10 Minutes With Lauren Lovette
The NYCB principal tries her hand at choreography.
Even back when she was in the corps at New York City Ballet, you couldn't miss Lauren Lovette. With her vivacious eyes, delicate pointework and engaging manner, she had a way of pulling the audience into her world. Stories seem to pour out of her, whether she's dancing the playful lead in Balanchine's jazzy “Rubies," the mysterious femme du monde in his Vienna Waltzes or the slow spinning solo in Christopher Wheeldon's Polyphonia. A principal since June 2015, she's now ready to create a story of her own, from scratch. For its fall season, NYCB commissioned her to choreograph a 15-minute ballet, her first for the company.
How did this commission come about?
Peter Martins has been talking to me ever since I made a piece for the Choreographic Institute, back in 2010. Every year he mentions it. And I always say, “We'll see—I really want to dance." This past year, he pulled me aside and said, “I want you to choreograph something. You have to do it. Just think: new Lovette, 2016." And I said, “Yeah, okay, I'll do it." And then he pulled me aside again and said: “It's not because you're a woman." I really needed to hear that.
Do you feel a conflict between your dancing career and choreographing?
Yeah, it's about finding the time. As it is, I'm rehearsing all day and performing at night. My stress levels are usually pretty high.
How do you approach your work in the studio when you're choreographing something?
I ask the dancers a lot of questions. If I give a step, I ask, “Where is your weight naturally going? Do you feel like going this way or that way?" As a dancer, when I work with a choreographer, I wish they would ask more questions.
What are your biggest challenges as a choreographer?
Developing patterns, moving large groups, building the architecture. And commanding a room. I'm just me! I can't pretend to be someone else.
How did you find the music, Robert Schumann's Introduction and Concert Allegro, Opus 134?
Fifteen minutes is a difficult length. I wanted a single piece with variety within it. The first time I heard it I think I was cleaning my apartment and had Spotify playing. I like the way it starts, quietly, just the piano at first. Then there's a mischievous part in the music that I thought could be for a girl dancing on her own, and then this huge tormented part that I thought would be a couple fighting. It had to be!
What made you pick the designer Narciso Rodriguez?
I like to see bodies—pure, human form, and I know Narciso shapes the female form really nicely.
Do you think other women in the company may follow your example?
I think so. I hope so! They were all surprised that I was doing this. They were like, “Do you have ideas?" And I said, “Yes! I have ideas. Don't you ever think about it?" It's always scary when nobody else is doing it.
For the past 3 years, choreographer Stephen Petronio has been reviving groundbreaking works of postmodern dance through his BLOODLINES project. This season, although his company will be performing a work by Merce Cunningham, his own choreography moves in a more luxurious direction. We stepped into the studio with Petronio and his dancers where they were busy creating a new work, Hardness 10, named for the categorization of diamonds.
'Tis the season to have some fun in the kitchen. If you want to get more creative than simply baking another pumpkin pie, try these Nutcracker-themed treats—created by and for dancers. These recipes from former Boston Ballet and Joffrey Ballet dancers were first published in Dance Magazine's December 1990 issue. Today, they're still guaranteed to turn any holiday party or dressing room into a true Land of the Sweets.
It's no secret that affording college is a challenge for many students. And for dancers, there are added complications, like the relative lack of merit scholarships that take artistic talent into consideration and the improbability of a stable salary to pay off loans post-graduation. But no matter your budget, a smart approach to the application process can help you focus less on money and more on your training.
According to Drexel University performing arts department head Miriam Giguere, figuring out the kind of financial assistance a school offers is just as important as navigating what kind of dance program you want. Here's how to incorporate finances into your decision-making process:
When dancers get injured, they often think they should eat less. The thought process goes something like, Since I'm not able to move as much as I usually do, I'm not burning enough calories to justify the portions I'm used to.
But the truth is, scaling back your meals could actually be detrimental to your healing process.
We always figured that stretching made us more flexible by loosening up our muscles and joints. Some of us, ahem, might have even tried to fall asleep in our middle splits to get our stubbornly stiff inner thighs to let go.
But it turns out that might not actually be how stretching works.
A new review published in the Scandinavian Journal of Science & Medicine in Sports suggests that increased flexibility actually comes from your brain growing more used to the tension.
"Women are often presented as soft, fragile little creatures in ballet," says Léonore Baulac. "We're not." The Paris Opéra Ballet's newest female étoile is discussing her unease at some of the 19th-century narratives she portrays. "It was real acting," she says with a laugh of La Sylphide. "James kills her by taking away her wings, yet she tells him not to worry and goes to die elsewhere onstage!"
Sitting in the canteen of the Palais Garnier, Baulac embodies some of ballet's contradictions in the 21st century. With her fair curls and dainty features, she could easily pass for a little girl's fantasy princess. As Juliet, she exuded a girlish ardor that felt entirely natural; her reservations notwithstanding, her Sylphide was committed and carefully Romantic in style.
Yet the 27-year-old is no ingénue. At Garnier that day, her sweater reads "I can't believe I still have to protest this s**t," a feminist slogan; last winter, Baulac proudly wore it over a Kitri tutu on Instagram. And her repertoire is as thoroughly modern as she is offstage. A versatile performer even by Parisian standards, she is equally at home in Nutcracker as she is in the works of Pina Bausch and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.
With her fearless demeanor onstage, it's easy to see how Washington Ballet apprentice Sarah Steele attracted the keen eye of former American Ballet Theatre stars Julie Kent and Ethan Stiefel. Promoted mid-season from the studio company by artistic director Kent, Steele was cast by Stiefel as the lead in Frontier, his world premiere for The Washington Ballet, this past spring. For the space-themed piece, Steele donned a black-and-white "space suit" onstage, exhibiting dual qualities of strength and grace. Most evocative about Steele's dancing might be her innate intelligence—she was accepted to Harvard on early admission, and plans to resume her studies there in the future. But first, she'll dance.
Lots of college groups do stepping—a form of body percussion based on slapping, tapping and stomping—but Step Afrika! is the first professional dance company to do it. They are currently at New York City's New Victory Theater, presenting The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence, a show based on the painting series by Harlem Renaissance artist Jacob Lawrence about The Great Migration of the 1900s, when millions of African Americans fled the Jim Crow South and traveled by train to the North for a better life. The Great Migration transformed the demographics of the country, and Jacob Lawrence's paintings became famous for their bold color and evocative power.
As we approach Thanksgiving, there's much to be grateful for. Perhaps one of the most important things on your list is dance. Whether you're a full-time company member, an aspiring professional, an audience member, or you simply delight in dancing in your daydreams, this art form is a creative escape.
That's not to say that being a dancer is easy: Pursuing such a competitive career can be heartbreaking, especially when you're faced with rejection.
La Folía, a short dance film by director Adam Grannick that was recently released online, echoes these sentiments in under 12 minutes.
It took two years of intense nutrition counseling and psychotherapy to pull me out of being anorexic. My problem now is that I've gained too much weight from eating normally. Is there no middle ground? I can't fit into my clothes, but I don't want to go back to being sick.
—Former Anorexic, Weston, CT