Hollywood, Florida and the ballet teacher was in Hialeah. Pop was the maintenance man at Chaminade, the all-boys Catholic school. Rose, Edward's mother, ran the lunchroom at the girls school, Madonna. She ended up getting another job cleaning their church, "so that $25 went into the gas tank to get Eddie to Hialeah," she remembers, laughing.
Bill Stierle threw his support behind his son's dancing too. He proudly accompanied him to competitions. Once, he says, somebody doubted Edward would be able to lift his dance partner. "He said, 'You're not gonna make it buddy, you're just too small.' And so Eddie picked this girl up, walked around the room with her over his head, brought her over to the guy, set her right down in front of the guy, smiled and then walked away."
Dance Now Miami dancers Anthony Velasquez and Allyn Ginns rehearse the pas de deux from Stierle's "Lacrymosa."
Edward Stierle left Florida when he got a scholarship to go to high school at the North Carolina School of the Arts. When he won gold at the prestigious Prix de Lausanne, according to the New York Times, the jury "spent hours deliberating whether it was fitting to award the top prize to a dancer who in their view didn't have the idealized physique of a classical dancer."
By the time he was 18, Stierle was invited to join the Joffrey Ballet, one of the pinnacles of American dance. He had already choreographed a solo set to Mozart's Requiem, and when he joined the Joffrey, he was asked to make it into a full-length ballet.
Just before he turned 19, he tested positive for HIV, and his dance, "Lacrymosa," became a reaction to the 1980s AIDS crisis. Many dancers and artists around Stierle were dying from the disease, and as he worked on the ballet, he knew he would become sick too.
At a rehearsal for this week's performances of "Lacrymosa," Stierle's sister, Rosemarie Worton, sits on a folding chair next to her parents, talking to the dancers from Dance Now Miami about some of the motivation behind the piece. "How do you leave the people you know? How do you accept death? ... The ballet is acceptance," she says. Pop quietly adds, "To the end."
Worton continues explaining her brother's intentions for this dance. "Live with vibrancy. ... You know, even as he passed he would say, 'Are you going to be OK? Life goes on. Keep moving. Keep going.'" The dancers sit on the floor, looking up at her and choking back tears.
After "Lacrymosa" premiered, a Washington Post critic wrote, "... there's assuredly promise here, and more than reason enough to await future Stierle endeavors optimistically."
Those words are heartbreaking, looking back and knowing what was about to happen. Stierle choreographed one more ballet,"Empyrean Dances." He died three days after its premiere at Lincoln Center. He was 23.
The critics did in fact seem heartbroken. In the Los Angeles Times, Martin Bernheimer wrote, 'Lacrymosa' should have been ... a footnote to a long, fascinating career. It should have served as an eclectic starting point for a creative spirit that could have developed in any number of valid directions." In the New York Times, Diane Solway called him a "daring virtuoso." Soloway later wrote a biography about Stierle; at the rehearsal in Miami, his parents gave gift-wrapped copies of the book to each dancer.
After Stierle died, his father, who at first was so averse to his son pursuing a life in ballet, traveled around the country talking to young people and raising awareness about AIDS. "It's still forefront in our lives," he says, "and it's got to be addressed. That's all there is to it."
The significance of staging this ballet in South Florida is manifold, says Dance Now Miami co-director Hannah Baumgarten. Stierle was from here, of course. But also,Miami-Dade and Broward counties have some of highest rates of new HIV cases in the country. "That's not something we should be proud of," says Baumgarten. “Survival is possible with the virus. People are forgetting that it's something that does need to still be faced, especially in our communities."
Thursday's Dance Now Miami performance is reserved for LGBTQ teenagers and young adults.
The dancer's message is not so much power as ease. Ease in her own skin. Wrinkles included.
For women tired of seeing twentysomethings’ skin featured in wrinkle-cream ads, a 52-year-old ballerina has come whirling to the rescue.
Advertisers who turn to ballet dancers typically want to convey prestige, or a message of physical power. Under Armour showcased a muscular Misty Copeland as an athlete, while Lexus used Spanish ballerina Tamara Rojo’s supple moves to call forth the precision and control of its cars.
But a TV ad for a drugstore product–No. 7 Lift & Luminate facial serum–evokes a different ballet quality. It features Alessandra Ferri, one of the greatest ballerinas of the age. After a long and celebrated international career, she retired from American Ballet Theatre in 2007. The serum ad makes no effort to conceal her age; she is wearing little makeup, and has the bare, lightly careworn skin of a down-to-earth woman of advanced years. In fact, Ferri’s age is the central focus here, as she confronts a hologram of her 19-year-old self.
It’s delightful enough that this ad gives us time to savor Ferri in motion, with her liquid smoothness and undiminished grace. But the ad also puts forth a meaningful narrative about looking back at one’s youth, and realizing that now is even better. Youthfulness is not the goal (an interesting point for a cosmetics company to make). Openness, vitality, courage: These are much more important. In her emphatic abandon, as well as her strong features, Ferri brings to mind Lauren Bacall and Anne Bancroft, stars who especially in their later years didn’t let anyone set limits for them, and who showed us that being at peace with oneself is part of being beautiful, at any age.
There’s a backstory to why we’re seeing a hologrammatic Ferri at 19: That was the exceptionally young age at which she became a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet. Thankfully, with that hologram the No. 7 ad avoids the creepiness of holograms we’ve seen in the past. (Remember Michael Jackson’s 2014 resurrection at the Billboard Music Awards? Crrringe…) With careful editing and timing, there’s warmth and a sense of tenderness between the older woman and her younger self. A look appears to pass between them, and the teenage Ferri blinks her dark eyes in wonder, like Bambi peering into sunlight. The mature Ferri throws her arms open, spins toward the young girl and, in a bit of digital magic, shatters the hologram as she tornados through it.
That dark, haunting song that Ferri dances to, by the way, is “Way Down We Go” by Icelandic indie band Kaleo (which “Orange is the New Black” fans may recall from the season four trailer). It’s a perfect pairing: the slow tempo gives Ferri ample time to vary the way she moves to the music. With her elegant sass, the song acquires a sense of daring and wildness.
“Ready for more” is the commercial’s apt tag line. Ferri, who recently turned 53, has been putting those words into practice in quite spectacular fashion. Last year she danced with the Royal Ballet, in a central role in Wayne McGregor’s three-act “Woolf Works.” On June 23, she’ll return to ABT as the teenage heroine of “Romeo and Juliet” at the Metropolitan Opera House. Middle age has found its new star. Not to mention a new, inspiring face.
Ashley Wheater, Artistic Director at the Joffrey Ballet, joins Justin to discuss his career, how he got into dance, auditioning for the Royal Ballet School when he was 9- years-old, joining the Joffrey Ballet, the differences between ballet in London and ballet in America, retiring from dancing because of an injury in his 30’s, making the transition from dancer to administrator, the challenges of being a great artistic director, his relationship with Chicago audiences, Chicago being the lifesaver of the Joffrey and the current production of “Cinderella.”
Is your child ready to embark on a new journey as a professional dancer? Help them dance their way to the top with these 10 guidelines.
Money doesn't grow on trees and although it may be a difficult lesson to teach, I truly believe that it's one of the most important, if not the most important lesson you can teach your children before they embark on a career in the arts. The problem with our industry is that one day the money may be great, and the pay from a big gig will come through, and the next 3 months you’re back in a job that pays just your expenses and not much else. Teach your kids not only the value of money, but also how to manage it too. Trust me, in those down months they will thank you!
Does your dancer knows how to turn on the washing machine, or how to stack a dishwasher? Even ironing their clothes will be something they may never have done before. It's not only that I think these are basic skills they will need, but it's also a chance to do your part in not adding any extra stress to your dancer. When they already know how to do these things, they won't be stressors anymore. They will be stressed enough with moving out, making new friends, worrying about money, learning new choreography or adjusting to a new job. Let's make sure they don't need to be anxious on how they do their washing too.
The next time you walk into a store and you’re looking for something specific, get your dancer to ask for assistance, directions or help. Not only will the ability to communicate confidently will help them when they are living independently, but it will also equip them with the skills they need to confidently answer any questions they may be asked in workshops, auditions and/or castings!
It's definitely not about arguing or standing up for themselves; it's more than that. It's about finding a resolution to a problem when it arises; to move on and past it quickly with limited fuss.
