Best of 2011
Once again my list is completely subjective, limited by what I happened to see. There were LOTS of good performances this year. Please know that the order within each category is fairly random.
• Dana Caspersen in I don’t believe in outer space by William Forsythe at BAM: gutsy, fascinating distortions of voice and body.
• Kristina Hanna, sexy as hell in Larry Keigwin’s Exit at the Joyce.
• Blakely White-McGuire, strong and sturdy in the Graham rep: searing in Cave of the Heart, funny in Maple Leaf Rag, and something of an elegant bag lady in Bulareyaung Pagarlava’s premiere.
• Kathleen Breen Combes of Boston Ballet: style and attack in Forsythe’s Second Detail, exquisite sensitivity to touch in Helen Pickett’s Parts I, II, and III.
• Susan Marshall’s three guys who’ve been with her for years—Luke Miller, Joseph Poulson, and Darrin Michael Wright—have their own vivid ways of being themselves, as in the reprise of Adamantine (2009) at Baryshnikov Art Center.
• Olivia Bowman-Jackson in Darrell Grand Moultrie’s Melting Pot at Central Park SummerStage: Fast, sexy, precise, galvanized.
• Megumi Eda in Armitage Gone! Dance, at SummerStage: technique and glamour to burn.
• Erick Montes in Continuous Reply and other works by Bill T. Jones in the “Body Against Body” program at NY Live Arts: Spunky and intense as he brought the Jones/Zane history alive.
• Houston Ballet’s Karina Gonzalez in the gorgeously slow central pas de deux in ONE/end/ONE by Jorma Elo, at the Joyce.
• Nina Ananiashvili’s The Swan: In Russia, it’s a tradition to perform Fokine’s gem twice—if the audience loves you. Ananiashvili made completely different choices the second time around.
• Wendy Whelan in Robbins’ In Memory Of… in which she embodies a mysterious drama with two very different partners, NYCB,
• André “Feijão” Virgilio of Brazil’s Companhia Urbana de Dança in ID:ENTIDADES by Sonia Destri, Peak Performances in Montclair, NJ: a certain kinetic charisma.
• The Kirov’s Islom Baimuradov, who played Karenin, Anna Karenina’s luckless husband, to both casts of Vishneva and Kondaurova, in Ratmansky’s Anna Karenina: He was more moving than either Anna, Lincoln Center Festival.
• Best Giselles: A tie between Vishneva and Cojocaru, both of them magnificent and moving.
• Joaquin De Luz in “Rubies” of Diamonds, NYCB: Energized classicism.
• ABT’s Sascha Radetsky for recklessly tearing into Tharp’s In the Upper Room, at City Center
• Simone Messmer in Demis Volpi’s Private Light, ABT at City Center: sexy, jagged, desperate.
• Matthew Rogers in Tere O’Connor’s Cover Boy at Danspace: wayward, intense, mercurial.
• The Joffrey’s Victoria Jaiani in Edwaard Liang’s Age of Innocence at Fall for Dance: exquisite, tremulous openness in the central pas de deux.
• Ailey’s Samuel Lee Roberts, wild and crazy in the solo improv of Naharin’s Minus 16.
Best Performances in Musicals
• Sutton Foster in Roundabout Theatre’s Anything Goes. She OWNS the stage.
• Jason Tam in Lysistrata Jones. He’s just such an indiVIDual out there!
Best Solos by a Dancer/Choreographer
• Lil Buck in The Swan at Fall for Dance: Spectacularly musical re-imagining of Fokine’s The Swan through hip hop.
• Kyle Abraham in his own work at Dancemopolitan 2011, DanceNow, Joe’s Pub: a voluptuous, complex mover with an inimitable style.
• Wally Cardona as a sweetly loopy wanderer in his and Jennifer Lacey’s Tool Is Loot, The Kitchen.
• Marcelo Gomes in his own solo, Paganini, on the Cisne Negro program at the Joyce: terrific rhythms that build in complexity, and he’s, well, he’s MARCELO!
Best New Choreography
• Eiko & Koma's Water in the reflecting pool in Lincoln Center Plaza: luminous, ancient figures parting the dark waters.
• Big Dance Theater’s Supernatural Wife, choreographed by Annie-B Parson, and co-directed by Paul Lazar, at BAM: disembodied, ridiculous, clever, and unexpectedly moving.
