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Ailey Dancers Unite—And Boycott Their Own Gala
Everything was not business as usual at Tuesday's Kennedy Center gala for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The party was missing an integral piece of the annual celebration: the dancers themselves.
The news was shared online yesterday via the Washington Post, which reports that the dancers are in the middle of renegotiating a three-year contract with their union, the American Guild of Musical Artists.
After their performance, rather than schmoozing with donors, the dancers left the building. Their absence didn't stop the celebration, although donors had paid $1,000 (minimum) to dine and bump shoulders with the world-renowned Ailey dancers.
In concert with the gala boycott, #ArtistofAiley has begun to catch on via Instagram. The company's AGMA dancers and stage managers started their own account, artistsofailey. Additional hashtags associated with display of unity have included #UnionStrong, #ReachingfortheStandard, #LovingWhatWeDo and #AGMA.
It's rumored that the Ailey dancers are demanding a discussion that could increase what they see as substandard wages and benefits. Officially, a press release from AGMA said negotiations began in December for a new collective bargaining agreement to replace the current one, which expires May 31.
Leonard Egert, national executive director of AGMA, writes in the release, "It is very concerning that Ailey's artists, predominately African-American dancers, earn much less than dancers at comparable companies with similar or even smaller budgets."
You can't help but note that this is taking place during Black History Month.
According to recent tax filings, the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, Inc—America's fourth largest dance company in terms of budget—has over $178 million in net assets, slightly over $13 million in contributed revenue (fundraising events, grants, and gifts) and sells over $20 million worth of tickets and merchandise yearly.
Griff Braun, AGMA's New York dance executive, added in the press release, "These artists put on more performances than any other major dance company in the United States—175 to 200 per year—with only one-third to one-half the number of dancers at other companies."
Artistic director Robert Battle made no official comment to the Washington Post about the boycott, but did say, "We will get through it, because there's a reason that the Alvin Ailey dance company has withstood the test of time. We're a big family, and sometimes we just need to talk, you know what I'm saying?"
A few weeks ago, American Ballet Theatre announced the A.B.T. Women's Movement, a new program that will support three women choreographers per season, one of whom will make work on the main company.
"The ABT Women's Movement takes inspiration from the groundbreaking female choreographers who have left a lasting impact on ABT's legacy, including Agnes de Mille and Twyla Tharp," said artistic director Kevin McKenzie in a press release.
Hypothetically, this is a great idea. We're all for more ballet commissions for women. But the way ABT has promoted the initiative is problematic.
Some dancers move to New York City with their sights set on a dream job: that one choreographer or company they have to dance for. But when Maggie Cloud graduated from Florida State University in 2010, she envisioned herself on a less straightforward path.
"I always had in mind that I would be dancing for different people," she says. "I knew I had some kind of range that I wanted to tap into."
On the occasion of its 70th anniversary, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba tours the U.S. this spring with the resolute Cuban prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso a the helm. Named a National Hero of Labor in Cuba, Alonso, 97, has weathered strained international relations and devastating fiscal challenges to have BNC emerge as a world-class dance company. Her dancers are some of ballet's best. On offer this time are Alonso's Giselle and Don Quixote. The profoundly Cuban company performs in Chicago May 18–20, Tampa May 23, Washington, D.C., May 29–June 3 and Saratoga, New York June 6–8.
We all know that the general population's knowledge of ballet is sometimes...a bit skewed. (See: people touching their fingertips to the top of their head, and Kendall Jenner hopping around at the barre.)
Would your average Joe know how to do ballet's most basic step: a plié? Or, more to the point, even know what it is?
SELF decided to find out.
New York City Ballet is celebrating the Jerome Robbins Centennial with twenty (20!) ballets. The great American choreographer died in 1998, so very few of today's dancers have actually worked with him. There are plenty of stories about how demanding (at times brutally so) he could be in rehearsal. But Peter Boal has written about Robbins in a more balanced, loving way. In this post he writes about how Robbins' crystal clear imagery helped him approach a role with clarity and purpose.
Who says you need fancy equipment to make a festival-worthy dance film? Right now, two New York City–based dance film festivals are calling for aspiring filmmakers to show their stuff—and you don't need anything more cumbersome than a smartphone to get in on the action.
Here's everything you need to know about how to submit:
When Lisset Santander bourréed onstage as Myrtha in BalletMet's Giselle this past February, her consummate portrayal of the Queen of the Wilis was marked by steely grace and litheness. The former Cuban National Ballet dancer had defected to the U.S. at 21, and after two years with the Ohio company, she's now closer to the dance career she says she always wanted: one of limitless possibilities.
For 17 years, James Samson has been the model Paul Taylor dancer. There is something fundamentally decent about his stage persona. He's a tall dancer—six feet—but never imposes himself. He's muscular, but gentle. And when he moves, it is his humanity that shines through, even more than his technique.
But all dancing careers come to an end, and James Samson's is no exception; now 43, he'll be retiring in August, after a final performance at the Teatro Romano in Verona, where he'll be dancing in Cloven Kingdom, Piazzolla Caldera and Promethean Fire.
The wait for Alexei Ratmansky's restaging of Petipa's Harlequinade is almost over! But if you can't wait until American Ballet Theatre officially debuts the ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House on June 6, we've got you covered. ABT brought the Harlequinade characters to life (and to the Alder Mansion in Yonkers, NY) in a short film by Ezra Hurwitz, and it's a guaranteed to make you laugh.
When an anonymous letter accused former New York City Ballet leader Peter Martins of sexual harassment last year, it felt like what had long been an open secret—the prevalence of harassment in the dance world—was finally coming to the surface. But the momentum of the #MeToo movement, at least in dance, has since died down.
Martins has retired, though an investigation did not corroborate any of the claims against him. He and former American Ballet Theatre star Marcelo Gomes, who suddenly resigned in December, were the only cases to make national headlines in the U.S. We've barely scratched the surface of the dance world's harassment problem.