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ABT’s Golden Cockerel: The Sublime and the Ridiculous
The American premiere of Alexei Ratmansky's Golden Cockerel for American Ballet Theatre opened Monday night at the Metropolitan Opera House. Based on a folk tale by Pushkin about a foolish tsar, it was first produced as an opera by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1914, but it was restaged as a ballet by the original choreographer, Michel Fokine in 1937. In Ratmansky’s hands, there is much flair in the movement and humor in the acting. Not surprisingly, the production is a mix of the sublime and the ridiculous.
Ratmansky leading Cassandra Trenary as the cockerel in rehearsal, photo by Susie Morgan Taylor
Sublime: Veronica Part’s dancing as the alluring, elusive Queen of Shemakhan. Using her length elegantly, whether vertical or lounging on the ground, she lends a seductive flair to Ratmansky’s twisty choreography. Her dancing is gloriously seamless throughout.
Ridiculous: A story in which a tsar cannot stay awake long enough to know when to go into battle. Guest artist Gary Chryst, former star of the Joffrey Ballet, brings style and precision to this cartoon character, but I’d rather see him as the conniving Charlatan in Petrouchka than the doddering Tsar Dodon.
Sublime: The way Cory Stearns creeps around, swishing his cape, as the Astrologer. He too is tall and uses his long limbs to dash across the space, all bent over. His hands mold empty space until magically the golden cockerel appears, as though it were clay being sculpted. (In the original 1914 opera, the bird was merely a prop.)
Ridiculous: Tsar Dodon is really dopy and sexist. To describe how much he’s attracted to the Queen, his hands indicate the shape of an hourglass figure. There’s got to be another way to express attraction other than that old reductive cliché.
Ridiculous: The tsar barely has time to absorb that both his sons have died in battle before he gets all wound up at the sight of the exotic Queen.
Sublime: The sets and costumes by Richard Hudson, after Natalia Goncharova, give off a bold, primitive/innocent whiff of the Russian avant-garde. The effusion of yellows, reds and greens dazzle the eye in every scene. The peasant women’s dresses all have different patterns and colors. (What a relief—I get tired of looking at a ballet corps that’s all dressed the same.) The ragged moon in the battlefield is blood red. (All costumes and sets are borrowed from the Royal Danish Ballet, which premiered Ratmansky’s version in 2012.)
Ridiculous: The opera, written in 1907, was banned at first because Tsar Nicholas II interpreted it as a protest against himself.
Skylar Brandt as the cockerel and Duncan Lyle as the Astrologer, photo by Fabrizio Ferri
Sublime: The music! Rimsky-Korsakov’s score is delicate, dreamy and mysterious, with Eastern-sounding strains. The plucked motif for the golden rooster sends him/her into a staccato rhythm—just right for a cuckoo clock that strikes when the Tsar needs to wake up and fight off enemies. Skylar Brandt infuses Ratmansky’s sharp angles—like a wind-up toy gone made—with an oblivious sort of power. This bird is the opposite of the languid Queen.
Ridiculous: The intermission. I mean, it’s always good to have a break, but in this particular intermission it was hard to muster any curiosity about what comes next.
Sublimely lethal: The only really dramatic moment is when the music builds to a crescendo as the crazy little cockerel mounts the Dodon’s shoulders and, with one swift peck, does away with him.
Sublime: Martine Van Hamel as Amelpha, the tsar’s housekeeper, has her Lady Capulet moment when the tsar dies. Although grief stricken, she drinks a bit too much and gets deliciously tipsy. (Anyone remember how hilarious Van Hamel’s drunken stepmother was in Kudelka’s Cinderella?)
Irina Baronova as the Queen in the 1937 version, photo Gordon Anthony
Not quite sublime: The ending, in which the Astrologer suggests that all the characters except himself and the Queen are figments of the imagination. It’s a bit reminiscent of Fokine's Petrouchka, which leaves us wondering whether the puppet has a human soul or not. But The Golden Cockerel is no Petrouchka, in either choreography or emotional impact.
New York City–based dancers know Gibney. It's a performance venue, a dance company, a rehearsal space, an internship possibility—a Rubik's Cube of resources bundled into two sites at 280 and 890 Broadway. And in March of this year, Gibney (having officially dropped "Dance" from its name) announced a major expansion of its space and programming; it now operates a total of 52,000 square feet, 23 studios and five performance spaces across the two locations.
Six of those studios and one performance space are brand-new at the 280 Broadway location, along with several programs. EMERGE will commission new works by emerging choreographic voices for the resident Gibney Dance Company each year; Making Space+ is an extension of Gibney's Making Space commissioning and presenting program, focused on early-career artists. For the next three years, the Joyce Theater Foundation's artist residency programs will be run out of one of the new Gibney studios, helping to fill the gap left by the closing of the Joyce's DANY Studios in 2016.
What is the right flooring system for us?
So many choices, companies, claims, endorsements, and recommendations to consider. The more you look, the more confusing it gets. Here is what you need to do. Here is what you need to know to get the flooring system suited to your needs.
"I'm sorry, but I just can't possibly give you the amount of money you're asking for."
My heart sinks at my director's final response to my salary proposal. She insists it's not me or my work, there is just no money in the budget. My disappointment grows when handed the calendar for Grand Rapids Ballet's next season with five fewer weeks of work.
