Thursday, 19 March 2009

The Healing Power of Dance

by Nedra Bashira

The power of Middle Eastern Dance to benefit our physical and emotional well being has been proven effective time after and dance have been used successfully to break through to victims of trauma.

Mentally stimulating, physically challenging and socially integrating, this art from has taken many women from the pits of depression to a stronger self, more aware of our potential as women to face challenges with a more positive outlook and a renewed self esteem.

The basic movements of the dance provide the perfect mix of isometric and isotonic resistance to shape our bodies without forming bulk muscle. Bellydance increases our endurance & strengthens our cardiovascular system with as much of a workout as any aerobics class. Our posture is improved which improves our overall health. Our joints and spine are nourished by the synovial fluid, thus resulting in less pain and stiffness from arthritis, and our bone density increases. When we engage in physical activity, our mental & emotional facilities also benefit.

Several years ago I would have never seen myself making the breakthroughs I do today with women who had suffered the cruelty of domestic violence.
I was one of those women.

On the day my husband was arrested for abusing me, the only thought in my mind was "What will I do now?" I was alone with two small children, the only family I had was far away and had busy lives of their own. For years I had been broken down piece by piece. Why did I stay, you ask? Why does anyone stay? There are many reasons... I was afraid, I was alone, and the threats, the things he would say, he would use any threat he could to "keep me in my place." The abuse was not only physical, it was mental, he was downright cruel and played terrible head games... it was so demeaning...

I will never forget the way I felt in the first few weeks, I had never felt so helpless in my life...No, I didn't want him back, there was no way he would ever change...the alcohol, the drugs, the crime... things he hid so well in the beginning... and frankly, I was so numb, I had no idea if I could ever love again.

For so long, I felt so guilty that I had let him push me around like that. He kept me from the things I loved, the people I loved, he closed me off even to my true self. I had become an empty shell...

One day on a walk into work I walked by the local dance studio, the music coming from within was intoxicating, the women were beautiful, young and old, all so full of joy and dancing without a care in the world... I stayed and watched a bit then went off to my job, a stressful job in a local pharmacy, answering phones, handling patients, managing inventory, preparing prescriptions as fast as possible with little or no help. My life was stressful, my job was stressful, the cost of working seemed silly when I gave almost my entire paycheck to pay for child care...I was at a point in my life where I wanted to give up... then I was diagnosed with cervical cancer... I was worn down and actually happy to have a break, even in illness...

For most of my adult life I had studied Yoga, but stopped after I had met my husband . Now, riddled with aggressive depression & constant pain, I found it hard to do anything, but I forced myself to start again, doing almost nothing...I played music again, I started to do more and more everyday...

Weeks go by, I walk up past the dance studio, class was just finishing up and everyone was happily talking with each, I had barely left the house to see another human in months. I was nervous to even be stepping in around other people. I was at the height of my depression, I didn't care how I looked, felt pretty miserable most of the time... but still, something told me to go in... and my life was changed from that point forward.

From the start of my first class, the dance took a hold of me like fire, I couldn't get enough. I had, of course, to follow my body and deal with healing from the cancer, but I truly believe that the dancing healed me, body, mind and helped me work out of my depression and got me around other people, I was physically challenged and I was forced to open my eyes and see just how beautiful I was, inside and out, the hatred & self-loathing dissolved. The damage from the relationship with my husband had made me feel ugly, worthless, good-for-nothing... but I was so wrong....I twisted and twirled and shimmied all the way to the stronger person I am today. I was relaxed, invigorated, healed.

Nowadays you will find me not only teaching and performing Middle Eastern Dance for the general public, but I am also working in the community at every opportunity to help those who have been in my shoes...doing workshops with bellydance, dance therapy, Yoga & pilates, teaching seminars, meeting one-on-one with clients. I like to bellydance and yoga out of my tool box to show these women that they ARE beautiful and that they have this strength and beauty and power right within themselves.

We focus on creating a quality of life that goes beyond just addressing our basic needs as humans, life without joy is empty...and that joy has to be found within ourselves first, before we can share it, it cannot be found in another person...

I want every woman to feel empowered and ready to take on the world on her own when she walks out of my office/ know love & safety, and joy.

Source: The Hip Circle

Belly Dancing With More Belly

Reported by: Lauren Gress
Published: March 2, 2008

COLUMBIA - The ancient art of belly dancing is making a comeback in Mid-Missouri and perhaps via an unlikely group with more belly than some would expect.

