Keith Cross, ballet's master jazz teacher, comes to town


The renowned jazz-dance teacher Keith Cross will conduct open workshop classes on Saturday at Santa Fe College. (COURTESY OF SUN COUNTRY DANCE THEATRE)

Published: Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 12:17 p.m.

Direct from Houston, jazz-dance master teacher Keith Cross will offer open workshop classes, to both youth and adults, here in Gainesville this weekend.

The Saturday and Sunday classes are organized by Sun Country Dance Theatre, but will be held at Santa Fe College's Building E, Room 109 (dance studio), where registration for intermediate to advanced jazz dancers age 11 and older will be available at the door. Cost is $50 for both days, $40 for UF and SFC students with proper ID.

Sun Country Dance Theatre founder and director Judy Benton says that the classes with Cross — who has been often described as “the ballet dancer's master jazz teacher” — is drawing dancers from as far as Orlando, Jacksonville, Lake City and Tallahassee.

“We even have someone flying in from Miami to take the classes,” Benton says. “I only hope that our dancers right here in Gainesville understand what an opportunity this is to take class with Keith,” she says, “and that they can take advantage of it.”

Cross has taught for Houston Ballet, Boston Ballet and Ballet Met. He has also been on faculty at Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago and Jazz Dance World Congress, both legendary venues for the best-of-the-best in American jazz dancing.

Cross has worked directly with Gus Giordano, Joe Tremaine, Debbie Allen, Luigi and even James Brown.

Benton first met Cross while he guest-taught at Pensacola Junior College's annual summer two-week workshop, to which she takes her Sun Country students.

“His style is very intricate, and his technique and choreography are so clean,” Benton says. “That, his training and the way he inspires the students are all exceptional.”

In addition to Saturday and Sunday's classes at SFC, Cross will spend all of Friday choreographing a commissioned work specifically for Sun Country students.

“That is our initial reason for bringing him down,” Benton explains. “I've brought Keith here to Gainesville twice before, to choreograph for past students when I worked for a different organization.

“This is the first time Sun Country will be bringing him in. His ability to challenge the students while bringing out the best in them is phenomenal.”

“Keith makes dancers feel good about themselves,” she adds. “He throws things at them they've never done or seen before — he might give you the weirdest thing you've ever done – but he instills confidence.”

Benton also notes that despite the range of cities from which participants hail, the workshop size will be “intimate.” She calls the two-day classes at SFC “a true master class weekend, not a huge convention.”

“Dancers will receive personalized attention and corrections,” she says. “Anyone who knows Keith from attending the Pensacola dance weeks ... this will be much smaller, with real room to see, hear and move.”

All classes will be held in the SFC Building E-109 studio, not the new Fine Arts Hall facility. Teachers of participants are invited to observe classes, space permitting.

Registration for intermediate-to-advanced jazz dancers, age 11 and older, will be accepted at the door, in cash only. Participants will receive four hours of instruction (two hours per day) at a $50 cost.

UF and SFC students with proper ID receive a discounted $40 rate. Groups of eight or more, who register together, will also receive the discount.

A liability release form, available at the door, must be signed. Registering participants under the age of 18 must have a parent present to complete paperwork upon arrival.

Class times for intermediate dancers age 11 and up are 9-11 a.m. Saturday, 12:30-2:30 p.m. Sunday. Advanced jazz dancers 14 and older meet Saturday from 11:15 to 1:15 p.m. and Sunday from 2:45 to 4:45 p.m.

Single class/single day rates are not available.

Sarah Maze can be reached at sarahi@ufl.edu.

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