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Why Being An Artist Matters Today

Kyle Abraham's "Pavement" addresses racism. Photo by Carrie Schneider.

Whatever your thoughts about the outcome of yesterday's presidential election, there's one thing everyone reading this has in common: We're dance artists. Which means we have a voice. We have a way to express ourselves that many others do not. Even if you don't know what to make of your feelings today, you have the ability to channel them into your work.

Dance has a long history of responding to political and social issues in the most brilliant, heart-wrenching ways, from Charles Weidman's depiction of mob fervor in Lynchtown to Liz Lerman's Healing Wars about soldier's trauma to Pat Graney's feminist Girl Gods to even Hamilton, and so many, many others. (Spoiler alert: Keep your eyes peeled for much more about this idea in our December issue.)

Pat Graney's "Girl Gods" is about female rage. Photo by Jenny May Peterson.

One of the greatest things about dance is how it reminds us that there is no one right way to be human. There's no single path to take to thrive. Just look at the amazing diversity of work today on stages large and small to see how so many different ideas can exist side by side.

Lemon Sponge Cake Contemporary Ballet recently tackled gun violence in "White Fields." Photo by Paul Aiken.

So make something beautiful—whatever that means to you. Make something that opens minds and hearts. Use your body to say the things that can't be spoken in words. Harness the power of dance to shine a spotlight on the wrongs you see in this country, and choreograph a vision of how we can do better. Or simply let dance be an escape. Let it bring people together—we could all use a little more of that right now.

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Dance in Pop Culture
Photo via the Hammer Museum

While Solange was busy helping big sis Beyoncé give Coachella its best performances of all time, an equally compelling project was quietly circulating on Instagram:

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Health & Body
StockSnap

When I wrote about my struggle with depression, and eventual departure from dance because of it, I expected criticism. I was prepared to be challenged. But much to my relief, and horror, dancers from all over the world responded with support and stories of solidarity. The most critical response I saw was this one:

"Dance isn't for everyone."

This may as well be a mantra in the dance world. We have become entrenched in the Darwinian notion that the emotionally weak will be weeded out. There is no room for them anyway.

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Cover Story
Robert Fairchild is jumping into the next phase of his career feet-first. Photo by Jayme Thornton

In his final bow at New York City Ballet, during what should have been a heroic conclusion to a celebrated ballet career, Robert Fairchild slipped and fell. His reaction? To lie down flat on his back like he meant to do it. Then start cracking up at himself.

"He's such a ham," says his sister Megan Fairchild, with a laugh. "He's really good at selling whatever his body is doing that day. He'll turn a moment that I would totally go home and cry about into something where the audience is like, 'That's the most amazing thing ever!' "

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Dancer Voices
"There is a palpable sense of hope for the future." Photo by Devin Alberda via Instagram

New York City Ballet continues its first year without Peter Martins at the helm as our spring season opens tonight.

When he retired at the start of the new year, we plunged headfirst into unknown, murky waters. Who would the new director be? When would we know? Would we dancers get some say in the decision? Who would oversee the Balanchine ballets? Who would be in charge of casting? Would a new director bring along huge upheaval? Could some of us be out of a job?

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Broad is Orlando Ballet's first dancer named artist in residence. Photo by Michael Cairns, Courtesy Orlando Ballet.

In the world of ballet, Arcadian Broad is a one-stop shop: He'll come up with a story, compose its music, choreograph the movement and dance it himself. But then Broad has always been a master of versatility. As a teenager he juggled school, dance and—after the departure of his father—financial responsibility. It was Broad's income from dancing that kept his family afloat. Fast-forward six years and things are far more stable. Broad now lives on his own in an apartment, but you can usually find him in the studio.

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News
Alexander Ekman's Midsummer Night's Dream was created for Royal Swedish Ballet. Photo by Hans Nilsson, Courtesy The Joffrey Ballet

Bales of hay, black umbrellas, bicycles—this Midsummer Night's Dream would be unrecognizable to the Bard. Alexander Ekman's full-length, inspired by Scandinavian solstice traditions and set to music by Mikael Karlsson, is a madcap celebration of the longest day of the year, when the veil between our world and that of the supernatural is said to be at its thinnest. The Joffrey Ballet's performances mark the seductively surreal work's North American premiere. April 25–May 6. joffrey.org.

Dance As Activism
Indumba investigates an African cleansing ritual. Photo by Ken Carl, via bam.org


When Kevin "Iega" Jeff saw Fana Tshabalala's Indumba at the annual JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience in South Africa, he immediately knew he would ask Tshabalala to set the work on his company.

"There's an ancient energy in Fana's movement, a deep and trusted knowing," says Jeff, director of the Chicago-based Deeply Rooted Dance Theater. "Because I witnessed the raw humanity of his dancer's souls, I wanted my dancers to have that experience."

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Dance Training
Name calling, physical intimidation and cyberbullying are all-too-common experiences among male dancers. Photo by Goh Rhy Yan/Unsplash

Growing up in a family-owned dance studio in Missouri had its perks for tap dancer Anthony Russo. But it also earned him constant taunting, especially in high school.

"There was a junior in my sophomore year health class who was absolutely relentless," he says. "I'd get tripped on my way to the front of the classroom and he'd say, 'Watch out, twinkle toes.' If I raised my hand and answered a question incorrectly, I'd hear a patronizing 'Nice one, Bojangles.' "

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Dance on Broadway
PC Kevin Berne, courtesy Boneau/Bryan-Brown

Choreographer Sergio Trujillo asked the women auditioning for ensemble roles in his newest musical to arrive in guys' clothing—"men's suits, or blazers and ties," he says. He wasn't being kinky or whimsical. The entire ensemble of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical is female, playing men and women interchangeably as they unfold the history of the chart-busting, Grammy-winning, indisputable Queen of Disco.

courtesy www.today.com

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