The Best of 2015
This year we gave our readers the power to weigh in on the most memorable dance moments of the year. You nominated performances you loved, voted on the top five and selected a diverse group of artists and productions that span the country. Here’s what you chose as your favorites.
Körbes takes her final bow at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy PNB.
Best Female Performance
In the sea of ballerina retirements this year, Carla Körbes’ farewell stood out to our readers as particularly bittersweet. She was effortlessly regal in Diamonds, and her port de bras exquisite and commanding in Jessica Lang’s The Calling. The end of Serenade, when Körbes was carried offstage by four men, seemed a fitting tribute to her stardom.
Best Male Performance
Fairchild and Leanne Cope in An American in Paris. Photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy AAIP.
“Triple threat” doesn’t do Robert Fairchild’s turn in An American in Paris justice. As the lovesick and exuberant Jerry Mulligan, Fairchild charmed our readers with wit reminiscent of Gene Kelly (the originator of the role in the 1951 film) and the crisp technique that makes him a New York City Ballet star.
Alonzo King’s Concerto for Two Violins. Photo by Quinn B. Wharton, courtesy LINES.
Alonzo King LINES Ballet revived King’s Concerto for Two Violins on tour this year, so readers all over the world could experience his reimagining of Bach’s classic score (used by Balanchine for Concerto Barocco), and the explosive physicality we’ve come to expect and love from LINES.
Best New Production
Fairchild and the cast of An American in Paris. Photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy AAIP.
Christopher Wheeldon’s An American in Paris opened on Broadway in April, marking the choreographer’s directorial debut and becoming the most talked about dance musical of the season. Based on the classic film and set to the dreamy songs of the Gershwins, the show stars New York City Ballet’s Robert Fairchild and The Royal Ballet’s Leanne Cope. Our readers love the sheer volume of dance in this show—even the set changes are intricately choreographed. And you can’t go wrong with a 16-minute dream ballet and a cast of dancers pulled from top companies around the country.
Cedar Lake dancers in Nelko’s Awakening. Photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Nelko.
Best Emerging Choreographer
It was the year of the viral dance music video, and Lindsay Nelko’s, set to Ellie Goulding’s cover of Active Child’s “Hanging On,” landed her on our readers’ map of choreographers to watch. Easily transitioning between concert and commercial, she has choreographed for several television shows, international ballet companies and her own full-length show last summer—her prize for achieving 2nd runner-up at the 2013 Capezio A.C.E. Awards.
DM Editor Favorites
Photo by Paul Kolnik
Editor in Chief
Justin Peck’s Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes
“He gave himself an almost impossible task to reimagine such an iconic piece of music—but he did it brilliantly. It felt completely fresh, without ignoring the historical associations we all have with the score.”
Vice President, Editorial
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s final performance
“Artistic director Alexandra Damiani came onstage to announce there would be a final surprise. The curtain rose on the full company in Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16—the segment where the dancers create a ripple effect of synchronized movements to traditional Israeli music, discarding their suits, shirts and fedoras. It was a memorable way to go out.”
Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy ABT
Julie Kent’s last performance of Manon
“She was breathtakingly spectacular in the bedroom scene. It was one of those rare moments when you’re overwhelmed with emotions, holding back tears but beaming a smile at the same time.”
“I love how it demonstrates an admiration for musical theater’s history and a vision for its future. It’s a smart, beautiful show, and it will make history.”
Ohad Naharin’s Sadeh21
“The best part was when the credits scrolled and the Batsheva dancers were happily diving off into the unknown.”
Photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy In the Lights
Camille A. Brown’s BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play
“It was so personal, yet she tapped into something deeply universal in her exploration of black girlhood. I love that the talkback was mandatory—she insisted on having the last word.”
We've been saying for years that dance training has benefits that reach far beyond preparation for a professional dance career: The discipline and attention to detail fostered in technique class, the critical thinking skills acquired in composition, and the awareness and rapid reaction times required for improvisation can all carry over into other fields.
But what if a choreographic tool kit could have a more direct application outside the studio? Say, to city planning?
"What if you could learn from the world's best dance teachers in your living room?" This is the question that Dancio poses on their website. Dancio is a new startup that offers full length videos of ballet classes taught by master teachers. As founder Caitlin Trainor puts it, "these superstar teachers can be available to students everywhere for the cost of a cup of coffee."
