Endings

The first of many “lasts” begins tomorrow. It is my last Brown Bag, the student choreography showcase. I will need to do some research and find out when I took over from Karen Kriete. I have been Artistic Director for at least ten years.

The final performance was today, Friday October 6. At the end, all the students came on stage and gave me a standing ovation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It took the idea of my retirement from an abstraction to a reality.

Another “ending” – we had our first Dallas audition this past Saturday, October 14. There are a total of four where students come to SMU and hopefully get a sense of what the program is like. There is a short ballet class, a modern segment and then jazz. I give the jazz portion and have been doing Back Beat Boogie for the past two years! I get a chance to share the history of the Savoy Ballroom and the swing era. I thought of doing something else but Back Beat Boogie works really well and we as a faculty get to see what we need to see. 

Part of ending my time at SMU is a mini-retrospective of my work as the sum total of the spring Hope concert. The season brochure has a description. This  is it – exciting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the last week of November. I will teach my last Jazz I and Jazz II classes as well as the last Comp I class. I take the last unit of Comp I with The Elements Project. I pair up the students , they choose one of the elements, research source material and pick music, all in the service of their ideas – sources of movement.

Grades have been posted except Comp I. It is always an emotional process. The final grade is a combination of both movement mid-term and final exams, attendance and daily progress. There is also an end of semester essay. Comp I is in three units and our Chair, Brigham Mosley and I average out our grades. We also have to submit an assessment to the University Curriculum, since the course double counts. The Comp I showings were on Friday December 8. It was really great, fine work from all the students. I was very proud of them. That was the last Comp I for me!

Last week we also had three days of student evaluations. Students meet with all their teachers and we assess how their semester went. It is supportive and candid. It is also exhausting but crucial to their journey as a dance major.

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Fall Break 2017

Fall Break at SMU is October 6-10. I am taking off for New York on Friday October 5.  I don’t teach on Fridays. Friday is also the last day of the student Brown Bag performance series. I am the faculty Artistic Director. I will have one of the other adjudicators fill in for me. I will be staying with Frank Davis again in his great, small one bedroom apartment on 11th Street. I always enjoy visiting with Frank. We have a good time.

We will be having Friday night dinner at Red Farm. It is the most amazing Dim Sum restaurant and is just around the corner from Frank’s apartment on Hudson Street. I am obsessed with Red Farm. They don’t take reservations and it is usually a bit chaotic, but it is worth it.

I hope we can see a show on Saturday night. I have already tried to get tickets for Dear Evan Hanson and The Prince of Broadway (the newly opened Harold Price show), but nothing was available. I even tried to get tickets to Hello Dolly. The only thing available were premium seats at $650 each – not happening. Finally got two seats at the second preview performance of Butterfly. It is the first major revival of the play and stars Clive Owen. Not familiar with the man/woman playing Butterfly, Jin Ha, but in the original production, it was B D Wong, later of Law and Order fame. The play opened on Broadway in 1988 with John Lithgow playing the French diplomat.

I am not sure if I will get to see Trevor Lewis (my oldest friend – came out together). He will be in Pennsylvania for his mother’s 91st birthday. Her birthday is on Thursday and he hopes to make it back to the city by Sunday. I hope he can do it, haven’t seen him in a long time. His younger brother Mark passed away about a month ago after a protracted and painful illness.

So, I will not get to see Trevor. He won’t get back to the city in time. Believe it or not, having lived in Manhattan for fifteen years, I have never been inside the main New York Public Library. That is on my list of things to do. I have been to the Performing Arts Library countless times. Onward!

Here’s to a great Fall Break!

Trip cancelled – the flu – damn!

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SMU – The Final Year!

There are two weeks left before school starts on  Monday August 21. I have a lot to do in those two weeks, revised syllabi for the classes I am teaching – Jazz I and Jazz II. Later in the semester, I will teach the last unit of Comp II. I also have to organize the fall 2017 Brown Bag. It will probably be difficult finding faculty adjudicators/mentors. We have Complexions for ballet faculty this year, Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson. They have negotiated time away during the semester so I doubt it would work for them. I have an appointment with SMU Human Resources on Tuesday August 8 to go over the process of retiring. I hope to get back into a regular swimming routine as soon as possible.

It is now August 10, my syllabi are revised. My meeting at HR yesterday was all about health care, 99%. It is so complex. It will take me a while to figure it out. The woman who talked with me said that everyone was in a fog the first year. She also thought that in terms of the financials, I was in good shape. I still have access to the gym but pay $30 quarterly instead of $10 being taken out of my paycheck every month. That was good to know.

