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From Oregon to Iceland: Cameron Corbett
Corbett (in red) joined IDC for its repertoire. Here, Johan Inger’s Walking Mad. Photo by Golli, Courtesy Iceland Dance Company.
Arriving in Reykjavík, Iceland, Cameron Corbett felt like he had landed on another planet. He saw the dramatic contrasts of Blue Lagoon, the volcanic fields of Thingvellir National Park and the majestic mountains surrounding the city.
Growing up, the Portland, Oregon, native had no idea he would ever visit Iceland, let alone make it his home for 17 years. His first major dance job was with Tanzforum Köln in Germany, where he met fellow dancer Katrín Hall. When Hall retired from performing to become the artistic director of Iceland Dance Company, she invited Corbett to be a guest artist. “I knew almost nothing about the company except that the repertoire was exciting,” says Corbett. The original three-month guest contract was extended to six months, then a year, until he was offered a permanent position.
Iceland Dance Company is a small contemporary-repertory troupe of classically trained dancers. Because of its proximity to major dance hubs in other parts of Europe, it is able to commission notable choreographers, while capitalizing on Reykjavík’s small community of artists and dancegoers. The company regularly performs works by Jirí Kylián, Itzik Galili, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and artistic advisor Erna Ómarsdóttir. “There is a lot to appreciate in almost every production,” says Corbett. “Some have an especially fulfilling rehearsal process, some are more fun to perform.” The company puts up three productions per season, with limited touring in Europe.
Corbett has also found a choreographic home at IDC, which has commissioned him to create dances in collaboration with composers, visual artists, actors and directors—opportunities that, he notes, might not have been possible at a larger company, in a larger country. And he has been able to seek out artistic projects beyond dance, including a stint as coach for Iceland’s national ice skating team. Plus, there are the governed benefits that working artists in Europe are afforded. Corbett has a 12-month contract, six to eight weeks of paid vacation and health care.
Corbett also found himself surprised by how kind—he emphasizes “not only friendly, but kind”—the people of Iceland are. Though his Icelandic was, and remains, “horrible,” the language barrier has been small since most Icelanders speak English, too. And, thankfully, he says, the sense of humor leans toward the irreverent. “Any social mistakes I made when I arrived were either ignored or enjoyed immensely.”
But this is not to say that life in Iceland didn’t take some adjusting. Because Reykjavík sits on a peninsula, temperatures rarely fall below freezing, but it is just as rare for it to be warmer than 60 degrees, even in summer. Most difficult was adjusting to the abundance of sunlight—and lack of it. Once, Corbett woke up from an evening nap, and mistaking 8 pm for 8 am, he went to work, showing up to a locked theater. Since then, he keeps his clocks on 24-hour format and is more diligent about maintaining a regular sleep schedule. “The dark winters and constant sunshine of the summers can play games with your mental well-being,” says Corbett. “I had to learn to keep my schedule and emotions in check.”
Though he’s far from his former home, Corbett says his adopted country and its national dance company suit his personality much better than the United States. “Reykjavík is large enough to create good artists, but not so big as to deter collaboration. The artists here are eager to work together and brave enough to take risks. Maybe because the world isn’t always watching.”
Whether playing a saucy soubrette or an imperious swan, Irina Dvorovenko was always a formidable presence on the American Ballet Theatre stage. Since her 2013 retirement at 39, after 16 seasons, she's been bringing that intensity to an acting career in roles ranging from, well, Russian ballerinas to the Soviet-era newcomer she plays in the FX spy series "The Americans."
We caught up with her after tech rehearsal for the Encores! presentation of the musical Grand Hotel, directed and choreographed by Josh Rhodes and running March 21–25 at New York City Center. It's another tempestuous ballerina role for Dvorovenko—Elizaveta Grushinskaya, on her seventh farewell tour, resentfully checks into the Berlin hostelry of the title with her entourage, only to fall for a handsome young baron and sing "Bonjour, Amour."
When Andrew Montgomery first saw the Las Vegas hit Le Rêve - The Dream 10 years ago, he knew he had to be a part of the show one day. Eight years later, he auditioned, and made it to the last round of cuts. On his way home, still waiting to hear whether he'd been cast, he was in a motorcycle accident that ended up costing him half his leg.
