2012 25 to Watch

 

Who's caught our eye for 2012

 

Photo of Rachel Van Buskirk by Matthew Karas.

 

 

Ana Lopez

The beauty of Ana Lopez’s dancing is that there is nothing extraneous or decorative about it, yet she invariably becomes a mesmerizing presence onstage. She draws you into her orbit with her scrubbed-clean technique and her supremely quiet, intensely focused attack. A member of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago since 2008, the dark-eyed, catlike 30-year-old dancer always seems to have some slightly mysterious interior weather permeating her interpretations. And she manages to adapt her restrained yet wholly concentrated way of moving to the playfully sensual work of resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo, the lyrical flow of Nacho Duato’s dances, or the eerie angularity of a work like Jirí Kylián’s 27’52’’. Born in A Coruña, Spain, Lopez performed with Joven Ballet Carmen Roche, Compañía Nacional de Danza 2, and Ballet Theater Munich before coming to Chicago. She will be dancing in Sharon Eyal’s Too Beaucoup and Alonzo King’s Subtle Current Upstream (March 15–18), as well as in Cerrudo’s Malditos and Ohad Naharin’s Three to Max (May 17–20), during Hubbard Street’s engagements at Chicago’s Harris Theater. —Hedy Weiss

 

Photo by Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy HSDC.

 

 

Caleb Teicher

Watching Caleb Teicher’s fluidity, precision, and insouciant charisma, it’s difficult to fathom that he might not have pursued dance if not for an all-boys’ tap class offered by Jennifer Dell. “I was too terrified at 10 to go into a class with all girls,” he says. But tap dance he does, with a gyroscopic ease and panache that belie his 18 years, evoking his inspiration Gene Kelly, whom he cites along with teacher/mentor David Rider. The Mahopac, NY–born Teicher has taken the stage with Michelle Dorrance at Danspace Project in New York, where he garnered new fans, and has performed choreography by Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Jason Samuels Smith among others. While a complete natural at tap, he’s not limited to it; he also studies ballet, Horton, jazz/theater, and more in NYC. A 2011 Bessie Award winner for outstanding individual performance, see him do just that in Michelle Dorrance and Adam Metzger’s Stampede at Symphony Space in NYC this month. —Susan Yung

 

Photo by Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Jacob’s Pillow.

 

 

Keenan Kampa

Keenan Kampa is a stunning paradox of star quality. At 5’ 8”, the lithe beauty moves with the efficiency of a ballerina far shorter. And within her delicate, angelic presence lies an edginess and attack—an intrigue worthy of Mona Lisa—that makes her irresistible to watch.


A second-year corps member at Boston Ballet, Kampa first gained public attention four years ago when she left her hometown of Oak Hill, VA, to become one of the first Americans to attend the Vaganova Ballet Academy in Russia. Through her intense three years of classical ballet training there (see “Temple of Technique,” p. 76), Kampa gained the respect of its strict teachers, winning lead roles in the school’s productions of The Nutcracker and Gayane in her final year. Now back in the U.S., 22-year-old Kampa is expanding her classical repertoire with Boston Ballet’s contemporary works and is moving into featured roles. This spring, see her as Queen of the Dryads in Boston Ballet’s Don Quixote at the Boston Opera House. —Ashley Rivers

 

Photo by Gene Schiavone.

 

 

Yonah Acosta

Bloodlines count in the dance world. This should serve Yonah Acosta in good stead given that the gifted 21-year-old is the nephew of Cuban superstar Carlos Acosta.


Even as a boy, cast as a younger version of Carlos in his autobiographical production Tocororo, Yonah stood out alongside—rather than in the shadow of—his famous uncle. He is blessed with Carlos’ long, lean lines, lush technique, and athletic fire. And, in a path similar to the elder Acosta’s, after winning top prizes at international competitions he made the leap from Ballet Nacional de Cuba to English National Ballet.


Joining the company as a first artist in 2011, already Acosta has been promoted to junior soloist with several roles under his belt. These include Ashton’s pas de quatre in Derek Deane’s Swan Lake and, significantly, the titular doomed youth of Le Jeune Homme et la Mort on the first night of ENB’s tribute to the late Roland Petit at the London Coliseum. Acosta is said to have set his sights on Albrecht in Giselle. Talent will out. —Donald Hutera

 

Photo by Amber Hunt, Courtesy ENB.

