Maria Kowroski and Jared Angle Answer These New NYCB Corps Members' Biggest Questions
When I joined the New York City Ballet, I had a million questions. How soon before a performance should I get ready? When should I eat dinner—before or after the performance? How long should I wear my false eyelashes before I throw them out? Should I practice hard steps onstage before the curtain goes up or save them for the show? How long should my warm-up be? How do I do well in this career?
Before long, I discovered that the older dancers were willing to help us newbies. Wendy Whelan, for instance, took me under her wing and helped me with everything from my hair and makeup to what to eat for energy before a performance.
I wanted to see what questions NYCB's newest batch of corps members Mira Nadon, Kennard Henson and Gabriella Domini had. To answer their questions, I spoke to two of our most senior dancers, Maria Kowroski (who's been with the company 24 years) and Jared Angle (who's danced here 21 years).
In your early years in the company, how did you develop your individuality as a dancer while still trying to fit into the corps de ballet?
Kowroski: Every time I stepped onstage I pretended that I was the only one out there. I never tried to balance in a position longer than anyone else, or stand out in other ways, but I always tried to perform like I was a principal dancer. Even when I was standing in the line of swans in Swan Lake I thought, "What would I do if I was out here by myself?" I think that mentality helped me feel natural and comfortable in my own skin.
Angle: I actually don't think I was thinking about individuality at all when I was in the corps. I was just trying to absorb everything that I had been told by the ballet masters and to apply the corrections towards every single step that I did onstage.
What do you believe is biggest sacrifice you had to make in your outside life to get where you are today in your career?
Angle: Actually, nothing felt like a sacrifice when I was younger. I suppose looking at it from an outside perspective, leaving my family to go live in New York City at age 16 was a sacrifice for the whole family. But I was so ready to get to New York and just dance! I also remember having pangs of jealousy when my friends back home were going off to college and doing a "normal life."
Our life at 18 is already 12 hours of working—rehearsing and performing. So, I felt that I missed out socially. But in hindsight, I've gotten so much more out of this career and I wouldn't change anything.
Kowroski: I also left my home in Michigan to move to New York at 16. It was hard for me to leave home then. My mother died in her 50s and looking back, it was a major sacrifice not to have those years with her.
Also, when I first started dancing principal roles, I felt like there was a sacrifice there. I lost a lot of friends because to take the plunge and do all the work necessary to be the "chosen" one, I felt very alone. I had to take care of myself and focus on what I needed to do and not all my friends at the time were supportive.
What areas of your technique do you feel you’ve had to work the hardest towards mastering?
Angle: I had to work hardest on mastering classical solos because much of my early repertoire was focused only on partnering. Partnering has always come easy to me, so I didn't have to worry about it—and I know I'm very lucky. But at the same time, my ease with partnering made my anxiety about dancing alone worse. I found that I was rarely out onstage in a solo, so I felt like I had to work much harder to get to dance certain roles. I also couldn't just "whip out" a classical solo without lots of rehearsal. I still haven't figured out how to do double tour en l'airs, but I'm still trying every day! One day I think, "I just figured out ballet technique—PERIOD," but then the next day it doesn't work the same, so…
Kowroski: Balanchine technique has always been a struggle for me. It hasn't been natural because instinctively I like to move slower. With my stature, I've always had a hard time getting my body to move fast. I've tried to learn to move fast in an efficient way so I don't feel flustered. I want to dance fast but still be on top of the music, without rushing.
Having enough stamina has always scared me, too. In my early years in the company, we would never "run" the ballets, or dance a piece straight through without stopping. We always stopped for corrections at various moments, which allowed me to catch my breath when I normally would be tired. So, by the time I got to the performance, when I obviously couldn't stop to rest, I didn't know if I had the stamina to make it through. I inevitably doubted myself, which made things worse. Then I would hold my breath…it was a horrible combination! But there's always something to work on—that's the good thing and the bad thing about this career. I'm still watching videos of myself, and trying to improve.
Do you have a favorite memory from your first years in the company?
Angle: Getting "thrown on" (replacing an injured dancer at the last minute) during my first years in the company. I got thrown on a bunch which was so scary, but wonderful. It was always so exciting because the other dancers and ballet masters rally around you and everyone wants you to do well. I also loved learning a whole ballet in a day from scratch and then performing that night.
Looking back, what’s one thing you would change about your mentality as a young dancer?
Angle: I would've been more positive about myself and my dancing! Easier said than done…
Kowroski: I would tell myself this: Try not to focus on the negative things in your performance. When you go out onstage, leave everything out there...and have no regrets...dancers are so hard on themselves and you will never be perfect in your own eyes. This career will always be challenging and you will always find new things to work on. Enjoy the moment and know that the special time is onstage and it will feel different every time you step out there—which is what makes it so great!
