It feels like just yesterday that we were shocked with the news that pop icon Prince had passed away. Now it's been a year since his untimely death, and we miss his dance-able music and intoxicating stage presence more than ever.
Though Prince was known for his genre-bending music, he was also a huge supporter of the dance community—and a captivating dancer himself. So it feels right to remember him by a few of his contributions to the dance world:
He was a Misty Copeland fan before she was a household name.
Before the promotion to principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre and the high-profile advertising campaigns, Prince saw something in Misty Copeland. He took her on tour with him off-and-on for almost four years, and according to Twitter, advocated for her promotion at ABT and told the company he was composing an opera that would star Copeland. So don't mind us, we'll just be dreaming about what that ballet would have looked like for the rest of our lives.
He composed our favorite '90s pop ballet, "Billboards."
When the Joffrey Ballet premiered Billboards in 1993, it was like nothing the ballet world had ever seen. (Prince was inspired to collaborate on a ballet after seeing the Joffrey perform a few years earlier.) Danced entirely to his songs, the work challenged ballet's conventions by embracing popular music and featuring explicit sexuality.
And he inspired this stunning Syncopated Ladies tribute.
Our favorite tappin' girl-power group created this video to Prince's "When Doves Cry" a few weeks after his death. The Ladies' signature rhythms complement one of Prince's darkest songs perfectly.
Imagine being a student at the School of American Ballet, looking up to the dancers at New York City Ballet and hoping to one day join their ranks. Then imagine teaching your choreography to those dancers, and watching them perform it at the company's fall fashion gala.
SAB student Gianna Reisen will have this surreal experience this fall. The company just announced that its 2017-18 season will include a new ballet from Reisen along with premieres from Lauren Lovette, Justin Peck, Troy Schumacher and Peter Walker, all current NYCB company members.
Reisen, photo by Kenneth Edwards
Reisen has previously choreographed for SAB's Student Choreography Workshop and the New York Choreographic Institute. And for ballet master in chief Peter Martins to have picked her out from the many talented NYCI participants, we're guessing she's something special. But has any major company ever commissioned mainstage work from such a young artist?
SAB students performing Reisen's work. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
The company is banking on in-house talent in an unprecedented way. But they're also celebrating a legendary in-house talent from the past: co-founding choreographer Jerome Robbins. The spring season will mark the centennial of Robbins' birth, and the company is throwing him the ultimate birthday party. Robbins 100 will include no less than 19 works by the choreographer, as well as a world premiere by Justin Peck in honor of Robbins.
Robbins' The Goldberg Variations. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
And of course, the season will include a generous number of Balanchine favorites, including Symphony in Three Movements, Agon, Concerto Barocco, Apollo and Square Dance, as well as additional works by Peck, Martins, Alexei Ratmansky, Christopher Wheeldon, Benjamin Millepied, Mauro Bigonzetti, Nicolas Blanc and Angelin Preljocaj.
Working with guest artists is an integral part of the college dance experience. Visiting choreographers expose students to new styles and ways of working, and give them a glimpse of life as a professional. But with a relatively short amount of time to make an impression, forming a relationship with a visiting artist can feel like a daunting task. Here's what you should know about networking with guests:
Q: Is it appropriate to follow up with guests after the process has ended?
A: "Most of our guests are very open to having connections with students continue, and being communicated with via email and Facebook," says Cornish College faculty member Deborah Wolf. "They understand that's the way things work." For choreographer David Parker, "I tell them to keep me posted on what they're doing and ask me for help and advice. I'm a bridge to the professional world for them, and I take that responsibility seriously."
David Parker's "Head Over Heels." Photo by Yi-Chun Wu.
Q: Can I add a guest choreographer on Facebook?
A: According to Parker, feel free to add them after the process is over. But take note: The same rule doesn't apply if you're talking about a faculty member—you may want to wait until after you graduate to connect with them on social media.
Q: How do I express my interest without being too forward?
A: "Be professional but accessible," says Wolf. "Don't ask for anything, but communicate your desires. There's a fine line there." Parker prefers when students are direct. "If they're interested, they should say, 'I love your work and I hope to work with you.' " But proving you're interested is what's most important. "If you say it, you have to back it up," says Lex Shimko, CalArts graduate.
Lex Shimko. Photo by George Simian and Beata Bernina, courtesy Diavolo
Q: Should I try to connect with guests on a personal level?
A: "I don't care if they're curious about my life outside of rehearsal," says Parker. "More that they're curious about how we do things."
It's a World War I film like nothing you can find on the History Channel. But it's not like any dance film you've seen before, either.
Young Men, choreographed by Iván Pérez, is a feature-length film starring British dance company BalletBoyz and based on a stage production of the same name. Conceived by BalletBoyz artistic directors and former Royal Ballet dancers Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, the film follows a young soldier as he prepares for war—and as he eventually experiences war's destruction and brutality.
It was shot on location in Northern France and features a score by singer-songwriter Keaton Henson. And if it's anything like what we've seen from BalletBoyz in the past, Young Men will be the perfect blend of sleek ballet technique and innovative storytelling.
Catch it tonight on PBS at 9pm EST. (Check your local listings.)