I also had a meeting with our Chair and the production supervisor on Tuesday. It was a decent start on figuring out the complexities of scheduling and casting. I will be a very busy guy.

 

This is a photo of me teaching at the Bates Dance Festival.  I am wearing an SMU Division of Dance T-shirt. The photo was taken by the festival photographer, Arthur Fink. The Meadows School of the Arts has asked for an updated Bio and a new photo for the faculty page of their website. I sent them this one.

 

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BATES Dance Festival Summer 2017

I have been remiss in writing this post. It is now Friday of the second week at the Bates Dance Festival. There are two Gala performances. Tonight will honor Marcy Plavin, the festival’s founder and tomorrow’s performance will honor Laura Faure. Laura has been the director for thirty years. She is retiring. I was last at the festival ten years ago for the 25th anniversary. Lots has changed since then. I flew into Portland on Sunday July 16. David Dorfman and his company were performing that night. To be honest, I kind of felt out of place at first. I haven’t taught in a festival setting for ten years. I saw old friends and colleagues – Rachel List, Melody Eggen (an original AVALON cast member from Jacob’s Pillow many, many years ago), Kim Konikow, David Dorfman, and lots of new faculty. Claudia LaVista from DELFOS is also here. Claudia and Viktor Manuel Ruiz created SMU’s Firebird last year. I enjoyed the performance – haven’t seen that kind of work in quite some time – beautiful and generous performers.

On Sunday, we had a faculty meeting at lunch and then that evening, a gathering with students to introduce ourselves and go over festival protocols. When I decided to accept Laura’s invitation to teach, I made a deal with myself, I would do it only if I would enjoy myself. So far, I have kept the deal. I have twenty-five students in my technique class and they are a great group, enjoying the music and my point of view about Classic Jazz. The Repertory class originally had seven dancers. I thought I would either reconstruct a section  of Points on a Curve or Mahalia Jackson singing On My Way. I decided on Points. The next day, I had three dancers left – the musical difficulty and idiosyncratic movement vocabulary scared them off.

It has worked out. I really like the three dancers. We are done with the reconstruction and are cleaning. They will perform next Saturday in the festival finale. Their names are Fiona Scruggs, Gabriella Manuela and Kendra Lady.

My technique class has been interesting in a good way. It is a great mix of abilities and ages – all (almost all – why is there always one?) have been excited, open and interested in my point of view about jazz dance. So far, I have taught five swings. I am on to the third combination, Sidney Bechet’s I’m Speaking My Mind. I haven’t taught it in a while and was surprised and how difficult it seemed to the class – did mange to extend the combination with some new material. I may have gone too fast. If there is time left, I may start on the Fred and Ginger choreography from Swing Time or the Cesaria Evora combination I created in the basement of the Minneapolis carriage house for my advanced jazz class at the University of Minnesota.

The Gala was a great mix of performance styles and points of view. My favorites were a solo by Riley Watts, an hysterical piece by Sara Pearson with text (the perfect example of how well written and well performed text can have a great impact) and a short but beautiful duet choreographed by Doug Varone. There was fancy and delicious reception after the concert and lots of heartfelt tributes to Laura.

I did get to have dinner with Cathy Young – lots of tasty food and conversation. Cathy has just been made the Executive Director of the Boston Conservatory/Berklee School of Music. She is basically the President! What an amazing accomplishment for her. I know she will do well and told her so. I also spent some time with Jackie Villamil. Jackie taught ballet many times for the festival. She was one of the choreographers/directors of the Theatre Dance Collection. I danced with them in New York on my way to creating JAZZDANCE. Jackie was so emotional with me – it took me by surprise.

She kept saying things like I created my company from nothing and that it was an amazing accomplishment. One of the dances I performed with Jackie was Rialto Ripples, choreographed by Rodney Griffin. It was set to Gershwin. We did a very sultry duet. She told me that when I took her hand, she was surprised at how rough my skin was and that told her how hard I worked. One of the many jobs I had to make a living was cleaning apartment and then doing the dishes for a high end caterer. (refer back to the Pre-History page, if you like). That was forty years ago and Jackie never mentioned it to me until the gala evening. It took my breath away.

