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10 Minutes With Misty Copeland and Brooklyn Mack
Misty Copeland and Brooklyn Mack as Odette/Odile and Prince Siegfried. Photo by Theo Kossenas, Courtesy The Washington Ballet.
In April, The Washington Ballet will present Swan Lake in full for the first time in the company’s 70-year history. The performance has already made headlines because American Ballet Theatre’s Misty Copeland will dance Odette/Odile with The Washington Ballet’s Brooklyn Mack as her Prince Siegfried, becoming the first African American duo to lead the classically white ballet at a major U.S. company. Copeland first performed the role with ABT in Australia last summer, but will make her stateside debut in two shows with The Washington Ballet, April 8–12, at the Kennedy Center.
What did you think of these roles growing up?
Misty Copeland: I never imagined myself as Odette/Odile. As I got older and performed Little Swans—my first role when I joined ABT’s corps—the ballet came to have a special place in my heart. But still, I thought even if I became a principal, this part might not be given to me because no one like me had done it before.
So do you see this as a momentous occasion?
MC: I try to preach against limiting yourself because you don’t see yourself represented, but that’s what ballet culture has done to minority dancers. When I found out that this was really happening, it was a shock.
Brooklyn Mack: I feel very strongly about exposing minorities and underprivileged youth to the arts. Art is important to everybody. It is vital to humanity. I feel it is my duty to impart that.
What do you hope will happen as a result of your dancing together?
MC: The special thing about doing this in DC is that Septime Webre, Washington Ballet’s artistic director, has a relationship with the Boys & Girls Clubs, which is where I took my first ballet class. He has already been out in the community doing the work. So this is not just a gimmick. It will speak directly to these communities and kids. A child might have more confidence to try ballet because they saw us in the media.
Does this mean we don’t have to worry so much about race in ballet?
BM: Our partnership will hopefully begin opening the eyes of some people who have prejudices and help them break those barriers.
MC: As much as it’s been talked about recently, my hope is that it is just the beginning of the conversation. This is a world that is slow to progress and change.
Have you been able to find chemistry with each other?
BM: Misty is really easy to get along with, so it is easy for us to be on the same page. I knew we had to do this ballet together.
MC: I have known Brooklyn since he was in the ABT Studio Company, and we have done gigs alongside each other, but this was our first time as partners. He is an excellent partner, which takes the pressure off and helps me save energy for variations. But most importantly, there is a mutual understanding and bond that existed before we started dancing. We share the responsibility to have a voice and represent, and that has led to an organic chemistry.
When the curtain closes on Swan Lake, what’s next?
BM: There are a number of roles I would love to tackle: MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet, Manon and The Sleeping Beauty, plus more Jirí Kylián and William Forsythe work.
MC: I just want to be better in the roles I have been given. I want to prove to myself that I am growing artistically and technically. I have to start preparing myself for Juliet even though I am in this new Swan Lake world. I have one show of Romeo and Juliet this summer and though it is a lot of pressure, I am going to try to just enjoy the process.
Whether playing a saucy soubrette or an imperious swan, Irina Dvorovenko was always a formidable presence on the American Ballet Theatre stage. Since her 2013 retirement at 39, after 16 seasons, she's been bringing that intensity to an acting career in roles ranging from, well, Russian ballerinas to the Soviet-era newcomer she plays in the FX spy series "The Americans."
We caught up with her after tech rehearsal for the Encores! presentation of the musical Grand Hotel, directed and choreographed by Josh Rhodes and running March 21–25 at New York City Center. It's another tempestuous ballerina role for Dvorovenko—Elizaveta Grushinskaya, on her seventh farewell tour, resentfully checks into the Berlin hostelry of the title with her entourage, only to fall for a handsome young baron and sing "Bonjour, Amour."
When Andrew Montgomery first saw the Las Vegas hit Le Rêve - The Dream 10 years ago, he knew he had to be a part of the show one day. Eight years later, he auditioned, and made it to the last round of cuts. On his way home, still waiting to hear whether he'd been cast, he was in a motorcycle accident that ended up costing him half his leg.
But Montgomery's story doesn't end the way you might think. Today, he's a cast member of Le Rêve, where he does acrobatics and aerial work, swims (yes, the show takes places in and around a large pool) and dances, all with his prosthetic leg.
