The Academy Dance Department is recognized as one of the leading preparatory institutions for top colleges and dance companies in the country.
Students take a foundational class of ballet every day, delving deep into classical technique — also taking jazz, modern, pointe, pas de deux. Academy dancers will have the opportunity to audition for the Academy’s repertory company, and perform in Chicago and beyond. Students will also grow their understanding of dance history while working with both Academy faculty and world-renowned guest artists.
Ballet classes presuppose a beginning knowledge of the technique. They foster strength, balance, and dexterity. At the barre, traditional exercises condition and prepare the musculature to anticipate the execution of virtually all movements of the classical vocabulary. The nature of the exercises allows students to widen their personal range of motion. The concepts learned at the barre are tested in the center through the adagio (lyrical quality, balance), and allegro (small and big jumps) components of the lesson. The knowledge and dexterity acquired in Ballet C are applied to more challenging usage of the exercises and center floor combinations for levels B and A.
Jazz classes are based in ballet technique with heavy reliance on the combination of African and modern dance idioms. All exercises stress central strength, with an emphasis on expressiveness through the torso, the isolation of the head, shoulders, rib cage and hips. Rhythmic patterns, dynamic variations, and strong and subtle qualities of movement are explored. Dancers are given combinations that are challenging at their level, depending on their level of technique.
Modern classes introduce the concepts of movement used in Martha Graham Technique. Strength is fostered through floor-work exercises designed to teach the initiation of movement from the back and lower spine. Flexibility is increased through a variety of stretching components within the exercises. The forms and patterns learned in floor work are applied to center work and to combinations across the floor. Movement and principles learned in level C (beginning) are furthered explored in B (intermediate) and A (advanced) classes. Accuracy and dexterity are emphasized. The complexity of movement increases as students become familiar with the Graham vocabulary.
Dance Composition enables students to explore their individual creativity. Through compositional studies, students learn to articulate and communicate ideas, as well as to analyze and to critically evaluate movement. Students will gain the ability to compose short movement phrases as well as more lengthy compositions that will be performed at the Senior Choreographed Dance Concert.
Pointe classes are designed to build a higher level of classical training through the use of ballet vocabulary on the tip of the toes, using specially designed shoes known as pointe shoes. Demonstration of balance, strength, and transfer of weight over the tip of the toes is necessary to be part of this class.
Pas de Deux is designed for students who have attained and developed a high level of ballet technique with a clear understanding of balance and transfer of weight over the tips of the toes. The female is able to be supported by the male dancer through turns, lifts, and other various artistic expressions. This course is also designed to provide students with the historical and classical pas de deux and variations of the past.
Men's class emphasizes specific techniques applicable to a masculine understanding of ballet. Turns, jumps, and leaps specific to the male ballet vocabulary are the central content of this course.
The Academy Summer Program 2017
A clip from "Unbounded", choreographed by India Hobbs, from the 2017 Senior Choreographed Dance Concert.
Rehearsal for the Class of 2017's Senior Choreographed Dance Concert. Evan Boersma and Morgan Clune perform "One True Love" by Giselle Diaz.
Every senior choreographs a dance for 4 months. Watch Dani's story on how she finally accomplished what she'd been planning since freshman year.
Chair - Dance
Randy Duncan, a native Chicagoan, has the unique privilege to be a three-time recipient of Chicago’s prestigious Ruth Page Award for Outstanding Choreographer of the year. He teaches worldwide and for the past twenty-two years has been on the Academy faculty.
Natalie Rast has been teaching ballet to aspiring artists for over 35 years. She has served as ballet mistress for Winifred Haun & Dancers and Zephyr Dance Ensemble, and has been an adjunct faculty member at Columbia College Chicago since 1988.
Deborah Goodman began her dance training at Northern Illinois University. She began teaching dance at The Academy in 2006. Goodman has served on the faculty of the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, New York University, Long Island University, The Connecticut Conservatory of the Performing Arts, and Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts.
Patrick Simoniello began his professional career as a dancer with The Joffrey II Dancers in New York City in 1993. He was soon promoted to the main company of The Joffrey in 1994.
Olga Meyer graduated from Azerbajian State College in Baku and earned her Masters in Music from the State Conservatory. She taught and concertized before coming to the United States in 1981. She has been at The Academy since 1985.
Jonathan Schang is one of Chicago’s busiest and most in-demand Modern Dance Accompanists. He graduated from Berklee College of Music in 2002 and later studied with Paul Wertico at the Chicago College of Performing Arts.
The Dance Department audition involves an hour long group class that focuses on both ballet and jazz. This is followed by a solo audition in the style of the applicants' choice and an interview with the Dance Department Faculty.