The 10 Biggest Dance Stories of 2018
What did our readers care about most in 2018? Judging by our top-clicked stories, topics as broad as confronting a bullying teacher, investigating how Instagram has impacted the dance world and advocating for dance as an intellectual pursuit were the biggest stories in dance this year.
But our biggest hit, published just earlier this month, already has us looking to the new year: Our annual "25 to Watch" list for 2019, profiling the artists we think will be taking the dance world by storm sooner than later.
These are our 10 most-read stories of the year, and why we think they struck a chord with readers:
#10: Is It Time to Completely Rethink Ballet Class?
BalletMet in company class onstage before a show. Photo by Jennifer Zmuda, courtesy BalletMet
The demands of ballet repertory have changed dramatically since the structure of the ballet class was invented. So is it time we give barre and center an update? That's the question that writer Emma Sandall thoughtfully poses in this March feature, citing how BalletMet director Edwaard Liang encourages ballet masters to adapt their classes to the choreography dancers will be performing that day, and studies that show how barre may not be helping dancers as much as previously thought.
Readers were divided about the ideas posed in the story, with some arguing that changing ballet class would sully the integrity of the classical art form, while others saying that dancers being better physiologically prepared to tackle choreography can only be a positive step.
#9: Don't Get It Twisted: Dance Is An Intellectual Pursuit
This story argues that because dance is ephemeral, people take it less seriously. Photo by Nadim Merrikh/Unsplash
If you ever hear someone imply that dance isn't a "serious" career, this would be a good story to send to them. Writer Alice Blumenfeld lays out seven compelling reasons why dance is an intellectual pursuit—such as how dance can pass down cultural knowledge, create kinesthetic empathy in audiences and help us cope with traumatic experiences. It's no wonder readers shared this story so many times: Who wouldn't want to brag about being involved in such a powerful art form?
#8: *This* Is How You Should Actually Warm Up Before Dancing
Static stretches don't count as a proper warmup. Photo by Jim Lafferty
Lots of dancers are guilty of sitting in static stretches and calling it "warming up." But deep down we all know this is incorrect—and this story, by writer Leah Bueno, lays out exactly why.
According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a warmup should include "a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilization section, a muscle lengthening section and a strength/balance building section." Bueno takes us through all four of these sections, and we're guessing her practical suggestions and helpful exercises earned this story its popularity online.
#7: Why Do Some of the Most Talented Dancers Never "Make It"?
We look at the factors that make prodigy-level students quit. Photo by Matthew Murphy for Pointe
What happens to all those ballet whiz kids who earn medals at Youth America Grand Prix, then seem to disappear from the scene? That's what we were wondering when we assigned this story to writer Candice Thompson for our August issue. Thompson found six reasons why talented students get derailed before making the leap into the professional world, along with ways these problems can be avoided. Readers seemed to connect with the idea that talent is only one part of the equation.
#6: Is Your Teacher A Bully Or Just Strict? 10 Ways to Tell The Difference
There are red flags you can look for if you think your teacher is going too far. Image by Thinkstock
In a year full of conversations about dancer mistreatment, this story about how to tell if a teacher crosses the line, written by Quincy Cundiff-Kopplin, took off. She lists 10 red flags to look for, like if a teacher's behavior prevents you from learning, or causes you to feel anxious outside of class.
Many readers commented that they related to the story, an unfortunate sign that bullying and inappropriate behavior is indeed still far too rampant in our field.
#5: The Dance Community Responds to NYCB's Firing of Amar Ramasar & Zachary Catazaro
Ramasar and Catazaro were fired from NYCB after engaging in inappropriate communications. Photos via Instagram
Speaking of inappropriate behavior, this story about the termination of New York City Ballet dancers Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro, written by Dance Magazine editor in chief Jennifer Stahl, sparked a wealth of responses on our Facebook page about the allegations against the men and the future of NYCB. Stahl assembled responses from the two dancers, as well as from their union and the wider dance community, and the conversation continued amongst our readership.
#4: Can Music Artists Stop Stealing from Choreographers Already?
Country singer Kelsea Ballerini and her choreographers Nick Florez and R.J. Durell couldn't have imagined the fury they would create when they plagiarized Ohad Naharin's Minus 16 for the Country Music Awards. My story covering the performance fanned the flame, with hundreds of dance fans rightfully getting up in arms about the evils of blatantly stealing from another artist.
#3: We Need to Talk About Non-Consensual Audience Participation
10000 Gestures brought up questions of safety and consent. Photo by Ursula Kaufmann via nyuskirball.org
I almost didn't write this story, worrying that it was a one-off experience and that I would come off as too whiny or sensitive. But this essay about my experience at Boris Charmatz's 10000 Gestures, an invasive work that sent barely-clothed performers fumbling into non-consenting audience members' laps, took off in a way I never could have guessed. Readers shared their own experiences with unwanted audience participation, and discussed the issues around consent and safety the essay brought up.
#2: Is Instagram Changing The Dance World's Value System?