 

 

August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble

The August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble flexes its supple muscles and claims the spotlight with quicksilver agility, fierce athleticism, finely honed Horton technique, and innate theatricality. “It’s time for Pittsburgh to have a company rooted in black dance traditions,” says artistic director Greer Reed. With her artistic vision, a fellowship grant, and the moxie to persevere, the Ailey II and Dayton Contemporary Dance Company alumna hand-selected “hungry, committed, passionate” dancers and tapped her artistic network for quality works. At its 2010 premiere, the vibrant ensemble impressed in Christopher Huggins’ poignant Mothers of War while powerful James Washington wowed audiences in Antonio Brown’s masterful Solo. The seven-member multiethnic troupe leaped into the professional arena in Darrell Grand Moultrie’s Regality at Manhattan’s SummerStage 2011. This season Sidra Bell, Camille A. Brown, and Kiesha Lalama-White contribute to the expanding repertoire. AWCDE performs at home in January and March and in Cincinnati this June. —Karen Dacko


AWCDE’s Kendra Dennard. Photo by Cassie Kay Rusnak, Courtesy AWCDE.

 

 

Kleber Rebello

Kleber Rebello can rock an audience with multiple pirouettes and steps that ricochet into a grand jeté. The 21-year-old Miami City Ballet soloist hit his irrepressible stride as the Harlequin in Balanchine’s La Sonnambula and the scene-igniting Mercutio in Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet. “Everyone says I’m a jumper, and it’s true—I love fast action onstage,” admits this Rio de Janeiro native, an apprentice just two years ago. “But I also get into deep emotion.” For Rebello, who trained at Escola de Dança Spinelli and Companhia Brasileira de Ballet before coming to the Miami City Ballet School, perfecting neoclassical technique has involved an artistic growth spurt he calls radical. This let him reach into his soul for a haunting Melancholic in The Four Temperaments when MCB took Paris by storm last summer. The dancer will keep aiming for both heart and humor when Giselle’s peasant pas de deux and Franz in Coppélia come up for him this season, along with a Liam Scarlett world premiere, at Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami-Dade, the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, and the Kravis Center in Palm Beach. —Guillermo Perez

 

Photo by Kyle Froman, Courtesy MCB.

 

 

Courtney D. Jones

Courtney D. Jones carries the party inside her, so much so that one just wants to follow her offstage. Wiry and muscular, yet feminine, her body has a story to tell. “There’s something rough around the edges to my dancing,” admits Jones. “When I am approaching movement, I want to be honest. I try not to dance the part, but to be the part.” After four seasons with Jennifer Muller/The Works and a national tour in the ensemble of Wicked, Jones relocated to her hometown, Houston, where she dances with Jane Weiner’s Hope Stone Dance. Her musical theater background makes a good fit for Weiner’s humanistic dances. With the dynamic edge of an Ailey dancer, Jones pushes beyond the dimensions of the shape and invites the viewer to go on the journey with her. Her face stays engaged as if she’s talking directly to the audience, not with words but a narrative conviction. When she’s not teaching at Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, you can catch Jones in Weiner’s la vie a pleines dents, which runs this month. —Nancy Wozny

 

Photo by Simon Gentry, Courtesy Hope Stone.

 


Anna Tikhomirova

In a canary-yellow tutu, Anna Tikhomirova springs across the stage, devouring the space with fully stretched jetés in the first variation of Act III of Don Quixote. The newly named soloist with the Bolshoi Ballet seems to hover in space, landing momentarily only to bounce right up again. Her balances are impressive too, as are her pristine technique and fleet footwork. But it is Tikhomirova’s natural joie de vivre that reaches right out into the audience and makes them sit up and take note.