• Cover Boy by Tere O’Connor at Danspace: Intriguing, sensual, androgynous; four men caught between vanity and vulnerability. The last duet between Rogers and Ingle nearly brought tears.
• I don’t believe in outer space by William Forsythe at BAM. Fascinating from A to Z.
• Juliette Mapp’s The Making of Americans for bringing Gertrude Stein’s rhythms back, at DTW. Plus a sublime duet sequence on the floor.
Most Noticeable New Dancers
• Xiaochuan Xie of Graham, piquant in Robert Wilson’s Snow on the Mesa.
• Osiel Gounod and Grettel Morejon of Ballet Nacional de Cuba, in scenes from Coppélia, BAM: buoyant youthfulness.
• Rebecca Warner, giving Sarah Michelson’s relentless steps in Devotion some juice, The Kitchen.
Most Inspired Pairings
• Viengsay Valdés of Ballet Nacional de Cuba and Ivan Vasiliev of the Bolshoi at Youth America Grand Prix Gala: Sheer fireworks in Don Q.
• Tapper Jason Samuels Smith and pianist Harold O’Neal: His creamy piano sound meshing with Jason’s process from quiet scrapes to full-out hopping jumps and tiny hummingbird feet, at Under the Influence at the Museum of Art and Design.
Most Romantic Romeo:
• Guillaume Côté in Alexei Ratmansky’s new Romeo and Juliet for National Ballet of Canada.
Most Touching Juliet
• A three-way tie between Erica Cornejo and Misa Kuranaga of Boston Ballet and Elena Lobsanova of National Ballet of Canada (I didn’t see ABT’s R & J this year)
Most Welcome Streaks of Humor
• Anybody Waitin’? by ponydance at an upstairs bar, Dublin Dance Festival: giddy gender play in a tight space.
• Ratmansky’s The Bright Stream elicited hilarious portrayals from ABT dancers Daniil Simkin, Isaac Stappas, Susan Jones, and others, at the Met.
• New artistic director Robert Battle brought to the Ailey season the wit of Paul Taylor’s Arden Court and the hilarity of parts of Naharin’s Minus 16.
Best Choreography for the Dancing It Unleashed
• The Sweeter End by Trey McIntyre at Lincoln Center Out of Doors for giving dynamite solos to John Michael Schert, Chanel DaSilva, and Jason Hartley that allow them to blast out pure, smart energy.
• Mambo 3XXI by George Céspedes for Danza Contemporánea de Cuba, at the Joyce: Wild, free, sexy dancing (in the second half).
• Ohad Naharin’s Three to MAX transformed Hubbard Street Dance Chicago into a collective of odd and daring performers at Fall for Dance.
• Rennie Harris’ Home for Ailey yielded fabulous dancing from Matthew Rushing (pure heaven) as well as Alicia Graf Mack, Linda Celeste Sims, Kirven James Boyd, Guillermo Asca, and newcomers Belen Estrada and Renaldo Gardner.
• Stamping Ground by Kylián, performed by Aspen Santa Fe at the Joyce: nervy, neo-primitive skittering.
Best Curatorial Presentations
• Eiko & Koma’s retrospective including “Residue,” an installation at the Library of Performing Arts.
• MOMA’s performances in conjunction with its exhibit “On Line,” including works by Trisha Brown, Ralph Lemon, and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.
• David Parker curating a tap show at Danspace with Michelle Dorrance and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards.
• Melinda Ring curating a platform of Susan Rethorst: Retro(intro)spective, at Danspace, including “wrecking” and a film night.
• Video & projection by S. Katy Tucker for Paul McCartney’s Ocean’s Kingdom: a magical underworld of sunlight glinting through the ocean’s surface, NYCB at Koch Theater.
• Tony Orrico for John Jasperse’s Canyon at BAM: masking tape delineating the space of the entire theater, even outside the theater, in lines that meshed with the distressed walls; also a creeping white box that had a distinctly Eeyore-like quality.
Most Fun Controversy
• Appropriation: For her music video Countdown, Beyoncé outright lifted sequences from Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, outraging many people, but also making the Belgian choreographer’s work more visible.
Best TV Appearances
• Sarah Lane, sweetly demanding credit for her dancing in the movie Black Swan, for which she was a dance double. (Disclosure: It was my blog that ignited the furor that led to this appearance.)
• Jenifer Ringer, graciously offering Oprah a pair of pointe shoes.