For most dancers, the concept of always looking and feeling your best is the reality if you want to work in this industry. It's not about how fat or thin you are, but it's more about being at your personal best both mentally and physically. Having energy, looking bright, and being well rested all comes down to whether your dancer makes smart and healthy nutritional choices. Encourage them to make their own lunch and talk to them about their choices... It won't kill them!
Do they know how to write and invoice, or what receipts to keep for tax purposes? All things that dancers embark on their first professional job need to know. Teach and discuss it with them. If we don't, then who will? If they are running on their personal ABN, do they need to put money away for tax? (something that's not easy to do in your early 20s).
Always put your passport in the hotel safe, never carry large amount of cash on overseas day trips. Have you photographed your passport lately? Do you know all your emergency contact numbers if something happens or your phone gets stolen? Hold your bag tight in overseas countries because pickpocket isn't just a song from Oliver, but a real problem in some parts of the world.
Shower... Everyday. Shower... Before and after class/rehearsals. Brush your teeth and wear deodorant. Dancers especially teens need to remember that dance is an art often executed in the personal space of someone else. Remember, nobody needs to get a wafting sniff of your four-day-old ballet tights because you haven't washed them or you’re out of deodorant and haven't made it to the shops yet.
Cleaning your room takes on a whole new meaning when you’re sharing a room on a cruise ship no bigger than a walk-in wardrobe. You have to put things in their place. You can't dump your stuff on the floor and hope for the best. In lots of share accommodation and dorm facilities, your dancer’s personal space is shared. They need to respect their own personal space and that of their roommates. Same can be said for backstage areas and dressing room facilities. Pick your undies up off the floor please!!!
Let’s teach our kids to trust themselves, to believe in their dreams and chase them. Teach them that they are worthy, and even when they may get knocked back, it wasn't a direct reflection of who they'd be as a person. It's just they weren't right for that job. There will be others. Teach them to respect themselves, and those around them. To live in the moment and know anything is possible. This industry is full of ups and downs. Take the good with the bad and always learn from your mistakes.
#PromotedPost Plenty of obstacles get in the way of new businesses. She overcame them all.
30 years ago, Jane Goh did something bold and relatively rare: She started a new business while raising her young family. It was a risk she had to take.
It was 1987, and business in Singapore and Malaysia was booming. It didn't matter what they were selling; these new upstart businesses all needed promotional materials — and Goh knew it. Even though she'd just started raising her young family, this opportunity wouldn't wait. She founded the RJ Paper company.
For the past 30 years, the company has served Singapore and Malaysia’s creative class, providing them with tools to promote their own businesses and create their own projects.This includes everything from print materials to packaging to custom manufacturing.
In the past few years, she’s pushed her company toward sustainable paper offerings, choosing to work exclusively with paper mills and suppliers approved by the Forest Stewardship Council, an international certification recognizing responsible management of the world's forests.Goh's forward-thinking leadership, coupled with her eager mentorship of local Singaporean artists and creatives, are two of three ways she set herself apart from other entrepreneurs.
The third, and most important to her, is her family.
Goh says her children and seven grandchildren are the greatest achievement of her life. By placing work and family at the center of everything she does, Goh is able to balance both. Two generations of her family have grown up with the company, and one of her daughters works alongside her every day.Being an entrepreneur is a tremendous risk — there are long hours, huge financial burdens, and heaps of uncertainty. But for female entrepreneurs, the risks are even greater.
The International Finance Corporation's 2011 report on female entrepreneurship in the developing world studied the social, economic, and financial factors that limit the success of women in business. It revealed that about one-third of all small and very small companies are owned by women.
This isn’t a surprising figure. Women-owned business in developing countries often remain small, or are restricted to the home, as their owners attend to other priorities like managing their household or raising children.
The study also found that educational opportunities are still geared more toward male students, making it harder for women to learn the necessary skills to run a successful company. Even when women overcome those challenges, the study revealed that getting funding remains a huge barrier. Should they be able to get a loan at all, female entrepreneurs are much more likely to receive less money, face higher interest rates, and have to pay it back much sooner.All of these are potential deal breakers for a new business. The confidence to push past them makes Goh’s story even more remarkable.
Every single one of the issues confronting female entrepreneurs today was even more prevalent 30 years ago. To face them with a clear mind and an open heart and to come out three decades later with a successful business and a thriving family is an incredible achievement.
For her part, Goh says she never wavered in her belief that everything would work out. She gives the following advice: "Work hard and have persistence. That is more than half the battle won."
You can’t be stressed out after sitting in a box full of kittens. That’s the thinking behind SoulPancake’s kitten therapy experiment. On Tuesday, the company invited stressed adul…
You can’t be stressed out after sitting in a box full of kittens. That’s the thinking behind SoulPancake’s kitten therapy experiment. On Tuesday, the company invited stressed adults in Los Angeles to meditate in a glass box full of tiny cats. The therapy box was available for use by appointment only, and was open only to „patients“ with cases of chronic stress. The lucky few allowed to test out the kitten therapy box were unaware what they’d be getting into when they entered the glass box. After listening to guided meditation for a few moments, they opened their eyes to find that the box was now filled with kittens. Where’s our prescription? - See more at: http://www.viralvo.com/kitten-box/#sthash.VehDPwOI.dpuf
Magnolia Maymuru, a Yolngu woman, is flying the flag for the Northern Territory and representing her state in Miss World Australia.
Miss World is the oldest, largest and leading international beauty pageant and hosts a variety of stunning ambassadors from 130 different countries. But this year, a young woman from Yirrkala is pioneering diversity in Miss World Australia. Magnolia Maymuru is a Yolngu woman representing her home state, Northern Territory in the event, competing for a chance to be crowned Miss Australia.
It's the first time in Australian history that a traditional Indigenous Australian has been selected to represent the Northern Territory at the Miss World Australia National Final, which will be held sometime in July this year.
Maymuru, 19, is from the remote community of Yirrkala in North Eastern Arnhem Land and belongs to the Belang of Djarrakpi. She spoke to Darwin’s Mix 104.9 yesterday morning about how she feels about her recent success,
“I’m very nervous,” she said. “It’s the first time I’ll be representing my state in such a well-known event and I know a lot of people will be watching me. My family at home, all of Arnhem Land … and all over Australia.”
Magnolia Maymuru was discovered by Mehali Tsangaris, director of NT Fashion Week while at an ATM in a Darwin shopping centre. Tsangaris says he approached the Arnhem Land beauty perhaps with a little too much excitement, straight up asking her if she'd like to model for NT Fashion Week. But it was not only her natural 5'10" stature that caught his interest,
“She’s a very professional and driven young woman," Tsangaris says. "And her immediate response was, ‘I’m really sorry, but I’ve actually got my year 12 exams at that time and I’m not able to do it.' A year later I ran into her again and she said she’d do NT Fashion Week 2015 because it didn’t mess with her schedule studying a diploma in business administration.”
Magnolia currently works as a recreational officer for children in her community and is passionate about the education and development of younger generations. She says that she is using this opportunity to inspire young Australians,
“I feel very privileged and thankful that I was chosen for this. I just want to do my best and hopefully be a really good role model and inspire many young people.”
While being very happy for the opportunity, Maymuru, who is very connected to her culture, told NITV about how she wants to transition into the modelling industry gradually and carefully:
"Culture is very important up here and Arnhem Land is made up of different people, different languages and different communities," she says.
"Depending on which tribe we come from, which totems or skin name that we have, there are specific things that we can't use or do,"
"Before I do anything, like even wearing some clothing with a particular animal on it, I talk to my family, because I don't want to offend anyone in my community or from another tribe. Since I got the opportunity, my family and I have talked about the difference of living up here and going down south and thinking of the best ways that I can blend culture, so that its respectful and there are no cultural misunderstandings."
Hopefully Magnolia is the first of many traditional Indigenous Australians to challenge beauty standards. While she has all the assets that it takes to be a professional model and compete in national events, by keeping true to her cultural values, Magnolia can inspire the Australian fashion and beauty industry to welcome, encourage and support more Indigenous people onto the scene.
They’ve been calling the past week the worst ever for the Australian arts. They’re not wrong.
The sector’s fears that Catalyst – the newly introduced arts funding program dispensed directly by the government’s arts ministry – would become an exercise of political favour and pork barrelling, seem to have come true. Almost half of the program’s four-year budget has been announced in its first six months, with an extraordinary $13m in grants rushed out as the government went into caretaker mode last weekend.
But the real impact of Catalyst’s genesis will be felt in weeks to come, as the Australia Council’s drastic funding cuts from the 2015-16 budget get passed on to arts organisations.
