At a Crossroads: Quincie Hydock
Hydock with Ryan Smith; Photo by Sarah Ferguson, Courtesy Richmond Ballet
Growing up a bunhead in Virginia Beach, Quincie Hydock’s main dream was to join a classical ballet company. She trained seriously at Virginia Ballet Theatre and continued there while attending high school at the Virginia’s Governor’s School for the Arts; as graduation neared, she knew she was on track for a college dance program. With its strong ballet program, Butler University in Indiana ranked high on Hydock’s list of schools.
Flash forward five years later, and Hydock is in somewhat of a different place than she expected. After graduating in 2013 with a BFA in dance and choreography from Virginia Commonwealth University, she’s a freelance dancer in New York City, where’s she’s also presented her own work. And while she still hopes to join a concert dance company (like Hubbard Street Dance Chicago), she’s sporting bare feet more than pointe shoes these days and has her sights set on more contemporary work. —Jenny Dalzell
How did you choose VCU?
My high school hosted the National High School Dance Festival my junior year, and the director of Richmond Ballet’s trainee program told me about their partnership with VCU: The first two years of college you’re a full-time trainee with the Richmond Ballet and you get credit toward a BFA. I hadn’t considered that program before—I wanted strictly ballet and I had assumed VCU was all modern. But when I auditioned for Butler in the October of my senior year, I didn’t get in. That turned out to be okay, because I wouldn’t have auditioned for VCU.
What was your schedule like?
As a trainee, I took my gen ed classes in the morning, and headed to Richmond Ballet from 1 pm to 6 pm Monday through Saturday. I only had one VCU dance class per week—a modern class taught by different guest artists.
After the two years as a trainee, students are either chosen for Richmond Ballet’s second company, or they can continue college. What was your route?
I switched over to be full-time at VCU. I took ballet four times per week and modern five days per week. And I started taking choreography classes, which is something I realized that I love.
How did you feel when you weren’t selected?
Well, my first year, none of the trainees were chosen, and then only two trainees were chosen out of my year. You just have to keep in mind that it’s a professional company. They’re selective in whom they choose; and they often selected people from outside auditions—dancers they didn’t know as trainees.
By my second year into the traineeship, I realized that I didn’t necessarily want a career in classical ballet. That was great, because I got to really explore the school and modern dance. Plus, I never got senioritis since I was really only at school for two years.
In retrospect, would you have made a different choice after high school?
I absolutely love what happened. The best thing about the traineeship was that I got professional experience with a company, which has been especially pivotal now as a freelancer. I know how to act like a professional; I know how hierarchies work—even simple things like not encroaching on someone else’s space at barre. I think it was a blessing that my original plan didn’t work out. I realized I was ready to explore something else.
The 2018 Oscar noms are here. Which is fun and all; we'll never not get excited about a night of glitz and glamor and, when we're lucky, pretty great dancing. But we'd be a heck of a lot more excited if the Academy Awards included a Best Choreography category. And really—why don't they?
Last year, La La Land's Oscars domination (FOURTEEN nominations) made the fact that Mandy Moore couldn't be recognized for her fantastic choreo—a huge, indisputable part of the film's success—seem especially cruel. This year, it feels weird not to recognize the dance contributions of Ashley Wallen (The Greatest Showman), Anthony Van Laast (Beauty and the Beast), and Aurélie Dupont (Leap!), to name just a few.
It might not have a U.S. tour on the books (yet), but we have to admit that we're getting exceptionally excited for Akram Khan's Xenos to premiere.
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."
You're standing in the wings, moments from entering the stage. You've done your planks to warm up your core, pliés to feel centered and dynamic stretches to loosen up. But your mind won't stop racing through all the ways your performance could go wrong.
Sport science strategies can get you in the right headspace. Photo by Thinkstock
Ideally, a warm-up should be more than just a physical preparation to dance. Because if you want to unlock your full potential, you need to get in the right headspace. "Your mentality is going to dictate which version of you comes out on any given day," says performance psychologist Dr. Jonathan Fader, who serves as director of mental conditioning for the New York Giants football team. These top strategies from the sports world can help you reach the state of mind that will serve you best.
Conversations about body image in dance typically revolve around female dancers. For an obvious reason: It's usually women who are driven to dangerous means to reach the ideal "ballet body."
But they're not alone in the struggle. Former Twyla Tharp dancer Charlie Hodges recently told his own story during a TED Talk at California's ArtCenter College of Design.
Recent media attention on sexual harassment has me wondering about my director, who has gotten involved with adult dancers in the company while being married. One friend became depressed after the relationship ended. Another dancer's contract wasn't renewed when his wife found out about his affair. Is this behavior crossing the line?
Toasted almond, caramel, nutmeg and mocha aren't craft ice creams or flavored coffees. They're among the choices in colored tights at the boutique in Dance Theatre of Harlem's headquarters in upper Manhattan.
And for Tru Annafi, an 11-year-old first-timer at the DTH summer intensive, those brown hues matter. At her former summer program, in Chicago, "I was the only African American, and they made us wear pink tights," she says. Chloe Edwards understands. A 13-year-old from suburban New York, she points out that the skin-toned tights "help you keep your line. In ballet, line is so important."
The coming weeks see not one, but two companies that can best be described as French cultural mash-ups landing at New York City's Joyce Theater.
It was a Christmas Eve that The Lion King dancer India Bolds will never forget.
Exhausted from a long week of performances, Bolds was clueless when she saw her cast mates randomly dancing in Broadway's Minskoff Theater lobby, and even more confused when they morphed into a choreographed flash mob. But when her boyfriend of four years, Dale Browne, popped up in the mob wearing a beautiful blue suit, she realized what was coming.
Back in the 80s, Molissa Fenley introduced a luscious, almost Eastern-feeling torque in the body that made her work compelling to watch. Her sculptural shapes and fierce momentum showed a different kind of female strength than we had seen. Now, as part of The Kitchen's series on composer Julius Eastman, Fenley has remounted her 1986 Geologic Moments, the second half of which she had developed with Eastman. The result, which premiered at Brooklyn Academy of Music, is a richly textured piece in both music and dance. (The first half has music by Philip Glass.)