• David Hallberg, telling Stephen Colbert that the cold war is over.
• Sasha Mallory, for her riveting, sharp-outlined dancing in every number on Season 8 of So You Think You Can Dance. (She was the runner-up.)
• I Was a Dancer by Jacques d’Amboise: Vitality, insight, and humor jumping off each page.
Longest, Saddest Goodbye
• Cunningham Legacy Tour at the Joyce (loved Quartet), the Merce Fair at Lincoln Center, and Merce Cunningham Dance Company at BAM (loved Biped). And finally the company at the Armory—sad, but also a profound reunion of people and ideas.
Many choreographers use spoken word to enhance their dance performances. But the Campfire Poetry Movement video series has found success with a reverse scenario: Monticello Park Productions creates short art films that often use dance to illustrate iconic poems.
It's contest time! You could win your choice of Apolla Shocks (up to 100 pairs) for your whole studio! Apolla Performance believes dancers are artists AND athletes—wearing Apolla Shocks helps you be both! Apolla Shocks are footwear for dancers infused with sports science technology while maintaining a dancer's traditions and lines. They provide support, protection and traction that doesn't exist anywhere else for dancers, helping them dance longer and stronger. Apolla wants to get your ENTIRE studio protected and supported in Apolla Shocks! How? Follow these steps:
When I was just a little peanut, my siblings and I used to find scrap paper and use them as tickets to our makeshift dance performances at family gatherings. They were more like circus shows, really, where my brother was the ringmaster, and my sisters and I were animals; we dove through imaginary flaming hoops and showcased our best tightrope acts with the suspense of plummeting into an endless pit of sorrows. This was my first introduction to the beauty of movement as a way of communicating.
Photo by Lindsay Linton
So you're on layoff—or, let's be real, you just don't feel like going to the studio—and you decide you're going to take class from home. Easy enough, right? All you need is an empty room and some music tracks on your iPhone, right?
Wrong. Anyone who has attempted this feat can tell you that taking class at home—or even just giving yourself class in general—is easier said than done. But with the right tools, it's totally doable—and can be totally rewarding.
Today, we are thrilled to announce the honorees of the 2018 Dance Magazine Awards. A tradition dating back to 1954, the Dance Magazine Awards celebrate the living legends who have made a lasting impact on dance. This year's honorees include:
Choreographer Ronald K. Brown sees himself as a weaver—of movement, but more importantly, of stories. "When I started my company Evidence 33 years ago, I needed to make a space for what I thought of as evidence—work that tells stories, so that when people saw the work, they would see a reflection or evidence of themselves onstage," says Brown, now 51. "That was my mission, my purpose."
Fast-forward to today: Evidence has become a mainstay in the modern dance world and Brown is now considered a vanguard among choreographers fusing Western contemporary dance with movement from the African diaspora, including popular dance and traditions from West African cultures like Senegalese sabar.
She may not be the first choreographer to claim that movement is her first language, but when Crystal Pite says it, it's no caveat: She's as effective and nuanced a communicator as the writers who often inspire her dances.
Her globally popular Emergence, for instance, was provoked in part by science writer Steven Johnson's hypotheses; The Tempest Replica refracts and reimagines Shakespeare. Recently, her reading list includes essays by fellow Canadian Robert Bringhurst, likewise driven by a ravenous, wide-ranging curiosity.
General director of Spoleto Festival USA since 1995 and, for two decades (1998-2017), the director of the Lincoln Center Festival, Nigel Redden has an internationalist's point of view on the arts—expansive, curious, informed by the cultural wealth that the world has to offer.
He is the son of an American diplomat and grew up moving from place to place—Cyprus, Israel, Canada, Italy—until eventually setting of for Yale to study Art History. After visiting the Spoleto festival in Italy as a young man, and working there while he was still an undergraduate, he very quickly realized what he wanted to: direct festivals. And that's what he has done for most of the last quarter century.
No, she isn't like other artistic directors, and that's not just because she's a woman. Lourdes Lopez, who's led Miami City Ballet since 2012, doesn't want this to be taken the wrong way, but as for her vision? She doesn't really have one.
"I just want good dancers and a good company and good rep and an audience and a theater—let us do what the art form is supposed to be doing," she says. "I don't mean that in a flippant way. It's just how I've always approached it."
