The USC Kaufman graduating class with Mikhail Baryshnikov. Gus Ruelas/USC
Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.
Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:
Every dancer knows there's as much magic taking place backstage as there is in what the audience sees onstage. Behind the scenes, it takes a village, says American Ballet Theatre's wig and makeup supervisor, Rena Most. With wig and makeup preparations happening in a studio of their own as the dancers rehearse, Most and her team work to make sure not a single detail is lost.
Dance Magazine recently spoke to Most to find out what actually goes into the hair and makeup looks audiences see on the ABT stage.
James Yoichi Moore and Noelani Pantastico warm up onstage. Angela Sterling, Courtesy SDC.
On a sunny July weekend, hundreds of Seattle-area dance fans converged on tiny Vashon Island, a bucolic enclave in Puget Sound about 20 miles from the city. They made the ferry trek to attend the debut performance of the fledgling Seattle Dance Collective.
SDC is not a run-of-the-mill contemporary dance company; it's the brainchild of two of Pacific Northwest Ballet's most respected principal dancers: James Yoichi Moore and Noelani Pantastico. The duo wanted to create a nimble organization to feature dancers and choreographers they felt needed more exposure in the Pacific Northwest.
There's a type of dance you've never heard of: It's called "classical ballet." The progenitors included Mathilde Kschessinska, Vaslav Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova. The art form passed through generations from Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev to Mikhail Baryshnikov. It continues in our own time—Misty Copeland!
It would be far-fetched, even absurd, to hear that in a lecture today! But that is how revelatory "The Choreography of Comedy: The Art of Eccentric Dance" was, at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles on August 5.
The evening program rediscovered a once-flourishing, but critically undervalued dance genre with deep historic roots. Betsy Baytos, an eccentric-dance expert and leading connoisseur of the loose-limbed, rubbery, out-of-joint, prat-fallish, snake-hipped and peg-legged, hosted and curated.
Ashley Lynn Sherman in Lar Lubovitch's Dvořák Serenade. Anne Marie Bloodgood, Courtesy Ballet Austin
Despite what may be happening in the world or the cacophony of thoughts whirring through my head, I can step into the studio or onto the stage and escape. I'm not escaping from reality, but into a distinct layer of it. Dance is a moving meditation. I hear the music, I take in my environment, I feel the sensations in my body, I connect with my partners and colleagues, and we move through space. We tap into a collective consciousness and flow together. We make mistakes and we stay with it. We make choices and we learn. Sometimes we do things we never believed were possible. We push ourselves and our bodies to the edge. We ache. We keep working—creating, building, growing—and then we let go. Like a sand mandala, all this work culminates in release. I surrender everything I have to a role and then the curtain goes down, and that's it. The end. Of course, I get to bring this experience with me. It makes me stronger and informs my approach to the next opportunity. But as for the dancing, that only exists in the moment; it's like a metaphor for life.
The pair, who go by the joint nickname "The Cindies," have teamed up with the morning talk show "Live with Kelly and Ryan" to try to dance into the record books on live TV. They're inviting anyone who can dance on pointe to join them outside the "Live" studio in New York City on Tuesday, September 10.
When Michelle Dorrance put on her first show as Dorrance Dance in 2011, in a shared evening with Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, a charismatic teenager was featured in both choreographers' works. Critic Gia Kourlas described Caleb Teicher in The New York Times as "a sleek dancer who possesses a beguiling combination of a relaxed upper body with switchblade feet." His appearance won him a Bessie for Outstanding Individual Performance.
The day after the award ceremony, he was back in class—ballet class. His growing reputation as a hot young tap dancer was making Teicher nervous that he would find himself pigeonholed before he had time to explore other options. So, he aggressively pursued anything that would let him be "not a tap dancer."
Kevin Joseph (center) during Bike East. Photo by Ian Lyn Photography, Courtesy Purelements
What does cycling have to do with dancing?
For Purelements: An Evolution in Dance co-founder Kevin Joseph, it's all about freedom: "That freedom of moving through space on a bike is the same freedom I feel when I'm dancing," he says. And that sense of freedom—whether it's in the studio or in the streets—is something that Purelements is determined to give to its East Brooklyn community.
