Why It Matters That Women Lead
What happens when you put a woman in charge of a ballet company? Well, that obviously depends on the woman. But when she's Tamara Rojo, you can expect some pretty great things.
Since she took over English National Ballet in 2012, Rojo's visionary leadership and star power have transformed London's underdog company into one of the most exciting in dance. Through coups like ENB's critically-acclaimed collaboration with Akram Khan, Lest We Forget, and the troupe's historic new partnership with Sadler's Wells, Rojo is constantly testing the boundaries of what ballet is and where it is going. It was no surprise last month when England's National Dance Awards named ENB 2014's "Outstanding Company." Neither was the news that ENB recently broke company box-office records in London.
Now, she's programmed an entire evening of new work created by female choreographers: Aszure Barton, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Yabin Wang. To put that news in a little perspective, the last time The Royal Ballet premiered a piece by a female choreographer was over 15 years ago, according to Guardian critic Judith Mackrell. The last that I can remember at New York City Ballet was Melissa Barak's Call Me Ben in 2010, and at American Ballet Theatre it was Barton's One of Three in 2009. In a field filled with women, that's an exceptionally long time for such major companies to go without showcasing any new work that has a feminine sensibility and point of view.
Yet even in the post–Lean In world, this isn't necessarily because artistic directors are overlooking talented women. Interestingly, Rojo tells Mackrell:
"There are so many talented female choreographers out there, but they’re much less quick than men to accept work. Some of the women I approached had little children and decided it was too much to deal with. Some felt they were not ready for a big London commission. I find it’s the same with the choreographic workshops in the company. There’s no shortage of men who want to experiment and put themselves forward, but we have to go out to find the women.”
Hats off to Rojo for seeking them out. Hopefully her move inspires other directors to do the same—and her words inspire more aspiring female voices to step up to the challenge.
"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.
The New York City premiere of Alexei Ratmansky's sugary sweet story ballet, Whipped Cream, made for one of the most exciting spring galas at American Ballet Theatre yet. While we're usually in awe of the gowns the dancers sport on the red carpet beforehand, this time around, it was all about Whipped Cream's colorful and over-the-top costumes by Mark Ryden—and, okay, a few major dress moments, too. Ahead, check out what went on behind-the-scenes.