For Trainor, a choreographer and the artistic director of Trainor Dance, the idea for Dancio came from a sense of frustration relatable to many dancers; feeling like they need to warm up properly before rehearsals, but not always having the time, energy or funds to get to dance class. One day while searching the internet for a quick online class, Trainor was shocked to not be able to find anything that, as she puts it, "hit the mark in terms of relevance and quality. I thought to myself, how does this not exist?" she says. "We have the Daily Burn for Fitness, YogaGlo for yogis, Netflix for entertainment and nothing for dancers! But then I thought, I can make this!" And thus, Dancio (the name is a combination of dance and video), was born.
There's a surprising twist to Regina Willoughby's last season with Columbia City Ballet: It's also her 18-year-old daughter Melina's first season with the company. Regina, 40, will retire from the stage in March, just as her daughter starts her own career as a trainee. But for this one season, they're sharing the stage together.
Last night, the New York City Ballet board of directors approved ballet master in chief Peter Martins' request for a temporary leave of absence amidst an ongoing investigation into sexual harassment.
The investigation came to light on Monday, when the New York Times reported that NYCB and the School of American Ballet had hired a law firm to investigate their leader after receiving an anonymous letter detailing instances of harassment.
You dance like a knockout—but can you take a punch? Intense stage combat is a crucial element in many shows, from the sword fighting in Romeo & Juliet to the left hooks of the Broadway musical Rocky. But performing it well requires careful body awareness, trust and a full commitment to safety. Whether you're dancing a pivotal battle in a story ballet or intense partnering in a contemporary piece, these expert tips can help you make your fight scenes convincing, compelling and safe.
1. Master the Basics
When Luke Ingham was cast as Tybalt in San Francisco Ballet's Romeo & Juliet, he spent a full month practicing the basic body positions, footwork and momentum of fencing. "You need to be really grounded, you need to know where your feet are," Ingham says.
Brooklyn-based burlesque troupe Company XIV isn't afraid to take risks. Nutcracker Rouge, their take on the holiday classic, features a cast of jack-of-all-trades dancers who double as greeters, ushers, singers, actors and aerialists, while baring a good amount of skin but even more confidence. (Disclaimer: The show is for mature audiences only.) What's most impressive about these artists is how captivating they are. Regardless of what style of dance you do, if you want to become a better performer, consider taking a page out of their playbook.
You've got to be "on" the moment the audience walks in the front door.
Former New York City Ballet dancer Wilhelmina Frankfurt first spoke out about sexual misconduct at NYCB in Psychology Tomorrow in 2012. Since October, she's been working with The Washington Post reporter Sarah Kaufman for a story about Peter Martins, and when the School of American Ballet began investigating Martins for an anonymous accusation, she was called in to discuss her experiences. But Frankfurt feels there's more to the larger picture, and shares that here with Dance Magazine, as edited by Maggie Levin.
In 1994, I began to write a book of essays about my life in dance—mostly as an exercise. When the #MeToo movement began this year, I knew it was time to brush the dust off and take another look. Although incomplete, these essays addressed the roots that have long run between sexual abuse, alcoholism and ballet. They involve George Balanchine, Peter Martins and numerous stars of the New York City Ballet. It's painfully clear that my story is the same story that has occurred thousands of times, all over the world.
I'm heartbroken that I might have to drop out of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. My back has been spasming since I did an extra-high kick to the back. My X-ray and MRI are normal, but my doctor thinks I hurt my sacroiliac joint. Physical therapy hasn't helped yet. How can I know for sure that this is the real problem?
—Injured Rockette, New York, NY
Freddie Kimmel's musical theater career was just taking off when he woke up one morning with a pain in his groin. A trip to the doctor assured him it was nothing of concern, even though the sensation returned a few months later. As a dancer, Kimmel was used to pushing through discomfort, so he kept going to dance class to "work it out."
But the pain persisted. During a run of The Full Monty at Westchester Broadway Theatre, Kimmel was diagnosed with advanced metastasized cancer. Ten tumors had infiltrated his body.
Japanese-born, New York–based choreographer Kota Yamazaki returns to his roots as a butoh dancer in Darkness Odyssey Part 2: I or Hallucination. He explores butoh founder Tatsumi Hijikata's idea of the extreme fragility of the body. Yamazaki is joined by contemporary luminaries Julian Barnett, Raja Feather Kelly, Joanna Kotze and Mina Nishimura, each of whom engages in drastically eccentric pathways, making the body appear to disintegrate before your eyes. Music is by Kenta Nagai and visual environment by lighting wizard Thomas Dunn. Dec. 13–15, Baryshnikov Arts Center. bacnyc.org.