Across New York City, Building Young Dancers On and Off the Stage

She put up with the giggles for a while, but they would not stop.

Finally, Dionne Figgins took a break from rehearsing a group of eighth graders for their coming performances at the Joyce Theater to give a mini-lecture. But what started out as a talk about disruptive giggles soon became something more expansive: a consideration of the audience-dancer relationship.

“If a giggle is taking over the performance, you’re not doing the show anymore,” said Figgins, who is the artistic director of Ballet Tech, a tuition-free ballet school in New York. “Dance is a service.”

The students stopped talking. Their twitching ceased. “The patron is our boss,” Figgins said. “Does that make sense? So you have to care about the experience of the audience, so it doesn’t involve a giggle — unless a giggle is what we’re providing. And there are giggles in there!”

Ballet Tech students rehearsing “Homeland,” a lively new dance covering an array of forms including West African dance and ballet.Credit…Bess Adler for The New York Times

She meant in the dance they were rehearsing, “Homeland,” a lively new work covering an array of cultures and dance forms including West African dance and ballet. “Homeland” will be given its premiere by Kids Dance, the student company of Ballet Tech, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary at the Joyce beginning Thursday.

“It’s six sections, and we’re traveling around the world,” Figgins said in an interview. “Every year we’ve done new works because I did want to start developing some repertoire of my own. Next year we’re going to cool our jets and do some rep. Because I’m driving everyone insane! This is a big one.”

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