25 To Watch
Ballet Nouveau Colorado
The new leadership team at Ballet Nouveau Colorado is taking the suburban Denver company’s name seriously, bringing new, often technologically savvy approaches to everything from programming to marketing. Exhibit A is its innovative 21st Century Choreography Competition, in which entries are posted on YouTube and voted on by the public. Operating in the shadow of the larger and more established Colorado Ballet, the small company shows verve and imagination. The dancers have improved since the leadership changed less than two years ago, and artistic director Garrett Ammon is full of ideas. This past fall he mounted a program of rock ballets to the music of INXS and Queen. In February, Love will include three new pieces through a collaboration with Colorado’s Lighthouse Writers’ Workshop. The program features works by Ammon, Ma Cong (winner of the 2008 choreography competition), and Canada-based choreographer Mark Godden. Ammon’s wife, associate artistic director Dawn Fay, is a demanding yet caring taskmaster (both are veterans of Ballet Memphis and the Trey McIntyre Project). Sometimes, being the little guy in town can be just the motivation needed to get results. —Kyle MacMillan
There’s lightness and delicacy to the way Melissa Thomas dances that suggests the steps require little effort. The American Ballet Theatre corps member, 24, has excelled lately in dramatic roles, where her performances have a natural quality, even in the distilled storytelling of Tudor ballets like The Leaves Are Fading. Her Bathilde in Giselle, appalled and repelled by Albrecht’s deception, becomes a study in noble dignity and wounded pride. Her graceful Third Girl in Robbins’ Fancy Free slowly, sweetly entices the three sailors away from their foiled hopes to a fresh adventure. Expressive even in classical roles, Thomas, a native of Birmingham, AL, who joined the main company in 2002 through ABT’s studio company, has a lyricism that imbues the steps with meaning. Her Fairy of Charity in Sleeping Beauty has a giving quality in her port de bras; her Moyna in Giselle seems blown about the stage by winds from the beyond. In a promising crop of corps women, Thomas holds true to ABT’s theatrical mission. —Hanna Rubin
With her flaming red hair, large bright eyes, and sharp attack, Leslie Kraus brings a Susan Sarandon-ish glamour to downtown dance in Manhattan. In her third year with Kate Weare and Company, she seems to define the Kate Weare woman: bold, taunting, as willing to lash out at a partner as to caress. Weare’s choreography is sometimes unbearably intimate, counterbalanced by precise, repetitive rhythms. In the context of sexual struggle that Weare fosters, Kraus’ every move is taut, sharply focused, and a little scary.
Kraus, 27, grew up in Baltimore and went to a “normal ballet/tap/jazz studio” but also dabbled in gymnastics and theater. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she studied improvisation, choreography, and release technique—a good preparation for Kate Weare, who asks her dancers to create their own narrative. “It’s challenging,” says Kraus, “but it feels like a conversation, like discovering something new. The closeness in which we dance—that alone is intense.” What accounts for her riveting stage presence? “I try to be a clear window through which the audience can experience something,” she says. The company performs at the Danspace Project in June. —Wendy Perron
When Sarah Reynolds dances, you see the movement take its course through her whole body. Even her breathing is precise. As her ivory limbs emerge through a white screen in Jirí Kylián’s Sleepless, she is hauntingly ghostlike; each flick of her wrist or quiver of her body seems to make the bells of the score chime, rather than the other way around.
Born in Dublin and trained in both Irish step dance and ballet, Reynolds became a student of the Central School of Ballet in London. She then went to dance for Marguerite Donlon in Germany before joining NDT II in 2004. She was promoted to the main company after a performance at Jacob’s Pillow in 2007. Recently Reynolds enjoyed working with Wayne McGregor, whose use of psychology has prompted her to pursue the field academically. The company’s North American tour in 2009 includes stops in Toronto, Chicago, and L.A. —Helma Klooss and Emily Macel
Edwin Aparicio’s flamenco style is a study in contrasts. His furious footwork creates fast, pulsing beats that render his legs a blur. But from the waist up, he has a fluid torso and slowly curling wrists.
