Class Programs

Class Programs2024-06-10T11:00:31-05:00

Experience the Joy of Dance through Class Programs at Kanopy’s Dance Academy (KDA)

For Students ages 5-Adult

Beginner to Pre-Professional Tracks and Class Programs for Dance Enthusiasts

As Kanopy Dance Company’s official dance school, KDA offers a comprehensive program of modern dance, choreography, and ballet as well as rare opportunities for students to learn a repertoire of works from nationally acclaimed guest artists and important underrepresented choreographers whose work has not been widely taught. Classes and master workshops are held throughout the year in addition to five-week long Summer Intensives.

Led by Kanopy Dance Company’s artistic directors, Robert E. Cleary, and Lisa Thurrell, KDA is based in Kanopy’s state of the art studios, the Kanopy Center for Modern and Contemporary Dance, 329 West Mifflin Street, around the corner from the Overture Center for the Arts.

KDA offers students an exceptional dance experience informed by the Martha Graham technique. Principal works by José Limón, Merce Cunningham, Erick Hawkins, Lester Horton, Doris Humphrey, Anna Sokolow, and other practitioners of modern and contemporary dance are also a key part of the curriculum. Class offerings include modern & contemporary dance, choreography/improvisation, ballet, masterwork repertory, health, fitness, & strength building, classical Indian Bharatanatyam dance, modern & ballet classes designed especially for our youngest dancers, and more.

A hallmark of KDA’s program is the teaching of improvisation, choreography, and giving our students an important voice to express themselves through the vocabulary of dance. Dancers learn the art of constructive criticism and discuss their own work collaboratively as part of a dynamic creative process.

Kanopy has tapped into some of the best and diverse talent in the country to build its outstanding faculty team. KDA students have numerous opportunities to perform at outreach events, in live Zoom collaborations with other schools of dance nationally, and in mainstage productions at the Overture Center, including Winter Fantasia: Reimagined and the Next Generation of Dance -Kanopy 2 & Academy Showcase.

Kanopy 2, Kanopy’s studio company, offers a rigorous pre-professional training program open to exceptional students of dance by audition. Serious dancers are introduced to an intense vocabulary of classic and modern forms, and study with national luminaries and emerging artists shaping the future of modern dance. Each year, Kanopy 2 performs and presents original choreography in Kanopy’s season ending show at the Overture Center, and dancers are also sometimes cast in Kanopy’s major season productions. Numerous Kanopy 2 alumni have forged professional dance careers or earned success pursuing other meaningful work and life journeys.

Class Programs

Class Programs for Different Ages and Levels   

Students may begin study at KDA starting at age 5. While a number of KDA students begin at a young age and progress through our comprehensive training track, auditioning into the Kanopy 2 pre-professional training program; many others choose to select a few special classes a year and may also participate in a range of performance opportunities.

KDA offers several different age-appropriate class programs for those young dancers, teens, and adults who are in the beginning stage of learning and exploring dance. 

Incoming students with dance experience consult with the artistic directors to determine the best class placement for them to optimally build on their skills and to progress.

Students develop at their own pace, and Kanopy’s co-artistic directors determine their path to more advanced levels in coordination with the students and their parents. 

KDA’s Summer Intensives are an excellent immersive way for students to accelerate quickly, and enrollment in summer is encouraged. 

Throughout the academic year, Kanopy also holds weekday morning classes for our Professional Company. We are happy to accommodate advanced students, other professional dancers and K-2 Company members for those classes.

