A Trans-Atlantic Breeze Is Blowing in Ballet
When I went to Jacob’s Pillow a couple weekends ago, I saw two small, adventurous companies: Daniil Simkin’s Intensio and Gauthier Dance//Dance Company Theaterhaus Stuttgart. They are led by two young men who crossed the Atlantic—in opposite directions—to create their careers. Daniil Simkin came from Germany and Vienna to join American Ballet Theatre in 2008, and Eric Gauthier left Montreal to join the Stuttgart Ballet in 1996. Both are charismatic dancers, though Gauthier didn’t perform with his company at the Pillow. And while Daniil still dances with ABT, Eric has left Stuttgart Ballet to direct his company full time.
Both of these young directors are tapping into a vein of contemporary European choreography. I can see why. It just happens that most of today’s creators in contemporary ballet are from Europe. In looking for a reason, I would say it’s possibly because Europe has a longer tradition of mixing ballet and modern dance. Think of Glen Tetley, Jirí Kylián, Roland Petit and Mats Ek. They all combine the groundedness of modern dance with the line of ballet, the deep work in the spine with musicality.
Intensio's Céline Cassone and Daniil Simkin in Islands of Memories by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. Photo by Morah Geist.
Finnish dancemaker Jorma Elo, who is resident choreographer at Boston Ballet, is a great example of the cross-pollination between Europe and the U.S. He could be called a disciple of Kylián and Ek, yet his works have given a shot of adrenaline to many American companies. His trio for Intensio, titled Nocturne/Etude/Prelude, is both classical and playful. Departing from his usual manic pace, Elo gives the dancers time to absorb the movement and understand their relationships. He explored the trio possibilities beautifully, using nifty surprises sparingly. Dancing with Simkin and James Whiteside, Isabella Boylston's dancing flowed like a liquid framed by two solids.
Simkin and the Stage by Alexander Ekman. Photo by Christopher Duggan.
Later in his program, Simkin teamed up with the brilliant Swedish renegade Alexander Ekman—again. The title, Simkin and the Stage (Part Two of Simkin and the City from YouTube), sent me to the internet to see what the two had cooked up last year. For a funny slant on how ballet strikes the uninitiated, check out their first collaboration, "Simkin and the City." But the new piece stands on its own, particularly the parts where Simkin (on tape) talks about growing up dancing with his father and being trained by his mother. We see projections of Daniil’s tender boyhood face, full of determination, with a simultaneous video loop of him spinning in endless à la seconde turns.
Maurus Gauthier in Eric Gauthier's Ballet 101. Photo by Christopher Duggan.
I also appreciated the humor in Gauthier Dance’s program. Every one of the seven short pieces had a quick wit and playfulness. Works by Johan Inger (Sweden), Po-Cheng Tsai (Taiwan), and Cayetano Soto (Spain) played with gender roles in bold ways. But my favorite was Eric Gauthier’s madcap solo Ballet 101. Like Ekman’s piece for Simkin, it deconstructs the ballet vocabulary to delightful effect. The eager soloist, performed by the wonderfully elastic Maurus Gauthier (no relation), stretches, jumps, kneels and twists, all to a voice on tape demanding that he perform certain numbered positions. He runs himself ragged trying to comply. We feel for him yet are thrilled by positions that get closer and closer to the impossible. Maurus Gauthier’s willingness and goofy exasperation win us over.
Concert dance can sometimes get bogged down in the seriousness of proving that it’s art. But during the third week in July, a new lightness broke through this solemnity. Kudos to Jacob’s Pillow for bringing in these obstreperous go-getters.
Booking a gig on a cruise ship can feel like you're diving into the unknown—dropping everything to live in the middle of the ocean without family, friends or cell service. But cruise jobs can also offer incredible rewards, like traveling the world for free and delving into a new style.
Is ship life the right fit for you? Here are some elements to consider.
We knew that New York downtown dance darling Okwui Okpokwasili was a big deal. Critics and audiences have been raving about her dance-theater works for years, and the new documentary about her, Bronx Gothic, has attracted the attention of the larger arts community.
But never in our wildest dreams did we imagine she'd show up in a Jay Z video, along with flex dancer Storyboard P. Though we're slightly less surprised to see Storyboard in Jay Z's "4:44" video than we were to see Okpokwasili, we're jazzed that two of our favorites are featured on such a huge platform. (We're also feeling #blessed that we didn't have to subscribe to Tidal to watch this.)
Throughout the years, choreographer Seán Curran has worked with a diverse array of talented collaborators—from Kyrgyz music ensemble Ustatshakirt Plus to the the Grammy Award–winning King's Singers. But perhaps none are as meaningful as his most recent group of co-choreographers: At-risk teens from the after school program and nonprofit The Wooden Floor.
Curran has been in residence with The Wooden Floor since June, where he's worked with students to build choreography based on their lives and communities:
Their creation will be shown July 20-22 at The Wooden Floor Studio Theatre in Santa Ana, California.
"Besides the stage, baking is my other happy place," says New York City Ballet corps member Jenelle Manzi.
Four years ago, she thought her baking days were over when she was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. Manzi had been dealing with pain, frequent illness and joint inflammation for nearly 10 years. Once she cut out gluten, Manzi gradually started to feel better, noticing a transformation in how her body felt and functioned. She found her joints were less inflamed, and she got sick less often.
New York City Ballet soloist Unity Phelan and American Ballet Theatre soloist Cassandra Trenary spend every day making their hard work look effortless and graceful both in the studio and onstage. That's exactly what makes them the perfect spokesmodels for the dance-inspired activewear line, Belle Force.
To celebrate our 90th anniversary, we excavated some of our favorite hidden gems from the DM Archives—images that capture a few of the moments in time we've documented over the decades.
This image was captured during a 1978 New York City Ballet tour that took the company to Copenhagen—home turf for Adam Luders (right), who trained at the Royal Danish Ballet School and briefly danced with the company before joining NYCB as a principal dancer in 1975. Next to Luders is (of course) George Balanchine, in conversation with ballerina Suzanne Farrell. And looking on with a smile? NYCB's current ballet master in chief Peter Martins.
On March 8, 2016, Rami Shafi found himself inspired to film an impromptu dance video of his best friend, Aaron Moses Robin, improvising on Gay St. in New York City's Greenwich Village. Thus was born Pedestrian Wanderlust, a collection of dance videos that has grown to include a monthly improv jam.
Shafi works with anyone who wants to take part in the project, filming videos in locations chosen by the dancers and later adding music. The videos are shot on Shafi's iPhone in one take and, other than the starting and ending points, are entirely improvised. The editing afterwards—including the music choice—is minimal. "I don't like to edit too much. It's just what it is," says Shafi. "I usually can do the editing on the train ride home."