Women practice belly dancing in dance studios all across the country, not just in Columbia. However, the participants in belly dance classes here are expectant or new mothers.

"I like the fact that I am getting back into shape after my pregnancy," dancer Jaime Farris said.

After having her first child, Dee Dee Farris-Folkerts began taking belly dancing lessons.

"I saw a tremendous difference in what birth was like after taking belly dance classes and building that mind-body connection," Farris-Folkerts said. "And thats where a real light bulb went off for me."

So a few years ago she began to teach belly dancing classes to pregnant women and the classes grew to include new mothers as well. Motherhip Belly dance was born and Farris-Folkerts had combined her love of belly dance and midwifery to help new moms and moms-to-be stay strong.

But Farris-Folkerts is not the first to use belly dance to help ease labor pains. Some historians say belly dance originated not as the sensual dance it has become in modern culture, but as a way for women to connect with other women and prepare their bodies for childbirth.

"As I became more involved in belly dance, parallels began to grow and grow," Farris-Folkerts said.

But learning how to move their bodies isn't the only reason women enjoy the Motherhip classes. It is practical for pregnant women to get a little bit of exercise and the dancing helps with balance.

"I'm excited to be able to take the class so that I can help my body be able to turn and move," dancer Anita Lee said.

Despite all the physical benefits of the class, the best part for women may just be getting time to prepare for their babies or spending time with their newborns.

The Motherhip classes take place every Friday evening and new women are always welcome.

Source: KOMU

The Science of Dance Choreography: Cognitive scientists seek to quantify body movement

By Anne Marie Welsh
March 8, 2009

WATCH MEN: Students at UC San Diego using laptops take notes on dancers’ movements as Random Dance Company’s Wayne McGregor observes, far right.

Reporting from San Diego -- With a dozen high-def cameras and a couple of camcorders, plus pens, notebooks, sketch pads and laptops, more than 40 people spent three recent weeks in a black-box theater on the campus of UC San Diego documenting what was occurring there.

The object of their study was notoriously elusive: dance and the process of choreographic creation.

What happens, they wondered, when choreographer Wayne McGregor creates movement on (through? with?) the protean, hyper-articulated bodies of his Random Dance Company? How do the dancers visualize his cues? How do they respond to one another in the group dynamic? How do they remember? And how does he?

By the end of every day during those three weeks, each person in the theater had interviewed or been interviewed by others participating in a meticulously crafted experiment exploring the nature -- and role -- of cognition in creating dance.

Three years in the making, the experiment was initiated by Martin Wollesen, director of UCSD's ArtPower! presenting organization; carried forward by professor David Kirsh, director of the university's interactive cognition lab; and heartily supported by McGregor, Britain's leading contemporary choreographer.

"I feel like I'm in therapy 2 1/2 hours a day," the choreographer said before one early evening debriefing with Kirsh. "David's questions make you define terms, help you not to be woolly about the words you use. We're talking intimately about what I'm doing, about the body as a thinking body, about how it processes information and visualizes movement."

McGregor, also the Royal Ballet's resident choreographer and a much-sought-after opera director, created portions of his next piece, "Dyad 1909," while in San Diego with his company and support staff as ArtPower!'s first innovator-in-residence.

The residency kicked off with a performance by Random Dance of "Entity," a startling, virtuosic 2008 work, itself part of McGregor's ongoing inquiry into the relationship between the thinking mind and the moving body. The weeks of intensive investigation and creation were also part of a course taught by Kirsh, centered on creative and "distributed" -- meaning "group" -- cognition.

The investigation was designed to result, said Kirsh, "in a singular document of the process that will be available to others and analyzed for years to come."

Make a note of it

Like American dance innovator Merce Cunningham, McGregor has long been interested in what jump-starts his creative process. His company name, Random Dance, implies Cunningham's belief that random numbers can be as useful as logic, that chance and indeterminacy are core artistic tools.

McGregor said he'd "been fascinated with disruptions, diversions, randomness, incompleteness, the different set of intelligences involved in dance and the different ways of extracting information with the body."

At UCSD, he said, he became more aware of "what I'm giving attention to." He wanted to "understand how we're thinking about ideas, to extend and develop my cognitive capacity about the body" in hopes of developing new methods that would cut against any "formula motifs" or habitual ways of making.

One way to improve or change his choreographic techniques, he said, might "involve building images acoustically rather than visually." A week into the experiment, he had discovered that "the things we're taught to talk about in dance don't actually describe what's happening in the mind. I want to blast that vocabulary open."