Beginning: Level 1-2 (ages 5-8)

Beginning/Advanced-Beginning: Level 3 (ages 8-12)

Beginning/Beginning-Intermediate: Level 4 (ages 9-13)

Intermediate/Advanced-Intermediate: Level 5 (ages 12-adult)

Advanced: Level 6 (ages 13-adult)

Kanopy2: Pre-Professional Training Program (ages 14-26) by audition or invitation

Adults: Beginner through Advanced Classes

Placement level is determined by the Kanopy’s artistic directors, Robert E. Cleary, and Lisa Thurrell. Placement adjustments may be made the first week of classes. Adult Students choose their appropriate level. See Schedule. Please inquire at

Would you like to learn more about auditioning for Kanopy 2, our Studio Company? Advanced Pre-Professional Training & Performance Program open only by audition or special invitation. For ages 14-26. Please contact us at for more details about requirements and auditions.

Click here for more information about Kanopy 2.

Dance Body Works: Functional Movement (Levels adult/teen): A dance movement class that focuses on joint mobility, strength, and play in the form of locomotion with exercises that derive from martial arts, yoga, dance, and resistance training.

Graham Modern Dance (Levels 3,4,5, 6, Kanopy2, adult): Movement stemming from the breath including contraction, release, spiral, shift of weight. A vocabulary of movement that “increases the emotional activity of the dancer’s body”; and creates a foundation for the highest technical and expressive artistry. This is the foundational technique used at the Martha Graham School in NYC, and in companies worldwide.

Martha Graham is recognized as a primal artistic force of the 20th century, alongside Picasso, James Joyce, Stravinsky, and Frank Lloyd Wright. The Graham technique is taught worldwide and her Martha Graham Dance Company, founded in 1926, and based in NYC, continues to shape, and evolve the future of the art form.

Cunningham Modern Dance (Levels 4,5, 6, K2, adult): The technique emphasizes clarity of form, coordination of torso and legwork, rhythmic accuracy, spatial awareness, and virtuosity.

Merce Cunningham, an American dancer and choreographer, was a maverick who introduced the use of chance and unpredictability into performance and reinvented how we see dance. Cunningham collaborated with avant-garde composer John Cage at the Walker Art Center on performance for over two decades.

Humphrey Modern Dance (Levels, 4,5,6, Kanopy2, adult): Dance technique based in dynamic and rhythmic breath. The body is trained to move with flow and physicality, embracing the sense of gravity, finding suspension in the body, and then falling away from it. This approach is the foundation upon which José Limón built his technique and choreography.

Doris Humphrey was pioneer in American modern dance and an innovator in a technique and choreography that was based on the use of breath rhythm. Humphrey developed the first fully articulated choreographic method for modern dance-makers. Her book The Art of Making Dances, the first of its kind— continues to play an important role for dance today.

José Limón Modern Dance (Levels 4,5,6, K2, adult): This technique focuses on the movement of breath through the body, the dynamic use of weight in each body part and the fluid succession of one movement into the next. This technique is known for its use of the energetic qualities of suspension and rebound— called “fall and recovery’.

José Limón, one of America’s most prominent Modern Dance choreographers, was born in Mexico. His powerful choreography focuses on the human drama, often incorporating themes from literature, religion, and Hispanic history, as well as pure dance. Limón began his dance training under Doris Humphrey with whom he founded The Limón Dance Company, in 1946. Based in NYC, the Company’s performs internationally, and its influence is paramount.

Sokolow Modern Dance (Levels 4, 5,6, K2, adult): This class explores Sokolow’s methods, leading toward performance and composition skills. The class environment gives students the opportunity to work carefully and specifically. In addition to technique, students will have the opportunity to learn Sokolow repertory.

Anna Sokolow, a major architect of modern dance, was a member of the Martha Graham Dance Company, and a co-founder of the Actor’s Theatre. She was recognized for her social commitments and powerful depictions of alienation. Her work explored the depths of emotion– and recognized the resiliency of the human spirit– and is performed internationally through the aegis of NYC’s Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble,

Horton Modern Dance (Levels 4,5,6, K2, adult,): Horton Technique is the foundational technique taught at the Alvin Ailey School in NYC. The technique develops both strength and flexibility and works with an energy that is constantly in motion. The primary focus of Horton studies is creating length in the spine and hamstrings, and it is known for its emphasis on lateral stretches, flat backs, and clear clean lines of design in the body.

