BalletX's 2018–19 Season Boasts Seven New Ballets, Four by Women
With over 68 new works in its 13-year history, BalletX is known for being an epicenter of creation. The company will outdo itself in its 2018–19 season, treating Philadelphia to seven new works, four of them by women. "We are interested in growing, not cutting costs," says artistic director Christine Cox. "The unknown adventure of new ballets means there is an unknown process and a different learning curve we get to work on every day."
This month's Fall Series will include premieres from Marguerite Donlon, Cayetano Soto and Wubkje Kuindersma, while the Spring Series will feature new works by Lil Buck, Nicolo Fonte and 2019 choreographic fellow Katarzyna Skarpetowska. Annabelle Lopez Ochoa will return to BalletX to create an evening-length ballet inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Le Petit Prince for the Summer Series.
Premieres aren't all that's new this season: A renovated 5,000-square-foot warehouse is now the company's Center for World Premiere Choreography, a dedicated space for BalletX to develop its programming. With 11 dancers now working a minimum of 35 weeks a year, it was no longer feasible to rent different rehearsal spaces around town. As Cox began talks with developers and their Philadelphia community about the possibility of their own building, she found there was a huge amount of support around the idea. "I am most proud of the curious audience we have developed," says Cox. "We have worked hard at building an audience that is invested in supporting new ballets. And they know they don't have to love every work, that it is about the experience."
Michele Byrd-McPhee's uncle was a DJ for the local black radio station in Philadelphia, where she was born. As a kid she was always dancing to the latest music, including a new form of powerful poetry laid over pulsing beats that was the beginning of what we now call hip hop.
Byrd-McPhee became enamored of the form and went on to a career as a hip-hop dancer and choreographer, eventually founding the Ladies of Hip-Hop Festival and directing the New York City chapter of Everybody Dance Now!. Over the decades, she has experienced hip hop's growth from its roots in the black community into a global phenomenon—a trajectory she views with both pride and caution.
On one hand, the popularity of hip hop has "made a global impact," says Byrd-McPhee. "It's provided a voice for so many people around the world." The downside is "it's used globally in ways that the people who made the culture don't benefit from it."
Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.
Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:
Every dancer knows there's as much magic taking place backstage as there is in what the audience sees onstage. Behind the scenes, it takes a village, says American Ballet Theatre's wig and makeup supervisor, Rena Most. With wig and makeup preparations happening in a studio of their own as the dancers rehearse, Most and her team work to make sure not a single detail is lost.
Dance Magazine recently spoke to Most to find out what actually goes into the hair and makeup looks audiences see on the ABT stage.