NYCB's Ashley Bouder Takes Home a Benois de la Danse Award
Hollywood may have the Oscars, but ballet has the Prix de Benois de la Danse. Held every spring at Moscow's Bolshoi Theater, the prestigious international awards ceremony recognizes dancers, choreographers, composers and designers for their extraordinary work on and off the stage. This year's laureates, chosen by a jury, were announced during an awards ceremony last night, followed by a star-studded gala featuring many of the nominated artists.
But it was also an exciting evening for American ballet, with dancers and productions from several U.S. companies receiving recognition. American Ballet Theatre's Harlequinade received two Benois nominations—Daniil Simkin for male dancer and Robert Perdziola for design—while Kansas City Ballet's world premiere of Septime Webre's The Wizard of Oz, co-produced by Colorado Ballet and Royal Winnipeg Ballet, received nods for both choreography and design. The Washington Ballet's Andile Ndlovu and San Francisco Ballet principal Yuan Yuan Tan received nominations in the male and female dancer categories, while Justin Peck was recognized for his ballet Hurry Up, We're Dreaming at SFB. (For a full list of the nominees, click here.)
Even better, there was an American ballerina among the winners! New York City Ballet's Ashley Bouder received the Benois de la Danse for her performance of Swanilda in Coppélia. She shared the female dancer prize with Stattsballet Berlin principal Elisa Carillo Cabrera, for her star turn in Nacho Duato's Romeo and Juliet. The male dancer award went to Royal Ballet's Vadim Muntagirov for his portrayal of Prince Siegfried in Liam Scarlett's Swan Lake (the ballet's scenographer, John McFarlane, also won for design). Zurich Ballet artistic director Christian Spuck (for Winterreise) and Fredrik Benke Rydman (for Duet with an Industrial Robot) took home the Benois for choreography, while legendary dancemaker Jiří Kylián was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Finally, a special award, the Russian-Italian Benois-Massine, went to Hamburg Ballet principal Anna Laudere, a dancer we spotlighted last year for her performance in John Neumeier's Anna Karenina. The festivities continue tonight with another gala featuring Benois de la Danse laureates from previous years. Congratulations, everyone!
Alicia has died. I walked around my apartment feeling her spirit, but knowing something had changed utterly.
My father, the late conductor Benjamin Steinberg, was the first music director of the Ballet de Cuba, as it was called then. I grew up in Vedado on la Calle 1ra y doce in a building called Vista al Mar. My family lived there from 1959 to 1963. My days were filled with watching Alicia teach class, rehearse and dance. She was everything: hilarious, serious, dramatic, passionate and elegiac. You lost yourself and found yourself when you loved her.
"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.
It's Nutcracker time again: the season of sweet delights and a sparkling good time—if we're able to ignore the sour taste left behind by the outdated racial stereotypes so often portrayed in the second act.
In 2017, as a result of a growing list of letters from audience members, to New York City Ballet's ballet master in chief Peter Martins reached out to us asking for assistance on how to modify the elements of Chinese caricature in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. Following that conversation, we founded the Final Bow for Yellowface pledge that states, "I love ballet as an art form, and acknowledge that to achieve a diversity amongst our artists, audiences, donors, students, volunteers, and staff, I am committed to eliminating outdated and offensive stereotypes of Asians (Yellowface) on our stages."
An audience member once emailed Dallas choreographer Joshua L. Peugh, claiming his work was vulgar. It complained that he shouldn't be pushing his agenda. As the artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, Peugh's recent choreography largely deals with LGBTQ issues.
"I got angry when I saw that email, wrote my angry response, deleted it, and then went back and explained to him that that's exactly why I should be making those works," says Peugh.
With the current political climate as polarized as it is, many artists today feel compelled to use their work to speak out on issues they care deeply about. But touring with a message is not for the faint of heart. From considerations about how to market the work to concerns about safety, touring to cities where, in general, that message may not be so welcome, requires companies to figure out how they'll respond to opposition.