Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
We knew that Ivo van Hove and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's production of West Side Story would challenge our preconceived notions about the show.
But a recent Vogue story gives us a taste of just how nontraditional the Broadway revival will be. Most notably, van Hove is cutting "I Feel Pretty" and the "Somewhere" ballet, condensing the show into one act to better reflect the urgency of the 48-hour plot. (The choice has been approved by the West Side Story estate, including Sondheim, who has "long been uncomfortable" with some of the "I Feel Pretty" lyrics.)
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.
It's a much-repeated part of Francesca Hayward's origin story that she discovered ballet at age 3, when her grandparents bought a video of The Nutcracker to keep her occupied and she immediately started dancing around the room. What's less well-known is that there was another video lined up next to The Nutcracker that Hayward liked to dance along to: Cats. "I really just did the White Cat bit and fast-forwarded the rest," she remembers. "I'd make my friends who came around be the other cats."
Twenty-four years later, she's not only become a Royal Ballet principal, but has been cast as Victoria the White Cat in Tom Hooper's new movie adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, out in theaters on December 20. "I remember the director telling me I'd got the part: 'Just to let you know you're the lead in a Hollywood film,' he said." Hayward laughs. "This is crazy!"
It's one thing to understudy three different demanding principal roles in one show. But sometimes, Sasha Hutchings has to perform them all in one day.
Hutchings, a Broadway dancer who originated an ensemble role in Hamilton and was recently seen in "Fosse/Verdon," understudies both Laurey and Ado Annie in the current Broadway revival of Oklahoma!—plus the lead dancer, who performs the 13-minute dream ballet practically solo. Though she hasn't performed the dream ballet yet, she rehearses it every Friday, right before rehearsing the whole show as either Ado Annie or Laurey, then sometimes performing one of those roles in the evening show.
"As soon as I'm done rehearsing the dream ballet, I have to let that fade in order to fully immerse myself in Laurey," she says. "And if I ran Laurey earlier in the day and I'm watching her scene as Ado Annie, I have to let go of her lines. Once you start going down the thought pattern of that character, it takes you to a whole other place."
We talked to Hutchings about the mental and physical gymanstics of understudying three such distinct roles—and how her dance training helps her do it:
Alexander Pham's movements seem to have no noticeable beginning or end. Though he's a fluid, silky performer, his electrifying dancing also exhibits impressive power. These qualities have made audiences and artistic directors alike take notice in his three years with Donald Byrd's Spectrum Dance Theater and now at TU Dance. Byrd finds Pham's ability to translate technical demand into artistic expression remarkable, saying, "He is a rare and marvelous combination of intelligence and kinetic acumen."
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In Ohad Naharin's Minus 16, dancers on chairs perform a quick series of emphatic gestures, flinging back their heads and limbs, with the last dancer eventually throwing their body to the floor. The first time Atlanta Ballet performed the piece, the company saw a number of injuries to the neck and low back. So when it returned last year, the artistic staff wanted to find a method to prevent injuries.
"It is such a stressful piece on the body, and the dancers are not always prepared because it is very outside of the box for the classical and neoclassical repertoire they're used to," says Emma Faulkner, physical therapist with Atlanta Ballet. To help prepare them, Faulkner and her colleague Amanda Blackmon, along with former ballet master Sarah Hillmer, created a workout designed specifically for the movements of Minus 16.
I always ask myself: If my parents hadn't been flamenco dancers, would I have danced? I certainly don't have a calling for dancing. As a child I was no Billy Elliot—that kind of boy that would do anything to dance. In fact, I was the Anti-Billy Elliot. My parents were always forcing me to dance, and I pushed back as much as I could. I thought dancing was boring.
In the November 1954 issue of Dance Magazine, we shared excerpts from an autobiographical essay written by Galina Ulanova. Reflecting on her memories of performing small roles as a self-professedly reluctant ballet student, she wrote, "Belief comes so easily in childhood. And what a pity it is that this belief in what is happening on the stage...is so difficult to preserve afterwards, and that one has to work so hard, sometimes so painfully, before one can 'get into the skin' of a role and believe in it so utterly that the audience will believe in it too. Yes, in part my 'performances' of those days were the playing of a child who believes in its imagination more than it does reality." Arguably the first great ballerina of Soviet Russia, she danced with both the Kirov and the Bolshoi, touring with the latter across Europe and to the U.S. to great popular acclaim.
Ohio's local Taft's Brewery Company is collaborating with Cincinnati Ballet to create a Nutcracker Ale that seems to be taken straight out of the Land of the Sweets, with flavors like cinnamon, vanilla and ginger.
A ballet once banned in the USSR is set for an historic revival this November in Gainesville, Florida.