All the faculty was invited to Nezinscot Farm for dinner last night. It is a completely organic farm about a fifteen minute drive from Lewiston. It was wonderful, great food and good wine – one dog and many cats. They have a great store as well. It is only open on the weekend. I heard about their pickled garlic and Carl Landa convinced the owners to sell him a jar and he gave it to me as a gift. It is going in the suitcase – cannot wait to try it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are two more performances, the Mill Project choreographed by Stephen Koplowitz and the Festival Finale. It will be back to Dallas on Sunday.

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Summer 2017

Just thought I would recap what I’ll be doing this summer. I am going to Mexico on Sunday June 18 – to Playa del Carmen. We used to go every summer and have had some great times. The Gulf of Mexico is just beautiful. I like to swim in the ocean and the beaches are warm and inviting.. We will stay at Mahekal. We used to stay at Las Palapas which was right next door. They combined the two resorts and now we have Mahekal. I do hope that the weather cooperates. Playa del Carmen is about 30 miles south of Cancun. It has gotten quite commercial. I hope it has not gone overboard. Used to be able to find authentic, artisan Mexican products. That has become more difficult to do. The resort is spectacular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From July 15 – August 6, I will be at the Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, Maine. It is the festival’s 35th anniversary and the wonderful Laura Faure will be retiring after 25 years at the helm. I will be teaching Classic Jazz Dance IV and Repertory. Not only will I get to celebrate Laura, I will be able to reconnect with lots of great friends like Rachel List. Jackie Villamil (NYC’s Theater Dance Collection), is coming for a visit as is Cathy Young. I first went to Bates in 1986. Marcy Plavin was the first director. She founded the festival. This summer will mark my ninth time teaching at the festival. I usually rent a car for part of the time and try to make it to Ogunquit one weekend. It is a resort town and I make myself get in the water. It’s a lot colder than the Gulf of Mexico, but great nevertheless.

The first day of classes at SMU for the 2017-2018 school year is August 21. Off to the races for my last year of university teaching before retirement!!!!!

 

 

 

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Teaching

At the end of the year, there is an all Meadows School of the Arts meeting. I go most of the time. The Dean let’s us know how the year went from his perspective and he also gives us news about exciting developments in the future. The meeting runs from 3-4:30 after which there are cocktails and hors d’oevres.

The Division of Dance just lost an amazing woman, Karen Kriete. She was a ballet teacher extraordinaire. I learned so much from watching her teach. She had a profound effect on many students. She truly changed lives.

I remember watching her teach when she asked a student  at the barre if she new the “choreography”. I thought “choreography”? And the it made sense – everything you give in a class as a teacher is choreography. I thought that was quite profound. Karen was also the director of the Brown Bag student performance series. It happens in both fall and spring. When she retired, she handed it overt to me – a great honor. I think she did so because we shared the same philosophy, Brown Bag was about the students from beginning to end – their  ideas, their music, their process.

Karen’s funeral was about 20 minutes northeast of SMU on the same day as the end of year meeting. Five of us went. Heather, the Dance Coordinator said she would save us seats. There was a bit of traffic and we knew it would be close. We were driving into the parking lot when the phone rang. It was Heather with “Where the hell are you”?

We raced up to the meeting room which is designed like stadium seating. I said that I was going in the back. They all said NO – sit in the front – very odd. We all sat and Kevin Hofeditz, the Dean of Student Affairs asked me to stand and proceeded to announce that I had won the 2017-2018 Distinguished Teaching Professor award!

I was amazed. It was completely unexpected. Kevin read me Bio and then some quotes from students. You get the Golden Apple and you also get $5000, $2500 for whatever you want and $2500 for continued research. I will be sing it for the spring 2018 mini-retrospective. On Saturday May 20, Meadows had its diploma ceremony outside in front of the Owen Fine Arts Center. I was given the award a second time in front of the entire student body. Let me just say, my students were quite rowdy and leave it there!!!

 

 

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Posterior Tibial Tendon Strain

It has been a while since I have posted anything – just want the things I write about to have some substance – a good reason to write is best. Today is the last day of classes. It is a Monday but following a Friday schedule. Yes, it’s true. Consult the faculty senate’s scheduling committee. Spring classes usually start on a Friday and the we have Martin Luther King Day off on Monday. This semester, the first day of classes was the Tuesday after MLK Day, hence Monday is a Friday.

