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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.”
My dance coach wants my word that I'll keep competing under his school's name for the next year and not audition. I'm 18 years old and already doing lead roles and winning medals. I love his teaching, but shouldn't I be ready to go out and get a job?
—Gil, Las Vegas, NV
How do we make ballet, a traditionally homogeneous art form, relevant to and reflective of an increasingly diverse and globalized era? While established companies are shifting slowly, Richard Siegal/Ballet of Difference, though less than 2 years old, has something of a head start. The guiding force of the company, which is based in Germany, is bringing differences together in the same room and, ultimately, on the same stage.
Before she became the 20th century's most revered ballet pedagogue, Agrippina Vaganova was a frustrated ballerina. "I was not progressing and that was a terrible thing to realize," she wrote in a rough draft of her memoirs.
She retired from the Imperial Ballet stage in 1916, and for the next 30-plus years, devoted herself to creating a "science of ballet." Her new, dynamic teaching method produced stars like Rudolf Nureyev, Alla Osipenko, and Galina Ulanova and later Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov. And her approach continues to influence how we think about ballet training to this day.
But is the ballet class due for an update? Demands and aesthetics have changed. So should the way dancers train change too?
For many dancers, a "warmup" consists of sitting on the floor stretching their legs in various positions. But this strategy only reduces your muscles' ability to work properly—it negatively affects your strength, endurance, balance and speed for up to an hour.
Save your flexibility training for the end of the day. Instead, follow a warmup that will actually help prevent injury and improve your body's performance.
According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a smart warmup has four parts: "a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilization section, a muscle lengthening section and a strength/balance building section."
Claude Debussy's only completed opera, Pelléas et Mélisande, emphasizes clarity and subtlety over high-flung drama as a deadly love triangle unfolds. Opera Vlaanderen and Royal Ballet of Flanders are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the composer's death with a new production of the landmark opera that is sure to be anything but traditional: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet are choreographing and directing, while boundary-pushing performance artist Marina Abramović collaborates on the design. Antwerp, Feb. 2–13. Ghent, Feb. 23–March 4. operaballet.be/en.
Black History Month offers a time to reflect on the artists who have shaped the dance field as we know it today. But equally important is celebrating the black artists who represent the next generation. These seven up-and-comers are making waves across all kinds of styles and across the country:
When a new director began transforming Atlanta Ballet a couple of years ago, longtime dancer Alessa Rogers decided to finally explore her dream of dancing in Europe. "I always had this wanderlust," she says. She wasn't set on a particular city or company, but thought learning French would be fun. She began her research that September, making note of repertoire and the number of dancers as well as which companies employed foreign, non–European Union dancers. "I saw that Ballet du Rhin was looking for dancers," says Rogers. "They also had a new director coming in, so I thought it could be an opportunity." After sending a video, Rogers traveled during her layoff week to take company class. She was offered a job on the spot.
Uprooting and moving out of the country, far away from your support system, language and customs, is not something to take lightly. While it can push you as an artist and be an exciting opportunity for personal growth, working as a dancer in a foreign country comes with its challenges. Lots of research and an adventurous spirit are required.
Justin Lynch is surprisingly nonchalant about the struggles of being a full-time lawyer and a professional dancer. "All dancers in New York City are experts at juggling multiple endeavors," he says. "What I'm doing is no different from what any other dancer does—it's just that what I'm juggling is different."
While we agree that freelance dancers are pro multitaskers, we don't really buy Lynch's claim that what he does isn't extraordinary. In fact, we're pretty mind-boggled by the career he's built for himself.
At the annual Gala de Danza in Los Cabos, Mexico, the lineup of performers is usually pretty typical gala fare: You can expect celebrity performers like Lil Buck, reality stars like Ballet West's Beckanne Sisk and "So You Think You Can Dance" finalist Tate McRae, plus principals from top companies like New York City Ballet's Tiler Peck and Daniel Ulbricht.
What's absolutely not typical? The venue.
At 5'10" I felt like an ant in the studio with Alonzo King LINES Ballet. The San Francisco-based company is full of statuesque dancers whose passion is infectious. Every story was told not only through their movement, but through the expression on their faces and their connection to one another.
We talked to artistic director Alonzo King about his love of collaborations and why he thinks politicians need to dance more.