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The Intensive Where You Can Learn Rep By Crystal Pite, Jirí Kylián & More
In a sunlit studio that looks out on Vancouver's skyline, Kidd Pivot rehearsal director Eric Beauchesne shows how to project shades of despair without sound or words. "Your hands mean so much," he tells the Arts Umbrella International Summer Dance Intensive students, stopping to clamp his own to his face tightly, then opening his fingers around his jaw for a different effect.
Beauchesne, who also stages choreographer Crystal Pite's works at companies around the globe, is teaching a duet from Betroffenheit, Pite and Jonathon Young's Olivier Award–winning dance-theater piece about grief and loss. Marked by Pite's signature quick, detailed moves, the section has one dancer laying her hands on her partner's arched spine, as if she's absorbing an unfathomable pain. "You really care about stopping what's happening to her," Beauchesne says.
Dancer Zenon Zubyk in advanced repertoire class. Photo by Michael Slobodian, courtesy Arts Umbrella.
Like so many offerings at the highly diversified intensive, Beauchesne's advanced repertoire class is a rare chance for students to immerse themselves in boundary-pushing work with a teacher who seldom instructs outside company settings.
"I want to nurture the joy of what I'm doing, and yet show how challenging and picky it can be," says Beauchesne. His class is just one of many the three-week program packs into the downtown studios of Simon Fraser University Woodward's Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. (A junior version of the program, with participants as young as 12, is hosted at Arts Umbrella's smaller facility on the city's west side.)
Days are intense. Typically a traditional ballet class kicks off the day at 9 am, followed by technique classes like pointework, then repertoire and partnering in the afternoon. The six studios are busy until 6 pm. Often a student will see six different teachers in a single day.
Francisco Martinez teaches advanced ballet. Photo by Michael Slobodian, courtesy Arts Umbrella
"We're dancing eight out of the nine hours we're here, and when you go home, you're tired," says Renee Lee, a contemporary dancer and San Francisco native. "I'm definitely doing more dancing than I ever have."
But she finds the intense schedule worthwhile. "The rep they're teaching is pieces they learned from the choreographers themselves. We're not just talking about movement and timing, but the impetus behind the piece, the inspiration for it, and the creation process."
Lee points to a partnering class led by Juilliard instructor Francisco Martinez earlier in the day, where former Nederlands Dans Theater dancers Lesley Telford and Yvan Dubreuil offered insights on a duet from Jirí Kylián's Symphony of Psalms. Kylián taught the rapturous, Stravinsky-set piece to them at the Dutch company, and they were able to demonstrate ways of finding balance and tension amid its intertwining spirals.
Photo by Michael Slobodian, courtesy Arts Umbrella.
"What this intensive brings together is a lot of different choreographic styles and techniques," says Martinez. "I think it's unique that you could be exposed to, say, five different styles at the same time. A lot of programs are very performance oriented. Here, it's all about process, process, process."
For Toronto student Zenon Zubyk, the program's wide range helps him prepare for the increasingly diverse demands of a contemporary career. "One of the most important things today is to be versatile," says the 20-year-old, who's in his second and final year of Arts Umbrella's professional program. "So many repertoire companies are doing so many styles of dance and you have to be able to accommodate every single one of them in your own body."
The programming is especially appealing to him as a male dancer. "Everything seems more possible," he says. "There are male teachers from all different backgrounds and they're opening these new doors of possibility."
For her part, artistic director Artemis Gordon seeks to give her students as much of a taste of what is going on in the world of dance as she can. The summer program's most recent roster features several people from NDT, former Batsheva Dance Company members and Gaga masters, plus Dubreuil, who now stages the work of Johan Inger.
Photo by Michael Slobodian, courtesy Arts Umbrella
She stresses the intensive is not about preparing for specific auditions or performances. "You're not here to show off or to make connections; you're not here to make routines to go off and do them," says Gordon, who only holds an informal showing of work on the last day of the intensive. "It's a life-changing chance to investigate what it means to be you, or it's a reevaluation of where you're at."
Although the intensive may not be geared to a particular audition, Lee feels strongly it's what she needs to prepare for a career in contemporary companies. Students are able to delve deep into innovative work they might not otherwise get the chance to try.
"The repertoire we're learning—you're really only exposed to it if you're in a company already doing that rep, or if you are at a summer intensive like this," explains Lee. "Otherwise there's maybe once a year or so that a company will come by and hold a workshop—but you have to jump into it and learn how to perform it in a short amount of time. You just don't have a chance to dissect it the way we do here."
Season 2 of World of Dance is almost here! The new season officially kicks off on Tuesday on NBC, and it's bringing a whole new crew of talented dancers with it (plus, some old favorites). Dance pro judges Jennifer Lopez, Derek Hough and Ne-Yo are back, too, with Jenna Dewan serving as the show's host.
Obviously we'll be watching, but just in case you're not completely sold, here's why you're not going to want to miss out:
JLo Might Be Performing
Earlier this week, JLo (who serves as the show's executive producer) posted this insane promo clip to her Instagram. Dancing to a mashup of Cardi B's "Bodak Yellow" and her new single "Dinero," JLo reminded us all of her dance skills while also leading us to believe she might just hit the stage herself for a performance.
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."
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.
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.
Considering we practically live in our dance clothes, there's really no such thing as having too many leotards, tights or leggings (no matter what our mom or friends say!). That's why we treat every sale as an opportunity to stock up. And thanks to the holiday weekend, you can shop all of your dancewear go-tos or try something totally new for as much as 50% less than the usual price.
Here are the eight sales we're most excited about—from online options to in-store retailers that will help you find the perfect fit. Happy Memorial Day (and shopping)!
Now through Monday, Danskin's site will automatically take 25% off your entire purchase at checkout. Even new items like their Pintuck Detail Floral Print Sports Bra and Pintuck Detail Legging (pictured here) are fair game.
"The sun may be shining brightly, but we are not in a very sunny mood today!" said New York State assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal during yesterday's rally for the Artists of Ailey.
The dancers and stage crew are demanding increased wages and more comprehensive benefits, what they have termed "reaching for the standard" and "fair wages."
Pain is an inevitable part of a dancing life and dancers have a high tolerance for it, according to Sean Gallagher, a New York physical therapist whose practice includes many professional performers. "So when dancers complain, it really means something," he says.
But women and men experience pain differently, and tend to be treated for it differently as well. Female dancers need to understand those differences before they go to a doctor, so they can make sure they get treated promptly and effectively.
Rebecca Warthen was on a year-long assignment with the Peace Corps in Dominica last fall when a storm started brewing. A former dancer with North Carolina Dance Theatre (now Charlotte Ballet) and Columbia City Ballet, she'd been sent to the Caribbean island nation to teach ballet at the Dominica Institute of the Arts and in outreach classes at public schools.
But nine and a half months into her assignment, a tropical storm grew into what would become Hurricane Maria—the worst national disaster in Dominica's history.
Sidra Bell is one of those choreographers whose movement dancers are drawn to. Exploring the juxtaposition of fierce athleticism and pure honesty in something as simple as stillness, her work brings her dancers to the depths of their abilities and the audience to the edge of their seats.