The dancers, his "best group by far," were eager participants -- not passive guinea pigs but note-taking thinkers. Citing "their extraordinary techniques and capacity to do so much mentally," McGregor said he'd chosen the international troupe of seven men and four women for "their serpentine physicality" and "mental aptitude. They're all curious and open-minded."

Their daily activities created a continuous feedback loop. First thing in the morning, Kirsh interviewed the choreographer in general terms while the dancers warmed up during company class. (Dancers rotated teaching duties, but the class was always ballet, followed for some by rigorous sets of abdominal crunches.)

At 10:30, Kirsh's students, each assigned a dancer, filed in with their laptops and notebooks. Cameras were activated, a documentary filmmaker and the Random Dance research coordinator took their places, and McGregor set his dancers to work on a task, a riff, an idea, a rhythmic challenge.

Students' fingers flew across keyboards as they described gestures, moves, attitudes, dancer responses and adaptations that provoked questions they would ask later in the day about why and how. Some used a coding system developed by a graduate assistant. Others sketched.

During the afternoon creative session, McGregor and the dancers generated more movement, more phenomena to watch, record, analyze. Then the dancers, led by associate director Odette Hughes, recapped the day's new movement phrases. Last came the debriefings -- McGregor interviewed again by Kirsh, the dancers queried specifically and persistently by the students. All those interviews were videotaped too.

Creative cognition

When ArtPower!'s Wollesen first spread the word on campus that he was seeking neuroscientists, cognitive researchers and computer scientists for a possible collaboration, Kirsh showed sustained interest. When they met, Kirsh and McGregor had an almost immediate "mind meld," Wollesen recalled, and continued their dialogue over many meetings, delays and setbacks.

"I wondered whether such a project had electricity," Kirsh said during a lunch break. "Dance seemed such a fertile ground for exploration as disciplines are exploding. Many of us in the 21st century are exploring the same theme -- the different avenues by which humans rationally engage the world. In dance, it's not the apparent meaning of the artistic product that's of interest but the huge amount of rationality that goes into its creation."

Despite the loss of a large grant, Wollesen, Kirsh and McGregor persisted. In London, Kirsh watched McGregor and a group of Cambridge University scientists investigate the possibility of building computer software that could "think" in movement terms and intervene in the creative process.

In this country, postmodern dance pioneer Cunningham has been experimenting for nearly 20 years with the software program Life Forms and the cinematic (and video game) technique of motion capture. More recently, Cunningham has combined software-generated ideas for shapes and movement with his usual chance operations to create new choreography.

But McGregor and his research coordinator, Scott deLahunta, were after something different -- a new software program that could alter, break or reverse choreographic patterns and create new ones. During the London workshop, Kirsh said, "Wayne made a three-minute piece in under three hours. The scales fell from my eyes. It was such a magnificent instance of distributed creative cognition where the phenomena were dripping on the surface."

Translation: Dancers and choreographer together solve problems, generate movement and coordinate ideas before the choreographer chooses what to integrate into a completed structure.

That computer program is still in the works. But once McGregor, Kirsh and deLahunta had determined how they might do "an ethnographic study" of creative cognition, the UCSD performance, residency and course were scheduled. And now, having worked with Kirsh, the choreographer is exploring representations of movement in human minds and memories.

In a typical afternoon session, McGregor asked his company to improvise an arm combination involving sliding, folding and rotating one arm or both, the dancers working either singly or in pairs. As they invented, he soaked in ideas, sometimes moving among the dancers, sometimes trying out a sequence inspired by what he saw.

Within an hour, he had created an intricate gestural series performed at speeds seemingly impossible to execute, let alone duplicate; the dancers copied, learned, practiced, mastered the sequence.

McGregor next asked them to add the arm work to complex rhythms they had developed that morning for the legs. He superimposed detail (leg circles, foot beats, torso tilts). Then -- almost miraculously, it appeared -- McGregor structured the swift, counterintuitive motions with against-gravity torques, twists and undulations of the dancers' super-supple torsos, melding all that into a choreographic structure by calling the rhythmic cues for two dancers, then two more, then a larger group to enter with their parallel or counterpointed or echoing responses.

"It was a good day," he said later when interviewed by Kirsh, whose professional vocabulary does not include the word dancer Paolo Mangiola used when he was interviewed by a student team. Finding neither scientific language nor recalled movement to express what he had experienced in the rehearsal room with McGregor, the dancer called it "magic."

