Magazine

Performances Onstage this Month

Myles Thatcher in the studio. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.

 

A New Ballet Voice

SAN FRANCISCO

This season, budding dancemaker Myles Thatcher had the opportunity to be mentored by one of the world’s greatest classical choreographers. Alexei Ratmansky chose the San Francisco Ballet corps member for the Rolex Mentor & Protégé Arts Initiative, taking him under his choreographic wing, so to speak. Now Thatcher will premiere a ballet with six couples set to Bach. It’s his first for SFB’s main season, on a program with works by none other than William Forsythe and Hans van Manen. Select dates Feb. 24–March 7. sfballet.org.

 

Choreographer Asher Lev. Photo Courtesy Chop Shop.

Dance Sampler

BELLEVUE, WA

A popular festival in the Seattle area, Chop Shop: Bodies of Work, offers a refreshing lineup of contemporary dance from the region and beyond. This year includes the Bay Area’s Alex Ketley, Gabrielle Revlock from Philly and Seattle’s Stone Dance Collective, led by Eva Stone, the mastermind behind Chop Shop. International entries include Donald Sales, from Vancouver, and Asher Lev, from Belgium/Israel. Several choreographers will also give master classes, with scholarships available to pre-professionals. Feb. 14–15, Theatre at Meydenbauer. chopshopdance.org.

 

Ballet Memphis in Gabrielle Lamb’s Manifold. Photo by Andrea Zucker, Courtesy Ballet Memphis.

Four Choreographers, One Work

MEMPHIS

It’s an ambitious project: Gather four choreographers from different dance worlds, ask each to create something that speaks to their identity, then link them together and make one cohesive performance. Ballet Memphis’ I Am will include the voices of Reggie Wilson, Gabrielle Lamb, Julia Adam and Steven McMahon in I Am A Man, I Am A Woman, I Am A Child and closing with I Am, respectively. Each piece will be inspired by the theme of civil rights struggles in America.

 

“Part of my quest is building a ballet company that looks like our community,” says artistic director Dorothy Gunther Pugh. “If you look at our culture, women, children and people of color are still not fully valued. I want the work we create to have value in other people’s lives. That we realize that ballet is part of the world—not the world.” Feb. 20–22 at Playhouse on the Square. balletmemphis.org.

 

Yumiko Takeshima and Raphaël Coumes-Marquet in David Dawson’s Giselle. Photo by Costin Radu, Courtesy Semperoper Ballet.

A Modern Take on an Old Tale

DRESDEN

Novels, films and operas have captured the tragic love story Tristan + Isolde. This month, Semperoper Ballet dances a new ballet version by David Dawson, whose work has become a staple of many European repertoires. This isn’t the abstract choreographer’s first narrative, though. Dawson, who credits his years dancing for William Forsythe as his most influential, created an unconventional but well received Giselle for the company in 2008. (And it’s on this year’s rep list, as well, with performances in April). Select dates Feb. 15–26 at the Semperoper in Dresden. semperoper.de.

 

 

Eve Schulte and Kelly Vittetoe in Nicolas Lincoln’s Semi-Detached. Photo by V.P. Virtucio, Courtesy James Sewell Ballet.

Two Styles, Fused

MINNEAPOLIS

James Sewell Ballet, known for exploring the possibilities of what ballet can be, has commissioned a work from New York City postmodern darling Joanna Kotze. Her new work will take its ideas from what’s lost in translation—between conversations, cultures and the ballet-vs.-modern-dance division. Also on the bill: Works by Houston’s Jane Weiner and Minnesota choreographers Lance Hardin and Amy Earnest, as well as a new piece by company dancer Nicolas Lincoln. Feb. 6–15, The Cowles Center. thecowlescenter.org.

 

 

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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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.


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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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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Dancers & Companies
Joan Marcus

Conscientious theatergoers may be familiar with The School for Scandal, The School for Wives and School of Rock. But how many are also aware of the school of Fosse?

The 1999 musical, a posthumous exploration of the choreographic career of Bob Fosse, ran for 1,093 performances, winning four Tonys and 10 nominations; employing 32 dancers; and, completely unintentionally, nurturing a generation of Broadway choreographers. You may have heard of them: Andy Blankenbuehler and Sergio Trujillo danced in the original cast, Josh Rhodes was a swing, and Christopher Gattelli replaced Trujillo when he landed choreography jobs in Massachusetts and Canada. Blankenbuehler remembers that when Trujillo left, "It was as if he was graduating."

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Dancers & Companies
From left, Ethel Merman, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Debbie Allen. All Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

January 16 might as well be a Broadway holiday. Three gigantic names were born on this day, in 1908, 1950 and 1980, and they represent three distinct eras of powerhouse musicals. Without them, there'd be no belting Reno Sweeney, no "Fame"-ous Lydia Grant and no rapping Alexander Hamilton. Happy birthday to these indelible superstars.

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News
When it comes to BodyVox, it's best to expect the unexpected. Photo by Lois Greenfield, Courtesy BodyVox

In the midst of its 20th-anniversary season, BodyVox is taking a moment to look back. The Portland, Oregon–based company presents Urban Meadow, an amalgamation of some of its most popular works, at Philadelphia's Prince Theater, Jan. 18–21. Expect whimsy, and the unexpected. bodyvox.com.

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