Earlier this week, over a hundred small to medium arts organisations learnt of the outcome of their four-year organisational funding application, in a round expected to carry the bulk of last year’s cuts. Today the news went public.
As core funding, this round provides the infrastructure and framework for a sector that is otherwise reliant on project-to-project funding. It underpins the programs of over a hundred organisations, and the practice of thousands of artists. It allows these organisations to plan, and to create some semblance of job security for their employees. In many cases this funding is the difference between these organisations existing at all, and a massive void between the major arts institutions and individual artists.
The full effects of these cuts will be acutely felt across the next five years and beyond, but based on this morning’s announcement we can start to paint a picture of how things are looking.
Organisations such as Meanjin, Next Wave festival, Express Media – publishers of Voiceworks – and experimental dance company Force Majeure have all lost out completely. The Biennale of Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art, regional theatre HotHouse and Perth’s PICA are among the “successful” organisations also suffering losses, in part due to the funding round’s arbitrary $300,000 cap.
There are some winners in there too – as much as there can be winners when a whole sector takes such a significant hit. Sydney’s Firstdraft and Gadigal Music, along with Multicultural Arts Victoria and Perth’s Yirra Yaakin and PVI Collective, are among new recipients of the core funding – news which would have been met with mixed feelings for these organisations who rely on a vibrant sector for the success of their programs.
These losses will be felt hard across the sector, as we lose many of the people that genuinely square up to the Coalition government’s rhetoric – the agile, innovative “disruptors” – from our arts ecosystem. But the arts, particularly at the small-to-medium level, has always worn the badge of “punching above its weight” with pride, and the current landscape will surely strengthen that resolve.
Through a combination of passion, hard work and shared vision we get the benefit of a thriving arts sector, without meeting the costs of it. Right?
Wrong. Punching above your weight comes with significant risks. While money is stripped from organisational budgets, the pressure on organisations to continue doing what they’re doing will be huge. It may seem heroic when the business-as-usual decision is made, but organisations that continue to run insufficiently funded programs pass the risk onto their workers.
To start, we need not look any further than the 2016 budget’s flailing talking point: internships. The Fair Work Act is pretty clear on when an internship will be legal. Unless it’s paid at minimum wage and meets the minimum entitlements under the National Employment Standards, the only way an internship will be legal is if it’s a requirement of an education or training course authorised by the commonwealth, state or territory.
The recent graduate interning as your marketing coordinator to get a foot in the door? Illegal. The intern completing his fourth arts internship, doing necessary work for your gallery’s next exhibition? My bet is that’s not a requirement of his degree, and that’s also illegal.
There’s no hiding that a reliance on internship culture is unethical. But it has wider implications for the arts industry too.
Relying on interns to plug staffing gaps means that those who can afford to work for nothing gain experience in the arts industry much faster than those who can’t. By and large it’s these people who rise to the top, and find themselves in key strategic and programming decisions in the future. This means the landscape of arts workers in Australia is nowhere near representative of the audience it hopes to meet.
Two of the focal points of policy from most government funding bodies is the diversification of artists and audiences – and diversifying staff, boards and programmers is key to that end. These aren’t just policy points or strategies for growth, either; to present art by and for one audience sees the arts fall well short of its potential to change how we live in the world. It’s also just really bad programming.
The Australia Council announcement is devastating to many, but internships aren’t the answer. Perpetuating a culture of unpaid work perpetuates a lack of diversity across the arts – a major concern for anyone that wants to see the cultural conversation continue to evolve in a dynamic and inclusive way.
That “punching above your weight” mentality threatens paid workers, too. Arts organisations across the small to medium sector have to take risks to survive. We’ll see it in the coming weeks as organisations struggle to work out how to run with less funding. The people carrying the weight of those risks are their workers: underpaid, overworked, or pushed beyond the security of their organisation.
With a few industry exceptions, many arts workers find themselves falling beyond the coverage of awards. A historical consequence due to poor unionisation in the arts, working award-free means the market determines wages. And in a market where people who can afford to work for free will, it’s no surprise that, for the majority of the sector, that market rate sits well below the average Australian wage.
Already bleak, the picture is bound to worsen. When funding to organisations is cut, but expectations by other stakeholders aren’t, we are building a structure that relies on exploitation of staff, as a shrunken workforce has to meet the organisation’s needs.
Sold as extra responsibility, this “privilege” of extra work and extra hours is isolating and exhausting in equal parts, and it often comes with poor work conditions and questionable job security. In a landscape like this it’s no wonder mental health issues are common in the arts.
Just as damaging as the classic overworked and underpaid combo is the practice of sham contracting. This is when someone is brought on as an independent contractor but ends up performing the work of an employee, with regular, set hours under the control and direction of the organisation. Sham contracting is especially common in the arts, occurring across marketing and publicity, programming and production. Taken on as contractors, rather than employees, these workers are denied their entitlements to the NES, minimum wage, superannuation and job security. Instead, employers name their price and sub out the conditions.
Lucky there’s a genuine “love what I do” approach to working in the arts, because in the absence of minimum pay and entitlements, being an arts contractor rarely delivers on the promise of “freedom” and “flexibility” we’re sold as part of neoliberalism’s sugar-coating of exploitation.
As Jeff Sparrow explained in the Guardian last year, this dystopic vision of the future of work is already here – but organisational cuts made this week threaten to further entrench them.
As a nation, our hearts should break at the losses the arts sector will see flow from today’s announcement. We may rally against them but, in the short term at least, these are losses we need to wear. To those who will make decisions about what comes next: do less. Not to reflect the reality of these cuts is to pretend they don’t matter, and the worst thing the arts could do right now is push these losses back on to arts workers.
Northern Ballet target new audiences with an adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's classic novel, Jane Eyre.
Ballet is sometimes seen as a hard thing to sell to the general public, who may harbour misconceptions about what it is like and what is expected of them when they watch it, but that has not dampened Northern Ballet's efforts to find new audiences.
Last year, the Leeds-based company used a revival of their 2002 Wuthering Heights production to target people who had not seen dance live in areas which chief executive Mark Skipper says get "little or no classical dance provision".
As part of the same project, they are returning to the Brontes as a source for this year's enticement with an adaptation of Jane Eyre - put on "by chance" in Charlotte Brontes's bicentennial year.
Skipper says Charlotte's most famous work was "a pretty obvious choice", partially because of the success of the adaptation of her sister Emily's novel, but also because it offers new audiences something they want - a story that they already know.
"I absolutely think audiences need to feel some comfort in knowing what they are going to see - they don't like to take risks.'Getting a balance'
"You can't blame people. If you're spending £30 or £40 on a ticket, you want to have a reasonably good idea that you're going to enjoy the experience and not end up thinking 'I don't understand this' or 'I don't like this'.
"And these days, we have to make sure we get enough audiences to bring in box office income, otherwise the company doesn't survive."
He says the secret of tempting new patrons is to "choose the right title", which is the "most difficult thing we have to do".
"It's always about getting a balance but our programming policy is that we will have a mixture of about six different productions across the year.
"Some will be guaranteed to be successful box office titles, like Nutcracker and Swan Lake, and then we mix in other things that are a little bit more challenging but are great for the company and for the audience to have different experiences."
Challenging is exactly what Jane Eyre has been for choreographer Cathy Marston.
"Jane Eyre is not Swan Lake or Nutcracker," she says.
"People don't know that it's a ballet, but you can imagine it - because it's all dark passion, love and landscape - that it sounds really interesting.
For her, the difficulty has been to keep the story that the audience recognise while condensing it for the stage.
"In a ballet that is about an hour and a half, you're not going to do the whole of Jane Eyre.
"You have to take a particular perspective on it. Inevitably, some of it is ruled out by the fact that the medium we're using is dance, which wouldn't really be the language I would use to speak about religion, class or money - but the love story is alluring.
"When I was asked to do Jane Eyre, that image of Rochester and Jane at the end and the fire, those were the first things that spring to mind."
That said, even the novel's love story is a long and protracted one, which means Marston has had to chop through it.'Turned inside out'
She says despite the novel being "one of the iconic works of English literature", she was not afraid to be bold.
"I live in Switzerland and work a lot in German-speaking areas and they're very daring and gung-ho about what they'll rip out of a source in order to tell the story that they want to.
"In England, the writer is god and you follow the text and do your best to be true to that.
"In Germany, it's the complete opposite - the director is the one that you have to follow and the writer is simply a source to be cut up, turned inside out, done with as you please.
