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By Jennifer Stahl
L.A. is becoming a powerhouse center for dance training. Of course, there have long been mainstays like the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, Millennium Dance Complex and Edge Performing Arts Center, hotspots for commercial dancers. But now, smaller studios like The Sweat Spot and Pieter are drawing L.A.'s professional concert dancers to open classes. University of Southern California is launching the brand-new USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance with a BFA dance program spearheaded by Jodie Gates starting in 2015. And it was just announced that former New York City Ballet principal Jenifer Ringer will be directing a new pre-professional training program at the Colburn Dance Academy in partnership with L.A. Dance Project. The program, for dancers ages 14–19, begins this fall. I caught up with Ringer today to learn more about this latest news.
Why focus on this stage in dancers' training?
We'll be polishing dancers who know they want a career in dance. We want to train dancers to do the 32 fouettés, but we also want them to be complete artists who can pull off anything a choreographer might throw at them. We will be giving regular classes in contemporary dance and hip hop, and we hope to include ballroom. We'll use the resources of The Colburn School (which is a music conservatory) to incorporate music into their training, and we'll work with the Museum of Contemporary Art, which is right next door. We'll also expose our students to rehearsals and performances at The Music Center right across the street. It will be a real Renaissance program.
Is this imagined as a feeder for LADP?
I think it certainly can be. Obviously Benjamin is going to be heavily involved in the school and he's heavily involved in the company, so that could be a natural progression.
How much interaction will there be between the students and the company?
We hope to have dancers from LADP teaching our students choreography, as well as just talking about what it's like to be a professional so that it's not such a mystery.
What do you think this will do for dance in L.A.?
It feels like the L.A. dance scene is having an awakening right now, and we very much want to be a part of it. We're very excited about what's happening downtown and obviously what's happened with LADP. The Colburn School is located right in the heart of what's happening artistically in Los Angeles.
What drew you to this position?
I love ballet, and I think there's a way to make the students healthier by broadening their world and looking at them as whole individuals. The dancers of today are so technically adept, I'm constantly amazed by the things that they can do. But it's harder to find, from what I've seen, artists who are willing to be interesting—dancers who are confident and unique in their own individual abilities. I don't want that to be lost.
For information on upcoming auditions, see colburnschool.edu.