The daughter of a dancer, Tikhomirova studied at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. There, her natural talent was quickly spotted, and she was given leading roles in school productions. When she joined the company in 2004, it was initially a shock to find that she had to start from the beginning again. But her hard work won recognition. After performing soloist parts as a corps member, like her high-flying Folly in the Sergei Vikharev re-creation of Petipa’s Coppélia and her effervescent nymph in Asaf Messerer’s Spring Waters, she was promoted last September. Look for her when the Bolshoi comes to the Kennedy Center in DC, the Sony Centre in Toronto, and the Music Center in L.A. in May and June. —Margaret Willis

 

Photo by E. Fetisova, Courtesy Bolshoi.

 

 

Micah Moch

While watching Lula Washington Dance Theatre’s killer dancers on their May–June China tour, my eye repeatedly strayed to Micah Moch. In Rennie Harris’ weighty Reign, Moch spread hot-buttered soul ‘round the stage. His kung-fu leaps froze in midair; his duck walks scrambled impossibly low to the ground. In Christopher Huggins’ acrobatic Love is …, even the Chinese audience’s nonstop chatter failed to interrupt his attention on his partner, Lynet’ Shigg. But what elevates Moch from good to great is his way of assembling steps while rendering transitions invisible.


Born in Hollywood, the 24-year-old is the product of Washington’s dance academy, as well as The Ailey School. He’s clocked Russia, China, Mexico, and Brazil mileage on the LWDT tour bus. Assisting Washington on Avatar, he helped create and capture movement to animate the Na’vi tribesmen. A ballet buff, Moch swings easily between concert and commercial worlds. He’s also a burgeoning filmmaker. Moch appears with choreographer Tiffany Billings at North Hollywood’s El Portal Theatre this spring. —Debra Levine

 

Photo by Djeneba Aduayom, Courtesy Moch.

 

 

tEEth

Whether they’re hacking a stage to pieces with an axe, frolicking in a trough of green slime, or grappling their way, nude, through the complexities of relationships, the Portland, OR–based contemporary dance collective tEEth is one to watch. Founded in 2006 by choreographer Angelle Hebert and composer Phillip Kraft, tEEth employs a rotating cast of skilled dancers to perform pieces with visual and emotional punch. Hebert and Kraft layer well-constructed, deftly performed choreography with wildly imaginative sets and costumes, live and recorded original music, and real-time video. The dances integrate pedestrian movement into solos, duets, and ensemble pieces that articulate concepts ranging from intimacy to alienation. For this, tEEth nabbed a $10,000 prize at the 2011 A.W.A.R.D. Show! at On the Boards in Seattle. This month the company debuts at Portland’s White Bird series, along with such long-established troupes as Pilobolus and Lar Lubovitch Dance Company. —Heather Wisner

 

Photo by Aaron Rogosin, Courtesy tEEth.

 

 

Courtney Muscroft

Sammy Davis Jr. crooned “Bye, Bye Blackbird” as BalletMet Columbus dancer Courtney Muscroft sauntered alluringly toward center stage. With runway model looks and Balanchine-style facility, she commanded attention. Just as quickly as that image took hold, she replaced it with that of a crazed woman lashing out at the world. Muscroft’s schizophrenic character in Darrell Grand Moultrie’s Simply Sammy in 2010 showed her to be a performer blessed with much more than physical attributes.


“A lot of people have natural gifts,” says BalletMet artistic director Gerard Charles. “She can actually make those gifts speak for her in different ways.”


This past season in 7 Deadly Sins, Muscroft showed she can be vulnerable as well, brilliantly portraying a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage in Amy Seiwert’s “Envy.”

 

The versatile Muscroft, schooled at Columbus Youth Ballet and the School of American Ballet, spent three years with New York City Ballet before returning to her native Columbus to join BalletMet. In her third season, the 24-year-old can be seen in Jazz Moves Columbus, Feb. 2–12, at the Capital Theatre in Columbus, OH. —Steve Sucato

 

Photo by Catherine Proctor.

