Dance Magazine Awards
Marika Molnar working with Ana Sophia Scheller. Photo by Rachel Papo for Dance Teacher

Since George Balanchine first asked her to care for his dancers in the 1980s, Marika Molnar has helped heal icons as varied as Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, Natalia Makarova, Judith Jamison, Twyla Tharp, Chita Rivera and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Some patients call her their guardian angel.

"Marika has always answered all my (sometimes ridiculous) questions with the patience and respect that can only come from a deep love of us patients and what we do," says New York City Ballet principal Ashley Bouder. "Without her help during and after my pregnancy, I would never have been able to come back to the stage at full capacity."

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Dancers & Companies
Connor Walsh rehearses the role of Rudolf in Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

It's been 34 years since Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling touched down on American soil, when The Royal Ballet first performed the great English master's tour de force ballet stateside. On September 22–24, Houston Ballet becomes the first North American company to perform MacMillan's epic chronicle of the murder-suicide of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Crown Prince Rudolf, and his 17-year-old mistress, Baroness Mary Vetsera. Chronicling the last chapter of the Hapsburg Empire, the ballet is known for its true-to-life realism, and for the role of Rudolf, which transformed the way male ballet dancers drive a story. It's considered a dream role for a male dancer. And with seven pas de deux with five different women, a deadly difficult one at that.

Driving Houston Ballet's Mayerling train is principal Connor Walsh, who nearly missed this opportunity to dance the part when Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston Ballet's theatrical home, Wortham Center. Now moved to the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts and back in rehearsal, Walsh took a break from his busy schedule to talk about the role of a lifetime.

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Career
Trey McIntyre Project's farewell performance at Jacob's Pillow. PC Christopher Duggan.

Starting and sustaining a dance company is not for the faint of heart. It often takes tremendous sacrifice in terms of time, energy and money. But it's not a life sentence. Arts organizations, like everything else, come to an end, and nothing could be more important to an artist's vitality than knowing when to call it quits. Even as the founder of a company, there is a graceful way to move on.

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Dancers & Companies
Houston's theater district on Sunday, August 27. Photo by Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune

It's been 12 years nearly to the day that I last reported on a hurricane for Dance Magazine during Katrina, which devastated much of New Orleans. Now, as you are well aware, Harvey is approaching that level of catastrophe, with 18 deaths, a record rainfall of 51 inches, more than 10,000 Houstonians in shelters, and with our bayous at capacity. You've seen the photos. It's awful, heartbreaking and still dire for many stranded in their homes or in danger of continued flooding.

For local artistic directors, choreographers and studio directors, the first task was to find out how their dancers and teachers were managing, and the state of their homes and family.

"I've been concerned about the safety of the dancers," says Annie Arnoult, director of Hunter Dance Center and Open Dance Project. "The dancers live all over the city and surrounding areas. Most have been trapped in their homes...a few without power. We've stayed in constant touch through regular 'roll calls,' and everyone's fine so far; but I will feel much better when we can be back together face-to-face doing what we do best."

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Popular
Donatelli in Giselle. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

When it comes to a ballet matching a dancer's special talents, choreographer Justin Peck's Year of the Rabbit fit Houston Ballet demi-soloist Tyler Donatelli to a T. Built for power, flash and precision, Donatelli crashed through Peck's driving rhythms with finesse and clarity in a lead role this past March. She's a speed demon, which worked well for Peck's breakneck pacing. "His movement came so naturally to me," says Donatelli. "I could just be myself."

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Dancers & Companies
Courtesy Dance/USA

Former arts lobbyist Amy Fitterer is all about diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity—and making Dance/USA relevant for today's climate.

Since assuming leadership in 2011, Fitterer has worked to create programs that genuinely serve the needs of today's dance world. She's established the Institute for Leadership Training for emerging dance leaders, which has been enormously successful in empowering young dance makers and producers. Committed to ending racism, Dance/USA now offers ongoing racial equity training for its board, staff and the attendees at Dance/USA Annual Conferences. She's also responded to the enormous sector of the field that operates on a small budget with a Dance Business Bootcamp. She's retooled Dance/USA's re-granting program, Engaging Dance Audiences, to support a broader population and Dance/USA staff are available for house calls and will come to your community to ecosystem analysis research.

Under her leadership, Dance/USA genuinely serves the needs of today's dance world.

Read the rest of Dance Magazine's list of the most influential people in dance today.

Dancers & Companies
Hayim Heron, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow

New director Pamela Tatge is making the most of Jacob's Pillow's vast resources. She's reenvisioned the dance mecca as a year-round institution, not only expanding the Creative Development Residencies but giving those residents 24-hour access, a generous stipend and funds to bring in an outside eye. Residency showings are open to students from nearby colleges, part of Tatge's ambitious new Jacob's Pillow Dance College Partnership Program, designed to bring more rigor into dance research, along with deeper artistic inquiry.

Read the rest of Dance Magazine's list of the most influential people in dance today.

Dancers & Companies
Lise Metzger, Courtesy Lerman

Pioneer Liz Lerman has reframed how dance can have meaning in the world. After exploring politics, the defense budget and her Russian Jewish heritage, Lerman became one of the first American choreographers to work directly with scientists and the first invited to CERN. As the founder of the Dance Exchange, Lerman helped lay the groundwork for creating art through community engagement and working with both multigenerational performers as well as non-dance populations.

No one was surprised when she won a MacArthur "genius" Fellowship in 2002, but this year her list of accolades grew considerably: the American Dance Festival's 2017 Balasaraswati/Joy Anne Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching, the 2017 Jacob's Pillow Dance Award and being named an artist-in-residence at CultureSummit 2017 in Abu Dhabi. Now in her late 60s, she's currently the first institute professor at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University, and is busy creating a new project with the working title Wicked Bodies, inspired by drawings of witches.

Read the rest of Dance Magazine's list of the most influential people in dance today.

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