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Craving candy? Doubling down on dessert?

In sensible amounts, sweets can be tasty treats and can even provide a quick energy boost. According to well-designed research, athletes like dancers tend to metabolize sugar efficiently, so they can safely consume reasonable amounts as part of a healthy diet.

But if you fuel up on too many sweets, you risk being "overfed and undernourished," says certified dietitian nutritionist Heidi Skolnik. That's because sugar provides quickly digested calories (16 per teaspoon) and no other nutrients.

If your cravings feel out of control, here's how to tame them without feeling deprived.

1. Fuel Up

"When a dancer is overly craving sweets," says Skolnik, "it's usually because they're hungry." Satisfying meals that combine protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats—think turkey sandwich with a piece of fruit, or a stir-fry with chicken—will keep you satisfied and powered with steady energy.

2. Cheat 10 Percent

Skolnik swears by the "10 percent rule": If a dancer needs 2,500 calories per day, then roughly 250 of those calories can be "discretionary" and spent on a scoop of ice cream or a candy bar. "If the rest of your food is nutrient-rich," she says, "you're gonna do fine."

3. Eat More Breakfast

"The hormone neuropeptide Y is released when you undereat in the morning," Skolnik says. "It elevates over the day and makes you hungry at night—even if you eat a good dinner." Steady your hunger hormones with a satisfying breakfast, like eggs with potatoes, or oatmeal and fruit.

4. Consider Your Cravings

Do you go for crunchy toffee, gooey brownies or creamy frozen treats? Satisfy your texture preferences all day long with healthy substitutes. "If you like chewiness, try dried mangoes," says Peggy Otto Swistak, a registered dietitian nutritionist who consults with Pacific Northwest Ballet. For crunch, snack on lightly sweetened whole-grain cereal. "The fiber is there, too, which sweets typically don't have."

5. Watch Out for Added Sugars

Maple syrup, agave, honey and fruit-juice concentrate sound like healthy alternatives, "but they're just liquid sugar," says Swistak. "Biochemically, they're the same." Read labels to identify these added sugars, which count towards that discretionary 10 percent. By contrast, the naturally occurring sugars in whole foods like fruit or plain milk come "packaged" with fiber, protein and other nutrients that slow absorption, promote health and ensure sustained energy. They don't trigger cravings, and they don't count as sweets.

6. Don't Rely on Substitutes

A couple packets of Sweet'N Low in your coffee won't hurt you, says Swistak. But reconsider that daily six-pack of diet cola: "The newer thinking is that artificial sweeteners actually cause you to be hungry," she says. Adds Skolnik, "Why train yourself to like things super-sweet? Get used to having less, not more."

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At Hubbard Street's new intensive in Los Angeles, dancers dig into the choreographic process.

“Give it more intensity," says Robyn Mineko Williams, the choreographer in residence at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's inaugural pre-professional summer intensive at the University of Southern California. The dancer tries her solo again, moving across the floor in wider second-position pliés, bending her torso more deeply, jutting her elbows more sharply.

The studio bursts into applause. “I think the other students could feel this dancer changing right before their eyes," Williams says afterward. That kind of aha moment is exactly what the program is designed to cultivate. An odyssey into the contemporary dance-making process, it challenges dancers to immerse themselves in collaboration with a world-class choreographer and offers a taste of life in a top-tier company.

A Company-Style Regimen

The new Los Angeles program complements Hubbard Street's well-established pre-professional intensive in Chicago, but the two offer vastly different experiences: Chicago attendees take a range of technique classes, attend career talks and learn Hubbard Street rep, while dancers at USC spend the majority of their time with one choreographer (a different dancemaker will lead each year's intensive), creating a new five-minute work. The two-week Los Angeles intensive immediately follows the monthlong Chicago edition, and accepted dancers may choose to attend one or both programs.

The daily schedule parallels a professional company's, with a 90-minute morning ballet class, sometimes led by artistic director Glenn Edgerton, followed by rehearsal until 5 pm. Brief breaks include an hour for lunch. “It's an intensive intensive," Williams says with a laugh.

“We're treating them like dancers in our company," Edgerton says. “Some dancers thrive on it; others realize it's too hard. It's just bringing an awareness of whether you really want to invest yourself in this."