The Washington, DC–based artist grew up with flamenco. He studied with notable artists in Spain and performed in Madrid’s most prestigious tablaos before returning to the U.S. in 2004 to start his own company, Flamenco Aparicio Dance Company. He performs original works that combine thoughtful storytelling and passionate dance. He recently appeared in Omayra Amaya’s La Sobremesa, and his company performed at the annual flamenco extravaganza at DC’s GALA Hispanic Theater. —Richa Gulati
Manuelito Biag makes dances that are gutsy, gorgeous, and finely chiseled. To create them, the Phillippines-born, California-raised Biag digs into the dark and complex currents that boil inside relationships. The dances for his Shift Physical Theater are full of struggles, yet are oddly beautiful. Though he has choreographed for close to a decade, only in the past five years has he begun to speak with a voice unmistakably his own. Biag is developing into that rare artist who creates intricately structured work that speaks directly to an audience. Building slowly, he draws on personal narratives from his dancers. Giving Strength to This Fragile Tongue explored what remains unsaid between partners. Making Invisible looked at impermanence. The Shape of Poison was a Buddhist-inspired meditation on dis/attachment. For his most recent work, Ballast, the dancers unearthed the memories, hopes, and ambivalences that swirl around the idea of “home.” —Rita Felciano
New York City Ballet corps dancer Rachel Piskin, 20, has been attracting attention through more than technique—although she has that to spare. Having studied nowhere else but the School of American Ballet (a rarity at NYCB), Piskin has the Balanchine style embedded in her muscles and memory. She can be as fleet-footed or as languid as any of her colleagues, yet what captures the eye is the gracious quality of her dancing: the soft line of her torso, the endearing tilt of her head, her welcoming smile. At 5’3”, she does not exactly command the stage (nor does she seem to try to), but she can charm you into noticing her among a corps of a dozen or more, including in Walpurgisnacht Ballet and Serenade. She joined the company in 2005; Marzipan in Nutcracker and the Pastorale in the La Sonnambula—classic entry-level roles—soon came her way. Piskin can be seen during NYCB’s winter season Jan. 6–March 1. —Harris Green
Whether choreographing a duet in which two female dancers are lip-locked in a two-and-a-half-minute kiss or a stirring solo about racism, dancer/choreographer Kyle Abraham uses controversy as his muse. “I try to make work relevant to my experiences as a college-educated black gay man,” says Abraham. “My works tend to deal with the connotations and assumptions of all those labels.”
The 31-year-old Pittsburgh native, now living in Brooklyn, dances with David Dorfman in addition to making waves with his own dance company Abraham.In.Motion. As a performer, he is equal parts power and grace layered on a sinewy frame. His choreographic style is an amalgam of hip hop and modern dance. In 2009, audiences can see him with David Dorfman Dance as well as with his own company beginning this month as part of “Past/Forward: A Tisch Dance Alumni Celebration,” Jan. 31, at NYU’s Skirball Center. —Steve Sucato
Sonya Tayeh calls her choreography “combat jazz.” “It’s staccato, aggressive, and engaged, even when it’s slow. I’m always ready for battle.” But if the career trajectories of previous So You Think You Can Dance choreographers are anything to go by, Sonya Tayeh won’t have to battle too hard to get to the top. The 31-year-old dancemaker, who also teaches at EDGE Performing Arts Center in L.A., was introduced through TV sets across the country as one of several SYTYCD Season 4 newcomers. Her routines showed a distinct movement style: quirky and hard-hitting, but also poignant. Her contemporary piece for dancers Kourtni Lind and Matt Dorame brought a futuristic, animé action feel to the stage. Later in the season, her dark jazz number for dancers Courtney Galiano and Mark Kanemura showed a sinister, spunky side, with two lovers clawing after one another.
Tayeh, who will return for the next season of SYTYCD, presented a concert with her own company, Tayeh Dance, in California last November. She’ll also be teaching for the new Monsters of Contemporary Dance Convention in early 2009. —Kathryn Holmes
Brooklyn-born Ricardo Zayas fits in perfectly with Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, a company known for its otherworldly creatures. Zayas dances with a rarefied air, holding nothing back and moving those curving limbs as if he lives in a more viscous liquid than the rest of us. His sinewy, resilient grace attracted critical notice during his years in Ailey II, as well as during stints with Complexions and Shen Wei Dance Arts. But it’s his formal elegance, warmed by a generous onstage persona, that stands out in Alonzo King’s individualized and often wild choreography.
