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HomeDance‘Spring Dances’ and past: A chat with Alicia Graf Mack 

‘Spring Dances’ and past: A chat with Alicia Graf Mack 


There’s one thing spring to how a dance work involves life. Buds pop as one thing gels and a choreographer exclaims “sure, that’s simply it!”. Candy flowers totally bloom as sections materialize. Earlier than engaged artists realize it, it’s summer season – and a fully-alive work takes the stage. Such shifts and evolutions will definitely happen as college students of Juilliard’s Dance Division, choreographers main them, and contributing collaborators carry the conservatory’s Spring Dances 2024 to life.

Alicia Graf Mack. Photo by Gregory Costanzo.
Alicia Graf Mack. Picture by Gregory Costanzo.

In a broader sense, the Division is rising and evolving in its personal means: taking considerate steps to open its doorways to the broader public, dispelling myths about what occurs below its hallowed title, refining the way it prepares college students for the skilled dance sector and way more. To study extra about these dynamics and past, Dance Informa speaks with Alicia Graf Mack, the Division’s Dean and Director (and achieved artist in her personal proper!). 

Graf Mack: The particular person and artist behind the Juilliard chief 

Graf Mack has a formidable resume, to say the least. She graduated magna cum laude from Columbia College and holds an MA in Nonprofit Administration from Washington College in St. Louis. Her efficiency credit embrace Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Complexions Up to date Ballet, Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, in addition to for musical artists corresponding to John Legend and Beyoncé (sure, that Beyoncé). She stepped into the position of Dean and Director of Juilliard’s Dance Division in 2018. 

That’s just the start – and anybody can learn extra about her accomplishments in her biography. Who’s the particular person behind all of that? “The best way I see the world comes from my background in a biracial dwelling, as effectively my work with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater,” Graf Mack explains. “Fairness, range, inclusion, belonging – these values are fully built-in into each side of my life and management.” 

The Juilliard Dance Division in Justin Peck's 'In Creases' as part of 'Spring Dances 2023'. Photo by Erin Baiano.
The Juilliard Dance Division in Justin Peck’s ‘In Creases’ as a part of ‘Spring Dances 2023’. Picture by Erin Baiano.

These are key Juilliard values, as effectively, she affirms – and likewise that training is the perfect launching pad for instilling these values. That should include every scholar feeling a way of belonging. Artists can blossom with such a sense; “the locations the place I thrived as an artist had been the place I felt like I might really be myself,” Graf Mack shares. 

For her, it’s very important that college students really feel “seen” and “cared for” – which, to her thoughts, is a shift in higher-education dance packages. “It’s not nearly being loving and caring, however about really involving the dancer within the course of their very own coaching and improvement,” she explains – for instance, via encouraging them to ask questions and to scrutinize the status-quo. 

The multifaceted, transdisciplinary Juilliard Dance Division curriculum 

Graf Mack has utmost confidence that Juilliard college students are as much as the duty of taking cost of their very own progress. “The dancers who come into this system are already so gifted, so curious, so hungry; we simply should set the fertile soil for them to thrive.” Key substances in that soil are a deep understanding of legacy and custom, in addition to rigorous coaching in a range of dance methods and kinds – from ballet to up to date to composition, from Horton to Limón to Graham. Particular person nurturance is one other vital ingredient of their progress, Graf Mack says. “There are extra college members than college students in every class inside the division. For instance, the primary 12 months class is comprised of 19 college students. We actually know them!”

Alicia Graf Mack teaching during Juilliard's Summer Dance Intensive. Photo courtesy of The Juilliard School.
Alicia Graf Mack instructing throughout Juilliard’s Summer season Dance Intensive. Picture courtesy of The Juilliard College.

Entrepreneurship and liberal arts research are additionally a part of the Juilliard expertise, Graf Mack notes. Dance Division college students have alternatives to check voice, performing and to get a Stage 1 Pilates Instruction Certificates, besides. “I communicate with the scholars on a regular basis about being multi hyphenated artists – not simply ballet dancers, or up to date dancers, and never even simply dancers,” Graf Mack shares. College students construct the capacities to grow to be dynamic artists with a large number of prospects out there to them. 

Past even that, Juilliard college students get myriad alternatives to work with college students in different Divisions — thus constructing transdisciplinary abilities, in addition to assembling a community of fellow artists to work with for years to return. “We’re at all times doing cross-divisional initiatives – and people relationships will final,” Graf Mack affirms. Such interdisciplinary choices have blossomed and grown up to now six years, she explains. 

Even with all of that rigor, Graf Mack believes that Dance Division college students shouldn’t lose contact with merely being younger and vibrant in New York Metropolis; “they need to maintain onto pleasure!” Furthermore, she sees that as pivotal within the burgeoning of their artistry. “A part of the success of being a dancer is to carry on to that seed [of who you truly are] – after which have it develop, not push it down additional.” 

Training in motion: Spring Dances 2024

The Juilliard Dance Division in Hofesh Shechter's 'Political Mother', as part of 'Spring Dances 2023'. Photo by Erin Baiano.
The Juilliard Dance Division in Hofesh Shechter’s ‘Political Mom’, as a part of ‘Spring Dances 2023’. Picture by Erin Baiano.