 

 

Danielle Rowe

Houston Ballet’s newest principal, Danielle Rowe, is a modern version of an old-fashioned ballerina. Queenly without added pretension, Rowe possesses an understated regal quality without the heavy dust of nostalgia. In Ben Stevenson’s Sleeping Beauty, her Lilac Fairy oozed fresh sparkle. In Wheeldon’s Rush, her true colors came forth. Rowe understands Wheeldon’s potent use of geometrical shape as a pause, charged with purpose, never stagnant. “Rush allowed me to cultivate my ability to highlight shapes amidst movement,” says Rowe, who joined HB last February after 10 years with The Australian Ballet. “I discovered the significance of stillness and its ability to give greater depth to my dancing.” There’s always a sense of proportion in her movement, a just-enough-ness that locks our eyes onto her. She exudes such a sense of clarity that there appears to be more space around her. Her crisp attack and immaculate technique are added pluses. Expect to see her in Stanton Welch’s new ballet, his Cinderella, and Stevenson’s Romeo & Juliet at the Wortham Theater Center this season. —Nancy Wozny

 

Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy HB.

 

 

Tzveta Kassabova

A tornado of ecstatic momentum sweeping across the stage; mile-long limbs both spastic and metered; a mess of dark curls the last to hit the ground as her body turns ragdoll-like. Tzveta Kassabova’s movement quality is surreal, as if Salvador Dali himself painted her into existence. The Bulgarian-born gymnast-turned-meteorologist-turned dancer/choreographer/designer is a prolific maker and mover. She spent several years in NYC performing with David Dorfman and others before settling back in DC, where she currently teaches, dances with Pearson Widrig Dance Theater, and creates her own work. She often builds non-conventional sets—like the circular stage where dancers and audience members can interact in her Where Colors Blend into Sound. Her scientific background shines through in her choreography—in The Opposite of Killing, her dancers test various velocities, momentums, and trajectories. This month, Kassabova will premiere a collaboration with theater director Naoko Maeshiba at Dance Place. And as a 2011–12 resident artist at American Dance Institute, she’ll premiere a new work in May. —Emily Macel Theys

 

Photo by Don Atreides, Courtesy Kassabova.

 

 

Marlon Taylor-Wiles

He yanks his partner, drops into a split, strides across the floor, and then, all soft and sensual, grazes his face on her bare midriff. In his third season with Armitage Gone! Dance, Marlon Taylor-Wiles has all the defiance and technical chops that are required of a Karole Armitage ballet like Three Theories. He also has an intriguingly plush way of moving through what Armitage calls (drawing from Einstein) “the warping and twisting of the space-time fabric.” There’s softness in his power.


Taylor-Wiles trained at the Margo Marshall School of Ballet in Houston and graduated from that city’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. He attended Boston Conservatory on full scholarship, while also dancing in BalletRox’s Urban Nutcracker, which mixes ballet with tap, hip hop, and jazz. Other extracurricular notches on his belt: dancing in a Beyoncé music video and modeling for Elle Italia and i-D Magazine.


After spending the fall touring Europe, the company goes to the Byham Theater in Pittsburgh March 3, MCA in Chicago April 26–28, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco May 18–19. —Wendy Perron

 

Photo by Hannah Newbery, Courtesy Taylor-Wiles.

 

 

Brooklyn Mack

Brooklyn Mack soars onto the Kennedy Center stage, gliding aloft for countable seconds. As the slave Ali in The Washington Ballet’s Le Corsaire, he flew through his manège before whipping out an applause-reaping, 540-degree spinning rivoltade. While physically gifted, Mack packs more than a dance bag of virtuosic tricks. His pure Vaganova technique and developing sense of character shine no matter what the role.


Raised in Elgin, SC, Mack saw a gala put on by Radenko Pavlovich, the director of the Columbia Classical Ballet, on a field trip and asked his mom for ballet lessons—initially to improve his football game. Speed and agility on the field made him a powerhouse in the studio. Invited to Washington, DC, to study on scholarship at the Kirov Academy of Ballet, Mack fell hard for the classics. This February he dances in TWB’s all-Tharp program at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater.


A holdover from his football days, competitions still ignite the dancer. He’s medaled at Jackson and Helsinki, and was invited to dance at a gala in Moscow through last year’s Boston International Ballet Competition. One day, Mack dreams of performing at The Royal Ballet. In the meantime, “My goal is to inspire someone, especially underprivileged young people, every time I go out onstage—much like I was inspired.” —Lisa Traiger


Photo by Steve Vaccariello, Courtesy TWB.