"I sit between both of those worlds. I love approaching English literature but I'm less afraid of putting myself into it and finding a new angle, because when you're working with such solid texts, why not bang against them until you find something that rings true to you?"
Finding the truth of Jane has been a task not just for Marston, but also the company's dancers, including leading soloist Hannah Bateman.
She says creating Jane has been difficult because the novel is "so wordy".
"There is so much in it that you can feel like you are drowning. You want to do it justice and tell all of it in as much detail as it is written, but it has been really hard because the beauty in it is the subtlety of it.
"Small details can make a massive difference in this."'Very challenging'
She says Jane has been "really difficult to discover", much more so than her previous roles, which include the lead in Romeo and Juliet and Mina in Dracula.
"This has been very different and very challenging - Jane is so strong and she makes such bold decisions," she says.
"You're trying to tell the audience 'yes, she is falling in love with Rochester' but she never lets Rochester know until the very last minute, so you think 'I want the audience to know, but I don't want the person standing right next to me to'.
"And even though love is a huge element of it, it is not just a love story, it's this woman discovering who she is. There's a lot in it, but it's brilliant to be given that responsibility to tell that story."
She agrees with Skipper that "people feel safer if they have an idea of what they are going to sit and watch" but says she doesn't worry about ballet finding new audiences.
"I think dance is on the up. When people see it, they connect with it straight away. They love it. You can see people's faces light up.
"To see people physically commit to something in front of you is really powerful. Even if you can't get to a theatre, you can YouTube it and see if you like it that way. There's so much stuff out there.
"But I always say nothing compares to live theatre."'Wasted opportunity'
Skipper says the appearance of ballet and dance on TV and in other media have helped bring the company's audiences to "a reasonable level", but he says they remain "pretty transient".
"Whenever you go somewhere, you would hope that if 100 came last time, then the majority of them would come next time - but it doesn't work like that. Audiences are very specific about the subjects and titles they want.
"My ambition for Northern Ballet is that people would buy the brand. It would no longer matter what the title is, it will just say Northern Ballet at the top of the poster and people will come."
While he admits that might be some time away, he says the drive for a "large pool of people who are interested in coming to see dance" continues, not least because of a need to find new revenue streams.
"We're being encouraged to earn more income for ourselves - through tickets or sponsorship - and reduce the reliance on statutory funding.
"The audience numbers are higher than last year, but what I can't say at this stage is if it is the same people coming back or whether people hated it last year and a whole load of new people are coming because they like Jane Eyre.
"Certainly, the sales have grown, which is a positive step and shows we're growing audiences in those areas and growing audiences for dance in general."
But his "maxim" remains a simple one - "any empty seat is a wasted opportunity".
President Barack Obama takes to the dance floor at a state dinner hosted by president Mauricio Macri in Buenos Aires on Wednesday
President Barack Obama takes to the dance floor at a state dinner hosted by president Mauricio Macri in Buenos Aires on Wednesday. Obama was invited to dance the tango with celebrated dancer Mora Godoy. First Lady Michelle was not left out, and was led through the steps by a male tango dancer
Ahead of her new work, which is based on a profound real-life tragedy, the sought-after choreographer discusses dancing with William Forysthe, motherhood and why there are so few women at the top of her profession
You’re not stretching your face enough”, explains Crystal Pite, patiently. She demonstrates with a lop-sided grimace that distorts her rather beautiful, open features into a kind of agitated question mark. It’s not the standard rehearsal note from a choreographer to their dancers, but the eight men and women in the studio mimic Pite’s expression as they dance, and an unsettling new energy comes into their bodies. You can feel a shift in the atmosphere of the room.
It’s this close attention to detail, this hunting down of the precise physical image, that gives Pite’s work its unusually poetic quality. It’s also key to her passion to communicate ideas, emotions and even stories through her choreography. From works like the epic, elemental Polaris to The Statement – the study of conflict, which I’m watching her create for Nederlands Dans Theater – Pite’s instinct is always to reach through the steps for some direct connection with her audience.
Later, when the dancers have left the studio, Pite tells me that she always watches rehearsals with one eye on how the material will read to an audience. “I don’t necessarily want people to understand my exact intentions in a work but I do want them to feel that they’re inhabiting it. There’s a proverb, ‘if you talk to a man about himself, he will listen for hours’, and I think that’s key. If people feel represented onstage, they’re going to be leaning in.”
A large swath of the public might find it hard to imagine themselves being represented in dance – as an art form it’s still widely perceived as arcane, precious or incomprehensibly opaque. Yet the immediacy with which Pite is able to engage or provoke her audiences makes her, at 45, one of the most sought-after choreographers of her generation. Although working regularly with her own Vancouver-based company, Kidd Pivot, Pite now receives more commissions than she can handle, from companies like NDT (with whom she’s associate choreographer), the Paris Opera and the Royal Ballet.
Pite cares about making contact with her audience but she doesn’t try to make things easy for them. She’s restlessly experimental – trying out text, digital imagery and different kinds of music to feed her dance language – and the territory she explores can be tough. In Betroffenheit, the work she will soon be bringing to London, Pite deals with extreme states of trauma, grief and addiction. And she takes as her starting point the unfathomable, real-life tragedy that was suffered by her co-creator, the actor and playwright Jonathon Young, whose daughter, niece and nephew were killed in a fire during a family holiday in 2009.
Betroffenheit (a German word which translates as “consternation”) is a term that Pite and Young have used to denote the psychic and emotional meltdown that can occur after a disaster. “We were interested in the traumatised state you go into after an extreme or violent event,” she says. “When your experience meets the limits of language, and you have to find other ways of expressing yourself.” Young’s own knowledge of this state meant that, “creatively the stakes felt very high for us both. We were trying to deal with this terrible personal loss but also zoning out, into the very question of human suffering.”
Pite says that much of her best work has been inspired by violence, or darkness of some kind. “Conflict is fascinating to me, the tension of opposing ideas and forces is like an engine when I’m making a work, it creates so much physical excitement and energy.” But she acknowledges that she’s drawn to conflict in dance because she doesn’t “do so well with it in real life”.
On first meeting, Pite comes across as a woman of unusual sweetness and consideration; she weighs her words carefully when she speaks, and during rehearsal she is unfailingly appreciative of her dancers. If her instinct is to avoid confrontation as an adult it may be because there was little of it in her childhood, most of which she spent in the Canadian city of Victoria. Having set her heart on a stage career, starting tap classes when she was barely more than a toddler, then taking up jazz, ballet, singing, music and drama, the young Pite suffered no significant opposition to her dreams: “I was very lucky, my teachers at school all encouraged me.”
But there is also a line of steel running through Pite’s mild demeanour. When she was little she thrived on beating off the competition when she entered – and won – various local dance competitions, and she demonstrated a precocious determination in her ambition to become a choreographer: creating her own first dance material when she was very small, and then, having joined British Ballet Columbia at 17, choreographing her first work two years later. Her creative ambitions were further honed when she spent five years dancing with William Forsythe’s Ballett Frankfurt. Although Pite didn’t make her own choreography during that period, like all of Forsythe’s dancers she was intricately involved in the creation of his material. “I learned so much from Bill during that time, about how to construct and deconstruct movement but also how to be bold. He had a kind of recklessness, which I’ve been cultivating ever since.”
Forsythe’s style was an influence from which Pite had to step away when she formed Kidd Pivot in 2002. Her own movement language is more classically burnished, and more theatrically explicit, than Forsythe’s, and it’s also more eclectic. These days she says her greatest influence is her dancers. “They have so many qualities that I can use. I can make a phrase on my own body and then watch them expand and pull it apart. It’s like they’ve put on a coat, and when they take it off, it’s been worn and stretched in different ways.”
When Pite creates work for a large ballet company like the Royal, it frustrates her that there’s never enough time to establish an intimate, creative relationship with her cast. Because she can’t create the kind of complexity she wants on individual dancers she compensates by choreographing with large numbers, so that the complexity is created out of the structure, the pattern and the flow. For her forthcoming piece for the Royal – a setting of the first movement of Gorecki’s 3rd symphony – she hopes to use around 40 dancers.
It will be illuminating to see what kind of chemistry Pite creates with the Royal, but the significance of the commission also lies in the fact that it will be first work created by a female choreographer for that company in nearly two decades. Pite becomes wary when discussing the issue of her gender, saying that she would be “broken-hearted” to be told it had anything to do with her receiving the commission. Although she is aware that there are disproportionately few women at the top of the choreographic profession, especially in ballet, she is reluctant to see this as a conspiracy – a “giant thumb keeping women down”. She believes there are too many different and very specific issues at play: including the fact that boys who enter the profession are already predisposed to be pushy and successful.
