If you want to take more risks in your partnering (or just love jaw-dropping dance videos), we found the perfect inspiration: Amir Guetta and Hemda Ben Zvi. This amazing duo from Israel specializes in an acrobatic circus technique called "hand to hand" blended with creative choreography and influences from martial arts, like capoeira.
The result is a seemingly effortless flow of weight-sharing, leaping, catching, falling and balancing, not to mention a constant questioning of how-did-they-do-that? While most of their routines are choreographed, they "listen" with their bodies in a way that's reminiscent of contact improvisation.
Guetta and Ben Zvi started collaborating together four years ago—and almost by accident. They were both taking an acrobalance class at a circus school in Israel. When students began pairing off, "most of the big guys wanted to work with a small girl," they wrote over email. That left Guetta, a compact mover with a background in capoeira, with Ben Zvi, who grew up training in a youth circus. Both were interested in being lifted. They flipped the usual roles of the male base and female flyer and began experimenting.
"We started working on our own movement straight from the beginning," they say, leveraging each other's natural skills like "Amir's good jump and Hemda's stability. Like in the language of capoeira, we try to make a conversation with our movement. Every action brings a reaction from the partner. That conversation is what actually moves us."
Now, they're based in Toulouse, France, and recently began creating a show called ZOOG (which means "couple" in Hebrew). They plan to combine acrobatic movement, partnering and hand-to-hand technique with elements of humor and surprise.
Though they work mainly in the vein of acro and circus, Guetta and Ben Zvi say they definitely consider themselves "movers." "Every person that expresses himself with movement is a dancer," they say.
In Rachid Ouramdane's Tenir le temps, Annie Hanauer articulates the choreography with unforced precision, her natural demeanor and smooth transitions the perfect fit for Ouramdane's undulating, abstract patterns. Few seem to notice that there is something slightly different about her: Hanauer was born missing part of her left arm, and now has a prosthetic one.
Hanauer, 30, has achieved what many thought impossible for a performer with a disability: a thriving career in the mainstream dance world. After performing with the UK's Candoco Dance Company from 2008 to 2014, she is now an in-demand freelancer, and a tall, striking presence in the works of contemporary choreographers Emanuel Gat and Ouramdane.
Born in Minnesota, Hanauer started taking a range of classes at a local studio when she was 10. Both her family and dance teachers were supportive: "I was never excluded," she says. "It was recreational, but when I got to the age of 16, I was taking class every night."
Still, pursuing a college degree in dance was far from an easy decision. "I remember having a crisis when I was accepted, saying, 'Am I ever going to get a job, because I've got one arm, you know?" she remembers dryly. The dance department at the University of Minnesota welcomed and nurtured her, and the curriculum helped widen her horizons. "I was the first person like this that they'd ever taught," she says. "It was probably a challenge for them, but we got a lot of individual attention."
In Rachid Ouramdane's TORDRE. PC Patrick Imbert.
In college, she also learned to work around issues linked to her disability. Partnering proved especially complex, although improvisation helped in the long term. "My strategy was to just do it to the best of my abilities, like every other dancer," she says.
The faculty prepared her for the challenges she would likely face in the industry: "I was ready to struggle through and have seven day-jobs," she says. During her senior year, she spotted an audition notice for Candoco, which bills itself as a "company of disabled and nondisabled dancers." They offered her a permanent contract, and the day after her graduation, Hanauer found herself moving to London.
The diverse repertoire of Candoco introduced Hanauer to European contemporary dance with creations by the likes of Hofesh Shechter, Rafael Bonachela and Nigel Charnock. The company was also invited to perform at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and at the Paralympic Games in London in 2012.
In Rachid Ouramdane's TORDRE. PC Patrick Imbert.
In 2014, Hanauer decided to "stretch her legs" and go freelance. "I wanted to keep growing as a dancer and to see how I would be received as a performer in a different context," she says. Gat and Ouramdane, who had set works on Candoco, soon called, and she now regularly commutes between London, where she lives, and France, where both choreographers are based. Hanauer has been part of three creations with Ouramdane, including TORDRE, a "double portrait" tailor-made for her and another woman. In 2016, she appeared in Gat's SUNNY, where her serene confidence and movement quality were highlights in the fluid group sections.
Prejudice is still part of Hanauer's experience, however. Partners sometimes offer to change choreography before she's had a chance to try it. "You have to be really in touch with your own body, and clear about what you need," she says. Reactions to disabled performers have also frustrated her in the past. "People are surprised that I'm not clunky or awkward. The level of discourse about disability is not super-complex. Either it's shocking, or a novelty, or else it's 'They're so noble.' "
Hanauer knows her success story is fairly unusual, and believes inclusive companies are still relevant and necessary: "The dance world is still very restrictive. In the UK, there is more of a historical conversation about this because of Candoco and others, but there's a lack of opportunities for dancers with disabilities." She now teaches regularly, and is exploring work of her own with three dancers and support from Candoco and London's The Place. "I still wonder if the industry is ready for me," she says with a laugh. "You just have to keep going and try to change people's minds by doing it."