Some Instagram accounts fetishize extreme tricks and contortions. Photo by David Hoffman/Unsplash
Like it or not, Instagram becomes more influential in the dance world every day. And since what gets seen on the platform is determined by a double tap of the finger, the costs of its growing clout are many. Writer Theresa Ruth Howard lays out these costs in this story, making the case that the prevalence of super-flexible tricksters (who may or may not be able to actually dance) on the platform could have a real, and negative, impact on the field. Many readers expressed their agreement on Facebook, citing other ways social media is changing dance and suggesting ways to move forward.
#1: Our "25 to Watch" Picks for 2019
Our "25 to Watch" cover star Evan Ruggiero. Photo by Jayme Thornton
It's not even the new year yet, but our 2019 "25 to Watch" stars are already making a splash. Shortly after we posted the list it became our most-read story ever. It's no wonder: These artists—from planetary geologist/choreographer Adeene Denton to soulful, Beyoncé-adjacent Jasmine Harper to Russian's next big thing Maria Khoreva—are truly remarkable. We can't think of a better way to close out 2018, and welcome 2019.
Four years of lectures, exams and classes can feel like a lifetime for college dancers who have their sights set on performing. So when a professional opportunity comes knocking, it can be tempting to step away from your academics. But there are a few things to consider before putting your education on hold.
The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.
We've all been there: You see the craziest/most beautiful/oddest/wildest clip of a dance on Facebook and you simply have to see more.
But do you actually get yourself to the theater and sit through a 90-minute performance? The consensus, at this point, typically seems to be: No.
There is no clear correlation between a company's social media campaigns and how many seats they fill in the theater. That doesn't mean social media isn't, of course, vital. It simply means that "social media campaigns operating without other marketing campaigns don't cut it," says Rob Bailis, associate director of Cal Performances at UC Berkeley. "But campaigns without social media are far worse off."
Since the project was first announced toward the end of 2017, we've been extremely curious about Yuli. The film, based on Carlos Acosta's memoir No Way Home, promised as much dancing as biography, with Acosta appearing as himself and dance sequences featuring his eponymous Cuba-based company Acosta Danza. Add in filmmaking power couple Icíar Bollaín (director) and Paul Laverty (screenwriter), and you have a recipe for a dance film unlike anything else we've seen recently.
It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.
Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
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One of the country's top arbitrators has decided to reinstate Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro to New York City Ballet. The former principals were fired last fall for "inappropriate communications," namely graphic text messages.
The dancers' union, American Guild of Musical Artists, fought the termination, arguing that the firings were unjust since they related entirely to non-work activity. After a careful review of the facts, an independent arbitrator determined that while the company was justified in disciplining the two men, suspension was the appropriate action and termination took it too far.
A woman passes three men in the street. The men pursue her. They thrust their pelvises at her. They continue to pursue her after she slaps one's hand and walks away. They surround her. She glances around at them in alarm. One snatches her purse (to review the Freudian significance of purses, click here) and saunters off with it, mocking her. She tries to take the purse back, and the three men toss it over her head among each other. They make her dance with them. Each time she indicates "No," the men try harder to force her submission to their advances.
This is all within the first 10 minutes of Jerome Robbins's Fancy Free, a 1944 ballet about three sailors frolicking on shore leave during World War II, beloved by many and still regularly performed (especially during the last year, since 2018 was the centennial celebration of Robbins's birth). Critic Edwin Denby, after the premiere with Ballet Theatre, called it "a remarkable comedy piece" and "a direct, manly piece."
When you're bouncing between hotel rooms without access to a kitchen, eating a pescatarian diet can be challenging. Stephanie Mincone, who most recently traveled the globe with Taylor Swift's Reputation Stadium Tour, told Dance Magazine how she does it—while fueling herself with enough energy to perform for thousands of Taylor fans.
Choosing music for your first-ever choreography commission can feel daunting enough. But when you're asked to create a ballet using the vast discography of the Rolling Stones—and you happen to be dating Stones frontman Mick Jagger—the stakes are even higher.
So it's understandable that as of Monday, American Ballet Theatre corps de ballet dancer Melanie Hamrick, whose Port Rouge will have its U.S. premiere tonight at the Youth America Grand Prix gala, was still torn about which songs to include.
What is an acceptable request from a choreographer in terms of nudity? On the first day of shooting All That Jazz in the 1970s, Bob Fosse asked us men to remove everything but our jock straps and the women to remove their tops. His rationale was to shock us in order to build character, and it felt disloyal to refuse. Would this behavior be considered okay today?
As much as audiences might flock to Swan Lake or The Nutcracker, ballet can't only rely on old war horses if it wants to remain relevant. But building new full-lengths from scratch isn't exactly cheap.
So where can companies find the money?
Today—April 16, 2019—marks what would have been Merce Cunningham's 100th birthday. As dancers from Los Angeles to New York City to London gear up for Night of 100 Solos (the marathon performance event being livestreamed today), and as companies and presenters worldwide continue to celebrate the Cunningham Centennial through their programming, we searched through the Dance Magazine Archives to unearth our favorite images of the groundbreaking dancemaker.
