Dancers & Companies

Nourishing Our Dance Souls: The Dance Magazine Awards

At the end of the Dance Magazine Awards last night, editor at large Wendy Perron summed up the event perfectly: "I feel so nourished," she said.

Tiler Peck in Balanchine's "Fascinatin' Rhythm." PC Christopher Duggan.

It was an exceptionally moving evening filled with heartfelt dances and profoundly honest speeches. What a treat it was to see awardee Tiler Peck perform "Fascinatin' Rhythm" from George Balanchine's Who Cares? up close where all the details of her musicality, breath and cheeky personality were right in front of us. And to watch Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Elisa Clark dance Robert Battle's touching 2010 solo For Carolyn, in honor of his mentor, awardee Carolyn Adams. And for awardee Lar Lubovitch to offer a sneak peek of what he's working on in preparation for his next work.

Robert Battle introduced Carolyn Adams by describing how, as a student, he would "wait like a baby bird for a gem" of wisdom from her. One of his favorite insights? "As you walk up to a door, part of you already sees yourself on the other side," Adams would tell her students. "Even when this job gets tough," Battle continued, "I see the other side, and there is Carolyn, dancing in the light."

Carolyn Adams. PC Christopher Duggan.

Upon accepting her award, Adams spoke about how she believed dance was our birth right, and how, with the help of people like Paul Taylor, she'd dedicated her life to sharing it.

Damian Woetzel presenting to Tiler Peck. PC Christopher Duggan.

Damian Woetzel then told us the story of the first time he saw Tiler Peck dance: While warming up in the wings, he spotted a new corps member with a jazzy, nuanced musicality he couldn't take his eyes off of. Today, he and his wife Heather Watts jokingly call Peck "the magical unicorn princess" because of her exceptional talents.

A humbled Peck took the stage, admitting that she felt like she hadn't accomplished enough yet in her career to receive such a prestigious honor. But then she realized it was the perfect moment to celebrate her 10 years at New York City Ballet, and get inspired for many more to come.

Lynn Garafola with Dance Magazine writer Siobhan Burke. PC Christopher Duggan.

To introduce awardee Lynn Garafola, writer Elizabeth Kendall posed the question, "Why does dance, an ephemeral art form, need a history?" She answered the question brilliantly, noting that what happened before creates what happens now. Garafola is not only a master of documenting what happened before (she has written or edited 10—soon to be 11—books), but also incredibly generous in helping anyone else trying to do the same.

Lar Lubovitch. PC Christopher Duggan.

"I like to think that I bring back performances and dancers for a new community," said Garafola, who was celebrating her 70th birthday. She spoke about features she'd written for Dance Magazine, from "Price-Tagging Diaghilev" to an interview with Maya Plisetskaya.

Closing out the night was Martha Graham Dance Company artistic director Janet Eilber presenting to Lar Lubovitch. She shared how, when she asked his advice for young choreographers, Lubovitch said, "Don't chase the newest trend," admitting that he's been in and out, in and out, in and out of style over the course of his career, yet always remained true to his vision.

Awardees Lar Lubovitch, Tiler Peck, Lynn Garafola and Carolyn Adams. PC Christopher Duggan.

For his part, Lubovitch told the quirky story of the first time he ever felt compelled to dance: Around age 3 or 4, the dime store across the street from his family's apartment caught fire, and the next morning, the water the firefighters had sprayed froze with the toys trapped inside, including a teddy bear. Without thinking, Lubovitch felt compelled to move: "Our bodies take over when something inexpressible happens." He spoke about the many reasons people have danced throughout history—from warriors to Salome and Mata Hari to Louis XIV. "Through the drama of line, shape and motion, we can say what is most truthful, and therefore most beautiful," he stated, adding that all of his work might be an attempt to recapture that moment of staring at the frozen teddy bear. He confessed that, as a lifelong "Trekkie," he's inspired by Captain Kirk's mission statement: "To boldly go where no one has gone before."

We congratulate all of the awardees, and can't wait to see where else they will boldly bring dance in the years to come.

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Lopez in Circus Polka. PC Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy MCB

When Miami City Ballet artistic director Lourdes Lopez was a principal dancer at New York City Ballet, she missed her opportunity to honor Jerome Robbins onstage. "Every time there was a celebration for Jerry, I was either injured or had just retired," says Lopez. "I was never able to publicly thank him onstage for all that he taught us and the beauty he left us."

But when Lopez was planning MCB's Jerome Robbins Celebration for the 100th anniversary of the legend's birth, she saw an opportunity. She asked the Robbins Trust to allow her to perform the Ringmaster in Robbins' Circus Polka, a role the choreographer originated himself.

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Matthew Neenan used images of silencing and control in let mortal tongues awake. Photo by Bill Herbert.

From coast to coast, choreographers have spent the first year of Donald Trump's presidency responding to the impact of his election and what it means for them as artists.

New York City's Dante Brown used rubber Trump masks in his work Package (revamped), which examines the monstrosities of power.

A video titled "Dancers vs. Trump Quotes" went viral last summer, showing dancers taking Trump's "locker-room" talk to task.

Alexis Convento, lead curator of the New York City–based Current Sessions, dedicated a whole program to the concept of resistance, while educator and interdisciplinary artist Jill Sigman has initiated a workshop called "Body Politic, Somatic Selves," as a space for movement research around questions of support, activism and solidarity.

In San Francisco, choreographer Margaret Jenkins facilitated a panel of artists about the role of activism within their work.

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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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Dancers & Companies
Courtesy of The Beautiful Mind Series

When London-based perfume company The Beautiful Mind Series was looking for a collaborator for their next scent, they skipped the usual celebrity set and brought in prima ballerina Polina Semionova instead. "I was fascinated by what goes on in the mind of a great dancer," perfumer Geza Schoen said in a press release. Semionova's ballet-inspired scent, Precision & Grace, celebrates the intelligence and beauty behind her craft.

Courtesy of The Beautiful Mind Series

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In The Studio
Abraham.In.Motion performing "Drive." Photo by Ian Douglas.

The ever-so-busy Kyle Abraham is back in New York City for a brief visit with his company Abraham.In.Motion as they prepare for an exciting spring season of new endeavors with some surprising guests. The company will be debuting a new program at The Joyce Theater on May 1, that will include two new pieces from Abraham, restaged works by Doug Varone and Bebe Miller, and a world premiere from Andrea Miller. Talk about an exciting line-up!

We caught up with Abraham during a recent rehearsal where he revealed what he is tired of hearing in the dance community.

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News
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.


Rant & Rave
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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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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