Participants were pleased, many exhilarated. Students interviewed said they were developing a methodology for real-time data collection replicable in other ethnographic fields -- including gymnastics training, human-computer interaction and primate communication.

Wollesen is looking toward teaming on another innovator-in-residence project with UCSD's Sixth College, devoted to performing arts and technology. And aside from McGregor's potential additions to an already mind-boggling choreographic tool kit, Kirsh sees practical applications emerging from their mutual investigation.

"I've made delightful and rich observations about giving and taking instruction that may help us learn how to improve the cognitive efficiency of instruction in other fields by making it multi-modal," he said. "We are learning how distributed memory has to be turned on to be retrieved. We are seeing that choreography is a form of sustained brainstorming with a leader being the constraint on the outcome.

"There are applications in a broad range of disciplines," Kirsh added. He cited psychology and the treatment of people, such as anorexics, with body image problems.

Source: LA Times

Sad goodbye to 'cosmopolitan' Cairo

By Christian Fraser
BBC News, Cairo
Tuesday, 17 March 2009

These days the centre of Cairo is a dusty, polluted, overcrowded metropolis. But in the 1940s it was a city full of style and culture, the beating heart of an Arab renaissance.

Downtown the bars and nightclubs flourished along the sweeping boulevards attracting all sorts of adventurers from around the world.

Since then many of the bars and cabaret clubs have fallen into disrepair and disrepute, as the Egyptians grow more observant of conservative Islam.

Some do survive; the Windsor Hotel is one of them. Built at the turn of the last century as the baths of the Egyptian royal family, it later served as a colonial club for the British officers.

Today the hotel's Barrel Bar is still popular with Europeans, even though it is now a picture of faded grandeur.

The old telephone exchange has survived in the reception. The cage elevator is still there, as are the Lufthansa posters which have adorned the hallways since the 1960s.

The hotel is run by the Doss family - largely by two brothers, Wasfi and Wafiq, and their sister Marileez.

Marileez Doss mourns the passing of Cairo's sophisticated cafe culture"I remember these very chic cafes," said Marileez. "Downtown Cairo was the place to be seen. Everyone dressed up - I was still a young girl, but I remember that I felt so proud in my little dress and white socks.

"My parents would sit in the open-air cafes drinking a glass of wine or a glass of Ricard. It was all so very sophisticated."

"This area was full of clubs and cabarets," said Wafiq. "The Opera was just around the corner. This was very much the place to be seen.

"But most of these places have since disappeared, particularly those that faced out on to the street - people didn't want to see that any more."

City reinvented

The Sharezad club has survived the cull, but this belly-dancing venue is a far cry from its glorious heyday.

Inside there are heavy red velvet curtains and on the walls the photos of the some of the world's best belly-dancers, who once came here to shake their stuff.

Max Rodenbeck, journalist and author of Cairo, the City Victorious, says belly-dancing has faded out in the last 10 years.

"It has really suffered from the wave of conservatism that has passed over this place," Mr Rodenbeck says.

"You no longer go out to a nightclub and sit with your friends, put a bottle of whisky on the table and smoke lots of cigarettes. That's not what people do any more.

"In a way downtown Cairo has degentrified... but then if you look back at the long, long history of Cairo, you see that it is always reinventing itself.

"It's a cyclical pattern, where the rich have always moved to new places, somewhere fancier, abandoning whatever is old. If you unpack the city you will find one district after another that used to be fashionable."

Another writer who looks back with fondness on the Cairo of old is the author of the best-selling novel The Yacoubian Building.

Dr Alaa al-Aswany blames the slow death of downtown Cairo on the encroachment of conservative Islam.

"From the beginning of the 1980s it became very hard, sometimes impossible, for the owner to pass on the liquor licence to a son or a new owner," he said.

"I think it is all part of the government's attempts to counteract the fanatics - but they are doing in the wrong way. The government's trying to make the point they are as religious as the fanatics. It is silly really."

Unstylish, free, but sad

The one-time cosmopolitan flair of downtown Cairo has largely disappeared. The adventurers moved on and the middle and upper classes moved to the suburbs.

The bars and nightclubs of the 1940s and 1950s are consigned to history, as Egypt turns its face from the pleasures - some might say the vices - of the West.

You have to work hard to find the bars that survive.

There are no shimmering lights. Most are tucked away from the street in nondescript buildings without any windows.

One such club is the Hawaii, where each night people sneak down a darkly lit alley to drink beer and listen to the local pub singer.

