Meet the Houston Ballet Dancer Who Performed an Iconic Sylvie Guillem Role While Still in the Corps
With her curly red tresses, Houston Ballet soloist Alyssa Springer may look like she stepped out of a Botticelli painting, making her a natural fit in classic story ballets. But watch her in contemporary work, and you see the great bones of her versatile technique. A favorite of visiting choreographers, Springer was promoted to demi-soloist in 2017 and soloist earlier this year. She continually stands out for her acting skills and ability to morph her style to whatever the choreographer in the room needs.
Company: Houston Ballet
Hometown: Orange County, California
Training: Houston Ballet Academy and private coaching with John Gardner and Amanda McKerrow
Springer with Houston Ballet Principal Charles-Louis Yoshiyama in Jiří Kylián's Dream Time.
Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.
Breakout role: Springer wowed audiences in William Forsythe's In the middle, somewhat elevated in 2014 while still in the corps. She danced the iconic role originated by Sylvie Guillem. "He was so encouraging," she says. "He urged me to push my limits, but he also wanted me to enjoy the process."
First item on her bucket list: "I know it sounds cliché, but I have to dance Giselle. There's so much to learn from her about forgiveness and unconditional love. The range of emotion creates such a dramatic arc."
What she's working on: Balancing the humanity and physicality of her characters. "I want my dancing to look natural, to connect to the audience and really share authentic emotions and experiences," says Springer. One example is Princesse de Lamballe in Stanton Welch's Marie. "I had to remember that this was an actual person who has a tragic ending."
Springer with Artists of Houston Ballet at Jacob's Pillow in Trey McIntyre's In Dreams.
Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Houston Ballet.
What the director says: "You are always drawn to her charisma and vulnerability onstage," says Welch. "She shows great strength in her acting ability, bringing maturity into her roles."
Putting things into perspective: After Springer danced the Sugar Plum Fairy last season, she received a letter from a 5-year-old girl who drew a picture of her. "It was such a reminder that I could be inspiring the next generation."
Offstage: Springer can be found out and about with her dog, Bella, a rescue dachshund mix. Or, if she's visiting family back in California, she might be on a horse. "I've been riding since I was a kid."
Going digital: She is also teaching herself to code and has built a personal website. "I stumbled upon coding and thought it might be a useful skill," she says. "I find it so rewarding when the jumble of letters and symbols I enter becomes a webpage!"
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.
You ever just wish that Kenneth MacMillan's iconic production of Romeo and Juliet could have a beautiful love child with the 1968 film starring Olivia Hussey? (No, not Baz Luhrmann's version. We are purists here.)
Wish granted: Today, the trailer for a new film called Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words was released, featuring MacMillan's choreography and with what looks like all the cinematic glamour we could ever dream of: