Dancers & Companies

Hot Tips for What to See in the Cold Weather

Does the frigid weather make you want to curl up by the fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa? Resist! Go out and see some dance. This list is for those of you in northern climes, may it warm up your winter—artistically if not meteorologically.

Driscoll's Thank You For Coming: Play. PC Julieta Cervantes

• Faye Driscoll's Thank You for Coming: Play

Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis, Jan. 12-14

A pack of wild-animal dancers act out multi-layered scenes that can puzzle or move you. Equal parts maniacal and moving. The audience is part of the plot. See her “Choreography in Focus” —our latest.

• Michelle Dorrance

Boston, Cutler Majestic Theatre, Jan. 13-15

Michelle Dorrance is as popular in Boston as she is in New York and at Jacob's Pillow. You can catch a glimpse of why in her "Choreography in Focus."

• Richard Move’s XXYY

Adams, MA, Mass MOCA, Jan. 20

The gloriously androgynous Richard Move shows a work-in-progress with theater artist Alba Clemente that explores the chromosomal combinations that produce gender identity. The program also celebrates 20 years of Move’s spot-on impersonation of Martha Graham. Co-presented by Jacob’s Pillow.

• Evidence, a Dance Company

Albany and other cities

Ronald K. Brown bring his rich, spiritual blend of modern dance and West Africa on tour.

• Kyle Abraham

Hancher Auditorium, University of Iowa, Jan. 27 and Des Moines Performing Arts, Feb. 1

Abraham’s mercurial movement quality is beguiling whether or not the often-political content comes across. He talks so easily about his work, including race and gender, in this "Choreography in Focus."

Spectrum Dance Theater in The Minstrel Show. PC Nate Watters.

• Spectrum Dance Theater

Seattle Repertory Theatre's Leo K. Theatre, Jan. 19–Feb. 4

Now is the time for political work, and Spectrum director Donald Byrd does not hold back. In his new work Shot, he confronts the growing incidents of police brutality against people of color. To see how tough Byrd is on his dancers, check out his "Choreography in Focus."

• Ragamala Dance Company

Cowles Center, Minneapolis, Jan. 27-29

This contemporary company, trained in classical Indian dance, focuses on issues of environmental and social justice. The new work, Written in Water, has live music by Amir ElSaffar that utilizes Iraqi, jazz and Carnatic instruments.

• Boston Ballet in William Forsythe's Artifact

Boston Opera House, Feb. 23–Mar. 5

The only American company to produce the complete, convention-shattering Artifact (1984) with its go-for-broke dancing.

• Batsheva Dance Company

Tour includes Ann Arbor, Chicago, NYC, Seattle

Batsheva Dance Company’s winter tour brings Ohad Naharin’s Last Work (no, its not his last work) to 11 cities in North America. (I will moderate a post-showing Q & A about the film Mr. Gaga at BAMcinématek on Jan. 30.)

Last Work by Ohad Naharin, photo by Gadi Dagon, courtesy BAM

• Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Kennedy Center, Washington, DC, Feb. 7–11

The dancers continue to be smashing, and director Robert Battle has expanded the repertoire with bracing additions. John Inger's crazily inventive Walking Mad is something to behold. Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain blankets the theater with a tender quietness. Kyle Abraham's Untitled America brings to the stage the painful issue of mass incarceration. And there is always the glorious Revelations.

• Wendy Whelan and Brian Brooks

The Joyce Theater, NYC, Feb. 28 to Mar. 5

In a new work titled Some of a Thousand Words, the brilliant ballet-to-modern Whelan and choreographer Brooks further explore their experiments in weight and weightlessness. The string quartet Brooklyn Rider plays live.

Brooks and Whelan, photo by Nir Arieli

• Martha Graham Dance Company

The Joyce Theater, NYC, Feb. 14–26

With world premieres by Annie-B Parson and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui plus chestnuts like Primitive Mysteries and Maple Leaf Rag. In this “Choreography in Focus,” Parson talks about working with the Graham dancers.

• Malpaso Dance Company

Columbia College Dance Center, Chicago, Mar. 9

This Cuban company has heated up the Joyce and Jacob’s Pillow, and now they come to Chicago with a new work by Aszure Barton.

• Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host

Wexner Center, Columbus, OH, Mar. 11

This wonderfully funny yet rueful mix of radio smarts and dancer smarts is brought to you by radio host Ira Glass and his savvy dance pals Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass.

• Dirty Dancing Tour

Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Eugene, OR, Feb. 28–Mar. 2

This hit movie translates surprisingly well to the stage. And hey, what could be hotter than Johnny and Baby?

• KT Niehoff

Velocity Dance Center, Seattle, Mar. 9–April 1

Always questioning, Niehoff asks an astronaut, an athlete, a survivor of a near-death experience and a differently-abled person this question: “What is it like to be in your body?” Be ready to participate because this piece, which is titled Before We Flew Like Birds, We Flew Like Clouds, is an "audience activated installation."  In her "Choreography in Focus" Niehoff  talks about her aversion to proscenium performance.

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Tero Saarinen's Morphed. Photo by Darya Popova, Courtesy Helene Davis Public Relations

Choreographer Tero Saarinen has a proclivity for the peculiar—and for epic orchestral music. That he should be commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic to create a new dance work to accompany the U.S. premiere of Bernd Alois Zimmermann's Cello Concerto en forme de pas de trois only makes sense. Zimmermann's eerie, difficult-to-classify composition falls squarely in Saarinen's wheelhouse. Walt Disney Concert Hall, Jan. 19–21. laphil.com.


PC Break the Floor

Two competition routines are equal in technical proficiency, artistry and choreography. One consists of all girls, the other includes a boy. Guess which takes home first prize?

If you guessed the one with the boy, you may be privy to an unspoken and much-debated phenomenon in the competition dance world: The Boy Factor. According to The Boy Factor, a competitive piece is more likely to win if there's a boy in it.

"If it's all technically equal and one group is all girls and the other group has a boy, the one with the boy will win," says Rysa Childress, owner of All Star Studios in Forest Hills, New York. "Boy soloists are sometimes scored higher than more technically proficient girls because if a boy has good stage presence, we let him slide," says an anonymous competition judge. "And most of the feedback will be for the boy."

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Breaking Stereotypes
Ash in Rochester, NY. PC Thaler Photography by Arleen and Daryl Thaler for the Swan Dreams Project

Growing up in inner city Rochester, NY, Aesha Ash was just one of the neighborhood kids. She'd imagine people driving by, judging her by her black skin.

"They'd never know that I was dreaming of becoming a professional ballet dancer. No one would think, Some day she's going to make it into New York City Ballet," says Ash.

After an inspiring career at NYCB, Béjart's Ballet Lausanne and LINES, the January 2006 Dance Magazine cover star—one of our 25 to Watch that year—is no longer performing. But she's determined to use her dance background to change the stereotypes and misconceptions that people—including black people—have about women of color. "I want to show it's okay to embrace our softer side, and let the world know we're multidimensional," says Ash.

Aesha Ash in Richmond, CA. PC Renee Scott via swandreamsproject.org

In 2011, she launched the Swan Dreams Project to inspire kids in the community she grew up in. The original idea was to post images of herself in a tutu all over Rochester. "I remember growing up and in the bodega you'd see images of girls in bikinis on motorbikes," says Ash. "I wanted to replace those with photos that show women of color in a different light."

She knew the power imagery can have: She still remembers what it felt like as a student at the School of American Ballet to see a photo of black ballet dancer Andrea Long. "That image was everything on days when I was feeling disenchanted. I'd see that picture of her, and know that the struggles I was going through, she went through them, too."

Ash soon realized she didn't have the budget to fund her original plan ("I never realized how expensive a bus stop advertisement is!"). But she's made the images available through an online store, and often simply gives away prints at her own expense to schools and students in need of some inspiration.

