A Classic Beauty
Kristi Capps was the corps dancer who made dancegoers snap to attention when she joined Cincinnati Ballet 12 years ago. You were quickly drawn to her pleasant proportions, preternaturally arched feet and handsome legs, and a sweet open face that seemed made to portray Juliet.
Flash forward to her lean, honed silhouette today. She still possesses an endearing innocence, but she is a far more expressive and powerful dancer. Walking serenely with her partner in the opening of Balanchine’s Chaconne, or shaping with her toned limbs a hyper-kinetic anagram in Jorma Elo’s Plan to B, Capps pulls the viewer in with her intelligence, self-awareness, and deep absorption in every role.
Promoted to principal in 2002, Capps has danced the popular classics with honor and has stretched herself in new contemporary works. Visiting choreographers, says artistic director Victoria Morgan, vie to cast Capps in their ballets. “Kristi has beautiful line and physicality,” says Morgan. “She looks great in those contemporary pieces because she can really move like an animal.”
In regional ballet there are some excellent dancers, but many tend to move on after a few seasons. Capps, 34, chose to remain in Cincinnati, and she has never stopped growing. Grit, determination, all-out hard work, and a natural impulse to be a team player have helped propel her through the company ranks to become CB’s senior ballerina.
Capps grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was studying piano at age 9 when she was captivated by Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland on TV in The Nutcracker. She asked her parents for lessons. For a few years, her younger brother Stuart (who eventually danced with New York City Ballet and in Twyla Tharp’s Movin’ Out), and even her mother and father took classes locally. “We ended up spending every hour at the studios,” she recalls with a grin. At 14 she left home for a year’s study at the Harid Conservatory in Boca Raton, Florida. She then entered North Carolina School of the Arts as a high school sophomore, a year later than most of her classmates.
Her primary teacher was the formidable ex-NYCB ballerina Melissa Hayden, who steeped the class in Balanchine choreography. In summers, faculty member Guyla Pandi took a small group to the Hungarian State Ballet School in Budapest for lessons in Russian technique with teachers from the Kirov.
Because of those influences, says Capps, “I feel more comfortable in classical roles and in Balanchine ballets.” In contemporary works by choreographers like Luca Veggetti, she has learned to “allow myself to be off balance and see where that will take me.”
About NCSA, she says, “It was an awesome school and a tough class, which was great; it made me work. But those are hard years in anyone’s life. Your body is changing, you don’t feel good in your skin, and you are just trying to find yourself.” She went through periods of self-doubt and considered applying to college.
After graduation, with Melissa Hayden’s encouragement, Capps moved on to three happy seasons as a company member at Atlanta Ballet, then directed by former NYCB principal Robert Barnett. In 1996, when she joined Cincinnati Ballet, the company’s ballet mistress, Johanna Wilt, noted Capps’ promise and strong work ethic. “Kristi was always the first to get the combination,” says Wilt. “She is musical and she is a perfectionist.”
Capps has also sought enriching new experiences on her own. For years she used summer layoffs to study and perform in Chautauqua, New York, in the program established by former NYCB principals Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and Patricia McBride. She blossomed amidst the camaraderie, inspiring classes, and new repertory, where she could attempt all kinds of roles, including dramatic ones.
She has also welcomed unusual opportunities. She describes as “a treasure” the 2004 Cincinnati revival of Léonide Massine’s Seventh Symphony, a Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo masterwork not seen in half a century. In the ballet’s great lamentation scene—with references to the Crucifixion—Capps recreated a grieving mother who was part of an ensemble of mourners, yet separate from it. “Human, but a kind of goddess” is the way Capps says she envisioned the character.
Even with her beautiful legs and feet and strong torso, Capps still had to overcome technical hurdles. Her hyper-extended legs, for instance, are not assets when it comes to bourrées. She has learned to relax the knees to make them appear effortless. And because of her high arches, she has learned to pull back in her toe shoes to do hops on pointe.
To dance dramatic parts “from the inside,” she has experimented and delved into research. She rents tons of dance videos when approaching a dramatic role, and she tries to rehearse without looking in the mirror. “Once you see it, you start to judge yourself and it’s not coming out real. You’re not acting through emotions, you’re watching yourself act. You have to feel it.”
Morgan praises Capps’ maturity as a performer but knows that she has had to unlock an inner confidence. “Kristi has had to overcome a tendency to play down her own abilities,” notes Morgan. “The hardest part of a performance for her is the bow. She’s very, very modest.”
Capps’ curtain calls have grown warmer and more spontaneous through the years. She still seems happiest when moving swiftly to the wings with arms outstretched to bring company music director Carmon DeLeone onstage for a bow. (CB is one of the rare regional troupes that still performs with a live orchestra).
In 2001, by then a soloist, Capps filled in as a third-cast Swanilda in Kirk Peterson’s Coppélia. Dawn Kelly, who was also in the corps at the time, says, “I was taken aback at how beautiful she was even then. Being third cast never deterred her from working as hard as she could. She attacked it as if she was first-cast.”
Peterson, Cincinnati’s resident choreographer, subsequently cast Capps as Kitri in his Don Quixote. She brought surprising fire and fun to the character, as if she’d found something deep in her personality that could relate to the role.
“She’s so open,” observes Peterson. “That’s the thing a choreographer looks for—a dancer who checks their ego at the door and surrenders themselves to the process. And she’s a very sensitive artist. She has nuances that are emotionally accessible to a choreographer that are wonderful to mold.”
Dancing Don Quixote, says Capps, later enabled her to say yes when ABT star Angel Corella needed a last-minute partner to dance a Don Q suite for a gala in Spain. (He had invited Cuban soloist Adiarys Almeida, but she had visa problems and recommended Capps.)
“I hardly slept on the plane, I kept going over the choreography in my mind,” Capps remembers. “I barely had a rehearsal the night I arrived; the next morning was dress rehearsal and tech, and then the performance.” Once onstage, she says, “I was kind of beside myself. It was cool! He was concerned that I would feel comfortable. He was very generous that way. Thankfully our versions were very similar.” She returned to Spain a month later to dance in another gala organized by Corella.
Capps’ Coppélia debut proved serendipitous in her private life. Her Franz, also an 11th-hour appearance, was a newcomer by way of Colorado Ballet, Kirov-trained Dmitri Trubchanov. The two realized later that they had each formed a small crush on the other before ever being paired onstage. They eventually became off-stage life partners. Last year, on a bike trip in Europe, they became engaged.
Capps says their dance partnership has been crucial to her confidence in dramatic roles. Because of his Soviet training, “Dima can walk onstage and be a prince,” she says. “There is nothing better than dancing with him.” Their 2004 performances of Victoria Morgan’s Romeo and Juliet were a high point of the season: fiercely alive with youthful passion and heartbreak, but sufficiently distilled so that nothing was permitted to go over the top.
Last spring Capps was paired with the polished, Perm State Ballet-trained guest artist Alexei Tyukov, in Eldar Aliev’s A Thousand and One Nights, based on the classic tales of Scheherezade. As a stern potentate and his discontented queen, the pair’s dashes toward the audience, ornamental poses, and Soviet-style lifts brought pantherine excitement to the ballet. In recent seasons, she and Tyukov have performed Swan Lake and Giselle with growing rapport.
This season Capps is looking forward to dancing the local premiere of Twyla Tharp’s sizzling Sinatra Suite and other works. She is also thinking ahead to the next phase of her life. She wants to eventually teach yoga and study marine biology. (She’s spent time in Costa Rica working on sea turtle conservation.)
But until that distant point in the future, she says, “Dance has been such an essence of my life for so long that it’s hard to think of ever moving away from it.” She talks about the freedom of being onstage: “Once you hit the stage, you’re away from the mirror, the scrutiny of rehearsal. You’ve done all the preparation you can. It’s the final release. All your senses are on fire.”
Last summer she went to Russia with Trubchanov to visit his family in their tiny village. “We were picking berries. I’m one of those people who’ll pick the berries until the bucket is full. I don’t want to leave it half full. I’m like that with dancing. A performance brings everything full circle. I like taking class, I like rehearsing, but what means most is completing the circle.”
Janet Light writes about dance from Cincinnati, OH.
Adji Cissoko has the alchemical blend of willowy limbs and earthy musicality you expect from a dancer in Alonzo King LINES Ballet. But she also has something more—a joy in dancing that makes every step feel immediate.
"She has this soulful quality of an ancient spirit coming through her body," says LINES chief executive officer Muriel Maffre, a former prima ballerina with San Francisco Ballet. "She's fearless, which is fun to work with," says artistic director Alonzo King. "I don't know how to put it into words— she's herself."
So you're on layoff—or, let's be real, you just don't feel like going to the studio—and you decide you're going to take class from home. Easy enough, right? All you need is an empty room and some music tracks on your iPhone, right?
Wrong. Anyone who has attempted this feat can tell you that taking class at home—or even just giving yourself class in general—is easier said than done. But with the right tools, it's totally doable—and can be totally rewarding.
When Jan Fabre's troupe Troubleyn presents his Mount Olympus: To glorify the cult of tragedy (a 24 hour performance) at NYU Skirball tomorrow it does so under a heavy cloud of controversy.
Fabre is a celebrated Belgian multidisciplinary artist who has been honored as Grand Officer in the Order of the Crown, one of the country's highest honors. His visual art has been displayed at the Louvre and at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. According to The New York Times, his dance company, Troubleyn, receives about $1 million a year from the Belgian government.
But in an open letter posted to Belgian magazine Rekto Verso just a few months ago, 20 of his company's current and former dancers outline a horrific culture of sexual harassment, bullying and coercion. This comes on the heels of similar accusations at New York City Ballet and Paris Opèra Ballet.
It's contest time! You could win your choice of Apolla Shocks (up to 100 pairs) for your whole studio! Apolla Performance believes dancers are artists AND athletes—wearing Apolla Shocks helps you be both! Apolla Shocks are footwear for dancers infused with sports science technology while maintaining a dancer's traditions and lines. They provide support, protection and traction that doesn't exist anywhere else for dancers, helping them dance longer and stronger. Apolla wants to get your ENTIRE studio protected and supported in Apolla Shocks! How? Follow these steps:
Today, we are thrilled to announce the honorees of the 2018 Dance Magazine Awards. A tradition dating back to 1954, the Dance Magazine Awards celebrate the living legends who have made a lasting impact on dance. This year's honorees include:
Earlier this week, New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck gave us some major onstage makeup inspiration while attending an offstage event. While walking the red carpet at the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund gala, Peck's beauty look was still perfectly suited for the ballet with her top knot hairstyle and stage-worthy red lip. Peck's makeup artist for the night, Daniel Duran, shared his exact breakdown on the look, working exclusively with beauty brand Chantecaille. So, whether you're in need of a waterproof brow pencil, volumizing mascara or long-lasting red lip this Nutcracker season, we've got you covered.
There's a new tool that lets amputee ballet dancers perform on pointe. As reported in Dezeen, an architecture and design magazine, industrial designer Jae-Hyun An has created a prosthesis he calls the "Marie . T" (after Marie Taglioni, of course) that allows dancers with below-the-knee amputations to do pointe work.
A carbon fiber calf absorbs shock while a stainless steel toe and rubber platform allow a dancer to both turn and grip the floor to maintain balance. What it doesn't allow the dancer to do? Roll down to demi-pointe or flat.
Former chair of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts dance department Linda Tarnay died on Tuesday, November 6. Her wish was to have her ashes interred in the columbarium at St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery—the site of Danspace Project and just a few blocks away from the Tisch dance building.
Before her 35 years of teaching at NYU, Tarnay was a founding member of Dance Theater Workshop. She performed with choreographers like Anna Sokolow, Phyllis Lamhut and Jamie Cunningham. She also started her own company, Linda Tarnay and Dancers, and was an artist-in-residence at The Yard.
Margaret Selby never dreamed that her passion for dance would lead her everywhere from working on live TV specials like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to producing hip-hop musical Jam on the Groove, from Columbia Artists Management, Inc., to public TV's "Great Performances: Dance in America."
Now, through her company Selby/Artists MGMT, she helps clients like Dorrance Dance, MOMIX and Pacific Northwest Ballet navigate the behind-the-scenes elements that get their work onstage, like booking tours, marketing and planning upcoming seasons.
According to the new documentary DANSEUR, 85% of males who study dance in the United States are bullied or harassed. A quote in the film from Dr. Doug Risner, faculty member at Wayne State University, states, "If this scope of bullying occurred in any activity other than dance, it would be considered a public health crisis by the CDC."
So why is it allowed to persist in ballet? And why aren't we talking about it more? These are the questions that DANSEUR seeks to answer. But primarily consisting of dance footage and interviews with male dancers like ABT's James Whiteside, Houston Ballet's Harper Watters and Boston Ballet's Derek Dunn, the film only addresses these issues superficially, with anecdotes about individual experiences and generalizations about what it's like to be a male dancer.
