Dance Dialogues - Michigan Opera Theatre

Dance Dialogues

Welcome to MOT’s Dance Dialogues. Similar to a book club, this is a monthly virtual gathering to view and discuss dance together. MOT will share digital dance works of certain themes to view on your own. Then we will all meet via ZOOM on the 3rd Tuesday of the month at 6:00 PM (ET). Each meeting will be hosted by Jon Teeuwissen, MOT Artistic Advisor to Dance and Kim Smith, MOT Dance Coordinator. They will be joined by a guest facilitator of discussion for the selected dance works; the guest facilitators will be comprised of choreographers, artistic directors, dance scholars and dance critics. Themes will vary from comparing similar pieces of dance works, celebrations of cultures through dance, highlighting legendary artists, and more.

May - The Legacy of Agnes de Mille

Enjoy the following videos and then join us for further discussion with guest speaker, Maura Keefe, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival scholar in residence and contemporary dance historian, to discuss the life and legacy of Anges de Mille; dancer, choreographer, storyteller, author, leader, advocate.

Agnes de Mille was an American dancer, choreographer, and author. She was destined to become a theater professional, as her father, William C. de Mille, and her better known uncle, Cecile B. de Mille, were both famous Hollywood film directors. It was from watching dance on the film set that she taught herself to dance. Through her father’s connections she was invited to choreograph Cecil B. de Mille’s Cleopatra in 1934, which ended up being a less than stellar experience as she clashed with the film’s dance director and left the film. Agnes de Mille then went on to being an iconic figure in the dance world with a long-lasting legacy.

She was ahead of her time creating choreography for black and brown dancers in 1939 and by bringing dance to Broadway as an integral part of the storyline. De Mille was a co-recipient of the inaugural Tony Award for Best Choreography in 1947. She was also acknowledged by multiple presidents for her accomplishments and advocacy for dance.

Here you will see just a few of her well-known pieces and interesting interviews about them and her creative process.



Below are a few examples of De Milles works.

Rodeo - American Ballet Theatre

Agnes de Mille Describes Her Choreography for RODEO

Oklahoma! - Dream Ballet (Complete)

"The Dream Ballet" - Agnes de Mille's Choreography from Rodgers & Hammerstein's OKLAHOMA!

Origins of "The Dream Ballet" - Agnes de Mille's Choreography from Rodgers & Hammerstein's OKLAHOMA!

"June Is Bustin' Out All Over" - Agnes de Mille's Choreography from Rodgers & Hammerstein's CAROUSEL

Elegance - The Art of Dance Theatre of Harlem - Part 1 - Fall River Legend (Dance piece begins at 5:55)

Guest Facilitator

Maura Keefe

Dance Historian

Maura Keefe is a contemporary dance historian. She is a scholar in residence at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, where she writes about, lectures on, and interviews artists from around the world. Her writing for Jacob’s Pillow Dance Interactive created an opportunity to explore intersections of dance scholarship and digital humanities. Keefe has given lectures and led audience programs nationally and internationally at places such as the Joyce Theatre, New York’s City Center, Strathmore Music Center, Princeton University, UCLA, and the Goethe Institute (Los Angeles). Keefe is a frequent adjudicator for the American College Dance Association (ACDA) and regular external reviewer of university dance programs for the National Association of Schools of Dance. (NASD). She is the Smith Chair of Dance and Director of the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies at University of Maryland, College Park, where she teaches dance history and theory and choreography.

Past List of Moderators

Robert Battle became artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in July 2011 after being personally selected by Judith Jamison, making him only the third person to head the Company since it was founded in 1958. Mr. Battle has a long-standing association with the Ailey organization.

A frequent choreographer and artist in residence at Ailey since 1999, he has set many of his works on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey II, and at The Ailey School. The Company’s current repertory includes his ballets Ella, In/Side, Mass, No Longer Silent, and The Hunt. In addition to expanding the Ailey repertory with works by artists as diverse as Kyle Abraham, Mauro Bigonzetti, Ronald K. Brown, Rennie Harris, and Paul Taylor, Mr. Battle has also instituted the New Directions Choreography Lab to help develop the next generation of choreographers.


Suzanne Carbonneau is a dance critic and historian whose writings have appeared in The Washington Post, the New York Times and other publications. She founded and directed the NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Dance, and she has served as Critic-in-Residence at the American Dance Festival and at the Joyce Theater. Carbonneau is a Scholar-in-Residence at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and has also served as the Resident Scholar at the Bates Dance Festival. She regularly writes and lectures for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She holds a Ph.D. from New York University and is a Professor at George Mason University. Her authorized biography of Paul Taylor will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and she serves as Artistic Advisor to Paul Taylor American Modern Dance. Carbonneau is a MacDowell Fellow, a Yaddo Fellow, a Bogliasco Fellow, and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Theresa Ruth Howard is a former ballet dancer and journalist, having performed with Dance Theater of Harlem, and Armitage Gone! Dance, and a writer contributed to the Source and Pointe, and Tanz (Germany) Opera America (US) Magazines, and she is a contributing writer for Dance Magazine. She is the founder and curator of MoB Ballet (Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet) the digital plat- form that preserves, presents, and promotes the contributions, and stories of Black artists in the field of Ballet.

