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Why I Dance: Adam Hendrickson
A compact dancer with an intense or playful presence, Adam Hendrickson has been a soloist at New York City Ballet since 2005. He started ballet lessons with Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet at 6, and in 1996 received the Rudolf Nureyev Scholarship to study at the School of American Ballet. At the SAB workshop the following year, he caught the eye of Clive Barnes, which led to a 2001 “25 to Watch," in which Barnes compared him to the great French dancer Jean Babilée. Since joining NYCB in 1998, he's danced firecracker roles like the Jester in Swan Lake, Puck in A Midstummer Night's Dream, and Candy Cane in Nutcracker, as well as character roles like Dr. Coppelius. He has originated parts in works by Peter Martins, Alexei Ratmansky, Boris Eifman, Christopher Wheeldon, and Eliot Feld. The films he has appeared in include Center Stage and the recent N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz, in which he was memorable as an edgy teen.
A budding choreographer, Hendrickson has made pieces for NYCB's 2008 Dancers' Choice evening, the Yale School of Music, and the NYCB-affiliated New York Choreographic Institute.
My name is Adam and I'm a “stageaholic." I have spent the last 24 years of my life addicted to being onstage. While I love to be front and center, I have learned that I can gain the same thrill from any location on the stage.
My first taste of performing actually came in the form of sabotage. My older sister Jessy was always dancing, dancing, dancing. She couldn't get enough of it, so my parents signed her up for a little show at our church. Did they really think that I would sit idly by and watch her get all of the glory? No way.
As the story goes, I snuck backstage during the performance and drew on a mustache (I was obsessed with Charlie Chaplin) and slowly pushed a gigantic mop across the back of the stage as my sister danced to Saint-Saëns' “Aquarium" from Carnival of the Animals. While Jessy twirled around imitating a baby seahorse, I proudly pushed that mop back and forth, soaking up the laughter like an intoxicating perfume. That feeling is still in me, and that perfume still lingers deep inside, wafting up into my head every time a curtain goes up.
I began studying ballet after spending countless hours in the car with my mom, waiting for Jessy to finish her lessons. Finally, one day I just went into the ballet office and signed myself up, only to quit a few weeks later when I realized that you do the same steps over and over. This is still my greatest grievance with being a dancer, the repetitive nature of “class."
Soon after quitting, as I watched one of Jessy's performances, I was enthralled by seeing my friend Zach Hench fly across the stage. He wasn't just doing classroom combinations, he was dancing. That, then and there, was all that I needed. After about a year of dreadfully boring classes, I finally got to perform in our school's recital. Wearing a lovely pair of green tights and green leotard (think Kermit the Frog), I executed some dazzling port de bras and brilliant waltz steps. It wasn't the most demanding repertory, but the sound of that squeaky curtain being pulled up had me as nervous then as I would be now if I were premiering in Apollo.
Once I began performing regularly, there was no stopping me. I couldn't care less what my peers at school thought. I had a taste for the stage and I just kept chasing after it. Nine years of training at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet led to two years at the School of American Ballet and then the jackpot—a contract with New York City Ballet and somehow, a little later, a promotion to soloist.
Dancing with NYCB has provided me with much more than just a fix for my addiction. I am surrounded by some of the world's most gifted artists, from whom I learn each day how to better my craft. I can feel the joy that dancing brings to my co-workers as I watch them, and it gives me an even greater joy when it's me out there. I dance because I have to. I hardly see it as a choice. It has become so ingrained in the person that I am—although if things don't work out, I can always go back to pushing that mop.
Adam in Balanchine's Symphony in Three Movements. Photo by Kyle Froman, copyright The Balanchine Trust
Mash-ups aren't uncommon in the dance world: Performers of varying styles have been known to share the stage, from ballerina Tiler Peck and famed clown Bill Irwin to Michelle Dorrance, who's mixed tappers and break-dancers. Likewise, collaborations between choreographers and artists from seemingly mismatched disciplines have produced magical creations, such as Alexei Ratmansky's Whipped Cream, featuring Mark Ryden's whimsical and even grotesque designs and costumes.
But the Israeli troupe Ka'et Contemporary Dance Ensemble has found success in one of the most unlikely partnerships: Secular contemporary choreographer Ronen Itzhaki creates movement for a group of rabbis.
While undoubtedly best known for her dancing, American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston has also been getting noticed for her style by Allure and Vogue—and with good reason. Her Instagram feed features a mix of on-trend athleisure wear and detailed dresses from runway designers like Valentino and Anna Sui, none of which would be complete without the makeup and hair to match. With a penchant for skin care and an ever-growing lipstick collection, Boylston talked us through some of her beauty must-haves on and off the stage.
Photo by Jayme Thornton
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."
DanceBreak came roaring back to life on Monday after seven years on hiatus, and six choreographers now have the opportunity to be the next Andy Blankenbuehler. Or Joshua Bergasse, Kelly Devine, Casey Nicholaw, Josh Prince or Josh Rhodes. These stellar Broadway choreographers all got their first big shows after Melinda Atwood's musical-theater launching pad let them show the industry what they could do.
Since 2002, DanceBreak has been a sort of "So You Think You Can Choreograph" for Broadway. Although not everyone goes straight there—Mandy Moore and Mia Michaels are alumni, too—the program is meant to funnel talented choreographers to the Broadway stage by providing a platform for their work. Prince, who introduced Atwood to the cheering crowd, has paid DanceBreak the ultimate compliment, creating his own non-profit incubator for theater choreographers, Broadway Dance Lab. On Monday, he recalled the story of how he was offered the role of choreographer on Broadway's Shrek just days after its director saw the 2007 edition.
When caring for your feet or trying to make them look good, it's tempting to seek shortcuts. Bad ideas—like dangerous stretches that promise perfect lines or ointments that were never meant to go on your toes—catch on all too easily backstage.
We asked podiatrists who've seen their dance clients try it all share the habits they'd like to see gone for good.
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.
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: