Dance Magazine

I've always wanted to tap-dance with the light-hearted verve of Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor in "Singing In The Rain." But few can match those step masters -- especially if, like me, you begin classes at, um, an advanced age.

During a short-lived attempt at formal tap training, I shared my enthusiasm for great movie dance scenes (like this one, featuring the wonderful yet relatively unknown Vera-Ellen) with the teacher's assistant. It was empowering to talk shop with a professional dancer -- as if I, with my shaky shuffles around the floor, were actually part of the larger community.

I found that pleasure again when reading Dance Magazine. I also found -- against my perhaps stereotypical expectations -- good writing. Some dancers may be non-verbal and inarticulate, but not Dance Magazine.

In its reports on the current dance scene, the pub does the hard job of translating a largely visual medium into words, with clear and elegant descriptions. There's an eye for the telling detail -- like the black toilet bowl avant-gardist Michael Clark wears around his neck in performance. Likewise, the mag's profiles show the human side of notable dancers quite nicely, as in this quote from American Ballet Theater's Hee Seo: "I can't dance. I really can't," she says, meaning she "can't move right" when she's out clubbing with her friends.

Dance Magazine is mostly well-edited, with just a few minor gaffes. A piece about a woman's tap conference reports that "very few women in tap attended" -- so who did? We never learn.

Beyond profiles and reviews, the mag stands out for providing a behind-the-scenes look at dance as a profession. "Enter: Reality" includes a first-person account of one neophyte's beginning her career in New York City, bolstered by helpful tips from former students who landed plum positions. Here's one suggestion, just in case you're so inclined: send an email to visiting dance companies for permission to join their classes, as a sort of mini-audition.

On the Q&A advice page, a former dancer turned psychologist answers questions both psychological ("Why do I feel lazy whenever I want to take a break?") and physical (a young dancer with chronic undiagnosed pain is advised to see a dance medicine specialist). A carefully written article on stretching, and reviews of instructional videos and books, cover technique for both students and teachers.

These are helpful service pieces for those actually living the life --and thrilling for me, staring squinty-eyed behind the curtain. Thanks to Dance Magazine and such shows as "Step It Up and Dance," I've become a more knowledgeable appreciator of the art.

But what about actually doing the moves? I couldn't tap fast enough for "Absolute Beginner" classes, and finally learned the basic steps from an instructional video -- by a '70s TV star, "One Day At A Time"'s mom Bonnie Franklin.

Hey, professional dancers can do a perfect split and wear miniskirts with aplomb; my expertise, I'm sad to say, lies more in knowing when to hyphenate "tap-dance."


Published by: Macfadden Performing Arts Media L.L.C.
Frequency: Monthly
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