"It just...always looks better in my head."
While that might not be something any of us would want to hear from a choreographer, it's a brilliant introduction to "Off Kilter" and the odd, insecure character at its center, Milton Frank. The ballet mockumentary (think "The Office" or "Parks and Recreation," but with pointe shoes) follows Frank (dancer-turned-filmmaker Alejandro Alvarez Cadilla) as he comes back to the studio to try his hand at choreographing for the first time since a plagiarism scandal derailed his fledgling career back in the '90s.
We've been pretty excited about the series for a while, and now the wait is finally over. The first episode of the show, "The Denial," went live earlier today, and it's every bit as awkward, hilarious and relatable as we hoped.
Dancers crossing over into the fitness realm may be increasingly popular, but it was never part of French-born Julie Granger's plan. Though Granger grew up a serious ballet student, taking yoga classes on the side eventually led to a whole new career. Creating her own rules along the way, Granger shares how combining the skills she learned in ballet with certifications in yoga, barre and personal training allowed her to become her own boss (and a rising fitness influencer).
Travis Wall draws inspiration from dancers Tate McCrae, Timmy Blankenship and more.
One often-overlooked relationship that exists in dance is the relationship between choreographer and muse. Recently two-time Emmy Award Winner Travis Wall opened up about his experience working with dancers he considers to be his muses.
"My muses in choreography have evolved over the years," says Wall. "When I'm creating on Shaping Sound, our company members, my friends, are my muses. But at this current stage of my career, I'm definitely inspired by new, fresh talent."
Wall adds, "I'm so inspired by this new generation of dancers. Their teachers have done such incredible jobs, and I've seen these kids grown up. For many of them, I've had a hand in their exposure to choreography."
José Greco popularized Spanish dance in 1950s and '60s America through his work onstage and on screen. Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater's American Spanish Dance & Music Festival is honoring the icon in recognition of what would have been his 100th birthday. As part of the tribute, Greco's three dancing children are reuniting to perform together for the first time since their father's death in 2000. Also on the program is the premiere of contemporary flamenco choreographer Carlos Rodriguez's Mar de Fuego (Sea of Fire). June 15–17, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. ensembleespanol.org.
Dance Theatre of Harlem dancers Christopher McDaniel and Crystal Serrano were working on Nacho Duato's Coming Together in rehearsal when McDaniel's foot hit a slippery spot on the marley. As they attempted a swinging lift, both dancers went tumbling, injuring Serrano as they fell. She ended up being out for a week with a badly bruised knee.
"I immediately felt, This is my fault," says McDaniel. "I broke my friend."
What's on the minds of college students today?
I recently had the honor of adjudicating at the American College Dance Association's National College Dance Festival, along with choreographer Dana Tai Soon Burgess and former National Endowment for the Arts dance specialist Douglas C. Sonntag. We chose three winners—one for Outstanding Choreography and two for Outstanding Performance—from 30 pieces representing schools throughout the country. It was a great opportunity to see what college dance students are up to—from the issues they care about to the kinds movement they're interested in exploring.
Here were the biggest trends and takeaways:
It's summer festival season! If you're feeling overwhelmed by the dizzying array of offerings, never fear: We've combed through the usual suspects to highlight the shows we most want to catch.
Subscription box services have quickly gained a dedicated following among the fashion and fitness set. And while we'd never say no to a box with new jewelry or workout wear to try, we've been waiting for the subscription model to make its way to the dance world.
Enter barre + bag, a new service that sends a curated set of items to your door each season. Created by Faye Morrow Bell and her daughter Tyler, a student in the pre-professional ballet program at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, this just-launched service offers dance, lifestyle and wellness finds in four themed bags each year: Spring Performance, Summer Study, Back-to-Studio and Nutcracker. Since all the products are specifically made for dancers, everything barre + bag sends you is something you'll actually use, (Plus, it all comes in a bag instead of a box—because what dancer can ever have enough bags?).
barre + bag's Summer Collection
Today, American Ballet Theatre announced a new initiative to foster the development of choreography by company members and freelance dancemakers. Aptly titled ABT Incubator, the program, directed by principal David Hallberg, will give selected choreographers the opportunity to spend two weeks workshopping new dances.
"It has always been my vision to establish a process-oriented hub to explore the directions ballet can forge now and in the future," said Hallberg in a press release from the company. Interested? Here's how you can apply to participate.
Back in January, Chase Johnsey grabbed headlines when he resigned from Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, where his performances had garnered critical acclaim for over a decade, alleging a culture of harassment and discrimination. (An independent investigation launched by the company did not substantiate any legal claims.) Johnsey, who identifies as genderqueer, later told us that he feared his dance career was at an end—where else, as a ballet dancer, would he be allowed to perform traditionally female roles?
But the story didn't end there. After a surprise offer from Tamara Rojo, artistic director of English National Ballet, Johnsey has found a temporary artistic home with the company, joining as a guest at the rank of first artist for its run of The Sleeping Beauty, which continues this week. After weeks of working and rehearsing with the company, last week Johnsey quietly marked a new milestone: He performed with ENB's corps de ballet as one of the ladies in the prince's court.