 

 

Katherine Williams

When Coppélia’s friends pirouetted behind her during American Ballet Theatre’s production last summer, one face among them glowed with unforced sweetness. No matter how familiar the ballet, corps member Katherine Williams approaches each role as though the steps were new and the moment real.


Williams joined the company in 2008, after a brief stint in ABT II. Her initial training was at the Ballet Royale Institute in Columbia, MD. She gained discipline and technical strength from the strict, Russian-heavy program, and competing at Youth America Grand Prix eventually brought her a scholarship to ABT’s JKO School. Williams’ classical foundation has given her the stamina to handle the company’s most traditional ballets with aplomb. Her favorite role to date has been as one of the tall girls in La Bayadère’s pas d’action—“It’s 15 minutes straight of jumping; you’re completely exposed”—though she also loves Ratmansky’s The Bright Stream. “His movement opens you up,” she says. “You think more about how steps meld together.”


Watch her be dragged into the mysterious workshop of Dr. Coppelius, her limbs trembling with fear. Or melt into the lilting strains of Delibes’ charming score, a pretty girl in a village square, somewhere in a Bohemian never-neverland. It’s wholehearted dancing that makes Williams stand out. See her in La Bayadère at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, Feb. 2–5. —Hanna Rubin

 

Photo by Rosalie O’Connor, Courtesy ABT.

 

 

Lil Buck

Suspended momentarily on the toe of a fresh pair of kicks, Charles “Lil Buck” Riley plunges into a deep plié. He then pirouettes from his knee all the way up onto the tips of his toes, right on a stirring high note of Saint-Saëns’ The Swan. He rolls through his feet with liquid smoothness, his arms rippling, skating across the stage’s surface.


The Memphis-born dancer, 23, is blazing a path to make jookin’, the Memphis-born style of street dance, a worldwide phenomenon (see “Balletic Breakin’,” p. 90). While his flowing moves are entirely his own, he studied ballet for two years at Memphis’ New Ballet Ensemble and School. In 2010, he appeared with Janelle Monáe in her funky Tightrope music video, and last year he was the lead hamster in the hilarious “Party Rock Anthem” Kia Soul commercial.


The video that launched him into the dance stratosphere was a fluke. Director Spike Jonze happened to be at a benefit for arts in schools, and captured Lil Buck doing his Dying Swan (which was developed at NBE) to Yo-Yo Ma’s beautiful cello rendition. “Three days after he posted it on YouTube, 500,000 hits. It was like, Yo!” Lil Buck says, laughing. “I’m my own worst critic, and I actually wasn’t comfortable with the shoes I was wearing. It was a shock.”


Damian Woetzel, who introduced Lil Buck and Ma (the pair now perform together regularly), invited Lil Buck, with two members of his New Styles Krew, to the Vail International Dance Festival as an artist in residence last summer. See Lil Buck back at Vail this August. —Kina Poon

 

Photo ©Erin Baiano, Courtesy VIDF.

 

 

Carrie Hanson

Chicago choreographer Carrie Hanson has it all: a probing mind, a social conscience, and a gift for pared-down, abstract dancemaking that nevertheless tells a story. “Infusing meaning into movement—that’s one of my core values,” she says. No navel-gazer, she increasingly sees choreography as “a means to explore and research and think about other topics, relevant to what’s going on around us.” Her 2011 Stupormarket movingly examined our ailing economy. In fall 2012, she’ll collaborate with artist Anna Kunz on a piece about collective will and vision.


Hanson, a Midwestern native, is also drawn to site-specific work. In February, she’ll open the 10th season of her company, The Seldoms, with This Is Not a Dance Concert at Chicago’s multi-tiered Harris Theater. Each audience will be limited to 200 people and be sent in smaller groups to four different stations, including one backstage. “I’m surprised that nothing like this has happened at the Harris before,” Hanson says. “It’s a striking modern building.” To animate the structure, she adds, “I feel we need to be kind of rowdy.” —Laura Molzahn

 

Photo by Kristie Kahns, Courtesy Hanson.