The 30 inaugural students range from Riana Pellicane-Hart, an 18-year-old high school senior from Dallas, to Grand Rapids Ballet member Isaac Aoki, who caps the age range at 24. Though varied in background and artistic interests, they all appreciate the insight into company life. “At a lot of intensives, you just take technique classes," says Pellicane-Hart. “Here you have to be more self-motivated to learn everything. You really get to see what it's like." That independence is crucial outside the studio, too, as housing is off-campus and there are no meal plans or chaperones.

Not that the dancers want to spend much time away from the Glorya Kaufman International Dance Center, where the intensive takes place thanks to a partnership between USC and Hubbard Street. The brand-new 54,000-square-foot building boasts high-ceilinged studios with sprung Harlequin floors, high-tech audio and video, and pianos tuned to each space. In common areas, the deeply padded, carpeted floors are perfect for stretching. “It's next-level," says Williams.

Committing to Creativity

“I'm doing everything that I do when I create a piece at Hubbard Street," says Williams, a Hubbard Street dancer for 12 years and 2014 “25 to Watch" who has received multiple Princess Grace Foundation fellowships. In the dancers' first session, she provides visual imagery and verbal cues; the movement phrases they generate serve as the foundation for five hours a day of development, improvisation and recombining. “I'm probably erring on the side of pushing them more than I would with a professional dancer," she notes, “because sometimes dancers have so much more in them than they know, and they just need to try."

Student Jane Zogbi with Aoki in rehearsal. PC Celine Kiner, Courtesy Hubbard Street

Throughout the process, Williams culls phrases and asks dancers to cre­ate new ones on their own and in groups. She switches accompaniment from electronica to kodo drumming to William Forsythe vocalization exercises. “Learning to find musicality has been part of this process too," she says.

At auditions, Edgerton seeks dancers with the willingness to try anything a choreographer throws at them. “I'm looking for the ones who are most open-minded and ready to learn, who are ready to absorb and change," he says. He and the staff also keep an eye out for potential Hubbard Street candidates; he estimates that half the company's dancers came through workshops or intensives.

Launching Point

On the last day, family and friends fill the studio to see the completed work, which the dancers perform repeatedly to different music and their own vocalizations. Each time, they attack the movement fully, reaching deep into the pliés and gesturing with emphatic purpose. “Seeing them respond has been really awesome," Williams says. “I would love if they have learned that they are capable of more than they thought they were."

It's the culmination of the intensive, but a launching point for new approaches to dancing. “I needed this to help my imagination blossom," says Pellicane-Hart. “At this program you have to be down-to-earth, you have to be able to move on quickly and adapt. That's something I needed, and here I figured it out."

The Details

Attendance: 30 students

Timeline: Two weeks, immediately following the four-week Chicago program

Ages: 18–24

Housing: Off-campus

Find out how you can win a full-tuition scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet School summer intensive in under three minutes.

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Inside DM

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Come back stronger by using your body’s natural healing response.

It’s the end of a tiring rehearsal, but you try that challenging jump one last time, and land sideways on your foot. Within minutes you begin to notice the signs of a sprain: swelling, pain and heat, and eventually bruising.

As a group, these symptoms are called inflammation. It hurts—and it looks awful—but is it dangerous? “Inflammation is part of the healing process,” says Dr. Joey Fernandez, a sports medicine specialist with the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. Inflammation is natural and unavoidable, and you can work with it to get back on your feet more quickly.

What’s Happening?

When you have an acute soft-tissue injury like an ankle sprain, Fernandez explains, inflammation sends in immune cells and chemicals, such as neutrophils, cytokines and macrophages, to clear out damaged tissue. “It’s like renovation,” he says. “You put up scaffolding, and the workers have to remove the damage before they can rebuild.”

Get the Swelling Down

Swelling is a result of fluid leaking out of the blood vessels into the surrounding tissue during the inflammation process. This delivers the repair cells to the site, but it can also slow recovery. “Let’s say you have a partially torn ligament,” explains Dr. Selina Shah, who treats dancers at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital’s Center for Sports Medicine in Walnut Creek, California. “The fibers are going to have a hard time coming back together if the fluid from swelling is in the way.”

Immediately after the injury, you can help clear out the excess fluid by wrapping the site in an ACE bandage or brace to apply gentle compression and by elevating the injured area (above the heart, if possible). Ice can also be applied (using a towel to protect your skin from frost burn) for 15 minutes about three times a day. You can continue these treatments for as long as the swelling is visible and you notice a benefit.

Active Rest

Fernandez estimates that the debris-removing macrophages need about 36 hours to eat up damaged cells. Dancers should avoid weight-bearing activity on the injured body part during that time, he says, “or you can be dancing on tissues that haven’t started to build new cells.” However, he prescribes gentle movement immediately after injury. For a sprained ankle, for example, lie on your back, raise your injured ankle toward the ceiling, and carefully rotate your ankle, wiggle your toes and flex your foot. These “open-chain” exercises, where the limb is free to move without resistance, promote healing without further damaging the tissue. “I tell dancers, Think of your ankle sprain as having lungs,” explains Fernandez. “It needs oxygen to heal, and the physical motion squeezes the tissues to encourage drainage.”

Anti-Inflammatories

“NSAIDs get a bad rap,” Fernandez says of the over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, which have been blamed for everything from liver damage to ulcers. He is comfortable recommending short-term use to reduce pain. “Nothing is going to happen unless you have a predisposing condition,” says Shah. Addressing another common misconception, she adds that “they’re absolutely not addicting.”

However, both doctors warn against using anti-inflammatories to push through class or rehearsals before an injury has healed sufficiently. “Teachers and directors expect dancers to heal on a timeline,” Fernandez says, “but you might actually take two steps back.”

Swelling Controversy

“There are a lot of misconceptions about inflammation in the dance world,” Shah warns. Many existing studies are poorly designed and unreliable, she says, “but people read them on the internet and think they’re true.”

In particular, she says that many dancers underestimate the power of the inflammatory response. “They’ll say, ‘If you use ice or NSAIDs, you’re going to stop the inflammation.’ They don’t stop the process—your body is a lot smarter than that and has many pathways to healing.”

Ultimately, every body is unique and responds to inflammation—and treatment—in its own way. “There is a sweet spot for each person,” Fernandez observes. “What we want to do is get the benefits while minimizing the side effects.” 

Don’t let Steffi Cheong’s petite build fool you—onstage, she can unleash fierce physicality as readily as the most delicate gesture. Now in her third season with San Francisco’s ODC/Dance, Cheong is coming into her own in the intellectually rigorous, intensely technical works created by artistic directors Brenda Way, KT Nelson and Kimi Okada.

Cheong has been turning heads since she joined ODC in 2013. Photo by Andrew Weeks, Courtesy ODC.

Company: ODC/Dance

Age: 27

Hometown: Murray Hill, New Jersey

Training: Ballet and modern at New Jersey Dance Theatre Ensemble; BFA in dance from SUNY Purchase

Becoming a collaborator: Cheong relishes ODC’s collaborative method, with the dancers generating movement for the directors to refine into new work. It’s a 180-degree change from the choreographer-directed rehearsals she was used to at her previous company, DanceWorks Chicago. The challenge has enriched her artistry: “I have to dig deeper,” she says.

Moving in the moment: During a Springboard Danse Montréal workshop in college, Cheong fell in love with improvising. “That’s where I really learned to let go and find myself,” she says. “Discovering different ways that your body can move, and listening to different kinds of music, creates a new tempo in your head.” She still takes classes when she has time.

What Brenda Way is saying: “Steffi is not just another dancer in a group—you feel her presence. In her first season, people said ‘Who’s the new girl?’ ”

Property master: ODC’s intricate multimedia works can include moving sets, wheeled vehicles, confetti and projections. Cheong says that rather than distracting her onstage, these props enhance her experience. “Dancers are so attentive to their surroundings during live performance,” she says. “If there’s another element thrown in, it just opens another facet of attentiveness.”

Inner strength: Way praises Cheong’s technical elegance as well as her emotional resilience, a prerequisite for ODC’s demanding creation process. She says, “The number of ideas we try and throw away—you have to be strong.” 

Inside DM

New nutrition buzzwords seem to crop up every week. How can you decide what’s helpful, what’s bogus and what might be harmful? Three dietitians help separate fact from fiction.

Go for It

PROBIOTICS: The microbes in our intestines affect immunity, brain function and possibly even anxiety and depression. Emily Cook Harrison, dietitian with the Centre for Dance Nutrition at Atlanta Ballet, suggests a daily probiotic supplement to replenish your gut’s microbiome, which can be depleted by a poor diet or antibiotics; choose capsules or liquids that contain at least six different live strains. Also fill your diet with fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, raw sauerkraut and miso soup.

NO ANTIBIOTICS ADDED: Antibiotics in livestock feed have been cited as a major contributor to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or “superbugs.” Peggy Otto Swistak, consulting nutritionist at Pacific Northwest Ballet, recommends eating meats and poultry with no antibiotics added.

ORGANIC: Organic and conventional produce are generally considered equally nutritious. But for produce with edible skin, like strawberries and bell peppers, buying organic will help you avoid synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.

SUPERFOODS: Berries, leafy greens, hemp hearts, chia and other plant foods deliver loads of nutrients with each calorie, including hard-to-get micronutrients.

Question It

GLUTEN-FREE: “Dancers mistakenly think that going gluten-free is healthier,” says Harrison. In fact, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness estimates that just 1 percent of Americans have celiac disease and cannot safely consume gluten (a protein found in wheat and other grains), and only 6 percent more have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. “For everyone else, it’s not a big deal,” Harrison says. Needlessly going gluten-free means losing out on good sources of the carbohydrates and B vitamins that fuel long dance days.

DAIRY-FREE: Rumors abound that adults aren’t designed to digest dairy. “That isn’t true unless you’re lactose intolerant,” says Kristen Gravani, director of sports nutrition at Stanford University. Going nondairy can increase dancers’ risk of stress fractures. “You want as much calcium and vitamin D as you can get, and the body absorbs them better from natural sources than supplements.”

NON-GMO: There is still some debate about the health ramifications of eating genetically modified crops. Harrison’s bigger concern is glyphosate, a weed-killing chemical farmers use because GMO plants are bred to resist it. “The World Health Organization has labeled glyphosate ‘probably carcinogenic,’ ” she says. “When we eat GMO foods, we expose ourselves to it.”

LOCALLY GROWN: Locally grown produce tends to be very fresh, so it is healthier than produce that’s traveled farther. But both are nutritious—as are frozen options, says Swistak.

Avoid It

JUICE CLEANSES: “Cleanses are harmful at best,” Gravani warns. “You’re not getting enough calories, and it’s going to mess with your metabolism.” Typically, weight loss is mostly water weight that will come back within a few days.

BONE BROTH: Credited for everything from healing cartilage to restoring immunity, bone broth is little more than soup stock: animal bones simmered with vegetables. “There is zero science showing that bone broth is helpful,” Harrison says. That doesn’t mean it’s harmless: “Bone broth is known to be high in lead and arsenic.”

Get Those Probiotics

The appendix stores healthy bacteria, so ever since Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal’s Ashley Werhun had hers taken out, she’s had to be extra mindful of probiotics. Werhun usually takes probiotic supplements, but they can be hard to bring or buy on tour. Instead, she looks to these sources:

Yogurt: “Somehow the yogurt in Europe tastes better, and it’s always available at hotel breakfasts.”

Sauerkraut: “My family is Ukrainian.”

Kombucha: “I drink it a few times a week— after dancing, since it’s quite fizzy and fills up your stomach. I have tried to make my own, but that did not end well.”

Jennifer Stahl

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As a student at The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia, American Ballet Theatre soloist Christine Shevchenko’s first experience with character dance was learning the Paquita harp variation. “It was challenging,” she admits, “because I hadn’t taken character class yet.” For extra training, Shevchenko enrolled in character at a local university—and went on to earn first place in the Junior Division at the 2003 Youth America Grand Prix and a gold medal at the 2005 Moscow International Ballet Competition, dancing Paquita variations both times.

Christine Shevchenko says her character training helps her bring stylistic detail to classical and contemporary roles. Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT.

Often based on European and Middle Eastern folk dances, the character repertoire showcases national dances in refined, stylized choreography. Though it’s an often-overlooked aspect of dance training, character helps dancers gain a deeper understanding of story ballets, while boosting strength and musicality. But the form isn’t just for extreme classicists. Character dance also develops the coordination required to become a versatile dancer.

Bring Context To the Classics

From the mazurkas of Coppélia to the flamenco of Don Quixote, Marius Petipa used character dances to give his ballets a sense of place and personality. “All the steps have historical meaning,” says Leonid Shagalov, the teacher of San Francisco Ballet School’s character dance program. “If dancers know this meaning, they can bring an emotional side to the dance.”

Natalya Lushina-Zeiger, who teaches Vaganova technique and variations at The Rock School, agrees. She points to the third-act solos from Swan Lake, when Siegfried’s potential brides perform dances of Poland, Italy, Spain, Russia and Hungary. “A lot of people think they’re all the same, but they’re completely different,” she says. “Is the arm out to the side or up? Is your hand behind your head?”