One of those who drops in from time to time is journalist Sameer Atrash.

"People here really like to let off steam and have fun," he said.

"It is not very stylish. But remember these people live with so many restrictions in their lives - in here there are no restrictions. Anything goes."

In truth, the Hawaii experience all felt rather seedy - and sad.

Source: BBC

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Confronting Disability With Modern Dance

By Corey Kilgannon
Published: March 17, 2009

Not everyone is ready for this dance company that calls itself Gimp and its members with undeveloped or amputated limbs, and bodies beset with physical challenges.

Not everyone is ready for the way the muscular dancer throws around the tall, skinny guy with cerebral palsy like it’s pro wrestling, and not modern dance.

Not everyone is ready for the production’s spoken portion, which opens with that skinny guy, Lawrence Carter-Long, 42, telling the audience a joke that starts, “So, three cripples walk into a bar.” And there may be strange looks when he goes on to mimic what some audience members tell the dancers after they perform.

“I thought that you were going to be weird, but it’s really an opportunity, you know?” Mr. Carter-Long intones onstage. “Who would have expected this in a modern dance performance. I have to rethink this whole thing.”

There is a reason the Gimp dancers present the unexpected, onstage. Even the name Gimp is a meant to be an in-your-face confrontation of common notions of disability and dance. The troupe is performing Thursday through Saturday at the Abrons Arts Center, at the Henry Street Settlement in Manhattan.

“The goal is to honor each person’s really specific ways of moving, really specific, unique personalities,” said Heidi Latsky, the dancer and choreographer who founded Gimp.

Rather than work around these dancers’ particular limitations, she tries to find distinct abilities in their bodies and explore the artistic possibilities that can be had from these differences.

So the jaunty rhythm of Mr. Carter-Long’s offbeat stride is featured. So is the vertical linearity of Catherine Long — who was born without a left arm — when she stretches to the sky with her right arm, Statue of Liberty-style. And so is the intriguing asymmetry of Lezlie Frye 29, who has one arm shorter than the other and windmills both arms while bending at the waist, up and down.

Jeremy Alliger, a producer for Gimp, says that, far from being limited by these dancers, Ms. Latsky “is like an artist who has just had new colors added to the palette.”

After rehearsing the other day at a rehearsal studio in the Actors Temple on West 47th Street in Manhattan, Mr. Carter-Long sat with Ms. Latsky and her associate director, Jeffrey Freeze (the muscular dancer who tosses him around).

“This is no safe prearranged marriage of dance and disability,” Mr. Carter-Long said. “This is a collision. This is two worlds coming together that ain’t supposed to co-exist.”

Gimp members say that dance helps them with both physical control and expression, with their bodies. But also, performing in public helps them — and the audience — address issues dealing with staring or averting the eyes when encountering physically challenged people. Onstage, they are inviting the public to stare.

The first evening of Gimp is dedicated to “Wounded Warrior Project,” a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness and enlisting the public’s aid for the needs of severely injured service men and women.

Ms. Latsky, who was with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane dance company, said she hopes to next work with veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Source: NYTimes

Friday, 13 March 2009

Nice PliƩ, Now Drop and Give Me 10

Published: March 13, 2009

ETHAN STIEFEL is revered for his electrifying presence at American Ballet Theater, where he has been a principal dancer since 1997. In less ballet-centric circles around the country he may be better known as Cooper Nielson, the choreographer-dancer character from Nicholas Hytner’s 2000 film “Center Stage.” But in Winston-Salem, where he presides over the school of dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, he is known simply as the dean.

As such Mr. Stiefel may be glamorous, but he is no mere figurehead.

“He expects a lot out of us, and he holds us to very high standards, which makes us all do better,” Mac Hopper, a 17-year-old student at the school, said in a telephone interview. “It’s a lot stricter than it used to be, but it’s a good strict. If we forget a combination, we have to do 20 push-ups. It’s like tough love. It’s not that bad. You get used to it. And push-ups definitely help you remember.”

In “Ethan Stiefel and His Students,” presented on Sunday and Monday as part of the Works & Process series at the Guggenheim Museum, the results of that tough love will be on display in a selection of classical variations and contemporary work. The North Carolina school, a public conservatory, grants high school diplomas and undergraduate and graduate degrees. Its dance division has produced many accomplished figures, including Gillian Murphy, who is also a principal at American Ballet Theater and Mr. Stiefel’s companion.