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Summer is almost upon us, and whether you're a student about to go on break or a pro counting the days till layoff, don't forget that with warm weather comes a very serious responsibility: To maintain your cross-training routine on your own.
Those of us who've tried to craft our own cross-training routine know it's easier said than done. So we consulted the stars, and rounded up the best options for every zodiac sign. (TBH, you should probably consult an expert, too—we'd recommend a physical therapist, a personal trainer or your teacher.)
The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.
It's become second nature in dance studios: The instant anyone gets hurt, our immediate reaction is to run to the freezer to grab some ice (or, more realistically, a package of frozen peas).
But as routine as icing our injuries might be, the benefits are not actually backed up by scientific studies. And some experts now believe icing could even disrupt the healing process.
I'm a contemporary dancer, and I'm nervous about trying to get pregnant since I can't predict if it might happen during the middle of the season. We have a union contract that is supposed to protect us. But I'm scared because several of my colleagues' contracts weren't renewed for no particular reason. Having a big belly could be a big reason to get rid of me!
—Andrea, New York, NY
It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.
Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
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When the going gets tough, the tough start dancing: That's the premise behind "Dance of Urgency," a recently opened exhibit at MuseumsQuartier Vienna that features photos, video and other documentary material relating to the use of dance as political protest or social uprising.
The groups featured in the show, largely based around clubs and electronic dance music scenes, span the globe and respond to a variety of issues—from inequality and social stratification to racial divides to crackdowns on club culture itself.
Last night, longtime theater legends (including Chita Rivera herself!) as well as rising stars gathered to celebrate one of Broadway's danciest events: the third annual Chita Rivera Awards.
The evening paid tribute to this season's dancer standouts, fabulous ensembles, and jaw-dropping choreography—on- and off-Broadway and on film.
As usual, several of our faves made it into the mix. (With such a fabulous talent pool of nominees to choose from, we're glad that ties were allowed.) Here are the highlights from the winner's list:
When you're a foreign dancer, gaining legal rights to work in the U.S. is a challenging process. It's especially difficult if you're petitioning to work as a freelance dancer without an agent or company sponsorship.
The process requires professional muscle along with plenty of resources and heart. "There's a real misnomer that it's super easy," says Neena Dutta, immigration attorney and president of Dutta Law Firm. "People need to educate themselves and talk to a professional."
Here are four things every foreign dancer who wants to work in the U.S. needs to know to build a freelance dance career here.
What does it take to "make it" in dance? It's no secret that turning this passion into a profession can be a struggle. In such a competitive field, talent alone isn't enough to get you where you want to be.
So what kinds of steps can you take to become successful? Dance Magazine spoke to 33 people from all corners of the industry to get their advice on the lessons that could help us all, no matter where we are in our careers.
On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.
Memorial Day is notoriously one of Chicago's bloodiest weekends. Last year, 36 people were shot and seven died that weekend. In 2017 and 2016, the number of shootings was even higher.
When Garley "GiGi Tonyé" Briggs, a dance teacher and Chicago native, started noticing this pattern, she was preparing her second annual Memorial Day workshop for local youth.
The event's original aim was simple: "I wanted the youth of Chicago to have somewhere they could come and learn from different dancers and be off the streets on the South Side on this hot holiday," she says.
A recent trip I took to Nashville coincided with the NFL draft. As we drove into town, my Uber driver was a fount of information on the subject.
I learned that there are 32 NFL teams and that the draft takes place over seven rounds. That the team that did the poorest during the previous season gets first pick. That during an earlier event called the scouting combine, the teams assess college football players and figure out who they want.
There is also the veteran combine for "free agents"—players who have been released from their contracts or whose contracts have expired. They might be very good players, but their team needs younger members or ones with a certain skill set. All year round, experienced NFL scouts scan games across the country, checking out players and feeding that information back to the teams. Players' agents keep their eyes on opportunities for their clients which might be more rewarding.
While I sat in the traffic of 600,000 NFL fans I got thinking, is there something ballet could learn from football? Could a draft system improve young dancers' prospects and overall company caliber and contentment?
Despite what you might think, there's no reason for dancers to be afraid of bread.
"It's looked at as this evil food," says New York State–certified dietitian and former dancer Tiffany Mendell. But the truth is, unless you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, bread can be a healthy source of carbohydrates—our body's preferred fuel—plus fiber and vitamins.
The key is choosing your loaf wisely.