What Happens When You Dance For 200,000 People at Once?
New York's Metropolitan Opera House seats 3,800 people. Moscow's Bolshoi Theater holds 2,153. When the Royal Ballet hosts a special event in London's massive O2 arena, the dancers perform for a comparatively giant 20,000.
But dancing for more than 200,000 people at a time? That's simply not something most concert dancers are used to.
So when we heard that L.A. Dance Project's series of livestreams over Memorial Day weekend reached more than 500,000 views total, with its most popular stream hitting 211,300 views, it got us thinking. How does that sort of viewership affect a small troupe like LADP? And how does it feel for the dancers to perform for the equivalent of the entire population of Salt Lake City?
Millepied holding up DIY-style cards to introduce the second "episode"
One obvious benefit of this success: People everywhere from Russia to South America could get a glimpse of the troupe's residency at The Chinati Foundation without having to schelp to Marfa, Texas. Several comments on the stream showed that for many, this was clearly their first exposure to contemporary dance. (See Exhibit A, below.)
For most of us dance lovers, it was our first glimpse at Carla Körbes and Janie Taylor since their "retirements" from Pacific Northwest Ballet and New York City Ballet, respectively. (Please excuse us while we drool over their duet. More, please. Please?)
Director Benjamin Millepied has made it clear that he wants LADP to be as active online as it is in theaters, so congrats to him on hitting this one out of the ball park. In just over an hour's worth of livestreaming, the audience far surpassed what the troupe could have reached even in a month of performances at one of the world's largest opera houses. (In comparison, World Ballet Day has reportedly reached 350,000 in 24 hours.) Talk about building your brand.
What's interesting is that this livestream wasn't what we're typically used to: It was more of a live dance film happening in real time than an intimate peek in on rehearsal. It was highly curated, with a cinematic feel; more of a final product than a look behind the scenes.
Via ladanceproject on Instagram
But that still leaves the question that many dance companies are asking today: Can you can convert free livestream viewers into people who actually purchase tickets to watch dance at a theater? Will they be intrigued enough to pay for a more intimate dance experience? Or will they feel like they can just stay home and get their dance fix online instead?
In Millepied's case, ticket sales don't seem to be his end goal. He's got bigger plans in mind, and has told us that he's actively pursuing other sources of revenue, like a clothing line and possibly brand-name licensing opportunities. We're curious to see if other companies will follow his lead, and take advantage of their own livestreams in creative new ways.
Before too long, dancers and choreographers will get to create on the luxurious 170-acre property in rural Connecticut that is currently home to legendary visual artist Jasper Johns.
If you think that sounds far more glamorous than your average choreographic retreat, you're right. Though there are some seriously generous opportunities out there, this one seems particularly lavish.
Every dancer has learned—probably the hard way—that healthy feet are the foundation of a productive and happy day in the studio. As dancers, our most important asset has to carry the weight (literally) of everything we do. So it's not surprising that most professional dancers have foot care down to an art.
Three dancers shared their foot-care products they can't live without.
Dancers trying their hand at designing is nothing new. But they do tend to stick with studio or performance-wear (think Miami City Ballet's Ella Titus and her line of knit warm-ups or former NYCB dancer Janie Taylor and her ballet costumes). But several dancers at American Ballet Theatre—corps members Jamie Kopit, Erica Lall, Katie Boren, Katie Williams, Lauren Post, Zhong-Jing Fang and soloist Cassandra Trenary—are about to launch a fashion line that's built around designs that can be worn outside of the studio. Titled Company Cooperative, the luxe line of women's wear is handmade in New York City's garment district and designed by the dancers themselves.
Royal Ballet dancers Yasmine Naghdi and Beatriz Stix-Brunell recently got together for a different kind of performance: no decadent costumes, sets, stage makeup or lighting. Instead, the principal and first soloist danced choreography by principal character artist Kristen McNally in a stark studio.
The movement is crystal clear, and at the beginning, Naghdi and Stix-Brunell duck and weave around each other with near vacant stares. Do they even know they have a partner? And how should they interact? The situation raises a much larger question: How often do we see a female duet in ballet?
As a student, Milwaukee native John Neumeier appeared in an opera at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. As Hamburg Ballet's artistic director and one of the world's leading choreographers, Neumeier now returns to the Midwest to direct and choreograph a new version of Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice, a co-production of the Lyric Opera, LA Opera and Hamburg State Opera. Set to open in Chicago September 23 with the Joffrey Ballet, the ambitious work will see additional engagements in Los Angeles and Hamburg over the next two years.
How did you come to be involved with this collaboration?
It was initiated by the director of the Lyric Opera, Anthony Freud, but I had already been in contact with Ashley Wheater about a separate project with the Joffrey Ballet. The two things came together—and this was really interesting to me because Chicago was important at the start of my career. I was born in Milwaukee, but most of my training was in or near Chicago.
You've previously created version of Orpheus for Hamburg Ballet. What about this particular production caught your interest?
When I got this offer from Anthony, I just went back to the piece and tried to sense what it meant to me now. Gluck's Orphée was part of a push to reform opera and to make a complete work of art involving music, text and dance. What interests me—particularly in this French version we are doing—is that dance plays such an essential role. When Agnes de Mille choreographed Oklahoma!, it was considered a revolution in musical theater, because dance moved the plot along. In Orphée, we can see that the same idea had been realized several centuries ago: that dance would not be just a divertissement, but a theatrical element, literally "moving" the plot along and expressing in another form the emotion of each situation.
Another idea in Orphée which fascinates me is its directness in projecting profound human emotions—emotions not used as an excuse for vocal virtuosity, but expressed in simple and direct musical terms. In Orphée, we have a mythical subject which is related in an extremely relevant, familiar, human way.
What happens when drones become part of the dance? For Margaret Jenkins Dance Company's latest work, Skies Calling Skies Falling, video artists David and Hi-Jin Hudge used a drone hovering 200 to 400 feet above the ground to film the dancers performing in an industrial granary. The resulting footage will be projected onto the floor and walls of the Taube Atrium Theater, creating a dystopian backdrop to the live performance.
Alex Carrington of MJDC, Photo by RJ Muna
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.
Have you ever felt like your relationship to dance is something of an addiction? Not to worry, that's completely normal—it's simply the way our brains are wired.
This week, The Washington Post published an intriguing feature that looks at the science of what actually goes on upstairs when we're watching a live performance. The insight comes from the emerging field of neuroaesthetics, which uses tools like brain imaging to study the relationship between art and the brain.
Here are some of the most fascinating takeaways: