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!"
There's a rare moment in Broadway's Hadestown where the audience is able to breathe a sigh of relief. The smash-hit success is not well-known for being light-hearted or easy-going; Hadestown is a show full of workers and walls and, well, the second act largely takes place in a slightly modernized version of hell.
But deep into the second act, the show reaches a brief homeostasis of peace, one of those bright, shining moments that allows the audience to think "maybe it will turn out this time," as the character Hermes keeps suggesting.
After songs and songs of conflict and resentment, Hades, the king of the underground, and his wife, the goddess Persephone, rekindle their love. And, unexpectedly, they dance. It's one of the most compelling moments in the show.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
There's always been something larger than life about choreographer Mark Morris. Of course, there are the more than 150 works he's made and that incisive musicality that makes dance critics drool. But there's also his idiosyncratic, no-apologies-offered personality, and his biting, no-holds-barred wit. And, well, his plan to keep debuting new dances even after he's dead.
So it should come as little surprise that his latest distinction is also a bit larger than life: The New York Landmarks Conservancy is adding Morris to its list of "Living Landmarks."
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.