“I live for the ‘almost-blooper’ moment onstage,” says Zayas. “You think you’re going to fall off balance—you’ve gone so far out that you’re seeing stars, but you just have to make it work.”
In his third season with LINES, Zayas will perform in the company’s home season in San Francisco and on a tour of France in April, as well as in performances in May at the Joyce in NYC. “It’s such a rush—to take your body out on a tangent, but still be able to keep your mind focused.” —Mary Ellen Hunt
Calling a Paul Taylor dancer ebullient is like saying the sun’s shining: You’re glad it is, but you’re not surprised. Yet when Francisco Graciano tosses off some of Taylor’s signature barrel rolls, his warmth and energy seem fueled from within. Graciano, 30, one of several new kids on the Taylor block, can take a short duet in Airs and fill it with expression and exuberance. But he has the control and focus to dance slow, weighty movement, like the processional in Taylor’s Lines of Loss, with moving gravitas. A graduate of Stephens College for Women (male scholarship), he joined the main company in 2006 after two years in Taylor 2. Unlike some PTDC dancers who seem the designated heirs to earlier Paul Taylor stars, Graciano has a freshness that’s all his own. He brings a glow to the repertory, like Arden Court, as well as the new roles that Taylor has created on him. PTDC’s New York City Center season is Feb. 25–March 15, and the company performs March 27–28 at the Kennedy Center. —Hanna Rubin
Kiesha Lalama-White can throw a shot put or hurl a dancer through space with her athletic, contemporary jazz choreography. Although sports and gymnastics were her games, dancemaking is her passion. “Choreography is my release. It’s where I feel most secure, challenged, and eager,” says the Point Park University faculty member. Since winning the Bronze Leo Award from the Jazz Dance World Congress in 2007 for the intense Going, Going, Gone, this Pittsburgh native’s accessible, percussion-driven dances have been in demand. Last season she pulled visual and emotional strings in Let’s Play for Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago and offered intimate storytelling in Vicious Cycle for Michigan’s Eisenhower Dance Ensemble. Fearless, animated, and open, she respects her dancers and derives inspiration from her surroundings. She plans to use pointe work in her upcoming commissions for Pittsburgh’s Point Park University and Houston’s Metropolitan Dance Company in 2009. —Karen Dacko
Andrea Miller/Gallim Dance
With space-eating phrases both charmingly awkward and wildly technical, Andrea Miller’s Gallim Dance has burst onto NYC’s downtown dance scene. Her dancers wear lime green dresses and hot pink socks, and sing along to underground club music. Miller laces laugh-out-loud humor through serious moments, taking audience members on a ride. “I’m interested in contagious movement,” says Miller. “I’m looking for movement that erupts from the core of our physicality or subconscious. Something that is really raw.”
Born in Salt Lake City, Miller is informed by her four years at Juilliard and two years with Ohad Naharin’s Batsheva Ensemble in Israel. Miller returned to NYC to create Gallim Dance in 2006. Within two short years she won the Hubbard Street 2 Choreographic Competition, was invited to perform at Jacob’s Pillow, and received the Bessie Schoenberg Choreographic Residency at The Yard. Gallim Dance premieres a new work Blush, at the Joyce SoHo, Jan. 9–18, along with the return of her acclaimed evening-length work, I Can See Myself in Your Pupil. —Jen Peters
As a relatively new member of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Jessica Tong is a refreshing breath of spunk, exuberance, and individuality. Beyond having the clean technique, beautiful body, and versatility typical of the company, Tong moves with biting sharpness while maintaining an expressive fluidity. She exudes a powerful personality all her own.
