We Will Miss You, Violette Verdy
A photo of Violette Verdy from the Dance Magazine archives
Violette Verdy didn't just love dance. She loved dancers. And she dedicated her life to both. When she died yesterday at age 82, the ballet world lost one of its classiest, most graceful souls.
After training in her native France, Verdy first performed with Roland Petit Ballets des Champs-Elysees in 1945. She spent a season with the London Festival Ballet and guested with La Scala, then came to the U.S. to join American Ballet Theatre in 1957. George Balanchine wooed her away just a year later when ABT temporarily disbanded, and she became a beloved principal at New York City Ballet for the next 20 years. She was shorter, danced with a more old-world style and put more of her personality into her movement than most of his stars. Yet she became Balanchine's French muse. He created several iconic roles for her, including Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, "Emeralds" from Jewels, La Source and Liebeslieder Walzer. Jerome Robbins also made Dances at a Gathering and In the Night on her. She was lyrical yet sprightly, and knew how to draw out a note until its very last moment. As Balanchine put it, she spoke with her feet. But more than anything, audiences fell for her natural charm. Simply put, she sparkled onstage.
Anyone who met her knew she was just as charming offstage. After retiring in 1977, Verdy became the first female artistic director of Paris Opéra Ballet, then artistic director of Boston Ballet. But she might have been most renowned as a teacher and coach at the School of American Ballet, Indiana University and around the world. She was incredibly generous, giving her insights on the nuances of technique and Balanchine's intentions. As writer Marina Harss wrote in a beautiful profile of Verdy in The Nation last summer, "Hers is an irrepressible friendliness." She delivered her notes with passion, intelligence and a wicked sense of humor, teaching dancers how to find deeper layers of ballet, while always encouraging their talent.
Though she was married briefly, and is survived by a few family members in France, she told Harss that ballet was her biggest love. And boy did it love her back. There's been an outpouring for her on social media since last night. Wendy Whelan wrote on Facebook this morning, "I could listen to and watch Violette Verdy coach and dance and just plain 'be' in these amazing video tribute postings for weeks on end... Missing more than ever that incredible soul, wit, passion, intellect, integrity and that sparkling generous light of hers!" Indiana University dancers are sharing their memories of her here. Pennsylvania Ballet principal (and IU grad) Lauren Fadeley wrote, "Such a selfless person, she always wanted you to be you and to just enjoy the gift of dance. The last time I saw Violette a few years ago, she gave me her book as a gift and said I was a ballerina now; something I could never have achieved without her." Verdy was such an incredible influence as both a dancer and a teacher, it's possible that ballet itself wouldn't have achieved what it has without her.
What if there was a way to get your dancing in front of the likes of Desmond Richardson, d. Sabela grimes and Vincent Paterson all at once? Just in case you needed another excuse to break out your best moves this week, the Dare to Dance in Public Film Festival is back, and Richardson, grimes and Paterson are among this year's judges.
Dancers and non-dancers alike are invited to submit short dance films to the international online festival, with one caveat: The dancing has to take place in a public space.
The dancers file into an audition room. They are given a number and asked to wait for registration to finish before the audition starts. At the end of the room, behind a table and a computer (and probably a number of mobile devices), there I sit, doing audio tests and updating the audition schedule as the room fills up with candidates. The dancers, more nervous than they need to be, see me, typing, perhaps teasing my colleagues, almost certainly with a coffee cup at my side.
When we're talking about the history of black dancers in ballet, three names typically pop up: Raven Wilkinson at Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Janet Collins at New York's Metropolitan Opera and Arthur Mitchell at New York City Ballet.
But in the 1930s through 50s, there was a largely overlooked hot spot for black ballet dancers: Philadelphia. What was going on in that city that made it such an incubator? To answer that question, we caught up with Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet founder (and frequent Dance Magazine contributor) Theresa Ruth Howard, who yesterday released her latest project, a video series called And Still They Rose: The Legacy of Black Philadelphians in Ballet.
Janie Taylor didn't know if she'd ever return to the stage. But that's exactly where the former New York City Ballet principal has found herself: Nearly three years after retiring, she is performing again, as a member of L.A. Dance Project.
Taylor officially debuted with the company at its December 2016 gala in Los Angeles, then performed in Boston, via live stream from Marfa, Texas, and at New York's Joyce Theater before heading off on tour dates in France, Singapore, Dubai and beyond.
"She is wildly interesting to watch—and not conventional," says LADP artistic director Benjamin Millepied. "There are films of Suzanne Farrell dancing, where you feel like the music is coming out of her body," he says. "I think Janie has that same kind of quality."
Last night was not your average Thursday at Bay Ridge Ballet in Brooklyn, New York. Studio owner and teacher Patty Foster Grado—a former Parsons Dance Company dancer—was teaching a boys class, when with only five minutes left, she heard commotion in the waiting area and someone yelled, "There's a lady giving birth in the bathroom!"
Where can you watch Giselle, Romeo and Juliet, The Nutcracker, Coppélia and Le Corsaire all in one place? Hint: It also has extra-buttery popcorn.
Yep, it's your local movie theater. Starting this weekend, theaters across the country will be showing Bolshoi Ballet productions of classical and contemporary story ballets.
When commercial dancer Danielle Peazer took on an ambassadorial role with Reebok in early 2016, she didn't realize the gig would also lead to a career shift. But while traveling with and teaching workshops for the brand, the idea for DDM (Danielle's Dance Method) Collective started to take shape.