Character dances are rich in details like these, some of which trace back to regional costume. In the Polish mazurka, for example, the hand is placed on the upper back of the head because the original performers held their hats in place during the vigorous dancing. “The style is what the variation is really about,” Lushina-Zeiger says, and understanding the nuances is the key to shining. When scoring competitions like YAGP, she and her fellow judges take authenticity into account. “We try not to be too strict, but we always mark the wrong style and say it needs to be addressed.”

 

Master Musicality

Composers like Minkus and Tchaikovsky based music for variations on folk refrains, retaining their sometimes-unusual time signatures. Italian tarantellas, as in Bournonville’s Napoli, can have 18/8 and 6/8 rhythms; Polish mazurkas, like those in Raymonda, can be danced in a triple time with accents on the second or third beat. “Learning flamenco rhythms was really hard,” Shevchenko says of Don Quixote. “There are so many little syncopations.” Kitri alone dances to an array of rhythms: Her fan variation is a basic 2/4, but her Act II entrance is a staccato 3/8, while Dulcinea’s coda is in 6/8.

Lushina-Zeiger says these benefits reach beyond ballet. “Once you coordinate it, once you can hear it, your body is free,” she says. “It makes dancing much easier.” Shevchenko also credits character study with preparing her mind and body for more modern repertoire. “You learn all these tricky sequences that people rarely do,” she says. “It helps you pick up contemporary pieces quickly.”

 

Turbo-charge Your Technique

Because character dances often feature hopping and running steps, flat shoes or boots, and a lighthearted presentation, they can seem more relaxed—and easier—than classical choreography. In reality, they entail complex upper-lower body opposition, épaulement and heel-toe footwork. “A lot of character dance is much sharper and faster than classical,” Lushina-Zeiger observes. It’s essentially a form of cross-training that can enhance classical and contemporary technique alike.

“In Moldavian Moldovenyaska and jok, students develop coordination that helps them jump higher,” says Shagalov. His dancers “study Hungarian czardas for épaulement, which helps with turns. For the Russian trepak in Nutcracker, they learn how to get force out of pliés.”

Shevchenko has applied what she learned to such roles in Swan Lake, Raymonda, Coppélia and Polyhymnia in Balanchine’s Apollo. “It’s really good for your brain,” she says. “And it makes you use your body in a completely different way.” 

Find a Class

Character dance is considered an essential part of training across Europe—Bolshoi Ballet Academy students study it for five years, and must pass two character exams before they enter the company. However, it is rarely taught in depth in the U.S. outside of major-company schools.

If yours doesn’t offer character training, ask a local college dance department about auditing or enrolling in classes. For summer study, consider Joffrey Ballet School’s character-dance intensive, June 6–24, in New York City. —CB

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Make the most of this career-defining transition.

When Sarasota Ballet corps member Caroline Hennekes started her apprenticeship in 2014, it was a big shock. “Being in an adult world makes you grow up fast,” she says. An apprenticeship can be one of the hardest years of your career—as Hennekes learned, proving that you have the confidence and maturity to thrive in a high-pressure company is a lofty task for a first job.

But an apprenticeship is also a tantalizing glimpse of your future. You’ll dance alongside elite principals, perform world-famous rep and collect that all-important paycheck. If you handle it gracefully, you can set yourself up for success at promotion time.

Steffi Cheong, now an ODC company member, in rehearsal. Photo by Andrew Weeks, courtesy ODC.

Read the Room

“First we teach apprentices about work ethic and seniority,” explains Lindsay Fischer, who runs National Ballet of Canada’s apprentice program. Throughout a 41-week term, Fischer shepherds young dancers through daily technique class, rehearsals and performances as supers, in outreach demonstrations and as corps de ballet substitutes.

With such a heavy workload, apprentices need to learn the ropes quickly. Observing other dancers will give you a leg up on company etiquette. “You’re at the bottom of the totem pole,” says 18-year-old Hennekes. “At times I felt I needed to prove myself. It’s hard to do without being pushy.” She says to show you’re a team player by dancing towards the back of the room and letting senior dancers go first. “The point is for directors to see if you fit in. You’ll get noticed more if you’re working as part of the group, not as a soloist.”

But that doesn’t mean you should hide, especially when you’re given opportunities to explore your artistry. “Our rehearsals are invested in individual performance,” says Janet Eilber, artistic director of the Martha Graham Dance Company. “Apprentices are asked to think about their interpretive choices. Commitment to that process is what takes them from apprentice to New Dancer.”