Paul Taylor cultivated many brilliant dancers during his 60-plus-year career, but seldom have any commanded such a place of authority and artistry as Michael Trusnovec. He models what it takes to become a great Taylor dancer: weight of movement, thorough grasp of style, deep concentration, steadfast partnering, complete dedication to the choreography and a nuanced response to the music.
Trusnovec can simultaneously make choreography sexy and enlightened, and he can do it within one phrase of movement. Refusing to be pigeonholed, he has excelled in roles as diverse as the tormented and tormenting preacher in Speaking in Tongues; the lyrical central figure—one of Taylor's own sacred roles—in Aureole; the dogged detective in Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rehearsal); and the corporate devil in Banquet of Vultures.
Based on the novel by Roland Topor and the 1976 Roman Polanski film, The Tenant follows a man who moves into an apartment that's haunted by its previous occupant (Simone, played by ABT's Cassandra Trenary) who committed suicide. Throughout the show, the man—Trelkovsky, played by Whiteside—slowly transforms into Simone, eventually committing suicide himself.
But some found the show's depiction of a trans-femme character to be troubling. Whether the issues stem from the source material or the production's treatment of it, many thought the end result reinforced transphobic stereotypes about mental illness. We gathered some of the responses from the dance community:
Update: Raffaella Stroik's body was found near a boat ramp in Florida, Missouri on Wednesday morning. No information about what led to the death is currently available. Our thoughts are with her friends and family.
Raffaella Stroik, a 23-year-old dancer with the Saint Louis Ballet, went missing on Monday.
Her car was found with her phone inside in a parking lot near a boat ramp in Mark Twain Lake State Park—130 miles away from St. Louis. On Tuesday, the police began an investigation into her whereabouts.
Stroik was last seen at 10:30 am on Monday at a Whole Foods Market in Town and Country, a suburb of St. Louis. She was wearing an olive green jacket, a pink skirt, navy pants with white zippers and white tennis shoes.
Whether or not you see yourself choreographing in your future, you can gain a lot from studying dance composition. "Many companies ask you to generate your own content. Choreography is more collaborative now," says Autumn Eckman, a faculty member at the University of Arizona.
Look beyond the rehearsal studio, and you'll find even more benefits to having dancemaking skills. "Being a thinker as well as a mover is what creates a sustainable career," says Iyun Ashani Harrison, who teaches at Goucher College. "Viewing dance with a developed eye and being able to speak about what you're seeing is valuable whether you're a dancer, a choreographer, an artistic director or a curator."
Succeeding in composition class often has more to do with attitude than aptitude. Above all, you need "a willingness to play along and explore," says Kevin Predmore, who teaches at the Ailey/Fordham BFA program. "You have to let go of the desire to create something extraordinary, and instead be curious."
Egg Drop Soup's "Partying Alone" video turns a run-of-the-mill dance team audition on its head with a vision of female power from a mature woman. The panel is stunned when a gray-haired, red-lipsticked 80-something tosses aside her cane and lets loose, flipping her hair—and the bird.
Egg Drop Soup - Partying Alone (Official music video)
Take a second look at that head-banging grandma—she is none other than renowned dance researcher and anthropologist Judith Lynne Hanna. An affiliate research professor in anthropology at the University of Maryland, College Park, the author of numerous scholarly books and an expert witness in trials for exotic dancers, she has spent her career getting us to think about dance's relationship to society. Hanna, 82, said she hadn't performed since college when she got a call from a music video producer, who caught a video of her dancing with her 13-year-old grandson. The rockers of Egg Drop Soup loved her energy and flew her out to Los Angeles for a day-long video shoot. We spoke to Hanna about the experience.
Since its founding in 1999, more than 80,000 ballet dancers have participated in Youth America Grand Prix events. While more than 450 alumni are currently dancing in companies across the world, the vast majority—tens of thousands—never turn that professional corner. And these are just the statistics from one competition.
"You may have the best teacher in the world and the best work ethic and be so committed, and still not make it," says YAGP founder Larissa Saveliev. "I have seen so many extremely talented dancers end up not having enough motivation and mental strength, not having the right body type, not getting into the right company at the right time or getting injured at the wrong moment. You need so many factors, and some of these are out of your hands."
New York City Ballet fired principal dancers Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro on Saturday. Both had initially been suspended until 2019 for engaging in "inappropriate communications," while principal Chase Finlay, who was the instigator of those communications, resigned. (Although, in a statement on Saturday, NYCB made it clear they had decided to terminate Finlay prior to his resignation.)