“When you’re a young boy wanting to study ballet you’re already a kind of rebel, someone who is thinking outside the box, so you’re more likely to end up making work or running a company. Girls are less likely to be prized for being a maverick, they’re more likely to be encouraged to look and dance like everyone else – which means that a lot of the creative women will end up in contemporary dance.”
Pite has never felt disadvantaged herself by being a woman, although she acknowledges that becoming a mother five years ago has affected everything – her time, her stamina and her priorities. She’s been fortunate that her partner, Jay Gower Taylor, is also her set designer and travels with her when she’s working away from home, so they are able to take their son Niko with them and share the childcare. But once Niko is in school Pite will have to be more pragmatic about how she manages motherhood and work. She knows there will be sacrifices on both sides.
Childcare is a professional issue that many female choreographers want addressed. Yet it’s typical of Pite that she’s more interested in talking about how motherhood has enriched her as an artist. A work like Betroffenheit is searing territory for any parent to tackle, yet it’s the kind of brave, important piece that Pite wants to make. “There’s an amazing feeling of vulnerability that comes when you have a child, that makes you much more aware. Being a mother makes me want to work with bigger ideas. I don’t want to waste time.”
Seeing a ballet with no tutus or narrative might be unusual for some, but the choreographer’s Dublin-bound dances are a world apart from ‘white ballet’
Alonzo King’s version of ballet stretches beyond beauty. His fascination with science, mathematics and history informs and shapes his unique vision. When King established his San Francisco-based company 32 years ago, he began creating dances set to atypical music infused with unusual movement rhythms by dancers who could morph from elegant to primordial with a simple head turn. All of this while remaining firmly rooted in classical ballet.
The 12 dancers in Alonzo King Lines Ballet bring two ballets, Shostakovichand Rasa, to the Dublin Dance Festival this month, and the polarity between these two exemplifies King’s work.
“Ballet is like a push-pull between feeling and logic,” King says. “Every human being has both, and ballet is a balancing act between the two. If you get too much logic it defies what you might be feeling, and yet with too much feeling things become unbelievable.”
For some, seeing a ballet company with no tutus and no narrative storyline might be unusual. Until the arrival of Benjamin Perchet, the Dublin Dance Festival’s new director, ballet on the big stage in Ireland was most often equated with “white ballets” such as Swan Lake and Giselle, in which the dancers wear long white tutus synonymous with the art form’s Romantic era.
In King’s company, that whiteness goes out the window. His multicultural company comprises dancers of African-American, Asian and Hawaiian heritage, espousing the notion that ballet is done by dancers who all look the same.
King expects sensuality and virtuosity from his dancers. “Ballet training itself is the place of peace and perfection,” King says. “You can’t get away from it. Everyone has their own vision of what this is. To some, it is ballerinas in white tutus.”
King is committed to evolving with ballet by bringing together what were once seen as disparate influences. He often collaborates with Middle Eastern singers, African musicians and visual artists from around the world.
“I think this is all evolving, and as nations and civilisations further understand science, our belief systems change. They change based on what we understand about physics, somatics, and also science and history. Culturally we have been taught that we go from an inferior place to a higher place, but really we go more in circles. For instance, there are civilisations much more developed than we are that existed long before we did. I fully believe that as we learn more about all of these things it will change the way we look and move and perform.”Civil rights movement
King grew up in Georgia to parents who were active in the American civil rights movement. He earned recognition as a dancer at some of the best schools in New York, with stints at the School of American Ballet and Harkness Ballet. His performing career led him to choreography. He still accepts commissions, in addition to the demands of directing his own company and a growing school and dance education programme in California.
His collaborations with singers and musicians embrace concepts from astronomy to anatomy and music in all its incarnations. One example is the 2013 premiere of a ballet called Writing Ground. The dance, inspired by author Colum McCann’s poems, is accompanied by sacred early music from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Tibetan Buddhist traditions.
Dublin audiences will see Shostakovich, one of King’s company’s most popular works. Set to four of the composer’s string quartets, it explores the space between harmony and discord, stripping dancers of elaborate costumes and sets while still harnessing the power of classical ballet.
“The way I work, my dancers have to decide, ‘Am I going to show off or get myself out of the way and let the movement become the thing’,” King says. “Most dancers are not exhibitionists. They may show off their skill to a point, but at some point that becomes boring, and they want to go some place deep. That’s when the honeymoon is over and it becomes about hard work and transformation. Just like in any relationship, after that initial period is over you dive deeper and begin to work and change. Art is like relationships that show us where we are small and can go deeper.”
Perchet and King both contend that audiences need no in-depth knowledge of classical ballet, or dance for that matter, to appreciate what King brings to the stage.
“You have to see a lot of different styles of dance, especially in what I do,” says Perchet, “but because I’m open-minded, I love dance in all its forms. I’m not an expert in classical ballet, but what I like is that Alonzo does not create narrative pieces, but abstract dances within the classical technique.”
Rasa perhaps epitomises King’s penchant for abstraction. The ballet, set to an original score by Grammy Award-winning Indian tabla musician Zakir Hussain, features the earthbound undulations and primeval couplings that connect King’s choreography so closely with his music and ideas.Trademark style
Perchet deliberately juxtaposed the two ballets on the same programme. His previous experience leading two major dance institutions, Maison de la Danse and Biennale de la Danse, both in Lyon, helped shape his artistic vision, and also introduced him to King and his trademark style. King is sanguine about presenting his choreography to audiences who may be unfamiliar with his style.
“One of the things about looking at works of art is that it’s like meeting people,” King says. “Someone might say, ‘I met Elizabeth and she’s brilliant’. Someone else might say, ‘I met Elizabeth and she’s beautiful’. Still someone else might say, ‘I met her and she’s honest’. When you meet people it’s just like when you meet art. Get rid of your preconceived notions. Look for the motive, look for the sincerity. Just like when you meet people, be open and receive.
“And remember, it’s okay to feel. Dance and music make their place where words aren’t enough. Dance is speaking the soul language. That is beyond intellect.”
The New York City Ballet principal Maria Kowroski loves being a new mother to her son, Dylan. But conditioning herself for a comeback posed challenges.
In the ballet world, pregnancy is no longer the secret that a dancer has to hide from the boss. It’s no longer a potential career-ender. But the question remains: How hard is it for a new mother to turn back into a ballerina?
The experience is different for every dancer, but in the case of Maria Kowroski, the statuesque New York City Ballet principal, it’s been humbling. Ms. Kowroski, who had a son with her husband, the actor and former dancer Martin Harvey, in November, has been dealing with a chronic ankle injury, along with the usual physical issues — depleted muscles, less stamina and a loss of strength. “After I gave birth, I did nothing for six weeks and I literally felt like mush,” said Ms. Kowroski, who gained 35 pounds during her pregnancy and took the barre portion of ballet class until a couple of weeks before her due date. “I’ve never felt my legs like that before.”
She’s still working up the confidence to dance her first ballet on point. (That will likely come when the company performs in Paris at the end of June.) But for Ms. Kowroski, whose comeback performance took place on May 10 in George Balanchine’s “Vienna Waltzes,” there’s a new factor in the mix: the emotional pull of her son, Dylan, which made her wonder if she ever wanted to dance again. “I was so happy watching him change and grow every day,” she said in mid-April. “I don’t want to miss anything. I don’t want to have anyone else watch him. What is ballet? What do I do for a living?”
Her existential crisis made her laugh. Ms. Kowroski, 39, has been sucked into motherhood — happily so. But ballerinas like Julie Kent, Alessandra Ferri and Jenifer Ringer (whom she has relied on for advice) have proven it’s possible to succeed at both. As Ms. Ringer noted, “I almost feel like it freed me up to love dancing even more.”
Beginning in early February, I followed Ms. Kowroski’s progress from ballet class to private Gyrotonic sessions and her return to the stage. Her work is far from over. “There is the fear that maybe I won’t do the parts as well,” she said. “Maybe my legs won’t go up as high. Maybe I’m going to look old. I want to bring something new to everything, too. I do feel like a different person. I am a different person. I’m a mom.”