 

 

Price Suddarth

Price Suddarth doesn’t have to reach across the footlights; his clarity and affable confidence pull the audience right to him. “People find him in a line of eight—in the back row,” says Peter Boal, artistic director of Pacific Northwest Ballet. At 21, the new corps member is already the complete package: technique, clean lines, musicality, stage presence, partnering…He knows how to create drama by differentiating between movement and stillness. He knows that nailing four or five pirouettes onstage is fine, but that teasing out the ending or finishing fast with a grin is better. A soft-footed, elastic jumper, he delivers unrushed beats and buoyant leaps. Whether dancing a grand Oberon for a school matinee or premiering a Marco Goecke piece packed with fast isolations, Suddarth is the prince of smooth control. He dances as if to say, “Of course.” This intelligent, versatile young man, Boal says, is ready for anything—including Alexei Ratmansky’s Don Quixote, which PNB performs in February at McCaw Hall. Bring it on! —Rosie Gaynor

 

Photo ©Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

 

 

Beth Gill

As an audience member at Beth Gill’s Electric Midwife last summer, you felt like one of a privileged few. Only 12 seats lined the end of the long, narrow space at The Chocolate Factory Theater, the better for 12 pairs of eyes to feast, sightlines unobstructed, on this spare, crystalline study in symmetry. Six dancers, three on each side of a central aisle, mirrored each other’s geometric poses and pathways, creating patterns that blossomed outward and coiled back in, like a natural wonder or self-propelling machine. Their precision, along with the intimate setup, reflected the exquisite care that Brooklyn-based Gill brings to her craft, a sense of control that doesn’t stifle but rather beckons our curiosity.


With her eye-catching formalism, Gill has been gently teasing the viewer’s perception since 2003, when she graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and began presenting work in New York. Electric Midwife reaffirmed her commitment to the raw materials of contemporary dancemaking—the body, space, time—while showing that she’s not afraid to let her dancers move. At the Bessies in October, she took home the award for “outstanding emerging choreographer” and the new Juried Bessie, chosen by a panel of eminent artists to recognize “the most interesting and exciting ideas happening in dance in New York City today.” So what’s next? “There were doors that were opened in this process, just creaked open, that can stand to be investigated more,” Gill says. In that case—more, please. —Siobhan Burke

 

Photo by Steven Schreiber, Courtesy Gill.

 

Zack Tang

Zack Tang moves with a feline grace, slippery and spring-loaded. Equally at home in ballet, jazz, and contemporary mode, the recent Juilliard graduate can slink fluidly through an adagio—then stop short, coil, and pounce on a staccato phrase. He fits right in with the big cats of Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, which he joined last fall.


But for Tang, who began his studies at a local studio in Houston before getting serious at the city’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, dance is philosophical as well as physical. “I’m actually most inspired by words and writings about dance,” he says. “My teachers at Juilliard opened new worlds to me with the way they talked about movement.” That intellectual curiosity drew him to the famously eloquent King. “Alonzo has an elegant, particular way of describing things,” Tang says. “Every word is considered, but he still leaves the dancer room to interpret.” Catch Tang on tour with LINES, and at the company’s San Francisco season at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in April. —Margaret Fuhrer

 

Photo by RJ Muna, Courtesy LINES.

 

 

Rachel Van Buskirk

The glimmer in her eyes and flash in her footwork ignite passion in Rachel Van Buskirk’s audiences, whether she’s dazzling them as a coquettish can-can starlet, or stirring them to their feet through Helen Pickett’s sensual, tactile choreography. No matter the role, Van Buskirk imbues it with musical and emotional spontaneity.


“She has a spiritual dimension, an aura of exuberance that’s compelling,” says Atlanta Ballet artistic director John McFall. “Her whole soul sparkles through her eyes.” The Vancouver native’s soft, fiery, almond eyes recall Margot Fonteyn’s.


With jumps that lick upward like flames and descend like feathers, Van Buskirk, at 26, is poised to burst into the limelight. As a fifth-year company member, she’ll have opportunities to shine this spring in an array of challenging works by James Kudelka, Jorma Elo, and Christopher Wheeldon. Catch her at Atlanta’s Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre Feb. 10–19, when she’ll dance in the new ballet Twyla Tharp’s The Princess and the Goblin. —Cynthia Bond Perry

 

Photo by Matthew Karas.

