Jock Soto, whose final performance with New York City Ballet is June 19th, has danced myriad roles since joining the company in 1981. His repertoire includes ballets by Balanchine and Robbins. Many choreographers have created roles on him, including Peter Martins, Christopher Wheeldon, Lynne Taylor-Corbett, and Kevin O’Day. Soto has appeared on Broadway in Ziegfeld Follies (choreographed by Wheeldon), and teaches partnering and men’s class at the School of American Ballet. A 2003 Dance Magazine Award recipient, he co-wrote Our Meals with former NYCB dancer Heather Watts, published by Riverhead Books in 1997.
There are only a few dancers who have a kind of generosity which distinguishes not only their artistry but who they are. They keep a focus on the larger picture, becoming anchors of integrity not only to the choreography, but to their colleagues. Jock Soto has defined this kind of integrity with his work at the New York City Ballet for 24 years.
A pioneer in the art of partnering, Jock has cultivated his skill to an unparalleled level of expertise. Like a great magician, he is a master of illusion. His performances are seamless miracles that blend brute strength with silken sensitivity tailored to the lines and needs of his ballerinas, each of whom he presents as if she were a rare and exotic orchid.
To his fans in the audience, Jock is a charismatic master, the last of Balanchine’s chosen men. He is one of the special ones, a powerful presence of dark, refined elegance. As one of his many partners, I can say that dancing with him has been the experience of a lifetime. He has taken us to a purer form of the dance, allowing us to feel the glide of angels and giving us each a small taste of heaven.
—Wendy Whelan, NYCB principal dancer
Victor Castelli, an expressive soloist with NYCB who later became a ballet master with the company, died at the age of 52 on February 8 from complications due to liver cancer. A favorite of both Robbins and Balanchine, he created the jaunty solo role in the “Gigue” section of Balanchine’s Mozartiana. Castelli also excelled as the doomed Poet in La Sonnambula, as the easy-going “green boy” in Dances at a Gathering, and as the frustrated Door in Variations pour une Porte et un Soupir.
Jean-Pierre Frohlich, a fellow NYCB ballet master and a close friend of Castelli’s, recalls the dancer’s joi de vivre, as well as his elegance, beautifully elongated lines, and patience. “One of my strongest memories is watching him learn Prodigal Son from Balanchine,” said Frohlich. “It was fascinating, because Balanchine explained everything to him. Near the end, when he is leaning against the table, Balanchine used to say, ‘Think of Jesus Christ on the cross.’ ”
A dancer whom Robbins relied on to experiment with his choreography, Castelli later became a valuable assistant to the choreographer, working with him on Jerome Robbins’ Broadway and traveling to the Paris Opéra Ballet to stage Robbins’ works there. Castelli was appointed ballet master in 1990, when he retired from dancing. “He was always true to the creator, to get the look that the creator wanted,” said Frohlich. After Robbins’ death, Castelli served on the advisory committee of the Robbins Rights Trust. New York City Ballet dedicated its February 13 performance of Mozartiana to the memory of Castelli.—Joseph Carman
William Lawrence Boyette
William Lawrence Boyette, dancer, teacher, and Denver dance pioneer, died in March at the age of 80. Boyette performed with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. Then, in 1959, he founded the Ballet Arts Center in Denver and later the Foundation for Public Education in Ballet Arts (now called Ballet Arts Theatre). In addition he opened the Ballet Arts Boulder Studio and taught and choreographed at the University of Colorado until 1991.
Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo is on a mission to get Monaco dancing. F(Ê)AITES DE LA DANSE is a free outdoor festival taking over the Place du Casino on July 1 from 6 pm to the wee hours of the morning. Not only will there be lessons in styles ranging from ballroom to belly dancing and flamenco to African dance, but there will also be a giant barre (dozens of meters long) for warming up, a seven-hour dance marathon and a flash mob. Performances by Yamakasi (parkour), Le Patin Libre (contemporary skating) and Pokemon Crew (street dance) take place throughout the evening, culminating in a midnight performance of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo in a new work by Jean-Christophe Maillot. And for anyone still going at 2 am, Monte Carlo's Opera Garnier will host a deejayed dance party, while just outside a silent disco takes over the terraces. balletsdemontecarlo.com.