David Lyman is a freelance arts writer and former dance reporter for the Detroit Free Press. He is the dance and theater writer for The Cincinnati Enquirer/ and is a contributing writer to Movers and Makers and Cincy Magazine. For nearly a decade, he was a consultant and panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, traveling around the country to evaluate choreographers and dance companies. He is also the author of “Cincinnati Ballet Celebrates 50,” a detailed history of Cincinnati Ballet’s first 50 years and the English adaptation of “Ballettens kommende superstjerner” (“The upcoming superstars of ballet”), about Konpagni B, the performing company of the School of the Royal Danish Ballet.

Alastair Macaulay is a British critic and historian of the performing arts, working in London and New York. Between 2007 and 2018, he was chief dance critic of the New York Times. Between 1994 and 2007, he was chief theatre critic of the Financial Times. In 2019, he was a Director’s Fellow at the New York University Center for Ballet and the Arts. He has written for numerous other publications, including The New Yorker and the Times Literary Supplement, and was the founding editor of Dance Theatre Journal. He has also written a biography on dance legend Margot Fonteyn and a book of interviews renowned choreographer Michael Bourne. In 2020, he is curating an online series of ballet masterclasses for New York City Center Studio 5 Live @ Home and lecturing for Dansox, the Oxford (U.K.) society of dance research.

Eduardo Vilaro is the CEO and Artistic Director of Ballet Hispánico. He has been part of the Ballet Hispánico family since 1985 as a dancer and educator, after which he began a 10-year record of achievement as Founder and Artistic Director of Luna Negra Dance Theater in Chicago, where he created more than 20 ballets. He has also received commissions from the Ravinia Festival, the Chicago Sinfonietta, the Grant Park Festival, the Lexington Ballet and the Chicago Symphony. Vilaro has infused Ballet Hispánico’s legacy with a bold and eclectic brand of contemporary dance that reflects America’s changing cultural landscape. Born in Cuba and raised in New York from the age of six, he is a frequent speaker on the merits of cultural diversity and dance education.


Subject: “Swan Lake”
Videos: Bolshoi Ballet (traditional) and Mathew Bourne/New Adventures (contemporary)
Guest Facilitator: David Lyman, dance critic

Subject: Paul Taylor Dance Company
Videos: Signature Paul Taylor repertoire
Guest Facilitator: Suzanne Carbonneau, dance scholar; Paul Taylor dancers

Subject: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with Ballet Hispánico
Videos: “Tiburones” (“Sharks”) by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and "Mambo" from “West Side Story” by Jerome Robbins
Guest Facilitator: Eduardo Vilaro, artistic director and CEO, Ballet Hispánico

Subject: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Videos: "Grace" by Ronald K. Brown, "Revelations" by Alvin Ailey
Guest Facilitator: Robert Battle, artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Subject: “The Nutcracker”
Videos: New York City Ballet by George Balanchine and Ballet West by William Christensen (oldest US version still performed)
Guest Facilitator: Alastair Macaulay, dance critic

Subject: Katherine Dunham
Videos: Alvin Ailey and Katherine Dunham, 1988, Katherine Dunham Performing Ballet Creole (1952), A Caribbean Rhapsody, Katherine Dunham, Holland Festival 1949, Katherine Dunham at home in Martissant, Haiti (1962)
Guest Facilitator: Theresa Ruth Howard, journalist and former DTH dancer

Subject: Martha Graham
Videos: Martha Graham, New York Dance Up Close: The Martha Graham Company on Cutting The Classic  "Clytemnestra", 'Diversion of Angels' by Martha Graham, Martha Graham's Appalachian Spring Part 1/4, Martha Graham (03 - Night Journey), Cave of the Heart - Martha Graham Dance Company.

Guest Facilitator: Janet Eilber, Inger K. Witter Artistic Director

Tuesday, May 18

Subject: Agnes de Mille
Videos: Rodeo American Ballet Theatre 1973, Agnes de Mille Describes Her Choreography for Rodeo, Oklahoma! - Dream Ballet (Complete), "The Dream Ballet" - Agnes de Mille's Choreography,  from Rodgers & Hammerstein's OKLAHOMA!, Origins of "The Dream Ballet" - Agnes de Mille's Choreography from Rodgers & Hammerstein's OKLAHOMA!, "June Is Bustin' Out All Over" - Agnes de Mille's Choreography from Rodgers & Hammerstein's CAROUSEL, Elegance - The Art of Dance Theatre of Harlem - Part 1 - Fall River Legend.

Guest Facilitator: Maura Keefe - Dance historian and Chair of Dance at University of Maryland, College Park.

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