Big eyes, big hands, big feet. Ms. Kowroski took it slow as she raised her feet to relevé and scrutinized herself in the mirror at Ballet Arts, biting a lip when she couldn’t maintain balance. After, at Studio Spiratis for Gyrotonic training (a movement system for balancing and realigning the body), Emily Smith, her instructor, asked her how far she had gotten in class that morning. “I did the center,” Ms. Kowroski said, referring to the adagio portion. “Very horribly.” Everything is harder when you’re as tall as Ms. Kowroski, who, at 5 feet 9 inches, is flexible and loose — which can be a problem in maintaining strength. “I’m really noticing how long my legs are now, because they feel really heavy. I put on my point shoes and I was like, oh my God, I’m so tall! The ground is so far away.”March 16
Ms. Kowroski is hoping to use her time offstage as a way to rehabilitate her right ankle, which bothered her long before her pregnancy. It is stronger, but she’s still having difficulty. After a class with her longtime teacherWilhelm Burmann at Steps on Broadway, Ms. Kowroski returned to the theater to work by herself on point when she heard a pop. At first she hoped that she had cracked her ankle back into place — it had been feeling jammed — but then it started to swell. Instead of panicking, she took it easy. “I think the difference is my mentality of being an older dancer,” she said. “I didn’t want to freak out.”
After about three days, her ankle stopped aching. At her apartment, as Dylan played nearby, Ms. Kowroski said: “As long as I don’t have any more setbacks, I should be fine. I feel like my strength is getting better. I put on my point shoes in class, I’ve been jumping a little bit. Jumping is just so hard. It’s not my thing. I’m not an Ashley Bouder.”
Ms. Bouder, a fellow City Ballet principal who recently had a baby girl, has posted videos of herself knocking off fouettés while pregnant. Ms. Bouder is the Olympian of ballerinas. But when Ms. Kowroski performed during her pregnancy, up until her fourth month, something more mysterious happened: layers of tension melted away as she danced with strength and control but was also utterly free. “There was something so amazing about dancing pregnant,” she said. “One great thing was, in the beginning nobody knew, so I had this little secret of I’m dancing with a baby growing inside of me.”
And that feeling of transformation continued even after she spread the word. “It was almost like I felt like I could do no wrong,” Ms. Kowroski continued. “This is going to sound weird, but it almost felt like there was a glow inside of me.”
Ms. Kowroski pinched her ankle in mid-April; toward the end of the month, she returned to Mr. Burmann’s rigorous class. “She is almost there,” he said. “She is ready physically. Is she mentally ready?” But after it soon happened again, Ms. Kowroski made a decision to have an M.R.I. Ever since she had foot surgery in 1996 to remove an extra bone, she has experienced many sprains and now has loose ligaments. The injury had plagued her for years, and she wanted to know the worst.May 10
On the evening of her comeback, Ms. Kowroski still hadn’t seen the results of her M.R.I., even though they were available. “Do I find out before I go onstage?” she asked. “I don’t think that’s so smart.”
All the same, she was in a good mood. (She would soon learn that the M.R.I. revealed only cartilage damage; surgery was not necessary.) Seated in front of her dressing room mirror at the David H. Koch Theater, Ms. Kowroski laughed at her reflection. “A ponytail is an instant face-lift,” she said. “Wow, I look younger.”
Because she had rehearsal until 5:30 p.m., there wasn’t time to go home to see her son before returning for that evening’s performance of “Vienna Waltzes.” She meditated and plotted her course to warm-up during the program’s second ballet. Sometimes a costume can mean the difference between a good and bad show. The rehearsal dress, she discovered, was heavier than the one used in performance. When she first wore the actual costume, “it was really light and it just felt strange. I’m probably going to put it on and work with it because” — her voice lowered to a whisper — “it was kind of a disaster.” During the rehearsal, she flashed too much leg. “Not good,” she said.Backstage After the Performance
“I’m all emotional,” she said, fanning her eyes. “Everything floods back.”May 11: The Morning After
In the “Rosenkavalier” finale of “Vienna Waltzes,” the ballerina crosses the stage slowly in a long white gown. When Ms. Kowroski stepped onstage, she cut a fragile, vulnerable figure. She could feel that, too. “It was dark,” she said. “I was like, I can’t believe I’m out here by myself and that I do this for a living and there are people watching me right now. Sometimes it hits you.”
She later continued: “I’ve danced my whole life, but it was so weird. I didn’t really feel like a ballerina. I felt I was returning home, but at the same time I felt so different. I don’t even know why I was overcome with emotion. I didn’t know what was coming out of me.”
Do you oftentimes fret whenever your kids needs to practice some routine dance at home? You want to help them, but don't know where and how to start. Well then, these tips will surely ease your worries!
Often parents can feel helpless when it comes to watching their kids practice at home. You know what you want to see, but you often don't feel that you have enough of an idea about how you can help them benefit from at home practice.
Whether it's solo practice, group rehearsal or stretching, there are a few things you can do as a parent to make sure that your dancer gets the most out of flipping and kicking her way around your lounge room.
It's one thing to talk about practice, but it's entirely another to make sure they are actually doing the practice. You spend thousands of $$ on dance fees, costumes and attire. If your dancer is serious about competition, dance and a career in the arts, at home practice is an important part of their training. Encourage them to just do a tiny bit each day, stretching in front of the TV or running each solo once; every little bit helps. Don't force them. If they don't want to do it, chances are the little effort they are going to put in will make their practice insignificant in any case.
They will need space to practice solos and routines. Don't expect them to practice around the coffee table or jetè around the cat... Give them space! They will also need something to play their music. An in ear iPod, although it will be more pleasant for your family, it's not ideal to dance with earphones in.
Maybe there is a particular step that your dancer is working on specifically or something they need to practice to improve. Without being a 'know it all', asking your teacher ways you can lend a hand or things you need to look for, can help your dancer’s home practice. But... Be careful not to be over critical or step over the line from parent to teacher. Your job is to assist the teacher, making their job easier. Your job IS NOT to be the teacher.
Stretched feet, straight legs, pulled up knees, nice face and energy are all basic fundamentals that you can start to look for, notice and critique (nicely) when your dancer is practicing. If you have watched lessons, or read previous adjudication papers, you will probably have some ideas about ways or areas your dancer can improve. Sometimes all they need is a gentle reminder to pull up their knees in their leg mount, every little reminder will help.
Especially when it comes to stretching or acrobatics at home. My basic rule is, if it's not something they do in class they shouldn't be doing it at home. Over stretching, extreme stretches and/or unassisted acrobatics are all things that should be practiced with the watchful eye of a trained professional. YouTube can be a dangerous thing when kids watch and copy moves, stretches or positions they have seen on social media. Go with your gut, if something seems dangerous or doesn't look right, chances are it's probably not. If in doubt always choose an appropriate time and ask your teacher's advice.
Remember, it's not always about how high your dancer's leg is or how flexi your jump may appear. It's about quality technique, passion and execution. Leg mounts are only nice when executed with perfect alignment, pointed toes, pulled up knees and firm balance. If your leg is up around your ears but your underneath leg is bent, your back hunched and your toes flexed it's really not worth doing them at all!
Company’s ‘Beyond the Barre: Beer and Ballet’ aims to break down the barrier between dancers and the audience Page 1 of 2
There’s a trend on tap and it’s threatening classical ballet’s lingering reputation for being a stuffy, symphonic, white-bread affair.
In an effort to reach a broader audience, California Ballet, San Diego’s oldest professional dance organization, is presenting “Beyond the Barre: Beer and Ballet” at its headquarters on Saturday and Sunday.
The social event offers an evening of contemporary and classical dance in a casual setting, where the audience can sip local craft brews before, during and after an informal performance.
Three choreographers — two house, one guest — will introduce new works to music that ranges from opera to indie rock.
And then, surrounded by their perfectly toned peers, the dancers will mingle with the audience.
“This is a fun event with a different atmosphere,” says guest artist and choreographer Jared Nelson.
“You can see the dancers, watch them work their butts off, and have a good time. It’s a bonding experience for the dancers, too, because they get together and have a beer and hang out. I think it’s a nice way to gain a new audience and end the season with short, new, choreographic works that will challenge us down the road.”
“Beer and Ballet” is an interesting idea that has become an annual event in Salt Lake City, Indianapolis and Sacramento.
The latter is where Nelson served as a principal dancer for Sacramento Ballet before moving on to Washington Ballet, where he was cast in a wide range of pieces, including Septime Webre’s “The Great Gatsby.”
Last year, Nelson directed “The Great Gatsby” for California Ballet, reprising his role as Gatsby and performing with guest ballerina Kirsten Bloom Allen as Daisy.
Nelson and Allen will perform two new choreographed works at “Beer and Ballet.”
A duet inspired by the opera “Samson and Delilah” will be accompanied by mezzo-soprano Natalie Bancroft; the other work is a sensuous interpretation of Hozier’s “Work Song.”
Nelson also directs company classes with a vision that expands the boundaries of traditional classic ballet.
“Finding the human side of dancers is important,” Nelson explains.
“I look for someone who can point the foot but also walk like a normal person and, out of nowhere, dance. When you mix that with beautiful ballet, it works nicely. A company should not be limited to classical or contemporary or Balanchine. I try to teach all different styles with clean technique, so that dancers can perform any ballet from any choreographer.”
Company soloist and choreographer Jeremy Zapanta has integrated a range of music and styles with “Bebop,” a dance with a film noir vibe that’s presented as a series of vignettes. The music tracks were taken from an award-winning Japanese animation series, and the pace segues from foot-stomping jazz to poignant ballads.
“This is my third season with California Ballet, and the company has grown by the type of work we do — it’s not just the classics,” Zapanta says. “We are doing a lot more contemporary works, and that lends itself to the dancers we have. I feel like it’s a great environment right now.”
For those who appreciate the classics, Trystan Merrick will dance the pas de deux from “Swan Lake” with Brazilian ballerina Ana da Costa, and a variety of dancers will perform the pas de deux from “Don Quixote.”
Merrick also has created “Qu’as Parti, Qu’as Rentre,’” choreography that creates a parallel between relationships and rich, layered vocal harmonies.
“It’s a large cast of a dozen women, and I wanted to explore each woman being part of a whole but also having her own point of view — her own voice,” says Merrick, who has performed internationally with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.
“I think the whole point is to bring the humanity back to ballet. For so many years, it has been an ethereal art form for a certain group of people. Now, there is more of a desire to relate to your general audience.”
Meet the choreographersTrystan Merrick
Who I’d like to meet: Christopher Bruce has modern sensibilities and incredible musicality. I loved his choreography in “Little Red Rooster.” He takes ballet lines and makes them human.
Best classical move: I like the way a renverse feels. It has a sense of circular length and abandon while moving through a classical pathway.
Choreography: “Qu’as Parti, Qu’as Rentre’” is accompanied by three songs: “Hymne” by Laïs & Simon Lenski, “House of the Rising Sun” by Brother Grass, and “Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby” by Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch and Emmylou Harris.Jared Nelson
Who I’d like to meet: I just met Hamburg Ballet’s John Neumeier at the Kyoto Prize symposium, who I really admire. I’d also like to be Rudolf Nureyev’s best friend.
Best classical move: I like good, clean technique, but my favorite step is the classic arabesque. Every dancer has a different, beautiful line, and the arabesque is a very personal individual position.
Choreography: “Samson and Delilah,” accompanied by mezzo-soprano Natalie Bancroft, who will sing “Amour! viens aider ma faiblesse” from the opera. “Work Song” features music by Hozier.Jeremy Zapanta
Who I’d like to meet: I would like to talk to William Forsythe (assistant choreographer of the Paris Opera Ballet and professor of dance for the Choreographic Institute at the University of Southern California Glorya Kaufman School of Dance). I would ask about his process and what he thinks about when it comes to choreographing — what words convey a certain feeling or sense of emotion that translate to dancers when they are executing steps.
Best classical move: I would have to say the tendu (stretched). There are so many ways you can execute a tendu, but my style is to invert it and manipulate that shape to give it a more contemporary vibe.
Choreography: “Bebop” with jazz music from the animation series “Cowboy Bebop” composed by Yoko Kanno and performed by the Seatbelts.
Even famous celebrities had dancing as their first love. Some of these you will know but some of them may shock you! Number 3... who knew that!
Paving the road to stardom is not as easy as ABC. In fact, several famous celebrities had gone through rough times before they became accomplished artists. We’ve all heard of stories on how they had toiled in various odd jobs before finally having that one lucky break. But, did you know that some of them started off as dancers before becoming a household name in Hollywood?
Here’s a rundown of 15 well-known celebrities that had dancing as their first love.
1. Zoe Saldana
2. Jennifer “J.Lo.” Lopez
3. Taylor Lautner
4. Penelope Cruz
5. Channing Tatum
6. Mia Wasikowska
7. Jennifer Garner
8. Neve Campbell
10. Heather Morris
11. Natalie Portman
12. Jean - Claude Van Damme
13. Charlize Theron
14. Audrey Hepburn
15. Michelle Yeoh
We pioneered Safe Dance® research in Australia, and we continue to publish free Safe Dance® fact sheets to help you stay healthy and prevent injuries. We've included a few of our most popular fact sheets in this edition.
But we know dance injuries still happen. They can cause missed performance opportunities and income, ongoing pain and disability, and expensive treatment including surgery. Serious injuries can even lead to early retirement from dance careers and lifelong disability.
That's why we're supporting new Safe Dance research investigating injuries in Australia's professional dancers.
Please help us by taking part in the survey (if you're a professional dancer), and by sharing it with other Australian professional dancers.
To take part or find out more, visit bit.ly/safedance4
Many of you have already completed the Safe Dance IV survey— thank you! Your information could help us learn how to prevent career-ending injuries and reduce the impact of injuries on dancers’ quality of life.
But we still need another 50 survey responses by the end of May.
To take part or find out more, visit bit.ly/safedance4
This national survey of all professional dancers in Australia is being conducted by Amy Vassallo, a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney, and her supervisors Dr Claire Hiller, A/Prof Evangelos Pappas and A/Prof Emmanuel Stamatakis.
Spend the day with a teenage model from a seaside Arnhem Land community as she prepares for her first appearance as the NT's entrant for the Miss World national finals.
When a model manager spotted Yirrkala-born Maminydjama Maymuru getting cash out of a Darwin city ATM in 2014, it was almost a cliché opening from a plucked-from-obscurity supermodel success story.
"I stopped dead in my tracks. I think I scared the life out of her," Mehali Tsangaris, director of NT Fashion Week, said.
But Ms Maymuru knocked back Mr Tsangaris's on-the-spot offer to appear on a catwalk just a few weeks later.
"I had year 12 and I had to finish my work," Ms Maymuru said of finishing her studies in Darwin.
"Back home education is actually a big deal. Elders and women have done big things to get a bilingual education."
Ms Maymuru was born about 600 kilometres east of Darwin in Yirrkala, a coastal Arnhem Land community well-known for its Indigenous artwork, singers and traditional culture.
With a great-grandmother with artwork in the Louvre, a traditional owner grandfather heading up the local Rirratjingu Aboriginal Corporation, and a father from the Yothu Yindi-affiliated rock/reggae band East Journey, Ms Maymuru had grown up surrounded by creativity.
Yet the Mangalili woman said few from her community would really ever consider opportunities with the fashion industry.
"I don't read magazines or go onto E! News. I'm more of an outdoorsy girl. I like to hunt and go camping and go netting with my family," she said.
"I just thought after school that I'd get a job and settle down."
Then in 2015, Mr Tsangaris spotted Ms Maymuru again, this time in the fruit and vegetable section at a suburban Darwin supermarket.
"I thought, 'this time she's not getting away'," he said.
"First and foremost there was her height. That's obviously model material. She also has this elegance about her.
"It was a complete bonus that Magnolia is a traditional Indigenous girl, and I know that's something that hasn't been seen on the runways before.
"I'm quite surprised that nobody's worked with girls from community and girls as culturally sound as her. I think Australia needs to see girls like Magnolia."
For Ms Maymuru, accepting Mr Tsangaris's offer was about "trying something different", including a new model name, Magnolia, in the style of supermodels before her.
"I thought — I'm a woman just like everybody else. If people don't accept me just because I'm Indigenous or from community, it won't bother me. There's plenty other industries, people and companies to look to."
But her first big modelling gig in October for NT Fashion Week was still overwhelming.
"I was very, very nervous," she said.
"I thought: 'What if I fall over or trip? I'll be on the news.' But I threw [those thoughts] away and decided to get through with it."
Both emerging model and model manager described the past six months as a working partnership, culminating in Mr Tsangaris putting forward Ms Maymuru as the Territory's first representative for the Miss World national finals this year.
"The modelling world can be very, very harsh and create negative body images but Magnolia's path is to use it as a platform," Mr Tsangaris said.
This year Miss World's management has ditched the swimsuit round, beefed up its alignment with charity and community work, and features contestants from varied backgrounds.
"I would think Miss World would benefit from the media attention [of selecting Magnolia], but it's well deserved because she's much more than a pretty face," Mr Tsangaris said.