Summertime, and the living is...steamy. Studios can be hot. Outdoor festivals can be grueling—especially once those stage lights turn on. When the temperatures rise, movement feels harder and your body fatigues faster.
What's a dancer to do? Follow these steps to make the heat less taxing on your body so that it doesn't keep you from dancing your best.
Some careers come together so organically that the dancer barely has time to take stock of how she got to where she is. That's how it was for Betsy McBride, at least until 2015.
Born in Coppell, a suburb of Dallas, McBride began taking ballet at her local school at age 3. At 14, she attended a summer intensive at the school affiliated with Texas Ballet Theater. Within a few weeks, McBride was offered a year-round place at the school with the tantalizing prospect of being hired by the company. Which is exactly what happened just a few months later. And there she stayed, eventually performing some of the most desirable roles in TBT's repertoire: Juliet, Odette/Odile, Aurora, the glamorous soloist in Balanchine's "Rubies," the title character in Ronald Hynd's The Merry Widow.
If you've been keeping up with World of Dance, you're well aware that junior division competitor Eva Igo has established herself as a serious contender. Groomed on the competition scene, the 14-year-old Minnesota native traveled to Los Angeles with her mom, taking the stage alongside some of the industry's most established names in dance—and she's killing it.
"Growing up in competitions, I had experience with having judges in front of me, so that helped me deal with the pressure," Igo tells us on how she remained so poised during her performances for The Qualifiers and The Duels (she beat out hip-hop duo KynTay). "That experience really helped me know when to have my competitor mode on."
Completely blowing the judges away with her mix of technique, tricks and stage presence (judge Derek Hough declared it "Eva's world" after her Duel solo to the song "It's A Man's World"), Igo makes each performance look effortless. "When I'm learning the dance, I have a story in mind and I relate it back to my life," Igo explains on how she taps into the emotive side of her dancing. "Before I perform the dance, I'll really think about that and try to just take a breath while I'm on stage."
I have always felt a need to communicate and, even more importantly, to be understood. But as a child, I always hit an emotional wall when trying to speak.
Although my great-aunt Rose had no connection to dance, she intuitively saw that I needed an outlet, and recommended that I take a movement class. It was literally life-changing. I realized I could make myself understood without my needing to be verbal.
When you're training, it can feel like all you need to succeed in the dance world is artistic talent and drive. But once you make the leap into the professional world, you may find out just how much you don't know about making it as a dancer.
When I started my professional career, I soon realized that all the time and money my parents and I had invested in my training still hadn't fully prepared me to make it as a freelance dancer—especially one who had plenty of bills and student loans to pay. Only after years of trial and error, failures and mega-hustle did I start to figure out how to navigate professional dance life in a remotely sustainable way. Here are a few lessons I've learned along the way.
Live music is an essential part of any dance class. But aside from a polite "thank you" afterwards, dancers—and teachers—often don't give enough thought to the musician who's making the magic happen.
I worked as a dance musician for over three decades, and was fortunate to play for some of the field's greatest artists. I now teach musicians how to play for ballet, modern and contemporary dance in my Accompanying Movement class at the University of Michigan.
I train my students to know the ins and outs of dance classes of varying styles. In return, we sometimes wish our collaborative partners understood more about what we bring to the studio:
Dance Magazine reached out to us with the questions: Over the years, how has increased acceptance and visibility on concert-dance stages affected hip hop and its artists? And how has hip hop influenced concert dance?
Our response? Whoa! Acceptance? Visibility? Immediately we knew that any conscientious attempt to unpack these questions would easily exceed the maximum word count. But we also acknowledged that questions like these affect what we do as dancemakers and artist-citizens.
So we interviewed our colleague Nicole Klaymoon and mentor Rennie Harris to contribute to a conversation. We are all multilingual dance artists with our own unique voices in hip hop and street-dance theater. We are from different backgrounds and generations whose work is presented as concert dance and builds on the groundwork of Rennie Harris Puremovement.
Amy O'Neal's Opposing Forces. Photo by Bruce Clayton Tom, courtesy O'Neal