An Interview with CityDance’s Lorraine Spiegler by Jane Coyne

I recently had the opportunity to visit with Lorraine Spiegler – Director of Studio Education of and Conservatory at CityDance. CityDance is a wonderful arts organization, and they have very exciting things going on.

Jane: What makes the CityDance Conservatory unique?

Lorraine: CityDance Conservatory is unlike any other program in the area. It’s a special environment, where we really aim to tailor all aspects of the program and develop our dancers holistically.

Lorraine Spiegler, Artistic Director, In-Studio Education of CityDance. Photo courtesy of CityDance.

Our focus on the creation of new contemporary movement material and choreography through master classes, residencies and guest artist workshops is a valuable tool for our pre-professionals whose development requires high challenge in both technique and artistry. The choreographers and teaching artists enjoy creating new dance works and developing their ideas on an enthusiastic and skilled body of young dancers. We’re thrilled to give these talented artists the chance to keep working in a not so great economy by providing a place for experimentation, incubation and bold development of new ideas.  I’ve found that each choreographer has something different to share and that stimulates the mind and imagination–and each of our dancers is hungry for this type of stretch…to full realization… this kind of rich learning that goes on in our studios.

The global aspect of our training with professional artists who are at the top of their field- locally, nationally and internationally will help create dancers and dance professionals who are rooted in the 21st century and beyond. There are close to 35 nationalities represented in our broad student body, and we have a very diverse Conservatory student body and faculty as well. Just in the past year, we’ve worked with artists from Russia, India, Sri Lanka, Brazil and Japan – to name a few. Our students already live and dance as global citizens. And our international programs are moving forward in leaps and bounds, deepening experiences and creating human bridges that our students will be traveling for years to come.

I just love watching the CityDance Conservatory perform – they wowed me at the Department of Education PTA Reflections Ribbon Cutting Ceremony last January. I’m especially looking forward to your upcoming performance, so tell us more about Creating the Magic.

In the winter we performed Unveiling the Magic, which was an open house to give people a glimpse of what we do. Creating the Magic will allow audiences to see the next level – the creation. It will feature new student work, Brazilian inspired pieces, innovative faculty choreography and existing repertory choreographed by professional guest artists.

There will be four performances, April 13 and 14 at 8:15pm and on April 15 at 2pm and 6pm, in CityDance’s recently opened Studio Theater at Strathmore. This new venue is just such an asset to us. The dancers get even more performance experience and in an intimate performance home. The event is also special because it will serve as a fundraiser, with all proceeds from the $25 ticket price going toward The Brazil Project.

CityDance Conservatory dancer Alona Guseva in 'Unveiling the Magic' at Strathmore in February 2012. Photo by Paul Emerson.

Brazil? How did The Brazil Project come about and what does it entail?

The project has a very personal history for me. It is the first program I put into place when I arrived at CityDance four and a half years ago. It was based on many of my former successful exchange projects between Brazil and the US. It began when I brought Brazilian choreographer Alex Neoral in 2007, since then, he has made yearly trips to CityDance and set many works on our students. Last year two Brazilian students came to study with CityDance Conservatory. Now we’re finally in the position to take 14 of our high-level Conservatory students to Brazil! This year, Maryland-Rio Partners of the Americas has joined in to support our efforts. The possibility of this project developing into an even more integral part of our programming is truly amazing!

While in Rio, the students will study many genres of dance, including classical ballet, modern, contemporary, samba carnival, capoeira, danca de salon and folk dance in the most renowned dance institutions in Rio, including Cia de dansa Deborah Colker, Escola Maria Olenewa, Focus Cia de Danca and quite a few more. They will also have the opportunity to perform the repertory created by our wonderful choreographers in various “mostras”(informal showings).

Larisa Nugent. Photo courtesy of CityDance.

It seems like you certainly have more to offer than the traditional curriculum!  How do you fit in the standard ballet and modern rep with all the international genres?

CityDance is a technique-based program with a core curriculum of modern and classical ballet. Ballet technique is a crucial element even in a school that is focused on developing professional level contemporary dancers. Last fall I brought in master teacher Ludmila Morkovina and she has moved our already robust ballet program forward to a higher standard. Our students are benefitting tremendously from her expertise. One young Conservatory dancer, Larisa Nugent, who is highly gifted in ballet, is being personally coached by Morkovina and just won the YAGP Grand Prix Regionals in Philadelphia in her age group… performing both classical and contemporary pieces.

This is just one example of our stellar faculty and student achievement.  We have expert teachers in everything from Sri Lankan to Afro-Fusion, Bollywood and Jazz. This type of diverse, yet focused curriculum prepares our students to go on to strong post-graduate training, programs such as Alvin Ailey Fordham BFA, Jacob’s Pillow Summer Intensives, SUNY Purchase, Point Park, UCLA Irvine, and ultimately professional careers.

Adin Walker. Photo by Paul Emerson.

Well it certainly seems that CityDance has quite a bit going on these days! The school has really grown so much in such a short time. What else should we know about you?

CityDance is uniquely positioned to bring professional quality dance and superior education programs to the region. We have a thriving school and Conservatory, ongoing relationships with high-quality professional artists and Community Programs that offer extensive in school, out-of-school time and summer programs that bring dance to thousands of underserved youth. As we continue to grow, the potential is really limitless. We’re just seeing the early stages of what our reach is and what our alumni will do. It’s an exciting time for young dancers to be training at CityDance and a special place to be.


CityDance website.
CityDance on facebook.
CityDance on Twitter.
Purchase tickets here for Creating the Magic, or by calling (301) 581-5100.


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Jane Coyne has been involved in the arts for all of her life. As a singer, she has toured the country as a soloist, appearing at major venues throughout the United States, performing with musicians including Duke Ellington, Johnny Coles, Paul Gonzalves, and Tyree Glenn, and she has appeared in many musical theatre productions. She has managed the careers of a number of a number of international conductors and composers and previously served as the vice president of the National Philharmonic at Strathmore, executive director of the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras, and associate director of Washington’s Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts. Jane directs the National PTA Reflections Program (one of the largest arts education programs in the country). She is also one of the founding directors of Young Artists of America, and manages the career of her son, composer and violinist Joshua Coyne.


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