Lester Horton, who launched modern dance in LA, was inspired early by movement in Native American dance. His Horton Technique combines elements of Native American Folk Dance, Afro-Caribbean hip circles, Javanese and Balinese isolations of the upper body, Japanese arm gestures, and a new whole body, anatomical approach to movement. Alvin Ailey studied with and danced in Lester Horton’s Company and Horton’s technique is foundational for the internationally renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in NYC.

Hawkins Modern Dance (Levels 4,5,6, Kanopy 2, adult): Dance technique based in functional anatomical movement, training the dancer to move with a lightness and freedom in the arms and legs— (Hawkins called the arms and legs “tassels” moving from the torso) with a strong core to quickly change rhythms and directions to create dance that looks very free and natural.

Erik Hawkins, a leading modern-dance choreographer, and dancer was greatly influenced by German expressionist dances. He performed for George Balanchine at American Ballet Theater in NYC, and then for Martha Graham to whom he was married for 6 years. He left to establish the Erick Hawkins Dance Company and develop his “abstract”, “normative theory of movement”, based on functional movement, kinesiology and somatic studies and inspired by Zen thinking, Japanese aesthetics as well as the Greek classics.

Contemporary (Levels 4, 5,6, K2 adult): Using energy, emotions, thought, and time to develop authentic movement.

Bharatanatyam (Levels 3,4,5,6, K2, adult): Bharatanatyam is the oldest classical dance tradition in India that dates back nearly 3000 years. Bharatanatyam encompasses music, rhythm, and expression. Students learn complex rhythms and the classical technique.

Ballet (Levels 3,4,5,6, Kanopy2, adult): Classical Ballet. Focus on alignment and fundamentals of training, expanding the student’s ballet vocabulary, musicality, and awareness of classical repertory.

Ballet Pointe and Pre-Pointe (Levels 4,5,6, K2, adult): Pre-pointe classes are offered to students who are not yet on pointe to further develop and strengthen the muscles necessary to begin pointe work. Pointe class is the part of classical ballet technique in which a ballet dancer supports all body weight on the tips of fully extended feet. Pointe work is performed while wearing pointe shoes.

Choreography & Improvisation (Levels 3,4,5,6, Kanopy2, adult): Learn and deepen the tools of the craft to create your own dances. Explore new ways of dance and the art of movement. Observe, Investigate, explore, invent. We will give feedback to each other in class increasing connection and flow of ideas. We will learn about costumes and music choices and their impact on what the audience “sees” methods to create costumes, music choices, video projects, dance history to facilitate and generate ideas and learning.

Creative Modern /Ballet (Levels 1,2): Joy of Dance for the young dancer- beginning dance skills, dance games, exploration, and creation of students’ very own dances. Fundamental dance skills in Modern and Ballet.

Stretch/Strength: (levels 4,5,6, K2, adult) This class designed to work on flexibility and strength shortly before or after technique class.

Class Programs

School Year Program and classes


Kanopy 2


Master Classes

Summer intensives and classes

Weather Closings and Emergencies

School Closing due to Severe Weather or City/Nationwide Emergencies: Kanopy will close for Kanopy School Classes when the Madison Public Schools close, have early release, or close their after school or weekend programs. We also follow city, state and county authority and health officials for emergency protocols for stay at home orders and health and safety.


Kanopy Dance Theatre Inc is not responsible for injury or illness occurring on or near premises, or at home for online virtual learning. Parents and students need to be aware of the physical nature of dance instruction, some physical contact between teacher and student may be necessary to correct positions and avoid injury. Kanopy reserves the right to take photos or video (property of Kanopy Dance Theatre Inc) for instructional and promotional purposes. Kanopy Dance Theatre Inc does not discriminate in its activities, educational programs and employment practices as required by law. Due to copyright laws, unauthorized use of still or video cameras in the studio or at performances is prohibited.

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