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.
It's no secret that affording college is a challenge for many students. And for dancers, there are added complications, like the relative lack of merit scholarships that take artistic talent into consideration and the improbability of a stable salary to pay off loans post-graduation. But no matter your budget, a smart approach to the application process can help you focus less on money and more on your training.
According to Drexel University performing arts department head Miriam Giguere, figuring out the kind of financial assistance a school offers is just as important as navigating what kind of dance program you want. Here's how to incorporate finances into your decision-making process:
When dancers get injured, they often think they should eat less. The thought process goes something like, Since I'm not able to move as much as I usually do, I'm not burning enough calories to justify the portions I'm used to.
But the truth is, scaling back your meals could actually be detrimental to your healing process.
With her fearless demeanor onstage, it's easy to see how Washington Ballet apprentice Sarah Steele attracted the keen eye of former American Ballet Theatre stars Julie Kent and Ethan Stiefel. Promoted mid-season from the studio company by artistic director Kent, Steele was cast by Stiefel as the lead in Frontier, his world premiere for The Washington Ballet, this past spring. For the space-themed piece, Steele donned a black-and-white "space suit" onstage, exhibiting dual qualities of strength and grace. Most evocative about Steele's dancing might be her innate intelligence—she was accepted to Harvard on early admission, and plans to resume her studies there in the future. But first, she'll dance.
Lots of college groups do stepping—a form of body percussion based on slapping, tapping and stomping—but Step Afrika! is the first professional dance company to do it. They are currently at New York City's New Victory Theater, presenting The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence, a show based on the painting series by Harlem Renaissance artist Jacob Lawrence about The Great Migration of the 1900s, when millions of African Americans fled the Jim Crow South and traveled by train to the North for a better life. The Great Migration transformed the demographics of the country, and Jacob Lawrence's paintings became famous for their bold color and evocative power.
We always figured that stretching made us more flexible by loosening up our muscles and joints. Some of us, ahem, might have even tried to fall asleep in our middle splits to get our stubbornly stiff inner thighs to let go.
But it turns out that might not actually be how stretching works.
A new review published in the Scandinavian Journal of Science & Medicine in Sports suggests that increased flexibility actually comes from your brain growing more used to the tension.
Efficient movement is easy to recognize—we all know when we see a dancer whose every action seems essential and unmannered. Understanding how to create this effect, however, is far more elusive. From a practical perspective, dancing with efficiency helps you to conserve your energy and minimize wear and tear on the body; from an artistic point of view, it allows you to make big impressions out of little moments, and lasting memories for those watching.
So much struggle and determination goes into your training that it can be difficult for early-career dancers to recalibrate their priorities toward simplicity and ease, says Laurel Jenkins, freelance performer and Trisha Brown Dance Company staging artist. "Your aesthetic might shift, and you might have to find new things beautiful." Mastering the art of effortless movement requires a new perspective and a smart strategy—on- and offstage.
As we approach Thanksgiving, there's much to be grateful for. Perhaps one of the most important things on your list is dance. Whether you're a full-time company member, an aspiring professional, an audience member, or you simply delight in dancing in your daydreams, this art form is a creative escape.
That's not to say that being a dancer is easy: Pursuing such a competitive career can be heartbreaking, especially when you're faced with rejection.
La Folía, a short dance film by director Adam Grannick that was recently released online, echoes these sentiments in under 12 minutes.
It took two years of intense nutrition counseling and psychotherapy to pull me out of being anorexic. My problem now is that I've gained too much weight from eating normally. Is there no middle ground? I can't fit into my clothes, but I don't want to go back to being sick.
—Former Anorexic, Weston, CT
Whatever your feelings about Wayne McGregor's heady, hyper-physical choreography, we can all probably agree on one thing: We'd really, really love to pick his brain. And tomorrow, Dance Umbrella, a UK-based dance festival, is giving everyone the chance to do exactly that.
"Women are often presented as soft, fragile little creatures in ballet," says Léonore Baulac. "We're not." The Paris Opéra Ballet's newest female étoile is discussing her unease at some of the 19th-century narratives she portrays. "It was real acting," she says with a laugh of La Sylphide. "James kills her by taking away her wings, yet she tells him not to worry and goes to die elsewhere onstage!"
Sitting in the canteen of the Palais Garnier, Baulac embodies some of ballet's contradictions in the 21st century. With her fair curls and dainty features, she could easily pass for a little girl's fantasy princess. As Juliet, she exuded a girlish ardor that felt entirely natural; her reservations notwithstanding, her Sylphide was committed and carefully Romantic in style.
Yet the 27-year-old is no ingénue. At Garnier that day, her sweater reads "I can't believe I still have to protest this s**t," a feminist slogan; last winter, Baulac proudly wore it over a Kitri tutu on Instagram. And her repertoire is as thoroughly modern as she is offstage. A versatile performer even by Parisian standards, she is equally at home in Nutcracker as she is in the works of Pina Bausch and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.