- The Latest
- Breaking Stereotypes
- Rant & Rave
- Dance As Activism
- Dancers Trending
- Viral Videos
- The Dancer's Toolkit
- Health & Body
- Dance Training
- Career Advice
- Style & Beauty
- Dance Auditions
- Guides & Resources
- Performance Calendar
- College Guide
- Dance Magazine Awards
- Meet The Editors
- Contact Us
- Advertise/Media Kit
Akram Khan is everywhere. Known for his invigorating fusion (he prefers the term “confusion") of kathak and contemporary dance, he is one of the most sought-after choreographers on the international scene. A truly global citizen of the dance world, his intricate, whiplash dancing has led him on journeys far from his stylistic home base. In addition to stunning solo works and intriguing choreography on his own company, Khan has collaborated with ballet superstar Sylvie Guillem, boundary-pushing Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and flamenco wizard Israel Galván. He choreographed for last year's movie Desert Dancer, about a young man with a passion to dance despite the repressive Iranian regime, and this year's Big Dance Pledge, an anybody-can-dance type of project culminating in a massive performance in London's Trafalgar Square. Now, he's become the latest choreographer to tackle a new version of Giselle.
The new project is the brainchild of Tamara Rojo, maverick artistic director of the 70-member English National Ballet. She had admired Khan's work for a long time, and invited him to make a work when ENB produced Lest We Forget in 2014, a program marking the 100th anniversary of World War I. According to Rojo's out-of-the-box thinking, he is the perfect person to create a Giselle for the 21st century. She has said that he has “both the knowledge of tradition and creativity necessary for this task." Her commitment to the new Giselle includes bringing in his award-winning collaborative team: designer Tim Yip, composer Ben Frost, and dramaturg Ruth Little. Khan, 42, recently spoke with Dance Magazine about approaching his first full-length ballet.
What did you learn about ballet from working with Sylvie Guillem?
It's very close to Indian classical dance in its philosophy and training. It's a very technical and physical rigor, very much about repetition, about training the body toward perfection. But Sylvie also had huge amounts of contemporary experience. She worked with Mats Ek and Béjart. The real test for me was with ENB when I created Dust. I found it fascinating. I based it on women, which I tend to do a lot these days. Tamara was one of my main characters.
What was it like working with her?
She's highly intelligent. What was interesting was to transform her from a literal way of being emotional to a more ambiguous way of being emotional. In both classical Indian dance and ballet, we are trained to be extremely clear emotionally. There are codes, for instance, a way of being to express sadness, and I wanted to take it more toward the truth of being—not to be literal or romantic about it. Tamara adapted so quickly. It was a great joy to work with her.
What existing version of Giselle do you admire?
The best I've ever seen is Mats Ek's version. He questions the essence and then transforms it. It's a masterpiece.
Didn't he set it in an insane asylum? I think there's a video of Ana Laguna as Giselle.
Yes. She's unbelievable. Like Tamara and Sylvie, these artists are unique. You know what I love—to work with dancers who think. I don't necessarily always enjoy thinkers who dance.
English National Ballet's Tamara Rojo and James Streeter in Khan's Dust. Photo by ASH, Courtesy ENB.
Will you use the Adolphe Adam music?
Yes and no. The music is not my favorite—the second half I really like, the first half I don't like so much. The original score is being treated and tampered with by Ben Frost. What I can't figure out is, What makes it Giselle? Is it the story? Is it the music. What is it? Once I figure that out, things will be easier.
The story deals with the physical world but also the spiritual realm.
I think that's why Tamara approached me with Giselle. I started to realize that it's about spirituality in the second half. That's something she felt I can connect with, and I do.
In the traditional Giselle, when she's a Wili, her spirituality is expressed by lightness and airiness; she's so light she hardly ever comes down from her jumps. Is that something that you will try to do, or do you have another way to express her spirituality?
I would like to use that, of course, because that is such a special illusion. It's just beautiful, that sense of floating. I have to see what I can do with it that belongs to me, but at the same time using that quality of floating.
You've described how your process takes a long time: gathering material, rehearsing, then whittling it down. Are you going to have the time you need, working with ENB?
Yes, Tamara has organized it to be the most advantageous process for me. I asked for five or six dancers to work with me to generate a lot of the research and material on their bodies before I work with the whole company.
Will the movement be influenced by kathak?
I think it's always there. It's quite circular, my movement. I always see it through a kathak eye; I cannot not see it that way.
You have two very young children. Have they changed the way you dance, or look at dance?
The way I look at dance, yes. I think part of Chotto Desh came out of having a baby girl. It's an adapted version of DESH that's become so successful that it's touring the world; we have two years of bookings.
What projects have you got cooking after Giselle?
My solo will start in 2017 and premiere in 2018 and will be the last full-length solo of my career. (I will still dance but not full-length solos.) It's based on something in Greek mythology. I've done a lot of preparation, but then I stopped completely for Giselle. I'm terrified and super-excited about Giselle. This is my first full-length ballet, god help me. What's scary is, How do I make something that speaks to you for two hours? The essence of it is about love, betrayal and forgiveness. How do I get that across without losing the intensity?