The New York Times reports that NYCB says the change from suspension to termination resulted from hearing the concerns of dancers, staff members and others in the NYCB community. Yet it's hard to ignore the fact that a lawsuit against NYCB had been filed in the meantime. A statement from NYCB executive director Katherine Brown and interim artistic team leader Jonathan Stafford stated:
"We have no higher obligation than to ensure that our dancers and staff have a workplace where they feel respected and valued, and we are committed to providing that environment for all employees of New York City Ballet."
Since the news was announced, both Catazaro and Ramasar have spoken out publicly about being fired.
The entrancing power of Instagram can't be denied. I've lost hours of my life scrolling the platform looking at other people documenting theirs. What starts as a "quick" fill-the-moment check-in can easily lead to a good 10-15 minute session, especially if I enter the nebulous realm of "suggested videos."
My algorithm usually shows me professional ballet dancers in performances, rehearsals, class, backstage and on tour, which I quite enjoy. But there are the other dance feeds that I find myself simultaneously intrigued and horrified by: the hyper-elastic, hyper-extended, gumby-footed girls always at the barre doing developpés to six o'clock. There are the multiple turners, the avid stretchers and we can't forget the endless balancers.
This parade of tricksters always makes me wonder, What else can they do? Can they actually dance?
Tired of the typical turkey and stuffing? For Thanksgiving this year, try something different with these personal recipes that dancers have shared with Dance Magazine. The ingredients are packed with dancer-friendly nutrients to help you recover from rehearsals and fuel up for the holiday performances ahead.
If anyone raises an eyebrow at your unconventional choices, just remind them that dancers are allowed to take some artistic license!
A dancer once contacted me because he was devastated after walking in on his girlfriend with another man. While he was distressed about ending the relationship, he was most concerned about a major performance coming up. They had to dance a romantic pas de deux. When I met with them together, she was afraid he would drop her and he didn't want to look lovingly in her eyes. My role was to help them find ways to make magic onstage and keep their personal difficulties offstage. They ended up dancing to rave reviews.
Adji Cissoko has the alchemical blend of willowy limbs and earthy musicality you expect from a dancer in Alonzo King LINES Ballet. But she also has something more—a joy in dancing that makes every step feel immediate.
"She has this soulful quality of an ancient spirit coming through her body," says LINES chief executive officer Muriel Maffre, a former prima ballerina with San Francisco Ballet. "She's fearless, which is fun to work with," says artistic director Alonzo King. "I don't know how to put it into words— she's herself."
When Jan Fabre's troupe Troubleyn presents his Mount Olympus: To glorify the cult of tragedy (a 24 hour performance) at NYU Skirball tomorrow it does so under a heavy cloud of controversy.
Fabre is a celebrated Belgian multidisciplinary artist who has been honored as Grand Officer in the Order of the Crown, one of the country's highest honors. His visual art has been displayed at the Louvre and at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. According to The New York Times, his dance company, Troubleyn, receives about $1 million a year from the Belgian government.
But in an open letter posted to Belgian magazine Rekto Verso just a few months ago, 20 of his company's current and former dancers outline a horrific culture of sexual harassment, bullying and coercion. This comes on the heels of similar accusations at New York City Ballet and Paris Opèra Ballet.
Earlier this week, New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck gave us some major onstage makeup inspiration while attending an offstage event. While walking the red carpet at the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund gala, Peck's beauty look was still perfectly suited for the ballet with her top knot hairstyle and stage-worthy red lip. Peck's makeup artist for the night, Daniel Duran, shared his exact breakdown on the look, working exclusively with beauty brand Chantecaille. So, whether you're in need of a waterproof brow pencil, volumizing mascara or long-lasting red lip this Nutcracker season, we've got you covered.
There's a new tool that lets amputee ballet dancers perform on pointe. As reported in Dezeen, an architecture and design magazine, industrial designer Jae-Hyun An has created a prosthesis he calls the "Marie . T" (after Marie Taglioni, of course) that allows dancers with below-the-knee amputations to do pointe work.
A carbon fiber calf absorbs shock while a stainless steel toe and rubber platform allow a dancer to both turn and grip the floor to maintain balance. What it doesn't allow the dancer to do? Roll down to demi-pointe or flat.