Be Your Own Teacher

Apprentices are expected to pick up repertory without much hand-holding. Hennekes says it’s essential to absorb feedback given to others. “You have to take what they correct in other people and apply it to yourself.”

Sometimes apprentices do get corrected, and it can sting. “Rehearsing La Sylphide,” Hennekes recalls, “I’d be called out: ‘Caroline, your head’s wrong.’ It can chip away at your confidence. But you learn that it’s just the process.”

She did ask a ballet master for guidance on vexing cabrioles in La Fille mal gardée. “I approached him casually, once or twice after rehearsal,” she recalls. But, ultimately, companies prize dancers who solve problems on their own, freeing up staff to prepare casts for performance. Hennekes suggests asking for help from other dancers, who tend to be generous with advice.

Jump on Opportunities

Apprentices at small companies, like San Francisco’s ODC or the Martha Graham Dance Company, might perform featured roles—but they have to be ready. “We look for people who are proactive about absorbing what we do,” says Eilber. Over an apprenticeship lasting up to 20 weeks, Eilber wants to see “a desire to learn—researching roles before rehearsal, learning roles they haven’t been assigned.”

When Steffi Cheong apprenticed at ODC in 2013, her initiative paid off. She was thrust into the title role of The Velveteen Rabbit, ODC’s holiday program, just two months into her apprenticeship. “I had learned it just in case,” she recalls. While the pressure was “terrifying,” she says, “it proved they could trust me.”

Set the Stage for a Promotion

As your apprentice contract ends, it’s natural to feel anxious about getting promoted. Directors understand that, says Eilber, who welcomes apprentices to meet with her but says “we’re so busy, we won’t necessarily take them aside to talk about the future.” If the protocol isn’t spelled out, ask an administrator how to schedule a check-in.

The transition from student to professional is challenging. But it can make you stronger physically, mentally and artistically. “Apprentices are the future,” Fischer says. “I try to set them up for a productive career.” It’s up to you to make the most of it. 

The German choreographer brings her visionary dance theater to the U.S.

Niannian Zhou, of Sasha Waltz & Guests, in Continu. Photo by Sebastian Bolesch, courtesy BAM.

Whether reinterpreting Wagner or exploring the forces of destruction, Berlin-based choreographer Sasha Waltz creates postmodern worlds onstage. She populates them with dancers whose ages, origins and training vary widely, but their common language is bold and expressive. Waltz enlists equally avant-garde collaborators in her dance-theater odysseys—more than 300 visual artists, filmmakers, composers and architects since founding Sasha Waltz & Guests in 1993. Her company makes an appearance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival December 4–5, with Continu (2010), an evening-length work inspired by two of her museum installations: one raw, dynamic and musical, the other bright, cerebral and minimalist.

Tell me about the two works that make up Continu.

In 2009, I did the inauguration of the Neues Museum in Berlin, which houses an Egyptian collection. The building was terribly destroyed after the war, and they tried to rebuild it while still keeping the scars. It was a very moving and beautiful way to deal with architecture. I used the whole museum, and the public was freely moving through the space. Also in 2009, I did an opening for the National Museum of the XXI Century Arts in Rome, which was developed by Zaha Hadid. That had very contemporary, very organic forms, white and glass.

How did you translate these to the proscenium?

I abstracted them very much, because it’s not possible to rework architecture like that. The first part is very emotional, like an outcry of society. It talks a lot about collective. The second part, in contrast, is our mind observing. It is the deconstruction of the body and of certain theories of aesthetics. It’s very analytical.

You’ve always taken a collaborative approach to making work.

I find it very stimulating to confront my own vision with the vision of someone else, and to see how that creates something different.

Your company members are also your collaborators. What do you look for in a dancer?

I’m not hooked on a certain technical background. I am interested in people’s uniqueness. I really fall in love with the person, and through my work, try to understand who they are and bring out their essence. It’s a very deep connection because we go into a universe together that is more than myself and more than them. I’ve been collaborating with some of them for more than 20 years.

How do you work in the studio?

I separate the women and men and work very intensively. The Venus space is like a research into femininity, motherhood, deep energies of creative power. The warrior side is more the men’s work. We go into a process of improvisation for quite a long time, and bit by bit, a language gets created that is quite unique.

Where do you think dance theater is headed?

It’s very open and diverse. Collaboration with contemporary art is really developing, and museums are extremely interested in dance. It depends on the artist—there are so many languages within every person. n

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