Paradise in Positano
What do Christopher Wheeldon, Olga Smirnova, Steven McRae, PeiJu Chien-Pott and Xander Parish have in common? They were all honored with the Premio Positano Danza Léonide Massine on Saturday in Positano, Italy. As one of the judges, I was there to soak in the artistry of these and other dance artists, as well as the beauty of this town on the Amalfi Coast. For the first time, the Positano Prize formed a partnership with the Benois de la danse Prize, which went to the Royal Swedish Ballet’s Marika Kido.
Carla Fracci, Italy's beloved prima ballerina, was on hand, and so was Alberta Testa, founder of the Positano Prize. Here’s a quick rundown of the gala performance, which took place on an outdoors platform on the beach—after the rain:
• Opening the dance portion (after endless speeches) was the kinetically exciting Alvaro Dule of Wayne McGregor|Random Dance. In a solo made for the occasion by Matteo Levaggi, Dule leapt wth leonine strength, distended his ribs, and spiraled his fingers. The effect was sheer contemporary energy.
Alvaro Dule, all photos by Arkimedia Lab Communication - Vito Fusco
• The lifetime award went to Mats Ek and Ana Laguna (click here and scroll down to see our coverage of Mats Ek when he received the Dance Magazine Award last year) To the delight of everyone, Laguna, with her forthright lustiness, played the Nurse to Mariko Kida’s spritely Juliet in an excerpt from Ek’s Juliia & Romeo.
• Steven McRae of The Royal Ballet danced two fast and dense solos (Les Lutins by Johan Kobborg, and Czardas by himself). In Czardas, he whipped the ballet folk form into a tap-dancing frenzy, during which the mic tethered to his body flung outward as he spun around. He caught it in time to finish up with a roll and cool lounge pose.
• I can see why Laura Cappelle wrote that audiences are “awestruck” by Olga Smirnova in the June cover story. In both Balanchine’s Diamonds, with Bolshoi partner Semyon Chudin, and her Dying Swan, her dancing was supremely majestic.
Smirnova and Chudin in "Diamonds."
• PeiJu Chien-Pott, the latest powerhouse of the Martha Graham Dance Company, performed two solos from Cave of the Heart, animating the oppositional Graham shapes with an inner emotional force.
• A moving moment came when the blind dancer Giuseppe Comuniello performed Vergilio Sieni’s Picasso con Sedia. Stretching across the seat of a chair and pressing his face between the slats, he was clearly feeling his way.
* In tribute to Wheeldon, Dutch National Ballet dancers Anna Tsigankova and Jozef Varga performed the intriguingly complex partnering of his recent Duet expertly (with only one flub due to the still-wet floor).
Tsigankova and Varga in Duet by Christopher Wheeldon
• Two Mariinsky dancers, Xander Parish (read his “Why I Dance” here) and Oksana Skorik, performed the White Swan pas de deux. He was every inch the prince, and she was a real creature with a lovely sense of abandon.
• Rudolf Nureyev, who received a Positano Prize in 1982, was represented by Carlo ie Lanno’s sensitive interpretation of a fourth-act solo for Siegfried in the icon's version of Swan Lake. Nureyev loved this region so much that he bought the island Li Galli, just 20 minutes off the coast, and made it his home for the last two decades of his life. Some of us were fortunate to actually visit this fantastic island on Saturday morning, courtesy of the Positano Prize’s artistic director, Daniele Cipriani. Nureyev knew how to live in high style; every object inside the several buildings, now owned by a local hotelier, is exquisite. Massine, who had owned the island before Nureyev, had renovated an ancient lighthouse to create a dance studio. The island itself as well as everything in it and on it was so overwhelmingly beautiful that the word "paradise" was on everyone's lips.
Here’s the list of prizes awarded:
• Lifetime Achievement: Mats Ek and Ana Laguna
• Choreographer of the Year: Christopher Wheeldon
• Benois/Positano Award: Mariko Kida (Royal Swedish Ballet)
• Female Dancer of the Year, international scene: Olga Smirnova (Bolshoi, Moscow)
• Male Dancer of the Year, international: Steven McRae (The Royal Ballet, London)
• Female Emerging Dancer, international: Oksana Skorik (Mariinsky, St. Petersburg)
• Male Emerging Dancer, international: Xander Parish (Mariinsky, St. Petersburg)
• Female Dancer of the Year, contemporary, international: PeiJu Chien-Pott (Martha Graham Dance Company, New York)
• Male Dancer of the Year, contemporary, international: Alvaro Dule (Wayne McGregor|Random Dance, London)
• Classical Dancer of the Year, Italian scene: Carl di Lanno (formerly La Scala in Milan, today San Francisco Ballet)
• Contemporary Dancer of the Year, Italian: Giuseppe Comuniello (Virgilio Sieni Dance)
• Massine Prize Legacy: Elizabeth Souritz (noted dance historian and biographer of Léonide Massine, Moscow)
• For excellent dance training "Luca Vespoli": Larissa Anisimova (President Foundation National Academy of Dance, Rome)
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."