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.
It's not often that a dance video provokes bona fide cackling in our office, but this new episode of BroadwayWorld TV's improv-based series "Turning the Tables" is just too real. For this episode, seven Broadway pros were invited to a mock dance call. With series regulars Ellyn Marie Marsh, Andrew Briedis, Andrew Chappelle and Julia Mattison running the "audition," disaster and hilarity (mostly hilarity) ensue.
First of all, it's amazing to see Broadway dancers like Neil Haskell, Eloise Kropp and Samantha Sturm try to keep straight faces with the amount of deadpan shenanigans happening at the front of the room. And if you've ever been to a Broadway dance call, you're going to be struck by just how on point the jokes are. Plus, it's just really, really funny.
Watch now. Thank us later.
"I don't cook for just one or two people," says James Whiteside, stirring a pot on his stove. "My mom taught me to cook and she had five kids. So when I do cook, I go in!"
Aside from breakfast (usually bacon, egg and cheese on an English muffin), the American Ballet Theatre principal rarely cooks for himself during ABT's seasons. He prefers to "forage" for his lunch and go out or order in for dinner, saving the real cooking for when he has friends or colleagues to feed. "I like to have a lot of people tell me my food is delicious," he quips.
We're not sure what we did to deserve the livestream generosity the dance world is giving us these days, but this weekend, it's getting even better.
PC Joe Toreno
L.A. Dance Project, Benjamin Milliepied's trendsetting contemporary troupe, has been in residence at The Chinati Foundation for the past few days. This weekend, they're showing us what they've come up with—for three days straight.
To create great work, choreographers need the freedom to tackle difficult subjects and push physical limits. But when your instruments are human beings, is there a limit to how far you should go? Five choreographers open up about where they draw the line.
Restaurants have always been a great source of survival gigs for dancers. But today's top chefs aren't just looking for waiters to carry dishes to the table. They're hiring choreographers to give the staff dance-like skills and compose a sort of choreography for the dining room.
Leslie Scott, artistic director of dance theater company BODYART, is one of those choreographers. After working in more typical food industry jobs for 10 years, she's been tapped by top restaurants in both New York City and Los Angeles to lead workshops that finesse servers' non-verbal communication and navigation of tight spaces.
Back in 2002, dancer and choreographer Jonah Bokaer founded an art space in Brooklyn called Chez Bushwick. As Manhattan and Brooklyn were quickly becoming unaffordable, and many studio spaces were closing, Bokaer seized upon "creative placemaking"—the idea that the arts can play an integral role in community-building—before it became a buzzword. "We have been sustaining and maintaining one of the most affordable dance studios in New York State since the very beginning of my career," he says.
Fifteen years later, the challenges for choreographers in expensive urban centers continue unabated, and Bokaer has found his original mission magnified. While Chez Bushwick remains a haven for the next generation, there is also a growing number of young dancemakers who have been inspired to create their own residencies, communities and, ultimately, opportunities.