"It's to educate Australians that they make them beautiful out in community too, and they make them with a brain and with a purpose to change."
Ms Maymuru also hoped her participation in the pageant — something traditionally associated with bikinis, crowns and proclamations of world peace — would continue to boost her career prospects and show Australia a different side to young Indigenous women.
"So many people out in community have achieved so much and it's never in the news," she said.
On Wednesday night Ms Maymuru appeared for the first time as the NT's Miss World representative at a charity event at Parliament House, where she spoke to the crowd about her work as a sports and recreation officer in Arnhem Land and dwarfed the local mayor with her 5-foot-10 frame.
"I want people to know that it took a lot for me to come out of my shell and do this," she said.
"I wanted to break the cycle of how people see life back in community."
More broadly across Australia, Indigenous modelling competitions are growing in prominence and readers of Vogue are very familiar with the face of Samantha Harris.
"I hope it gives [the industry] a push to look at more women up in Arnhem Land. I hope it gives them an urge to come up and actually check people out rather than thinking, 'There's one and that's enough'," Ms Maymuru said.
Mr Tsangaris disagreed that the fashion industry was dominated with a Caucasian beauty norm and cited the prominence of models Iman and Naomi Campbell many decades ago, although he agreed times were changing in the Australian industry.
"I think it's a watch-this-space sort of thing. I think Magnolia is the girl that could spark a revolution," he said.
His advice to other model scouts was to be respectful about Indigenous cultures and considerations — for instance, Ms Maymuru does not book photoshoots that show her legs — and to simply give people a chance.
Ms Maymuru said she hoped her story was an example "of one person saying something", although she would be happy if the experience only lasted a few years.
"I'm happy to go back home and get into normal life. I'd trade anything to just have a Saturday and Sunday somewhere fishing and camping," she said.
"Yirrkala is irreplaceable. It's home."
Testosterone made my voice low. Really low. So low that I am almost impossible to hear in a loud bar or a cacophonous meeting, unless I speak at a ragged near-shout. But when I do talk, people don't just listen: they lean in. They keep their eyes focused on my mouth, or down at their hands, as i
Testosterone made my voice low. Really low. So low that I am almost impossible to hear in a loud bar or a cacophonous meeting, unless I speak at a ragged near-shout. But when I do talk, people don’t just listen: they lean in. They keep their eyes focused on my mouth, or down at their hands, as if to rid themselves of any distraction beyond my powerful words.
Pretty remarkable for someone who spent 30 years being tolerated (at best) or shunned (at worst) in work environments. Before testosterone, my beardless, androgynous body was troubling, unprofessional. At a corporate job, I was once asked explicitly to not meet with important clients, as the very sight of me might “send the wrong message.”
I was regularly interrupted. At meetings, my voice didn’t prompt people to pause and listen. I never hard-balled a salary negotiation, either. And I wasn’t ever hired, as I was two years ago, for my “potential.”
All this is despite the fact that I have only worked in progressive environments, places where I have heard men reflect on internalized sexism and where women occupy prominent leadership roles.
Therein lies the danger, says Dr. Caroline Simard, senior director of research at Stanford’s Clayman Institute for Gender research. Her team studies implicit bias, “errors in decision making” that result in the thousands of subtle behaviors perpetuated unquestioningly by almost everyone, of every gender, in the workplace. “Even when we think we can evaluate rationally,” Dr. Simard says, “bias leads us to errors in judgment.”
The sheer reach of implicit bias is troubling, and can even end up baked into our best business practices—like the advice managers get to trust their “gut” when deciding an employee’s potential (instead of applying predetermined criteria or assessing performance data).
The first time I spoke up in a meeting in my newly low, quiet voice and noticed that sudden, focused attention, I was so uncomfortable that I found myself unable to finish my sentence. I was in Boston, working with a crew of rowdy journalists, in a body that was sprouting hair and muscle and looked, for once, familiarly male to everyone I encountered. It was the most alien I had ever felt.
But the room stayed quiet along with me. It was the order of things: everyone in the room waited, men and women alike, for me to open my mouth.
Though I have freelanced my entire adult life, I began my career in media at 30, as a copy editor at the Boston Phoenix. Within a year, I was an editor, and within three, I was the managing editor of the millennial news outlet, Mic. Five years since I took that lowly copy editing gig, I’m the director of growth and an editor here at Quartz, where I received a promotion before the end of my first year.
That achievement came partly because I figured out my path during that time, like many people in their thirties. I also work hard, and I’m confident that I’m good at my job.
But I also believe that some of my recent success has got to be linked to the way I am treated as a man. Every day, I am rewarded for behavior that I did not previously exhibit, such as standing up for my ideals, pushing back, being fluent in complex power dynamics, and strategically—and visibly—taking credit. When I prove myself, just once, it tends to stick.
“We assign more credibility and expertise to men,” Dr. Simard says. And by we she means all of us. Harvard researchers designed a test to gauge your personal inclination toward bias, but spoiler alert, you’ll likely do as well as I did:
The problem is so pervasive, it shows up in even the most mundane management endeavor: the performance review. Dr. Simard co-authored a paper in the Harvard Business Review on analysis performed by her and her colleague at Stanford, Shelley Correll, into 200 reviews within the same large technology company. Women were more likely than men (57% to 43%) to receive what the researchers termed “vague praise”—feedback not tied to any actual business outcome (“You had a great year”). Men were more likely to receive praise connected to their actual contribution to the company.
Moreover, feedback for women focused intensely on communication styles, particularly the critique that the employee was “too aggressive.” The researchers found that 76% of references to being “too aggressive” was found in the women’s reviews, which left only 24% in the men’s.
Feedback may feel like a soft metric, but think about the ramifications. “A performance review has an effect on your leadership brand over time, and even how you see yourself,” Simard says. It affects how you are discussed among senior leadership, and can impact your chances at receiving highly visible “stretch assignments” that tend to lead to the sort of accomplishments that make a career.
In short, it is the way “potential” is often verbalized, to the employee and among the staff. And potential, Dr. Simard says, is “especially fraught for bias.”
Being competitive and ambitious predates my transition by at least 20 years. I won a Read-a-thon in the sixth grade by plowing through 600 books in a single summer. I was raised by a single mom who taught me to fight for recognition, and then leverage that recognition to prove my worth. She was a physicist who worked for Ted Kennedy right out of grad school, and then was one of the initial women in a leadership role at General Electric. She had a lot of “potential,” and she definitely didn’t count on anyone noticing it without her help.
It’s amazing what believing in someone can do. My sense since my transition is that people want to believe the best of me. I like to think I have justified this belief. I am asked for my opinion near-daily internally and externally, on matters far beyond the realm of my actual job. All of this positive feedback has helped me to become my best, most productive, most creative, most innovative self.
I also have an antenna for the interruptions, the things nearly said, the young person not getting the credit she’s due. I am part of the problem—I know I must be—but I have a policy of asking all those who report to me for their thoughts in every meeting, to try to make room for the quieter among them. Dr. Simard recommends this, and generally “paying attention to the way in which you make decisions.”
“We cannot teach people to police their thoughts,” she says. “What we can do is minimize bias happening.”
Once, after my transition, I nervously prepared to ask for a raise. I spoke to several people in similar roles who made significantly more than I did, and I had a stellar list of measurable accomplishments that exceeded my goals. My friend, a woman who had recently come back from maternity leave to her senior-level role and successful negotiated more pay and a four-day work week, gave me the standard advice: To approach my boss rationally and unemotionally, root my ask in my accomplishments, and not feel guilty for asking for what I’m worth. That last one is what got me. I was worried about my boss feeling bamboozled by the ask.
“I think this is your female socialization,” my friend observed wisely.
I think she was right. Repeated studies have found that there is a social cost for women who negotiate pay raises that doesn’t exist for men. (After all that, I walked into the meeting, ready to hardball, and my bossoffered me a raise along the lines of what I’d wanted.)
Some researchers believe that hormone therapy activates dormant genes present in you all along, revealing a kind of twin of yourself. I like to think that we all have a male or female version of ourselves, tied up in our genetic make-up. I remember that every time I lobby for a raise on behalf of one of my employees who may not believe she deserves it, or point out the accomplishments of a female colleague that may have gone unnoticed.
Most of us have the bodies we occupy because of luck of the draw. For those of us who have had to fight for them, the process offers startling insights into what helps and hinders us as we move through space; the costs and benefits assigned to us by our culture; the destructive ways our voices can be silenced. And the way they can also be, so suddenly, heard.