A bright disposition with a dab of astringent charm is how I remember Brock Hayhoe, a National Ballet School of Canada schoolmate. Because we were a couple years apart, we barely brushed shoulders, except at the odd Toronto dance party where we could dance all night with mutual friends letting our inhibitions subside through the music. Dancing always allows a deeper look.
But, as my late great ballet teacher Pyotr Pestov told me when I interviewed him for Dance Magazine in 2009, "You never know what a flower is going to look like until it opens up."
The entrancing power of Instagram can't be denied. I've lost hours of my life scrolling the platform looking at other people documenting theirs. What starts as a "quick" fill-the-moment check-in can easily lead to a good 10-15 minute session, especially if I enter the nebulous realm of "suggested videos."
My algorithm usually shows me professional ballet dancers in performances, rehearsals, class, backstage and on tour, which I quite enjoy. But there are the other dance feeds that I find myself simultaneously intrigued and horrified by: the hyper-elastic, hyper-extended, gumby-footed girls always at the barre doing developpés to six o'clock. There are the multiple turners, the avid stretchers and we can't forget the endless balancers.
This parade of tricksters always makes me wonder, What else can they do? Can they actually dance?
The pleasure of watching prodigies perform technical feats on Instagram can be tinged with a sense of trepidation. Impressive tricks, you think, but do they have what it takes for an actual career?
Just look at 18-year-old Maria Khoreva, who has more followers than most seasoned principals; in videos, her lines and attention to detail suggested a precocious talent, and led to a Nike ambassador contract before she even graduated from the Vaganova Ballet Academy. Still, when she joined the Mariinsky Ballet last summer, there was no guarantee any of it would translate to stage prowess.
As more states legalize cannabis, it seems the sales pitch for cannabidiol—or CBD—gets broader and broader. A quick internet search turns up claims that CBD helps with pain, depression, acne, arthritis, anxiety, insomnia, heart disease, post-traumatic stress, epilepsy and cancer. But the marketplace is unregulated, which makes it tricky to find out what CBD actually does.
One night. Three cities. Seventy-five dancers. And three unique sets of 100 solos, all choreographed by Merce Cunningham.
This incredible evening of dance will honor Cunningham's 100th birthday on April 16. The Merce Cunningham Trust has teamed up with The Barbican in London, the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City and the Center for the Art of Performance in Los Angeles for a tri-city celebration.
The best part? You don't have to be in those cities to watch—Night of 100 Solos is being live-streamed in its entirety for free.
When George Balanchine's full-length Don Quixote premiered in 1965, critics and audiences alike viewed the ballet as a failure. Elaborate scenery and costumes framed mawkish mime passages, like one in which the ballerina washed the Don's feet and dried them with her hair. Its revival in 2005 by Suzanne Farrell, the ballerina on whom it was made and to whom Balanchine left the work, did little to alter its reputation.
Yet at New York City Center's Balanchine festival last fall, some regretted its absence.
"I'd want to see Balanchine's Don Quixote," says Apollinaire Scherr, dance critic for the Financial Times. "It was a labor of love on his part, and a love letter as well. And you want to know what that looks like in his work."
Even great choreographers make mistakes. Sometimes they fail on a grand scale, like Don Quixote; other times it may be a minor misstep. Experiment and risk help choreographers grow, but what happens when a choreographer of stature misfires? Should the work remain in the repertory? And what about a work that fails on some levels but not others?
After the horrific March 15 terrorist attacks at two New Zealand mosques, the music and arts community sprang into action to plan a way to help victims and their families. A series of resulting concerts, titled "You Are Us/Aroha Nui," will take place in New Zealand (April 13 and 17), Jersey City, New Jersey (April 17) and Los Angeles (April 18). Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Our People, Our City Fund, which was established by the Christchurch Foundation to aid those affected by the attacks.
Throughout 2019, the Merce Cunningham Trust continues a global celebration that will be one of the largest tributes to a dance artist ever. Under the umbrella of the Merce Cunningham Centennial are classes and workshops, film screenings and festivals, art exhibitions and symposia, and revivals and premieres of original works inspired by the dancemaker's ideas. The fever peaks on April 16, which would have been the pioneering choreographer's 100th birthday, with Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event, featuring a total of 75 dancers in three performances live-streamed from London, Los Angeles and New York City.
Cloud & Victory gets dancers. The dancewear brand's social media drools over Roberto Bolle's abs, sets classical variations to Beyoncé and moans over Mondays and long adagios. And it all comes from the mind of founder Tan Li Min, the boss lady who takes on everything from designs to inventory to shipping orders.
Known simply (and affectionately) to the brand's 41K Instagram followers as Min, she's used her wry, winking sense of humor to give the Singapore-based C&V international cachet.
She recently spoke with Dance Magazine about building the brand, overcoming insecurity and using pizza as inspiration.
The Ballet Memphis New American Dance Residency, which welcomes selected choreographers for its inaugural iteration next week, goes a step beyond granting space, time and dancers for the development of new work.