Born in Binghamton, NY, and raised in Salt Lake City, Tong danced with BalletMet Columbus and Eliot Feld’s Ballet Tech before taking what she calls “all of the steps essential to joining Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.” She auditioned twice for Hubbard Street 2 before an offer of a summer scholarship to the Lou Conte Dance Studio led to two years in HS2, and an apprenticeship at HSDC. She became a full company member last January. As Tong says, “The perseverance paid off.” The coming year brings her across North America on tour with HSDC, performing new works by Toru Shimazaki and HSDC artistic director Jim Vincent. —Elena Hecht
Watching tapper Sarah Reich dance is a lesson in exuberance. Petite and electrifying, 19-year-old Reich has an uncanny ability to balance the hard-hitting syncopation of today’s rhythm tappers with just a touch of the confidence of the legends Gregory Hines or even Ann Miller. She’s grounded in multiple styles—salsa, swing, flamenco, and samba—which add extra insouciance to her tapping. Reich’s savvy enough to know that the old-schoolers have untapped wisdom in their beats. She spent the past four years working with veteran Harold Cromer as his tap assistant for dance festivals around the country. Dancing for more than a decade, Reich gleaned her hoofer skills from L.A. stalwart tap educators Al Desio, Syd Glover, and Paul and Arlene Kennedy. She currently graces TV screens and stages worldwide as a member of Jason Samuels Smith’s group Anybody Can Get It and Chloe Arnold’s Syncopated Ladies. —Paula Broussard
Although only 5’8”, Christopher Vo, 23, is a hard man to overlook when he’s onstage and in motion. In 2005, his sophomore year at the Juilliard School, he was one among scores of students in Eliot Feld’s Sir Isaac’s Apples. For some 80 minutes, they slid down and strode or jigged back up a steeply sloped raked stage as Steve Reich’s Drumming pounded away. Vo, performing each descent and ascent with more clarity, consistency, and joy than anyone else, soon became the one you couldn’t help watching.
Born to Vietnamese emigré parents in Texas, he graduated from Dallas’ Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and entered Juilliard on a full scholarship. His command of movement permitted him to range easily from the loosey-goosey exuberance of Twyla Tharp’s Deuce Coupe to the solemnities of Doug Varone’s The Constant Shift of Pulse. Required to slump to the floor repeatedly in Shift, Vo made each fall a series of graceful, fluidly evolving moves. He joined the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company upon graduation last spring. “Along with a clear mind,” says Lubovitch, “Chris possesses an unforced physical quality that cannot be taught.” In January and February, Vo heads out west with the Lubovitch Company, performing in Pennsylvania, California, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon. —Harris Green
When Edwaard Liang began casting Age of Innocence, his new work for the Joffrey Ballet last fall, he chose Megan Quiroz to dance one of its two pivotal duets. No wonder. In this exploration of romance (inspired by Jane Austen’s world of chaperoned dances and arranged marriages), she and her partner exemplify a match in which the chemistry turns out to be intense. And Quiroz, 26—who grew up in Michigan, studied with Pacific Northwest Ballet, and joined the Joffrey in 2004—is an innately passionate dancer. She quite naturally brings emotional heat and intensity to the stage. Her strong, expressive face; beautifully muscled legs; and ideally arched, articulated feet add to the drama.
Quiroz confessed that working with Liang was intimidating. “I felt very vulnerable, but you learn to leave any self-consciousness at the door.” While working on Liang’s piece, Quiroz (who is married to Joffrey dancer Brian McSween) also was learning two other featured roles—in the company’s revival of Joffrey’s Postcards and Wheeldon’s Carousel (A Dance). —Hedy Weiss
In a performance of Balanchine’s Raymonda Variations, North Carolina Dance Theatre’s Kara Wilkes’ lithe arms and eloquent hands appeared to gather the space around her before gliding through the air. Wilkes’ long legs further accentuate a heavenly marriage of stately beauty and precise technical skill. Her dancing reveals each step as natural and elegant. NCDT artistic director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux says of Wilkes, “She brings an imagination and marvelous sense of humor to her dancing that inspires choreographers and dazzles audiences.”
Before joining NCDT in 2007, the 27-year-old danced with Milwaukee Ballet and Ballet Victor Ullate in Madrid. This year, Wilkes will perform soloist and lead roles in all of NCDT’s productions, including the world premiere of Dwight Rhoden’s Othello, May 14–16 at Charlotte’s Belk Theater. —Steve Sucato
Seth Stewart has left his mark on In the Heights. As Graffiti Pete, he tagged the dance scenes with his grounded and cool hip hop dancing. When the show leapt from Off-Broadway to Broadway (and won the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical), Stewart, a sharp dancer with an actor’s intuition, leapt into the limelight too.
