Dancers & Companies

Meet A Very Different Faun, Tonight on PBS

The mythical faun, half human, half goat, has inspired many dance works. In Nijinsky's 1912 Afternoon of a Faun, he created a role for himself with the vulnerability of a human and the sensual power of an animal. His love object, a beautiful siren, was unattainable, so he pleasured himself with her scarf, causing a sensation in Paris.

Jerome Tisserand of Pacific Northwest Ballet in Robbins' Afternoon of a Faun, photo @Angela Sterling

Jerome Robbins created his faun in 1953 to the same Debussy music, but his character was part human, part dancer. The narcissism of looking in the mirror fostered a languid kind of self love. When he wakes up to the beautiful female dancer in the room, they are both so self-involved that the attraction doesn't go beyond one still-born kiss.

Mark Dendy portrayed a homoerotic duet with his "Afternoon of the Faunes" (part of his Dream Analysis) in 1996. He and Larry Keigwin sprinted faun-like, side by side, mostly in place. This new interpretation of the animal/human in love was quirky and touching.

Gregg Mozgala, with Lucie Baker (seated) in Rogoff's Diagnosis of a Faun, from the film Enter the Faun.

Tonight on "America Reframed" on PBS we will see yet another rendition of the faun. Choreographer/healer Tamar Rogoff's protagonist is sensual, virile, charming—and has cerebral palsy. In a way it's a perfect metaphor for the faun never fitting in. The lead performer is the charismatic, distinctive Gregg Mozgala, a professional actor. This amazing documentary, Enter the Faun, tracks Rogoff's approach to rehearsals with a differently-abled Faun, interspersed with clips of his performance in her 2009 Diagnosis of a Faun. Rogoff had an intuition that she could do what no doctor could—change the way he walks. In the film, she trains Mozgala in her "body scripting" technique, which involves hands-on manipulations and vigorous, sustained shaking. Mozgala is a changed man after their work together—but not without a sense of loss for his old, familiar, lop-sided walk.

When I previewed this film for Dance on Camera last year, I called Rogoff a miracle worker. If you watch the film on "America Reframed" tonight, you'll see why. You'll also see how humor can bubble up from a challenging situation.

Here's the trailer.

The 68-minute film airs tonight at 8pm EST. To check local listings in your area, click here.

For more info and for streaming after March 28, click here.

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:

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Thinkstock

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.

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Photo by Theo Kossenas, courtesy The Washington Ballet

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.

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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.

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Health & Body
LINES dancer Courtney Henry. Photo by Quinn Wharton

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.

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Training
Laurel Jenkins, Photo by Vincent Beaume

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.

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Breaking Stereotypes
Still from La Folía. Shot by Olivia Kimmel, Courtesy Adam Grannick

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.

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Advice for Dancers
Pixabay

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

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Dancers & Companies
Photo by Johan Persson, Courtesy ROH

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.

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Dancers & Companies
Nisian Hughes

"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.

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