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I have never known a life without dance. Born into a world of dancers, studios and theaters were my playground. I'm pretty sure I even listened to the scores of the ballet classics when I was still inside of my mother's belly. My mother and father often danced together, being in the same professional company.
Photo by Alexander Iziliaev
Today, they continue to work in the ballet world as teachers. My mother has her own school, which is where I started dancing. Even though at first I hated ballet, everyone predicted that I would eventually follow in their footsteps. They were right.
Ballet is my pursuit of expression, music and joy. But ballet also means something to me: sacrifice. I left my family in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, at 15 to join Miami City Ballet School, which had offered me a scholarship. I went to live on my own in a foreign country, not knowing the language, the culture, how to cook or even how to open a bank account.
Photo by Daniel Azoulay
I thought I understood a lot about ballet life, but moving to America proved there was so much out there that I was not aware of; it was like starting over. There were many tears and frustrations throughout the first few years in Miami because I couldn't communicate with people or even forge relationships due to language barriers.
It was my goal of becoming a ballerina with MCB that made the sacrifice worth it. But none of this would've been possible if it wasn't for my mother, who mentally prepared me and taught me to have discipline, strength and goals, all of which I bring into every single class and rehearsal. She told me "nothing comes easily if you don't give it your best every day, because that is what ballet is about—a pursuit of excellence."
Photo by Daniel Azoulay
Thinking back to when I started—knowing nothing about Balanchine, Robbins or Ratmansky—the Nathalia heading to America for the first time with her four giant suitcases would never have imagined dancing some of their major works, as well as learning directly from Balanchine-era ballerinas such as Lourdes Lopez, Roma Sosenko and Merrill Ashley.
She would never have imagined Ratmansky creating a role on her while she was still in the corps, the war girl from Symphonic Dances, and rehearsing it for Mikhail Baryshnikov (who even complimented her dancing) in the studio. These moments in my career have been surreal, from being on the cover of Pointe magazine (a magazine my mother has spent decades reading) to preparing to do Russian Girl in Serenade at the Koch Theater in New York City.
Photo by Alexander Iziliaev
For me to say I love ballet is not enough. Ballet has made me who I am. The most rewarding aspect of my career is hearing that my dancing can bring happiness to people who perhaps need it, because that reinforces my faith in ballet as a powerful art form. Life has proven to me that dreams can come true, and I will go on keeping what my mother has instilled in me every step of the way.
Rauf Yasit, aka "RubberLegz," has a style that defies categorization. He calls it "a mix of flexibility, yoga, contemporary dance and breaking." And we call it jaw-dropping.
Known for contorting his body into seemingly impossible shapes, the German dancer has worked with choreographers like William Forsythe, been a finalist on Switzerland's Got Talent and traveled the world performing on concert stages and streets alike.
The secret to his magic? Perseverance. "I started from zero and wasn't flexible at all," he says. "It took me years to reach this level."
Can you remember that instant when you landed on another continent and suddenly everything was foreign? My first impression? Holy Shit it is Hot (the kind of heat that fogs up your retina)! The sights, the sounds, the light, the scent (think diesel cars and BO) and the lifestyle all seem to be of another world. But it also doesn't take long to realize that lifestyle really doesn't matter very much, that we are all a part of the human community regardless if you have a roof over your head or shoes on your feet, we all have the same needs—to love and to dance.
And dance we do. We are on a mission to dance—to dance hard, to teach, to learn, to share, to exchange our worlds and we have endless hash-tags to prove it—#dancediplomacy, #culturalexchange, #DMUSA, #KCoDMUSA.
Keigwin + Company is doing a four-week long residency in Africa this month, performing, teaching, leading workshops and dancing together with fellow artists from another continent. It's a cross-cultural exchange set up by DanceMotion USASM, a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. State Department, produced by the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
One of three contemporary companies chosen for the sixth year of the initiative, K + C started in Cote d'Ivoire, is currently in Ethiopia, and will soon make its way to Tunisia. They shared some of the amazing footage taken on their first stop with Dance Magazine. Take a peek, and follow the company's upcoming adventures on Storify.
Where does master ballet choreographer Alexei Ratmansky get his inspiration from?
In a fascinating conversation with writer Hanna Rubin in Dance Magazine's March issue, he spoke about what drew him to create his two latest ballets: The Fairy's Kiss, which recently premiered at Miami City Ballet, and Whipped Cream, which American Ballet Theatre debuts next month in California. Aside from his mission of reviving what might be lost masterpieces, for Ratmansky, it's almost all about the music.