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."
Jennifer Kahn knew the theater industry could do better. As a professional stage manager for 17 years she worked on regional, off-Broadway and Broadway shows. Nearly each time a show closed, something unsettling happened: "I would watch them throw away our shows. All of the beautiful artwork by my friends in the paint shop would go in the trash." The elaborate backdrops? Gone.
But she had an idea: What if the material used in the backdrops and legs could be upcycled into something new? And what if theater lovers could literally keep a piece of a beloved show?
"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.
For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.
New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.
"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "
She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.