When you spend as much time on the road as The Royal Ballet's Steven McRae, getting access to a proper gym can be a hassle. To stay fit, the Australian-born principal turns to calisthenics—the old-school art of developing aerobic ability and strength with little to no equipment.
"It's basically just using your own body weight," McRae explains. "In terms of partnering, I'm not going to dance with a ballerina who is bigger than me, so if I can sustain my own body weight, then in my head I should be fine."
Last week in a piece I wrote about the drama at English National Ballet, I pointed out that many of the accusations against artistic director Tamara Rojo—screaming at dancers, giving them the silent treatment, taking away roles without explanation—were, unfortunately, pretty standard practice in the ballet world:
If it's a conversation we're going to have, we can't only point the finger at ENB.
The line provoked a pretty strong response. Professional dancers, students and administrators reached out to me, making it clear that it's a conversation they want to have. Several shared their personal stories of experiencing abusive behavior.
Christopher Hampson, artistic director of the Scottish Ballet, wrote his thoughts about the issue on his company's website on Monday:
Camille A. Brown is on an impressive streak: In October, the Ford Foundation named her an Art of Change fellow. In November, she won an AUDELCO ("Viv") Award for her choreography in the musical Bella: An American Tall Tale. On December 1, her Camille A. Brown & Dancers made its debut at the Kennedy Center, and two days later she was back in New York City to see her choreography in the opening of Broadway's Once on This Island. Weeks later, it was announced that she was choreographing NBC's live television musical Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, to air on April 1.
An extraordinarily private person, few knew that during this time Brown was in the midst of a health crisis. It started with an upset stomach while performing with her company on tour last summer.
"I was drinking ginger ale, thinking that I would feel better," she says. Finally, the pain became so acute that she went to the emergency room in Mississippi. Her appendix had burst. "Until then, I didn't know it was serious," she says. "I'm a dancer—aches and pains don't keep you from work."
A flock of polyamorous princes, a chorus of queer dying swans, a dominatrix witch: These are a few of the characters that populate the works of Katy Pyle, who, with her Brooklyn-based company Ballez, has been uprooting ballet's gender conventions since 2011.
Historically, ballet has not allowed for the expression of lesbian, transgender or gender-nonconforming identities. With Ballez, Pyle is reinventing the classical canon on more inclusive terms. Her work stems from a deep love of ballet and, at the same time, a frustration with its limits on acceptable body types and on the stories it traditionally tells.
The latest fitness fad has us literally buzzing. Vibrating tools—and exercise classes—promise added benefits to your typical workout and recovery routine, and they're only growing more popular.
Warning: These good vibrations don't come cheap.
My life is in complete chaos since my dance company disbanded. I have a day job, so money isn't the issue. It's the loss of my world that stings the most. What can I do?
—Lost Career, Washington, DC
Dance Theatre of Harlem is busy preparing for the company's Vision Gala on April 4. The works on the program, which takes place on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., reflect on the legacy of Dr. King and his impact on company founder Arthur Mitchell. Among them is the much-anticipated revival of legendary choreographer Geoffrey Holder's Dougla, which will include live music and dancers from Collage Dance Collective.
We stepped into the studio with Holder's wife Carmen de Lavallade and son Leo Holder to hear what it feels like to keep Holder's legacy alive and what de Lavallade thinks of the recent rise in kids standing up against the government—as she did not too long ago.
The encounter with man-eating female creatures in Jerome Robbins' The Cage never fails to shock audiences. As this tribe of insects initiates the newly-born Novice into their community and prepares her for the attack of the male Intruders, the ballet draws us into a world of survival and instinct.
This year celebrates the 100th anniversary of Jerome Robbins' birth, and a number of Robbins programs are celebrating his timeless repertoire. But it especially feels like a prime moment to experience The Cage again. Several companies are performing it: San Francisco Ballet begins performances on March 20, followed by the English National Ballet in April and New York City Ballet in May.
Why it matters: In this time of female empowerment—as women are supporting one another in vocalizing injustices, demanding fair treatment and pay, and advocating for future generations—The Cage's nest of dominant women have new significance.