 

Taylor Stanley

There’s something inherently noble about New York City Ballet corps member Taylor Stanley. The elegant expansiveness of his carriage, the crystalline precision of his placement, the easy gallantry of his partnering: He seems born a prince. A native of West Chester, PA, Stanley trained at The Rock School before coming to the School of American Ballet as a teenager. He’s one of the newest members of NYCB, but he had a banner of a debut year, impressing critics with his elegantly understated performance of the lead in Balanchine’s Square Dance (in which he successfully partnered the not-to-be-messed-with Ashley Bouder). During the quiet solo that grounds the otherwise peppy ballet, he danced with the sort of thoughtful, honest expressiveness that usually eludes all but the most experienced performers—and showed off his luxuriously pliant back. The NYCB repertoire may be prince-poor, but in a way it’s more thrilling to watch Stanley glide regally through Balanchine’s leotard ballets, wearing his invisible crown. See him onstage in Wheeldon’s Polyphonia during NYCB’s winter season, which opens this month at the David H. Koch Theater. —Margaret Fuhrer

 

Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB, ©Balanchine Trust.

 

 

Eun Jung Choi

Eun Jung Choi’s restless appetite to learn more and experience the new has kept her moving around the globe. Diving into evolving dance forms and media, she makes work that’s conceptually smart, physically exploratory, and virtuosically performed. Fresh out of the North Carolina School of the Arts, with a background in traditional dance from her native Korea, Choi’s lithe elegance and gutsiness landed her a spot in the Limón Dance Company. But visa troubles intervened and she wound up immersed in downtown New York dance and earned a master’s in interactive telecommunications.


Now based in Philadelphia, Choi integrates technology with dance in organic ways. She goes for the visceral, the animalistic. With her Mexican husband, Guillermo Ortega Tanus, she performs goofy and ever-so-human duets, strong on intricate partnering and playful visual surrounds. We’ll see how these interests collide in her newest work for five of Philly’s most intriguing dancers, which she’ll show in progress in March at the Second Thursdays series of the Live Arts Brewery, where she’s a Fellow for the 2011–12 season. —Lisa Kraus

 

Photo by Johanna Austin, Courtesy Choi.

 


Gustavo Ramírez Sansano

It has been two years since Gustavo Ramírez Sansano, now 33, was named artistic director of Luna Negra Dance Theater, one of Chicago’s preeminent Latin-infused ensembles. It can be tricky to replace a founding director (Eduardo Vilaro now heads Ballet Hispanico), but Sansano knew exactly how he wanted to reshape the company, and arrived with many of his initiatives already approved. Born in San Fulgencio, Spain, this former dancer sees Luna Negra in international terms, with Latin culture as a multifaceted global phenomenon. Before coming to Chicago, he performed with several Spanish companies and Nederlands Dans Theater II; co-founded TITOYA Dance Project in Valencia, Spain; and worked as a freelance choreographer in Europe. He has brought outstanding new dancers from Spain, Chile, Italy, the United States and elsewhere into the company. And in addition to his own work (particularly Toda Una Vida, a ferocious duet inspired by his parents’ marriage), he quickly impressed with his gift for crafting mixed-rep programs of works by dancemakers with Latin roots and a sophisticated sense of design. The man has a vision—one that will be on view March 24 at Chicago’s Harris Theater, when CARMEN.maquia, his Picasso-inspired contemporary take on the Spanish gypsy, has its world premiere. —Hedy Weiss

 

Photo by Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Luna Negra.

Lopez in Circus Polka. PC Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy MCB

When Miami City Ballet artistic director Lourdes Lopez was a principal dancer at New York City Ballet, she missed her opportunity to honor Jerome Robbins onstage. "Every time there was a celebration for Jerry, I was either injured or had just retired," says Lopez. "I was never able to publicly thank him onstage for all that he taught us and the beauty he left us."

But when Lopez was planning MCB's Jerome Robbins Celebration for the 100th anniversary of the legend's birth, she saw an opportunity. She asked the Robbins Trust to allow her to perform the Ringmaster in Robbins' Circus Polka, a role the choreographer originated himself.

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Matthew Neenan used images of silencing and control in let mortal tongues awake. Photo by Bill Herbert.