But Montgomery's story doesn't end the way you might think. Today, he's a cast member of Le Rêve, where he does acrobatics and aerial work, swims (yes, the show takes places in and around a large pool) and dances, all with his prosthetic leg.
When you spend as much time on the road as The Royal Ballet's Steven McRae, getting access to a proper gym can be a hassle. To stay fit, the Australian-born principal turns to calisthenics—the old-school art of developing aerobic ability and strength with little to no equipment.
"It's basically just using your own body weight," McRae explains. "In terms of partnering, I'm not going to dance with a ballerina who is bigger than me, so if I can sustain my own body weight, then in my head I should be fine."
Last week in a piece I wrote about the drama at English National Ballet, I pointed out that many of the accusations against artistic director Tamara Rojo—screaming at dancers, giving them the silent treatment, taking away roles without explanation—were, unfortunately, pretty standard practice in the ballet world:
If it's a conversation we're going to have, we can't only point the finger at ENB.
The line provoked a pretty strong response. Professional dancers, students and administrators reached out to me, making it clear that it's a conversation they want to have. Several shared their personal stories of experiencing abusive behavior.
Christopher Hampson, artistic director of the Scottish Ballet, wrote his thoughts about the issue on his company's website on Monday:
Camille A. Brown is on an impressive streak: In October, the Ford Foundation named her an Art of Change fellow. In November, she won an AUDELCO ("Viv") Award for her choreography in the musical Bella: An American Tall Tale. On December 1, her Camille A. Brown & Dancers made its debut at the Kennedy Center, and two days later she was back in New York City to see her choreography in the opening of Broadway's Once on This Island. Weeks later, it was announced that she was choreographing NBC's live television musical Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, to air on April 1.
An extraordinarily private person, few knew that during this time Brown was in the midst of a health crisis. It started with an upset stomach while performing with her company on tour last summer.
"I was drinking ginger ale, thinking that I would feel better," she says. Finally, the pain became so acute that she went to the emergency room in Mississippi. Her appendix had burst. "Until then, I didn't know it was serious," she says. "I'm a dancer—aches and pains don't keep you from work."
A flock of polyamorous princes, a chorus of queer dying swans, a dominatrix witch: These are a few of the characters that populate the works of Katy Pyle, who, with her Brooklyn-based company Ballez, has been uprooting ballet's gender conventions since 2011.
Historically, ballet has not allowed for the expression of lesbian, transgender or gender-nonconforming identities. With Ballez, Pyle is reinventing the classical canon on more inclusive terms. Her work stems from a deep love of ballet and, at the same time, a frustration with its limits on acceptable body types and on the stories it traditionally tells.
The latest fitness fad has us literally buzzing. Vibrating tools—and exercise classes—promise added benefits to your typical workout and recovery routine, and they're only growing more popular.
Warning: These good vibrations don't come cheap.
My life is in complete chaos since my dance company disbanded. I have a day job, so money isn't the issue. It's the loss of my world that stings the most. What can I do?
—Lost Career, Washington, DC
Dance Theatre of Harlem is busy preparing for the company's Vision Gala on April 4. The works on the program, which takes place on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., reflect on the legacy of Dr. King and his impact on company founder Arthur Mitchell. Among them is the much-anticipated revival of legendary choreographer Geoffrey Holder's Dougla, which will include live music and dancers from Collage Dance Collective.
We stepped into the studio with Holder's wife Carmen de Lavallade and son Leo Holder to hear what it feels like to keep Holder's legacy alive and what de Lavallade thinks of the recent rise in kids standing up against the government—as she did not too long ago.
The encounter with man-eating female creatures in Jerome Robbins' The Cage never fails to shock audiences. As this tribe of insects initiates the newly-born Novice into their community and prepares her for the attack of the male Intruders, the ballet draws us into a world of survival and instinct.
This year celebrates the 100th anniversary of Jerome Robbins' birth, and a number of Robbins programs are celebrating his timeless repertoire. But it especially feels like a prime moment to experience The Cage again. Several companies are performing it: San Francisco Ballet begins performances on March 20, followed by the English National Ballet in April and New York City Ballet in May.
Why it matters: In this time of female empowerment—as women are supporting one another in vocalizing injustices, demanding fair treatment and pay, and advocating for future generations—The Cage's nest of dominant women have new significance.