I have had an injured left foot and was given a medical leave from teaching my dance classes for the last three weeks – still participating fully in the rest of my academic responsibilities. I don’t know how I sustained the injury. Had an MRI on my foot. After analyzing the results, the wonderful Dr. Carr Vineyard at the Carrell Clinic came to the conclusion that I have a posterior tibial tendon strain. This is my ankle in two different views:

At first I was given a pack of oral steroids. They worked a bit. Went back to see Dr. Vineyard and he gave me a steroid shot in my ankle. It really worked. I have been doing some physical therapy on  the Pilates reformer. That helps as well and I have come to the conclusion that my feet are strong. I think the problem has something to do with placement. I will keep working on what that means. I have one more follow-up with Dr. Vineyard. I just want my body to be in good working order  for my last year at SMU. The mini-retrospective in the spring will be a lot of work and I want to enjoy every minute.

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Retirement

 

It is now official,  I will retire from the Division of Dance at SMU following the completion of the spring 2018 semester. In March of 2018, I will be 70 and begin taking my Social Security benefits. I will still do freelance teaching and choreography, but leave the rigors of being full-time faculty behind. The division has agreed to present a mini-retrospective of my work on the spring Hope concert. The Zenon Dance Company will travel to Dallas and perform as guests along with the wonderful SMU dance majors. There will be two programs, each having SMU and Zenon dancers. Zenon will perform Ezekiel’s WheelSong Awakened, and the swing duet Merry-Go-Round. SMU will be represented by Swing ConcertoIn the CityScene Unseen (Ellington/Strayhorn) duet), and Points on a Curve. Mariusz Olszewski will reconstruct Points on a Curve during a creative residency. This is very exciting. I will write a separate post about the process of putting this concert together.

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Another Roll Down Yet Again

Yes, it’s true. There is a post from December 2015 called Another Roll Down. I am teaching Jazz I and Jazz III in spring 2016. Jazz III has a population of students I have already taught – some multiple times – the reason for a new roll down. I have a big black book with steps, exercises and some of my roll downs painstakingly documented. If there is anyone reading this who does not know what I mean by a roll down, it is the beginning of class, a series of exercises that prepares the body for what comes later. It all depends on the music I find. It can take up to a month to create a new series. If the music is really great, I can do it in a week. We will see.

December 29 – I may have found the music! It is called Sixth Sense and is by Dave Brubeck. What could be better? Sixth Sense is the finale of a dance of mine called FISSION.  I write about it on the History page. That version was from an album called Jazz Impressions of New York and is played by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. The new roll down version was recorded much later and is played by Dave, Chris, Danny, Darius and Matthew Brubeck – a family affair. It is a great riff on the original, 7:34 minutes long. I will get to work and see what happens.

I did it – the roll down is done and I really like it. A few tweaks are in order mainly having to do with the tempo. Sometimes when the music is a bit slow, I have to alter the phrasing so that it keeps a good pace and is not too labored. I am close. Classes start a week from tomorrow.

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End of Fall 2016 Semester

It feels like everyone is hanging on by a thread, at least that’s my impression. I may be completely wrong. We did our Comp I final project showings yesterday. I pair up students who will choose one of the four elements. They must share their sources, a scientific, poetic or philosophical essay or article about the element and a YouTube clip. They are free to pick their own music. We then have eight classes to create a duet. It was, I thought, quite successful. There were 2 waters, one earth, one fire and a duet with both fire and water.

So – the semester is over. All my grades are posted. The photo below is of my right knee – more about that later. A few interesting things happened at the end of the semester. I inadvertently gave a student in Jazz II an F.

It has to do with an Incomplete. If a student gets an Incomplete, there is an agreement made – how much work was done, the grade for that work and how much time to finish the course. In the midst of end of the semester craziness, I forgot, the Incomplete lapsed and the default grade of an F was registered. I set the process in place to rectify the situation and all is now well. My first F after all this time.

I had a total right knee replacement in June of 2012. My knee problems began at Jacob’s Pillow while working on the “Jack Cole Project”. We were all studying Bharatanatyam, classical dance from southern India – lots of quick squats. The surgery was long overdue. After physical therapy was done, I went back to Yoga class. I sat with legs crossed, right over left, and there was pain on the inside of my right knee. I freaked and went back to see the surgeon who did the operation. He said that on rare occasions, there is some residual scar tissue that slips over the metal. I happens occasionally. I decided to go see the surgeon. I will be retiring after the spring 2018 semester and if I have this issue cleaned up, I ant to do it while I have SMU’s great health insurance. Dr. Mabry said it is day surgery with minimal rehab. I just need to find the right time. Dr. Mabry is retiring at the end of December. I asked how old he is – 62. I am 68 and will retire when I am 70. OY!

That’s it – the semester is done – a bit of relaxation and recharging – much needed.

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