Wendy Perron is Dance Magazine's editor at large.
Sarah Haarmann stands out without trying to. There is a precision and lack of affectation in her dancing that is very Merce Cunningham. Her movement quality is sharp and clear; her stage presence utterly focused. It's no wonder she caught Mark Morris' eye. Even though she still considers herself "very much the new girl" at Mark Morris Dance Group (she became a full-time member in August 2017), in a recent performance of Layla and Majnun, Haarmann seemed completely in her element.
Company: Mark Morris Dance Group
Hometown: Macungie, Pennsylvania
Training: Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts and Marymount Manhattan College
In 2012, freelance contemporary dancer Adrianne Chu made a major career change: She decided to try out for A Chorus Line. "Even though I didn't get the job, I felt like I was meant to do this," says Chu. So she started going to at least one musical theater audition every weekday, treating each as a learning experience. After several years of building up her resumé, Chu's practice paid off: She booked a starring role as Wendy in the first national tour of Finding Neverland.
Approaching auditions as learning opportunities, especially when you're trying to break into a different style or are new to the profession, can sharpen your skills while helping you avoid burnout. It also builds confidence for the auditions that matter most.
For many dancers, a "warmup" consists of sitting on the floor stretching their legs in various positions. But this strategy only reduces your muscles' ability to work properly—it negatively affects your strength, endurance, balance and speed for up to an hour.
Save your flexibility training for the end of the day. Instead, follow a warmup that will actually help prevent injury and improve your body's performance.
According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a smart warmup has four parts: "a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilization section, a muscle lengthening section and a strength/balance building section."
It's easy to feel whiplashed thinking about everything Emma Portner has achieved in such a short amount of time. Last fall, the 23-year-old was the youngest woman ever to choreograph a West End production (it was based on Meat Loaf's greatest hits). This was, of course, after she already choreographed and starred in Justin Bieber's viral hit "Life is Worth Living," and before she charmed major media outlets when she secretly married actress Ellen Page. Now, she's L.A. Dance Project's first-ever artist in residence, and she's working on a commission for Toronto's Fall for Dance North Festival.
We caught up with her for our "Spotlight" series:
Last month, the International Association of Blacks in Dance's third annual ballet audition for women of color was expanded to include a separate audition for men.
The brainchild of Joan Myers Brown (founder of both Philadanco and IABD), the women's audition was created to specifically address the lack of black females in ballet. However, the success and attention that audition drew made the men feel left out, so IABD decided to give the men equal time this year.
Pina Bausch's unique form of German Tanztheater is known for raising questions. Amid water and soil, barstools and balloons, the late choreographer's work contains a distinct tinge of mystery and confrontation. Today, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch's dancers use questions as fuel for creativity. The company's most recent project introduced a new group of performers to the stage: local high school ninth-graders from the Gesamtschule Barmen in Wuppertal, Germany, in an original work-in-progress performance called Veränderung (Change).
Before she became the 20th century's most revered ballet pedagogue, Agrippina Vaganova was a frustrated ballerina. "I was not progressing and that was a terrible thing to realize," she wrote in a rough draft of her memoirs.
She retired from the Imperial Ballet stage in 1916, and for the next 30-plus years, devoted herself to creating a "science of ballet." Her new, dynamic teaching method produced stars like Rudolf Nureyev, Alla Osipenko, and Galina Ulanova and later Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov. And her approach continues to influence how we think about ballet training to this day.
But is the ballet class due for an update? Demands and aesthetics have changed. So should the way dancers train change too?
I love being transgender. It's an important part of the story of why I choreograph. Although I loved dance from a very young age, I grew up never seeing a single person like me in dance. So how could I imagine a future for myself there?
The enormous barriers I had to overcome weren't internal: I didn't struggle with feelings of dysphoria, and I wasn't locked down by shame.
The dance community is heartbroken to learn that 14-year-olds Jaime Guttenberg and Cara Loughran were among the 17 people killed during the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.
Guttenberg was a talented competition dancer at Dance Theatre in Coconut Creek, FL, according to a report from Sun Sentinel. Dance Theatre owner Michelle McGrath Gerlick shared the below message on her Facebook page, encouraging dancers across the country to wear orange ribbons this weekend in honor of Guttenberg, whose favorite color was orange.
A statement released yesterday by New York City Ballet and School of American Ballet reported that an independent investigation was unable to corroborate allegations of harassment and abuse against former ballet master in chief Peter Martins, according to The New York Times. This marks the end of a two-month inquiry jointly launched by the two organizations in December following an anonymous letter detailing instances of harassment and violence.
The statement also included new policies for both the company and school to create safer, more respectful environments for the dancers, including hiring an independent vendor to handle employee complaints anonymously. These changes are being made despite the independent investigation, handled by outside counsel Barbara Hoey, purportedly finding no evidence of abuse.