From coast to coast, choreographers have spent the first year of Donald Trump's presidency responding to the impact of his election and what it means for them as artists.

New York City's Dante Brown used rubber Trump masks in his work Package (revamped), which examines the monstrosities of power.

A video titled "Dancers vs. Trump Quotes" went viral last summer, showing dancers taking Trump's "locker-room" talk to task.

Alexis Convento, lead curator of the New York City–based Current Sessions, dedicated a whole program to the concept of resistance, while educator and interdisciplinary artist Jill Sigman has initiated a workshop called "Body Politic, Somatic Selves," as a space for movement research around questions of support, activism and solidarity.

In San Francisco, choreographer Margaret Jenkins facilitated a panel of artists about the role of activism within their work.

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Breaking Stereotypes
Ash in Rochester, NY. PC Thaler Photography by Arleen and Daryl Thaler for the Swan Dreams Project

Growing up in inner city Rochester, NY, Aesha Ash was just one of the neighborhood kids. She'd imagine people driving by, judging her by her black skin.

"They'd never know that I was dreaming of becoming a professional ballet dancer. No one would think, Some day she's going to make it into New York City Ballet," says Ash.

After an inspiring career at NYCB, Béjart's Ballet Lausanne and LINES, the January 2006 Dance Magazine cover star—one of our 25 to Watch that year—is no longer performing. But she's determined to use her dance background to change the stereotypes and misconceptions that people—including black people—have about women of color. "I want to show it's okay to embrace our softer side, and let the world know we're multidimensional," says Ash.

Aesha Ash in Richmond, CA. PC Renee Scott via swandreamsproject.org

In 2011, she launched the Swan Dreams Project to inspire kids in the community she grew up in. The original idea was to post images of herself in a tutu all over Rochester. "I remember growing up and in the bodega you'd see images of girls in bikinis on motorbikes," says Ash. "I wanted to replace those with photos that show women of color in a different light."

She knew the power imagery can have: She still remembers what it felt like as a student at the School of American Ballet to see a photo of black ballet dancer Andrea Long. "That image was everything on days when I was feeling disenchanted. I'd see that picture of her, and know that the struggles I was going through, she went through them, too."

Ash soon realized she didn't have the budget to fund her original plan ("I never realized how expensive a bus stop advertisement is!"). But she's made the images available through an online store, and often simply gives away prints at her own expense to schools and students in need of some inspiration.

Any proceeds she makes from the sales go directly to other organizations that are working to expand ballet in diverse communities. One large donation even led to a pointe shoe fund at dancer Robyn Gardenhire's City Ballet of Los Angeles school—and it helped one dancer who had quit ballet because of the expense come back to class.

Now a mother of two in San Jose, CA, Ash will also start teaching a free after-school ballet class at her daughter's public school next month. "I recently taught at Girls Inc. in Oakland, and one of the little black girls said, 'Are you the ballet teacher?' She just stood there, staring at me with her mouth open, like a unicorn had just walked into the room," Ash says. "You never know the impact you can have just by being a presence."

If you're interested in supporting the project, check out the online shop, or donate directly at swandreamsproject.org.

Training
Sylvie Guillem, via 1843magazine.com

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Courtesy of The Beautiful Mind Series

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Courtesy of The Beautiful Mind Series

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Abraham.In.Motion performing "Drive." Photo by Ian Douglas.

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Tero Saarinen's Morphed. Photo by Darya Popova, Courtesy Helene Davis Public Relations

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Rant & Rave
PC Break the Floor

Two competition routines are equal in technical proficiency, artistry and choreography. One consists of all girls, the other includes a boy. Guess which takes home first prize?

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"If it's all technically equal and one group is all girls and the other group has a boy, the one with the boy will win," says Rysa Childress, owner of All Star Studios in Forest Hills, New York. "Boy soloists are sometimes scored higher than more technically proficient girls because if a boy has good stage presence, we let him slide," says an anonymous competition judge. "And most of the feedback will be for the boy."

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Roberto Bolle and Kenall Jenner on set. Photo via tods.com

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Training
Anne Arundel Community College students, PC Kenneth Harriford

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