Although he played football in high school, Stewart found his love of dance through music video icons like Michael Jackson, and his uncle, notable dance TV host Stepp Stewart. Seth blends hip hop with crisp technique and stylized jazz movements inspired by Fosse. Dropping everything to audition at the age of 19, Stewart snagged his first job for Madonna’s “Reinvention” tour. He went on to perform with JLo and Jay-Z, and in Sweet Charity on Broadway. He will continue his role of Graffiti Pete, but he hopes to produce, direct, and choreograph his own shows in the future. Stewart says, “I’m artistically always ready to explode.” —Rachel Leigh Dolan
Wiry, athletic, and a bit of a daredevil, Marideth Wanat of LehrerDance navigates the sumptuous switchbacks of Jon Lehrer’s all-flow, no-fixed-points method of choreographing with style. “I’ve always been the fearless sort,” says Wanat, 27. “I like throwing myself around with abandon—although it’s not always pretty.” Traveling at breakneck speed is just part of the territory at the new Buffalo, NY–based LehrerDance, where Wanat is a founding member and rehearsal director. Grounded in fluidity, she’s joyful without being sentimental. She takes pleasure in being on the cusp of jazz/modern fusion. As the lead in Lehrer’s upcoming new rock opera, An American Siddhartha: The Way Within in September at University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts, Wanat will have the opportunity to dwell in off-kilter counterbalancing acts that keep her and the audience on edge. —Nancy Wozny
When the lights come up on Jessica Collado of Houston Ballet in Stanton Welch’s Red Earth, the audience believes she is one tough pioneer woman isolated in a barren desert. Sweaty and covered with mud, Collado has an earthiness that makes Welch’s story of the early Australian settlers come alive. In the same night, as Suzuki in Welch’s Madame Butterfly, Collado takes the subtle path, carrying the full burden of Butterfly’s choices with a stinging pathos and tender reserve. Her jazz training and natural showmanship came in handy during her performance as Jane the Wardrobe Girl who replaces the Diva in Welch's ode to Gershwin, The Core. “At this point in my career I am up for any and all challenges, and roles that really push me,” says Collado, 24. “I am never afraid of making a total fool of myself in rehearsal. It’s when I let my guard down that my best dancing comes through.” Welch created a lead role for her in his new, full-length ballet Marie, based on the life of Marie Antoinette, which premieres in February, and she can’t wait to bring her talents to Nacho Duato’s first work for the company, Jardí Tancat, in May. —Nancy Wozny
Lux Boreal brings a sort of magical realism to the stage. The Tijuana company was founded in 2002 by Angel Arámbula and Henry Torres. Arámbula, 35, moves with slashing limbs and a balletic purity of line, while Torres, 34, radiates intelligent humor. Those distinctive styles add up to a rich vocabulary in work ranging from a tragicomic take on Tijuana’s drug trade to a sly send-up of the eight company members’ foibles. Lux Boreal is credited with raising the bar for dance in Tijuana. Arámbula and Torres are graduates of the Professional School of Contemporary Dance in Mazatlán (as are many of their dancers), and along with teaching regular classes and workshops, the company has Diplomado en Danza, a certificate program to train dancers supported by Mexico’s National University of Pedagogy and the Tijuana Municipal Institute for Arts and Culture.
Last summer, Lux Boreal represented Mexico at Expo 2008 in Spain and toured to Latvia with Allyson Green, who often sets work on them. They will perform in Mexico City in March. —Janice Steinberg
The eye follows Ginger Smith the way the ear follows a melody by Schubert—easily, naturally, and with the fullest confidence that the next moment will be as inevitable as the last.
Asked what has brought her, in four seasons at Ballet Arizona, from small solos to roles of Giselle and Sugar Plum and leads in new ballets by company artistic director Ib Andersen, Smith says simply: “I like to go onstage knowing the preparation is already behind me, and just enjoy the performance as it happens spontaneously.”
The 24-year-old Smith attended the School of Ballet Arizona before dancing with Boston Ballet II and the Royal Ballet of Flanders. Coming home wasn’t on her agenda until she caught Ballet Arizona’s Nutcracker during holiday break. The company’s progress under Andersen prompted her return.