Any proceeds she makes from the sales go directly to other organizations that are working to expand ballet in diverse communities. One large donation even led to a pointe shoe fund at dancer Robyn Gardenhire's City Ballet of Los Angeles school—and it helped one dancer who had quit ballet because of the expense come back to class.

Now a mother of two in San Jose, CA, Ash will also start teaching a free after-school ballet class at her daughter's public school next month. "I recently taught at Girls Inc. in Oakland, and one of the little black girls said, 'Are you the ballet teacher?' She just stood there, staring at me with her mouth open, like a unicorn had just walked into the room," Ash says. "You never know the impact you can have just by being a presence."

If you're interested in supporting the project, check out the online shop, or donate directly at swandreamsproject.org.

Training
Sylvie Guillem, via 1843magazine.com

Ever find yourself lusting after that six o'clock penché, or a développé that will reach your nose? You're not alone. The eye is naturally drawn to the end points of a movement, and, in dance, that often translates to the highest extension.

But what if you're born without extreme, Instagram-worthy lines? It's a matter of developing a laser focus on alignment as well as strengthening and stretching with better body mechanics in mind.

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Dance in Pop Culture
Roberto Bolle and Kenall Jenner on set. Photo via tods.com

I'll never forget something Roberto Bolle once told me when I was interviewing him about his workout regimen: Talking about how much he loved to swim, he said, "I would love to go in the Italian sea, but I am too well-known there to show up in my suit."

It always amused and kinda shocked me that a ballet dancer could reach that level of fame. But it's true: In his native Italy, Bolle is a bonafide celerity.

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Training
Anne Arundel Community College students, PC Kenneth Harriford

Everyone knows that community college is an affordable option if a four-year school isn't in the cards. But it can also be a solid foundation for a career in the dance field. Whether students want an associate in arts degree as a precursor to obtaining a bachelor's, or to go straight into the performing world, the right two-year dance program can be a uniquely supportive place to train. Don't let negative stereotypes prevent you from attending a program that could be right for you:

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Dancers & Companies
Joan Marcus

Conscientious theatergoers may be familiar with The School for Scandal, The School for Wives and School of Rock. But how many are also aware of the school of Fosse?

The 1999 musical, a posthumous exploration of the choreographic career of Bob Fosse, ran for 1,093 performances, winning four Tonys and 10 nominations; employing 32 dancers; and, completely unintentionally, nurturing a generation of Broadway choreographers. You may have heard of them: Andy Blankenbuehler and Sergio Trujillo danced in the original cast, Josh Rhodes was a swing, and Christopher Gattelli replaced Trujillo when he landed choreography jobs in Massachusetts and Canada. Blankenbuehler remembers that when Trujillo left, "It was as if he was graduating."

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Dancers & Companies
From left, Ethel Merman, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Debbie Allen. All Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

January 16 might as well be a Broadway holiday. Three gigantic names were born on this day, in 1908, 1950 and 1980, and they represent three distinct eras of powerhouse musicals. Without them, there'd be no belting Reno Sweeney, no "Fame"-ous Lydia Grant and no rapping Alexander Hamilton. Happy birthday to these indelible superstars.

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News
When it comes to BodyVox, it's best to expect the unexpected. Photo by Lois Greenfield, Courtesy BodyVox

In the midst of its 20th-anniversary season, BodyVox is taking a moment to look back. The Portland, Oregon–based company presents Urban Meadow, an amalgamation of some of its most popular works, at Philadelphia's Prince Theater, Jan. 18–21. Expect whimsy, and the unexpected. bodyvox.com.

Advice for Dancers
A dance career can send you on a roller coaster of emotions, but evaluating reality can help give you perspective. Thinkstock.

I never believe that I deserve to be happy. This reaction kicked in big time since I got a steady job. My emotions are a roller coaster: joy at the chance to perform, terror that the people in charge don't like me and resentment at not getting solo roles. I'm driving myself crazy.

—Terry, Philadelphia, PA

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