NYCB's New Season Bodes Well For Women & In-House Talent
Lopez Ochoa on our April 2012 cover.
How can ballet companies stay relevant today? It's a question that's been on our minds here at Dance Magazine a lot lately. We've explored New York City Ballet's attempts to lure in young audiences, the ballet world's problematic reliance on an exclusive "boy's club" of choreographers, the ways ballet dancers are getting closer to their fans and more. But above trendy advertising, big-name seat sellers and accessible stars, the simplest way companies can stay connected to their audiences is to listen to them. With the announcement of its 2016-2017 season last week, NYCB seems to have taken this idea to heart—they've included long-overdue commissions from women, works by three company members and evenings devoted to audience favorites like Justin Peck and Alexei Ratmansky.
Of the programs announced for next year, the one making headlines includes commissions by two women—NYCB principal dancer Lauren Lovette and prolific choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. It has been five years since the company has commissioned a woman, and in those five years few works by women have been revived. These commissions were desperately needed, especially after last fall's season of "risk-taking" commissions by young, inexperienced white men, which angered fans on social media. Though it required a round of Internet-shaming, NYCB listened to its audience and commissioned two promising women choreographers.
NYCB principal Lauren Lovette will be creating her first work on the company. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
The choice to include Lovette points to another theme of the new season—the fostering of in-house talent. The company will also commission a ballet by corps member Peter Walker. Both Walker and Lovette have participated in NYCB's New York Choreographic Insititute, and will be making their first piece for a major company. Regardless of whether they will find success comparable to resident choreographer and soloist Justin Peck's skyrocketing career, it's nice to know that the company cares about the creative voices of its dancers—especially its women and corps de ballet members. And for audiences, there's something thrilling about seeing the creative work of a dancer you've admired onstage.
As for Peck, not only will he have the opportunity to make four new ballets for the company, but he'll have a whole program devoted to his work. Single-choreographer programs are usually reserved for Balanchine and Robbins at NYCB, so this is quite an honor for Peck, and something audiences and critics have been requesting for several seasons now. Ratmansky, another critical favorite, will also have a program all his own, as will Christopher Wheeldon.
Of course, we'll see heavy doses of Balanchine and Robbins, as usual—some of my favorite revivals will include Balanchine's Stravinsky Violin Concerto, recently revived with exciting energy by Pacific Northwest Ballet on their New York tour, and Allegro Brillante. But what I'll look forward to most is seeing what happens when a company takes feedback from its audience, and responds with refreshing changes.
Booking a gig on a cruise ship can feel like you're diving into the unknown—dropping everything to live in the middle of the ocean without family, friends or cell service. But cruise jobs can also offer incredible rewards, like traveling the world for free and delving into a new style.
Is ship life the right fit for you? Here are some elements to consider.
We knew that New York downtown dance darling Okwui Okpokwasili was a big deal. Critics and audiences have been raving about her dance-theater works for years, and the new documentary about her, Bronx Gothic, has attracted the attention of the larger arts community.
But never in our wildest dreams did we imagine she'd show up in a Jay Z video, along with flex dancer Storyboard P. Though we're slightly less surprised to see Storyboard in Jay Z's "4:44" video than we were to see Okpokwasili, we're jazzed that two of our favorites are featured on such a huge platform. (We're also feeling #blessed that we didn't have to subscribe to Tidal to watch this.)
Throughout the years, choreographer Seán Curran has worked with a diverse array of talented collaborators—from Kyrgyz music ensemble Ustatshakirt Plus to the the Grammy Award–winning King's Singers. But perhaps none are as meaningful as his most recent group of co-choreographers: At-risk teens from the after school program and nonprofit The Wooden Floor.
Curran has been in residence with The Wooden Floor since June, where he's worked with students to build choreography based on their lives and communities:
Their creation will be shown July 20-22 at The Wooden Floor Studio Theatre in Santa Ana, California.
"Besides the stage, baking is my other happy place," says New York City Ballet corps member Jenelle Manzi.
Four years ago, she thought her baking days were over when she was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. Manzi had been dealing with pain, frequent illness and joint inflammation for nearly 10 years. Once she cut out gluten, Manzi gradually started to feel better, noticing a transformation in how her body felt and functioned. She found her joints were less inflamed, and she got sick less often.
New York City Ballet soloist Unity Phelan and American Ballet Theatre soloist Cassandra Trenary spend every day making their hard work look effortless and graceful both in the studio and onstage. That's exactly what makes them the perfect spokesmodels for the dance-inspired activewear line, Belle Force.
To celebrate our 90th anniversary, we excavated some of our favorite hidden gems from the DM Archives—images that capture a few of the moments in time we've documented over the decades.
This image was captured during a 1978 New York City Ballet tour that took the company to Copenhagen—home turf for Adam Luders (right), who trained at the Royal Danish Ballet School and briefly danced with the company before joining NYCB as a principal dancer in 1975. Next to Luders is (of course) George Balanchine, in conversation with ballerina Suzanne Farrell. And looking on with a smile? NYCB's current ballet master in chief Peter Martins.
On March 8, 2016, Rami Shafi found himself inspired to film an impromptu dance video of his best friend, Aaron Moses Robin, improvising on Gay St. in New York City's Greenwich Village. Thus was born Pedestrian Wanderlust, a collection of dance videos that has grown to include a monthly improv jam.
Shafi works with anyone who wants to take part in the project, filming videos in locations chosen by the dancers and later adding music. The videos are shot on Shafi's iPhone in one take and, other than the starting and ending points, are entirely improvised. The editing afterwards—including the music choice—is minimal. "I don't like to edit too much. It's just what it is," says Shafi. "I usually can do the editing on the train ride home."