When you're unable to dance, it's easy to feel like you're falling behind and losing out on opportunities. But this can be a time to reset your body and come back even stronger, says Ilana Goldman, BFA program director at Florida State University's School of Dance. "Some of the greatest leaps I made in my technique happened because of injuries," she says. "Learning how to deal with them is part of being a professional dancer."
Dancers are human, which means they're bound to make mistakes from time to time, both on and off the stage. But what happens when those mistakes burn bridges? In an industry so small, is it possible for choreographers and performers to recover?In a moment of vulnerability, three-time Emmy Award winning choreographer Mia Michaels opened up to Dance Magazine about some of the bridges she herself has burned, the lengths she's gone to in order to rebuild and the peace she's made with the new direction her career has taken because of them. —Haley Hilton
Are auditions rigged? Sometimes I see mediocre dancers make it into a company, and I just don't get it. The audition process is unnerving for me without feedback or any understanding of the rules.
—Madison, Santa Monica, CA
Raise your hand if you've received bad advice from well-meaning friends or family (or strangers, tbh) who don't know anything about what it really takes to be a dancer.
*everyone raises hands*
Sometimes it's even dance insiders whose advice can send you down the wrong path. We've been asking pros about the worst advice they've ever received in our "Spotlight" Q&A series, and rounded up some of the best answers:
Where in the world is Miko Fogarty? Just three years ago, she seemed unstoppable. After being featured in the 2011 ballet documentary First Position, she became a teenage social-media star, winning top prizes at competitions in Moscow and Varna and at Youth American Grand Prix, and dancing in galas around the world. Last most of us heard, it was 2015 and she had just joined the corps of Birmingham Royal Ballet. A year later, she dropped off the ballet radar.
Turns out Fogarty, now 21, was taking time off to reevaluate her life, including the role she wanted ballet to play in it. She is now starting her junior year as a biology major at University of California—Berkeley and is considering going to medical school. (Her brother and fellow First Position subject, 19-year-old Jules, is a junior in the Berkeley economics department.) On the side she teaches private ballet lessons and gives master classes, and is the part-time conservatory director at San Jose Dance International, a new school in the San Francisco Bay Area led by artistic director Yu Xin. We caught up with her by phone.
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.
In dance, pushing through pain is often glorified. Dancers can be reluctant to take time off when sick or injured for fear of missing out on opportunities. It can feel even harder to justify when the pain isn't physical. Though it's becoming more commonly acknowledged that mental health is just as important as physical health, a dance career doesn't leave much time to address mental or emotional issues.
But dancers need to take care of their mental well-being to be able to perform at their best, says Catherine Drury, a licensed clinical social worker for The Dancers' Resource at The Actors Fund. So what can you do if you need a mental health day?
The fall performance season continues at breakneck speed with everything from an international ballet company making its U.S. debut to a retrospective on one of New York City's most iconic dancemakers—not to mention more than a few intriguing new works. Here's what we've got pencilled in.
Yabin Wang converts movement into liquid that spills across the stage. A celebrity in her home country of China, this choreographer, dancer and actress has helped to pioneer modern dance there by blending Chinese classical and contemporary dance. Wang's international career was kick-started in 2010 at American Dance Festival, where she returned this summer to perform on a shared program with Michelle Dorrance, Aparna Ramaswamy, Rhapsody James and Camille A. Brown. She has also worked with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui on Genesis and was commissioned by English National Ballet to create a piece for its Olivier Award–winning She Said program. This month, she is back stateside for the U.S. premiere of her Moon Opera, Nov. 3 in Pittsburgh.
It's the casting news we didn't know we needed until we heard it. Ever since it was announced that Wayne McGregor would be choreographing the new film adaptation of CATS, we've been anxiously waiting to hear whether any recognizable names from the dance world would be joining the A-list cast (which, in case you missed it, already includes Jennifer Hudson, Sir Ian McKellan, Taylor Swift and James Corden). But never in our wildest dreams did we think that a Royal Ballet principal would be the first dancer to sign on.
The wait for Disney's reimagining of The Nutcracker is over. Although The Nutcracker and The Four Realms is not a full-length ballet, woven into the plot is a five-minute performance by megastars Misty Copeland and Sergei Polunin alongside 18 supporting dancers, with a CGI Mouse King moved by jookin sensation Lil Buck (aka Charles Riley). Royal Ballet artist in residence Liam Scarlett led the film's choreography in his first major motion picture experience. "It was a call I didn't expect to get," says Scarlett. "I really am the biggest Disney fan, so I couldn't believe it!"