A scene from SIX: The Musical. Photo by Idil Sukan, Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line
Just last week, SIX: The Musical—a new show, about the six wives of Henry VIII, that's seen wild success in the UK—announced it's officially coming to Broadway. Yes, it really is time for a pop-infused musical that delivers the skinny on the women whose fates read bluntly as: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.
But before previews start February 13, 2020, SIX is continuing its out-of-town tryouts with a surprising twist: It will play aboard several Norwegian Cruise Line ships, beginning with the Norwegian Bliss September 1.
As a young dancer, I was taught that falling out of a relevé, even during class, was not an option. I was told to never, ever give up on it. "Die for it," my ballet master used to say.
I used to love, even dream, of being immersed in dance every day. But after 10 years of pushing myself beyond my limits as a full-time dancer, something started happening to me internally. My vision would get blurry, my body felt like I was spinning, and my ears would ring.
I did what I always did—I ignored the warning signs and pushed through it. I never wanted to look weak or incapable as a dancer, even if I was in a lot of pain. Even if I felt like I was going to pass out.
I began feeling this way every day. From what I can remember, that was when I started blacking out while I was dancing.
When I started writing about dance professionally a decade ago, the experience was akin to taking baby steps among giants. There was something profoundly humbling—not to mention terrifying—about reviewing a new Odette/Odile in the same pages as Clement Crisp, who saw his first performance in 1942 and famously quipped: "I want to hear from someone who has been to 500 Swan Lakes before they lift the pen."
Ananya Chatterjea in Mohona: Estuaries of Desire. Paul Virtucio, Courtesy Ananya Dance Theatre
I often think I came to dance because it was the accumulated desire of generations. I heard stories that my grandmother, whom I never met, loved dance but held that secret close to her heart. A generation later, my mother found dancing magical, but growing up in a large, joint family at a time when India was rocked by the anti-colonial independence movement denied her opportunities to train. When I was born, my parents struggled to afford for me to dance. But despite economic barriers, I was determined to journey in it.
Fogo (with Denys Cherevychko) in Vienna State Ballet's new full-length Sylvia, which was created on her. Ashley Taylor, Courtesy Wiener Staatsballett
NikishaFogo dances with a rare kinesthetic multilingualism. The recently promoted Vienna State Ballet first soloist moves adroitly from the purely classical Le Corsaire to George Balanchine's Tarantella to Wayne McGregor's Eden | Eden as if all were her first language. Though her meteoric rise has caught the eye of the ballet world, she dances with the abandon and joy of a woman unaware of how extraordinary she is.
The most important thing to say about Hal Prince, who died on July 31 at 91, is that he is responsible for West Side Story. Yes, Jerome Robbins had the idea, Leonard Bernstein wrote the music, Stephen Sondheim the lyrics, and Arthur Laurents the book. But if Prince had not gone out on a limb to produce it, dozens of shows we now consider classics would not exist, and today's Broadway would be a vastly different beast.
Boston Ballet's Daniel Randall Durrett. Photo by Rene Micheo, Courtesy Dance Jox
When I was 13, I was in a class with boys who were a few years older than me at the School of American Ballet. One day before class, I gave a little sass to a 16-year-old classmate who was swinging his leg as his warm up, showing off his flexibility.
"Kick that leg," I say.
"Wear those briefs," he replies.
My face went beet-red. Was I supposed to be wearing a dance belt? I was sure I was too young, but I asked a friend of mine just in case. He told me, gracefully, that yes, I needed one and that it was a topic of some discussion among my older peers.
Even though I had been at SAB for three years, when to wear a dance belt had never been discussed.
Amy Seiwert rehearsing Sacramento Ballet. Keith Sutter, Courtesy Sacramento Ballet
Becoming an artistic director can be a lot more complicated than it may seem. Dance Magazine spoke with three newly minted leaders, at the beginning and then again at the end of their first seasons as artistic directors of long-running ballet companies.