Degas’s Dancers


by Sarah Kirby

Edgar Degas was a French artist famous for his works attributed to the Impressionism movement during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While he painted a variety of subjects, a possible favorite, judging from the sheer amount, were his dancers. Degas and other Impressionists were extremely fascinated by movement, a quality that is achieved by painting the subjects with their limbs outstretched as in the middle of a routine.

Degas studied many groups of dancers, particularly ballerinas. Through his studies he observed the beauty, grace and strength that dancers possess. There are many paintings of the dancers stretching or preparing to begin a performance. They are natural views of a quiet observer, not the view from the center audience. Another important quality in his work is the ability to depict one swift and specific moment in time. The dancers were continuously moving, but his brush captured a split second. His brushstrokes are visible and appear to have been handled very quickly, yet remain very fluid and graceful which complements that same quality in the dancer.

One of the most endearing qualities of Edgar Degas’ work is his choice of subject matter. By making the decision to depict dancers as one of his most popular subjects, Degas was recognizing dance as another important art form. In this way, both visual and performing arts are blended together, each appreciated for their beauty and skill. At the National Museum of Dance we are working to keep that combination of visual and performing arts alive.

Our Art in the Foyer exhibit, currently featuring the photography of Jordan Matter, combines the musicality and movement of dance with the artistry and eye that is integral to photography. Come experience the beauty of Matter’s photographs, and our other exhibits, too, at the National Museum of Dance!

The Delight of Dancing Together


We have a rule in my house: If we can’t make one of Paul Rosenberg’s family dances, we must not allow the kids to know it is happening, or we’ll never hear the end of it.

I wouldn’t have necessarily expected that the first time I showed up with a shy three year old, who watched the ever shifting, circling group with interest but refused to participate. But it’s hard not to be drawn in by the lovely live music and Paul’s cheerful, rambling teaching style, and it wasn’t long before his multicultural repetoire of dances became old friends for her, and, to be honest, for me. There’s the Chinese friendship dance; the spiral dance; storytelling dances like the one about searching the Pacific for the best coconut; the hands-down favorite, “Zodiac,” with its chance to strut your stuff with your partner down the alley; and so many more.

I remember once looking down into my daughter’s eyes as we were turning each other, seeing reflected in her wide blue eyes, and feeling like I was interacting with her in a new way, a little bit closer to equals than we had yet been. Now, except for a waltz, she will only dance with her peers, but that’s as it should be.

There’s no judgment or pressure at a family dance, and I’ve seen hyper kids and quiet kids, sullen kids and eager beavers interact with each other in new ways on Paul Rosenberg’s dance floor. But mostly, it’s about some pretty basic things—Moving your body to music makes you feel good. Dancing with people is an ancient ritual of community. Kids get those things and deserve them, and a family dance is a great introduction.

By Miriam Axel-Lute

Join us in the School of the Arts Studios at the Dance Museum this Sunday, April 13th from 2-4pm. We will be hosting Paul Rosenberg and Homespun Community Dancing Group. For more information visit

Admission $6 for adults & $3 for children. Museum members and children under 4 are free.

Happy Birthday, Arthur Mitchell!


Born on March 27, 1934 in New York, Arthur Mitchell grew up relishing performance, especially dance. After honing his skills at both the High School of the Performing Arts and the School of American Ballet, Mitchell joined the New York City Ballet (NYCB) in 1955. The company’s first African American male dancer, Mitchell danced with NYCB for fifteen years. He garnered critical acclaim and created well-known roles such as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. After hearing the news of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, Mitchell decided to take his career in dance in a new direction. He wanted to give back to Harlem and give children the same artistic opportunities he had growing up.
In 1969, in a basement, Mitchell and his ballet teacher, Karel Shook, founded Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH). The school grew rapidly and has now given hundreds of children an opportunity to learn classical ballet in an encouraging, multicultural environment. The company, founded in 1971, has performed beautiful and difficult works such as Creole Giselle with its multiethnic dancers. Throughout the years, DTH and the DTH School have been giants in the dance world. They are fundamental institutions that educate, challenge, and create tomorrow’s dancers.

Now, you can experience part of the history and splendor of Arthur Mitchell and DTH yourself as the National Museum of Dance welcomes Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of Firsts. The exhibit will be open April 8th, 2014.

Paul Taylor 2 Dance Company at the School of the Arts!


Nearly forty years after he and a group of dancers gave their first public performance in Manhattan, Paul Taylor created a company to travel the world.  This company, unlike his Paul Taylor Dance Company, would be small. It would combine performance and teaching in a way that enabled audiences to get a first-hand look at Taylor’s works, techniques, and history. Paul Taylor 2, founded in 1993, is the company Taylor envisioned. A troupe of six dancers, Taylor 2 performs and educates in a variety of venues that sometimes restrict larger companies. This globetrotting group’s next stop is Saratoga Springs.

So, how can you take part in their visit? Come by the School of the Arts (SOA) and watch the company rehearse. Attend a lecture/demonstration with the entire company and director Ruth Andrien to learn about Taylor’s technique, history, and impact on modern dance and see some excerpts of Taylor’s works!  You can also try dancing Taylor technique for yourself at the Master Class taught by Taylor 2 dancers Rei Akazawa and Lee Duveneck. Dates, times, and location are listed below. We hope to see you there!

  • Rehearsals: March 21 and 24-28 from 11:00 AM-4:00 PM in the SOA studios (FREE)
  • Lecture/Demonstration: March 26 from 5:00-6:00 PM in the SOA studios (FREE)
  • Master Class: March 26 6:30-8:00 PM in the SOA studios ($20 fee)

Marni Gillard “Tells The Story”

Marni Gillard hands out 300 dpi

My induction into the tradition of Irish storytelling began with singers. My Irish-American family sang “Harrigan” and “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.” Grandpa Ed Walsh, stood beside our family piano as his tenor sons, lilting daughters and joyous grandkids sang, and he’d remind us, “Tell the Story.” He meant feel the meaning of the words. Express the emotion. We “told the story” of Christmas carols, funny parodies like “On Top of Spaghetti” (to the tune of “On Top of Old Smokey”), and even show tunes like “Old Man River.”

Singing with feeling led me to love reading aloud which introduced me to the art of storytelling – connecting to a tale and listeners of every age. In 1983 I was smitten by this art while attending my first storytellers’ daylong workshop. I told life tales and world folktales but felt shy to take on the ancient Irish stories. Singer Cathie Ryan, Boston teller Kate Chadbourne, Saratoga’s own Bairbre McCarthy, and my dear friend Anne Marie McLaughlin dared me to dive deep into the Irish tales. They’re not all funny and sweet; some stories are wild like the Irish Sea. If I ride their waves, I’ll learn all it means to be Irish.

On March 9th I’ll tell a tale of Irish dancers with Lawson’s fiddle and bouzouki backing me up. Then my listeners will magically draw some other tale out of me and together we’ll dive into its waves.



Marni Gillard will be at the National Museum of Dance’s St. Patrick’s Day Celebration on Sunday, March 9th from 2-4 pm. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children. Members and children 4 and under are free.

“Dancing Through It: My Life In The Ballet”


On February 9, 2014, the adoration and love was palatable from both the audience and her fellow dancers at NYCB when principal dancer Jenifer Ringer graced the stage one last time. Her final ballets showed her range from the soulful companion looking back and ahead in Robbins’ DANCES AT A GATHERING to the deliciously naughty and campy Pearly “King” (yes, a program typo!) in Balanchine’s UNION JACK. It was fitting she chose ensemble pieces to celebrate and share her last performance surrounded by her NYCB family and friends. Ever the gracious dancer whose joy of dance and inner beauty radiate outward with every move, she took her final bow with tears and smiles and the promise of a new exciting chapter in her life.

During her years onstage, Ringer danced some of NYCB’s most important choreography including, Sugar Plum Fairy in “Nutcracker Suite,” Emerald section of “Jewels,” “Stars and Stripes” and many more. Jenifer Ringer, with her deep brown eyes and easy smile created a warmth and romantic style to all of her ballets. There seems to be truth in the theory that dancers tend to dance their personalities.

“Dancing Through It: My Life In The Ballet” is a remarkably uplifting and funny memoir of her journey to become a professional ballerina. Her words are charming, witty and revealing as she describes the exclusive, competitive world of classical ballet. Her inspirational and candid story will appeal to longtime dance fans as well as aspiring and admiring dancers of all ages.

On Tuesday, February 25 from 4:00-6:00pm, Jenifer Ringer will be at the National Museum of Dance, School of the Arts. Her book is available for $35 and will be personally signed by Jenifer. If you are unable to make the book signing and would like a signed book, please call before February 25 to reserve your copy and pay by credit card 518-584-2225.

Inspiration from the Unexpected


Andre Noel began his dance career close to 10 years ago while he was incarcerated at Woodbourne Correctional Facility in Sullivan County, NY.  Inmates were putting on their first performance as the Figures in Flight 5 Dance Company, created and directed by Susan Slotnick, dancer, teacher and choreographer from New Paltz, NY and sponsored by NYS Rehabilitation Through the Arts.

When the inmates started performing “Each Other,” a piece about crime and the vicious cycle it creates, something strange began to happen to Noel.

“I saw myself in that situation. As I watched it, I felt goose bumps. I felt hot and cold at the same time. I was in shock. I had never seen anything like that before in my life. It was like a smack in the face, a reality check based on that, and that’s what drew me.”

Noel began taking classes in modern dance. Aware that being a dancer in prison wasn’t exactly the macho thing to do, it’s through dance he’s found his passion. In time, Noel became Slotnick’s assistant director and choreographer and scheduled rehearsals for the Figures in Flight 5 Dance Company.

Now a free man, successfully employed and married, Noel is the Director of the ever growing Figures in Flight Released Dance Company. Noel, along with 4 members of his company will be performing at the third annual Black History Month Celebration on February 23 at 2:00 in the Swyer Studios at the National Museum of Dance.

There is no more inspirational story than these men.


For further information on Figures in Flight Released check them out on FaceBook