For Mr. Stiefel training is about more than perfecting steps or even transcending the limits of the human body. At the school he has formulated a set of eight initiatives. Inspired by the principles of many martial arts, the list concludes, “We will work toward becoming great dancers, while understanding that being a good person is the true goal.”

But Mr. Stiefel is by no means sappy. In keeping with corrective push-ups and a strictly enforced dress code, he has, in his own words, stressed “the sense of perspective and privilege to participate in this art form.”

Now 36, having had four knee operations in the last two and a half years, he sees the initiatives as a way to reinforce a sense of grit and honor in the consciousness of young dancers. “Pushing my students is not without reason,” he said in a telephone interview last month. “I’m trying to wake up their intellect and intuition as much as the body.”

Throughout his career Mr. Stiefel has worked tirelessly to promote classical ballet to a younger generation, as with his participation in “Center Stage.” (He is also in the sequel, “Center Stage: Turn It Up,” which was released on DVD in January by Sony Pictures.) “Whenever you have a chance to represent your art form in a way that may be seen by more people,” he said, “I see it as an opportunity.”

In 2006 Mr. Stiefel abandoned his efforts to develop Ballet Pacifica, a Southern California company, for financial reasons. His summer training and performance program, Stiefel and Students, held at Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, is on hiatus. But in many ways all his side projects have led to his position at the School of the Arts, where, despite his title, he fancies himself more an artistic director.

Mr. Stiefel is the third dean of dance at the school, where his predecessors, dating to 1965, were Robert Lindgren and Susan McCullough. But unlike traditional artistic directors Mr. Stiefel is not aligned to a company aesthetic or repertory.

“I’m looking to create the total and complete dancer,” he said. To do so he has instituted formal acting training, mime and music instruction and a men’s training camp, as well as hired teachers like Diego Schoch in the contemporary division and Nigel Burley in ballet.

“I’m personally invested in the male technique,” he said. “How do we offer something different, not to be different but to be progressive? Since we have a campus and outdoor space, sometimes that means running hills or doing obstacle courses and agility drills for cardio and stamina work.”

He has also introduced workshops in musical theater and karate. “A fifth-level black belt came in for two weeks and showed the students a different way of approaching movement,” he said. The experience prompted one student, Cody Hayman, 17, to initiate a Facebook group called “My Dean Can Break Wooden Boards With His Bare Fists, Can Yours?” Along with his students Mr. Stiefel took part in the workshop.

“We thought it was kind of fun that not only is he Ethan Stiefel, but he’s out there doing karate with everyone,” Mr. Hayman said. “We appreciated it. It was a great time, not necessarily a get-to-know-Ethan type of thing, but it was a good bonding experience.”

Asked about the Facebook page Mr. Stiefel reacted with surprise but confessed his prowess.

“Well, I broke a couple of boards in a demonstration,” he said. “It’s about obstacles. You have to keep challenging yourself, and I’m about leading by example. I don’t advocate anyone doing something that will unnecessarily injure them or is unhealthy, but if you just have a hangnail that’s bothering you? This is about letting people know what’s possible. And never giving up.”

Mr. Stiefel admitted that balancing his positions as dancer and dean has been a strain. After he interviewed for the job, he said, he withdrew his name from consideration because he wanted to focus on performing.

“The committee had unanimously decided that I was indeed the right person for the job despite my letter,” he said. “I kid you not, I think I said no seven or eight times.”

John Mauceri, the school’s chancellor, eventually wore him down. “I still had my doubts and reservations,” Mr. Stiefel said, “but I had to go for it.” Since he started at the school in August he has been away from the campus for three weeks, he estimates.

“You catch me at a time where I’m struggling, not just physically but mentally and emotionally,” he said. “But when I see the performances and what the students and faculty have been able to accomplish, it inspires me to keep it going. There wouldn’t be anything else, honestly, that I would be willing to sacrifice something as meaningful as my performing career for than this. So it’s not to say that there aren’t some costs, but I do it willingly.”

He works 12 to 14 hours a day, he said, teaching two classes and continuing his own training, among other things.

“I’m looking at some performances coming up, and I do have great concern,” he added. “People have spoken with me about this, and I suppose the original reason why I withdrew my name from consideration was because I knew this would be inevitable. I don’t know if it’s possible, truly. I really have to make myself do what my students are doing.”

In Mr. Stiefel’s world that adds up to more than long days. “I have to keep that individual discipline going to take class at 8:30 in the morning,” he said. “And everyone would probably agree that at this point in my career that’s a rough hour to get it on.”

Source: NYTimes