Inside that setting of creative and private improvement, rehearsals for Juilliard Dance Division’s Spring Dances 2024 are underway! For the second 12 months, this system is centered on up to date works by dwelling choreographers. These works are Bobbi Jene Smith’s Fugue in Crimson (2022), Kyle Abraham’s Research on a Farewell (2019) and Shen Wei’s Map (2005). “All three works in this system are very bodily; they require a number of stamina,” Graf Mack says. “It’s fascinating to see how these choreographers are deciphering time, house and the way we’re presently dwelling on this world.” 

Jene Smith is a Juilliard Dance Division alumna, in addition to Visitor College Member. Fugue requires “critical dance chops, in addition to performing abilities…there’s an actual narrative there,” Graf Mack explains. For his half, Abraham has labored with Juilliard college students earlier than, and – as a key artistic associate and shut good friend to Graf Mack – that’s at all times a pleasure, she provides. Wei’s Map can be an exhilarating problem; it’s a 40-minute lengthy behemoth, full with dwell music (by Steve Reich and performed by Juilliard Music Division college students) – and this would be the first time it’s carried out dwell.

Graf Mack is evident: this caliber of efficiency course of is “actually a part of college students’ success.” 

She describes how “their progress is exponential in efficiency week, they grow to be a lot extra mature!” The excellence actually comes with possession of the work they’re studying, Graf Mack says.  

The Juilliard Dance Division in Medhi Walerski's 'Blink of an eye', as part of 'Spring Dances 2023'. Photo by Erin Baiano.
The Juilliard Dance Division in Medhi Walerski’s ‘Blink of a watch’, as a part of ‘Spring Dances 2023’. Picture by Erin Baiano.

“That’s the place artistry is available in: deciphering and researching – even when that’s embodied analysis – to be able to actually step into the work. Certainly one of my biggest privileges is to see dancers go from studying what a piece is to essentially seeing them take possession.” Their Juilliard research, the variety and rigor of their lessons, are a vital basis for that success and progress, she provides. Far past Juilliard, that’s how the sector strikes ahead – the subsequent era each innovating and preserving, Graf Mack believes. 

College students shifting up and out: Life and work after Juilliard 

She sees the “fruits” of all of the above – the rigor of their research, the nurturance of the artist and human in every scholar, the intensive and transdisciplinary efficiency alternatives – within the Division’s fourth-year college students. That’s their “onboarding” 12 months, she explains. In different phrases, once they shift from college students to bounce sector professionals. “College students now have extra flexibility to audition and take firm class,” she explains. 

Past even allowing such skilled world engagement, the Dance Division assists its fourth-year college students in experiencing it. For instance, one scholar is deeply impressed by Trisha Brown’s work and legacy, and the Division is working to get her into firm class with the Trisha Brown Dance Firm. “I’m at all times in search of extra methods for our college students to combine with the sector. We’re effectively positioned for that, being in NYC,” Graf Mack notes. But different college students had been capable of tour with Justin Peck, after they caught his eye when working with him for a Division live performance.

The Juilliard Dance Division in Camille A. Brown's 'City of Rain', as part of 'Spring Dances 2023'. Photo by Erin Baiano.
The Juilliard Dance Division in Camille A. Brown’s ‘Metropolis of Rain’, as a part of ‘Spring Dances 2023’. Picture by Erin Baiano.

Graf Mack firmly believes that these insurance policies and buildings result in a better post-graduation success fee – and she or he has the numbers to again that up. “We had 21 Dance Division graduates final 12 months, and so they all ended up the place they needed to be; all of them landed on their toes,” she notes. Past graduates reserving jobs, she affirms that the Dance Division desires to see college students “go on to be thought-leaders within the subject, and thru that ship rings of constructive change. We need to give them wings to fly.” 

Juilliard shifting ahead: Open doorways, no glass tower right here  

Graduates will transfer on, and Juilliard will stay. How will it evolve with the dance sector, metropolis and world past it? The Dance Division is starting to confide in these past its storied areas, Graf Mack shares. “It’s vital to me that we don’t dwell in a glass tower someplace. We’re in the course of NYC, and our doorways are open,” Graf Mack asserts. Such newer efforts embrace the Juilliard Dance Expertise, the place non-student dancers can take class with Dance Division college members. “Relaxed Performances” are designed to welcome neurodivergent viewers members. 

Graf Mack can also be searching for to construct extra touring alternatives for Dance Division college students, in order that audiences past New York Metropolis’s 5 boroughs can expertise their work. “These college students are second to none, and we would like extra folks to have the ability to see that!” she says with a giant smile. “We’re additionally rising our social media presence and dispelling myths about what conservatory coaching is,” Graf Mack says. 

“We’re small however mighty, and we’re sustaining that. On the similar time, we’re opening up what we do to extra college students.” Regardless of the future could maintain, Graf Mack hopes that readers are impressed to return see Spring Dances. “The performances are at all times electrical. I’ll be on my toes clapping and the loudest one within the viewers!”

The Juilliard Dance Division wil current Spring Dances 2024 on Saturday, March 30. For tickets, head to

By Kathryn Boland of Dance Informa.  




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