Smith can be seen in February in Ballet Arizona’s Romeo and Juliet, and in June during the company’s annual “Best of Balanchine” programs. See www.balletaz.org. —Kenneth LaFave
Tall and muscular, Eric Underwood imparts a princely elegance. With pantherlike action, he covers the floor smoothly and with speed; he erupts into high, sustained leaps that devour the space. His extensions unfold effortlessly to Sylvie Guillem heights, and he snaps open his jetés to six o’clock position. Secure in his classical technique, he explodes in contemporary movement where his Olympic athleticism and control weave magic with his pliant body. At The Royal Ballet, he has created roles in Christopher Wheeldon’s DGV and Electric Counterpoint and Wayne McGregor’s Chroma.
Born in Washington, DC, Underwood trained at the School of American Ballet, danced for three years with Dance Theatre of Harlem, and in 2003 joined ABT. In 2006, he jeté-ed across the pond to join The Royal Ballet in London and was promoted to soloist last July. See him with the Royal when they perform at the Kennedy Center in DC this June. —Margaret Willis
A wild woman in Val Caniparoli’s Lambarena, a pizzicato demon in Victor Quijada’s Suspension of Disbelief, and a gutsy courtesan in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Romeo et Juliette, Rachel Foster embodies the power of contemporary movement in ballet.
Pacific Northwest Ballet’s newest soloist combines precision and vibrancy onstage. Encouraged by a ballerina mother, she trained at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School, later joining the company and then moving to PNB in 2002. This past year, Foster has shown an unusual lyricism and authority. In Molissa Fenley’s State of Darkness, she remained utterly centered, drawn neither into darkness nor angst, with strength and dignity. The epic solo to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring challenged her “endurance, athleticism, and artistry,” she says, and was “the experience of a lifetime.” This past fall in Tharp’s premiere Opus 111, she displayed a sweet composure while sensually passing through the most complex of moves. See Foster in Balanchine’s Jewels Jan. 29–Feb. 7 and in PNB’s Broadway Festival program March 12–22. —Gigi Berardi
I don't understand why I've lost my motivation to dance at 20 years old. My parents have always encouraged me to have a life plan and ask continuously how my pre-professional training program is going. I feel crushed by their expectations. I'm actually relieved when I get injured and can't dance, even though I miss it.
—Confused, Nashville, TN
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With limited space for luggage on the tour bus, Justin Timberlake dancer Natalie Gilmore makes sure her beauty routine can pull double duty. "Most of the stuff I use day to day I also use onstage," she says, adding that the dancers do their own hair and makeup for every show. "They give us a lot of freedom to use what we want, and I really enjoy getting to play with new products and experiment with different looks." That same freedom she has with her look carries over into her performance. "There's a lot of freestyle in the show," Gilmore says. "We have certain places we need to be, but we're able to map out how we want things to flow—I have a lot of fun with it."
As a dancer going through a mental health challenge, loneliness can feel like your only companion. Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Steven Loch has managed obsessive-compulsive disorder since middle school, and for nearly a decade felt too scared to speak up. "We feel like if we say something people will be horrified by some of the thoughts that we are having," he says.
But according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five adults in the U.S. experiences a mental illness each year. Psychologists say that in competitive environments like the dance studio—where perfectionism can make you feel like you're never good enough, and an injury can suddenly strip you of your identity—this likelihood may increase.
Last summer I shared my own story of quitting dance due to untreated depression on the Dance Magazine website. It was met with an outpouring of support and camaraderie that I found both affirming and terrifying. A few weeks later, the magazine published an online survey to learn more about dancer attitudes around the need for mental health support. Readers submitted more than 1,000 comments, demonstrating that these struggles are very much a shared experience.
Considering the demands of a career in dance, it isn't surprising that many professionals find romance in the rehearsal studio. With taxing schedules, perfectionist tendencies and quirky habits, it can be challenging to find true love outside of the art form. We spoke with three non-dancer spouses to hear what it's like sharing their life with professionals from ballet to Broadway.
As a very shy little girl, my happy place was my room, where I would wear improvised costumes and giggle with happiness while dancing for an imaginary audience. I was raised in a family where dancing was "normal." My mom and sisters graduated from the national ballet academy in Poland, and I, of course, wanted to follow their steps. But I was never forced to. I am proud to say I discovered the magic of ballet all by myself.
Photo by Costin Radu, courtesy of Petra Conti
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The midterm elections are less than three weeks away on November 6. If you're registered to vote, hooray!
But you can't fully celebrate before you've completed your mission. Showing up at the polls is what matters most—especially since voter turnout for midterms doesn't have a fabulous track record. According to statistics from FairVote, about 40 percent of the population that is eligible to vote actually casts a ballot during midterm elections.
Many members of the dance community are making it clear that they want that percentage go up, and they're using social media to take a stand. Here's how they're getting involved:
Dancers will do just about anything to increase their odds of staying injury-free. And there are plenty of products out there claiming that they can help you do just that. But which actually work?
We asked for recommendations from four experts: Martt Lawrence, who teaches Pilates to dancers in San Francisco; Lisa-Marie Lewis, who teaches yoga at The Ailey Extension in New York City; physical therapist Alexis Sams, who treats dancers at her clinic in Phoenix; and stretch training coach Vicente Hernandez, who teaches at The School of Pennsylvania Ballet.
With a contemporary air that exalts—rather than obscures—flamenco tradition, and a technique and stamina that boggle the mind, Eduardo Guerrero's professional trajectory has done nothing but skyrocket since being named one of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch" earlier this year. His 2017 solo Guerrero has toured widely, and he has created premieres for the Jerez Festival (Faro) and the 2018 Seville Flamenco Biennial (Sombra Efímera). In the midst of his seemingly unstoppable ascension, he's created Gaditanía, his first work utilizing a corps de ballet. Guerrero is currently touring the U.S. with this homage to Cadiz, the city of his birth.
At our cover shoot for the November issue, Bobbi Jene Smith curated one of the best lineups of YouTube music videos that I've heard in a long time. From Bob Dylan to Tom Waits, they felt like such perfect choices for her earthy, visceral movement and soulful approach to dance.
Dance technology has come a long way from ballet variations painstakingly learned by watching fuzzy VHS tapes. Over the last few years, a dizzying number of online training programs have cropped up, offering the chance to take class in contemporary, jazz, ballet, tap, hip hop and even ballroom from the comfort of your own living room or studio.
Usually, it takes new recruits a few seasons to make their mark at the Paul Taylor Dance Company. But Taylor wasted no time in honing in on the talents of Alex Clayton. Only a few months after Clayton joined in June 2017, Taylor created an exciting solo for him in his new Concertiana, filled with explosive leaps and quick footwork. Clayton was also featured in new works by Doug Varone and Bryan Arias. At 5' 6" he may be compact, but onstage he fills the space with a thrilling sense of attack.
Scottish Ballet is turning 50 next year, but they'll be the one giving out the gifts.
In 2019, the company will make five wishes from fans come true, as a way of thanking them for their loyalty and support over the years. "It can be anything from the dancers performing at a birthday party or on the banks of Loch Ness, or even the chance to get on stage and be part of a Scottish Ballet show," according to the company.
Some of my favorite experiences as both an audience member and a dancer have involved audience participation. Artists who cleverly use participatory moments can make bold statements about the boundaries between performer and spectator, onstage and off. And the challenge to be more than a passive viewer can redefine an audience's relationship to what they're watching. But all the experiences I've loved have had something in common: They've given audiences a choice.
A few weeks back, I had a starkly different experience—one that has caused me to think deeply about how consent should play into audience-performer relationships.
People have a tendency to think of dance as purely physical and not intellectual. But when we separate movement from intellect, we limit what dance can do for the world.
It's not hard to see that dance is thought of as less than other so-called "intellectual pursuits." How many dancers have been told they should pursue something "more serious"? How many college dance departments don't receive funding on par with theater or music departments, much less science departments?
New York City Ballet fired principal dancers Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro on Saturday. Both had initially been suspended until 2019 for engaging in "inappropriate communications," while principal Chase Finlay, who was the instigator of those communications, resigned. (Although, in a statement on Saturday, NYCB made it clear they had decided to terminate Finlay prior to his resignation.)