In 1948, Alberto Alonso, along with his brother Fernando and sister-in-law Alicia, co-founded what became the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. During a 1966 company tour to Russia, legendary Bolshoi ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, impressed by Alonso's choreography, asked him to create a Carmen-themed ballet for her. It was the first time the Soviet-era Bolshoi Ballet had engaged a foreign choreographer.
When Carmen Suite premiered, Soviet authorities deemed it a scandalous travesty. Alonso's erotically charged, expressionistic choreography, incorporating elements of Spanish and Cuban dance, pushed the classical vocabulary to physical extremes. And as Alora Haynes, chair of fine arts at Santa Fe College, explains, the ballet's story of personal defiance and individual freedom was inherently unsettling for Kremlin officials.
Savion Glover is one of the biggest names in the dance world, and perhaps the biggest in the tap world. The trailblazing hoofer's hard-hitting, rhythmically intricate style has fundamentally altered the tap landscape.
Glover is also a master teacher. But during his many years on the scene, he's never appeared regularly at a major dance convention. That is, until this season: Glover is now teaching at JUMP Dance Convention, scheduled to appear at approximately 15 more cities on its 2019–2020 tour.
We talked with JUMP director Mike Minery, himself a gifted hoofer, about working with a living legend—and how Glover is already changing the convention class game.
Ingrid Silva's job extends beyond her performances with Dance Theatre of Harlem. The Brazilian native has made it her mission to push for greater diversity in dance. She participates in community outreach, performs as an international guest artist and even founded her own platform, EmpowHer NY.
"I never felt represented when I was younger—I didn't see anyone that looked like me in ballet in Brazil," Silva says. "Now I realize how important that representation is to shape the future of this younger generation."
PBS' third annual "Broadway's Best" series starts tonight, and this year's edition is a treat for dance lovers. The 2019 lineup features five shows: three are Broadway musicals, one's a West End play and the fifth is a taping from The Public Theater's Free Shakespeare in the Park, with movement by a big-name choreographer.
Each Friday in November at 9 pm Eastern on PBS, you can experience a live taping of a different show—and the choreographic talents on display don't disappoint. (Pro tip: If you have the PBS Passport app, you don't have to wait a week between performances. Members can stream all five starting November 1.)
Here's what's airing:
With Halloween behind us, it's officially that time of year. No, we don't mean the holidays. People who say the holidays are the busiest season don't know what it's like to be a ballet dancer. Because nothing beats the craziness of Nutcracker time.
Fortunately, Dance Magazine has gathered all kinds of tips over the years from pros who tackle ballet's Everest year in and year out. We gathered six to keep in mind as rehearsals begin to seriously ramp up.
As a dancer working with your toes to the marley day in and day out, it is easy to feel like no one but your immediate colleagues understands your challenges.
Yet there are countless medical professionals working to improve the lives of dancers. Last week the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science gathered more than 500 professionals, all of whom have dedicated their careers to supporting dancers, at its 29th annual conference in Montreal.
Have you heard the story about the dancer who needed a double hip replacement…at age 16?
It's not an urban legend—just ask iconic choreographer Mia Michaels. In a video series about dance injuries, produced by Apolla Performance Footwear, Michaels tells the tale of a teenage comp kid who pushed so hard she ended up in surgery.
That dancer's harrowing story was one of the inspirations for the Bridge Dance Project. The new initiative—brainchild of Jan Dunn, co-director of Denver Dance Medicine Associates, and Kaycee Cope Jones, COO of Apolla—aims to connect members of the competition and commercial dance communities with dance science experts. While many academic and professional concert dancers have benefited from recent advances in dance medicine, that information hasn't made its way to most of the young students in convention ballrooms. And as the technical demands on those students increase, so does the number of injuries.
We talked to Dunn and Jones about how the Bridge Dance Project was born, the initiative's long-term goals, and why young competition and commercial dancers should make injury prevention a priority.
Most dance performances used to begin predictably: The lights dimmed, the curtain rose and the music started. But in recent years, some audiences have started experiencing a new kind of preshow ritual: Someone walks onstage—perhaps the director or an usher—and names the indigenous tribes that have lived on the land where the venue is situated, maybe offering some information about those people or taking a moment of silence to honor them.
Land acknowledgments like these have become a bona fide trend in institutions of all kinds—from business conferences to major universities to art museums—across the country. (And in Canada, New Zealand and Australia, where they are even more common.) But they've particularly caught on in socially conscious dance venues.
It's possible that this bandwagon effect stems from the embodied nature of our form—as dancers we physically feel our connection to the land and the space we occupy. Or perhaps it's just a matter of people wanting to jump on a trend. Either way, their rising popularity in dance raises questions about who these acknowledgments are really for.