The New York Times reports that NYCB says the change from suspension to termination resulted from hearing the concerns of dancers, staff members and others in the NYCB community. Yet it's hard to ignore the fact that a lawsuit against NYCB had been filed in the meantime. A statement from NYCB executive director Katherine Brown and interim artistic team leader Jonathan Stafford stated:
"We have no higher obligation than to ensure that our dancers and staff have a workplace where they feel respected and valued, and we are committed to providing that environment for all employees of New York City Ballet."
Since the news was announced, both Catazaro and Ramasar have spoken out publicly about being fired.
Recently, English National Ballet first artist Precious Adams announced that she will no longer be wearing pink tights. With the support of her artistic director Tamara Rojo, she will instead wear chocolate brown tights (and shoes) that match her flesh tone.
It may seem like a simple change, but this could be a watershed moment—one where the aesthetics of ballet begin to expand to include the presence of people of color.
Flamenco dancer and choreographer Rocío Molina created her first full-length production, Entre paredes ("Between Walls"), at the age of 22. At 26, the prodigy received Spain's National Dance Prize, the most coveted dance award in Spain. Now 34, her rupture with tradition makes her no stranger to controversy. But it, and her fiercely personal and contemporary style, means that each new project is a fascinating voyage.
Molina is the subject of French filmmaker Emilio Belmonte's first feature length documentary, IMPULSO. The film, which makes its U.S. theatrical premiere at New York City's Film Forum on October 17, follows Molina for two years as she tours Europe presenting a series of improvised works. These improvisations ultimately inspired the creation of one of Molina's masterworks, Caída de Cielo ("Fallen from Heaven"), which premiered in 2016.
In a move that was both surprising and seemingly inevitable, New York City Ballet closed its fall season by promoting seven dancers. Joseph Gordon, who was promoted to soloist in February 2017, is now a principal dancer. Daniel Applebaum, Harrison Coll, Claire Kretzschmar, Aaron Sanz, Sebastian Villarini-Velez and Peter Walker have been promoted to soloist.
Newly promoted soloist Peter Walker has been showing his abilities as a leading man in ballets like Jerome Robbins' West Side Story Suite. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB
The announcement was made on Saturday by Jonathan Stafford, the head of NYCB's interim leadership team. These seven promotions mark the first since longtime ballet master in chief Peter Martins retired in the midst of harassment allegations at the beginning of this year. While Stafford and fellow interim leaders Rebecca Krohn, Craig Hall and Justin Peck have made some bold choices in terms of programming—such as commissioning Kyle Abraham and Emma Portner to create new works for the 2018–19 season—their primary focus has appeared to be keeping the company running on an even keel while the search for a new artistic leader is ongoing. Some of us theorized that we would not be seeing any promotions until a new artistic director was in place.
Ryan Steele has a simple rule for demanding days on Broadway: "I listen to my body," he says. "I have whatever I'm craving: If I need more protein, I go straight for that. If I'm tired, I know I need carbs."
This wasn't always Steele's approach. Growing up, shuttling between the studio and school meant relying on McDonald's and Burger King.
For over a decade, husband-and-wife team Pascal Rioult and Joyce Herring, artistic and associate artistic directors of RIOULT Dance NY, dreamed of building a space for their company and fellow artists in the community, and a school for future dancers. This month, their 11,000-square-foot dream opens its doors in the Kaufman Arts District in Astoria, Queens, a New York City neighborhood across the East River from Manhattan.
In the final years of her decade-long career with the Lewitzky Dance Company, University of Arizona Associate Professor Amy Ernst began to develop an interest in dance injury prevention. She remembers feeling an urge to widen her understanding of dance and the body. Soon after retirement from the Company, she was hired by the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Inglewood, California as a physical therapy assistant, where she worked for the next three and a half years. This work eventually led her to pursue an M.F.A. in dance at the University of Washington-Seattle. She remembers growing into the role of a professor during her time pursuing her degree. That incubation phase was critical. Ernst joined the faculty at the University of Arizona in 1995, and now as director of the M.F.A. program, mentors the new generation of dance faculty, company directors and innovators.