Dancers Trending

Best of 2012

This year, a single performance stood out as gut-wrenching and unforgettable: Nadia Beugré, from Cote d’Ivoire, delivered an almost unbearably compelling solo titled Quartiers Libres, wherein pleasure and pain, freedom and oppression, intermingled. It was part of the Voices of Strength tour from Africa that stopped at New York Live Arts. When Beugré gradually stuffed a plastic garbage bag into her mouth, I felt as though I were choking. The suspense she created—when will she be able to breathe?—shook me to my roots.

And now, other sightings of excellence

New Choreography
Vertical Road by Akram Khan at Peak Performances in Montclair, NJ: a gritty view of spirituality
Les Carillons by Christopher Wheeldon, for New York City Ballet: luscious use of the Bizet, terrific solos for the women
Cylindrical Shadows by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa for Pacific Northwest Ballet: Full of humanness yet haunted by shadows and memories 
The You Show by Crystal Pite at Baryshnikov Arts Center: Split-second timing between partners, beguiling alter-ego switches
• RoseAnne Spradlin’s beginning of something at New York Live Arts: brazen, my-body-in-your-face, bravery 
• Benjamin Millepied’s Two Hearts for NYCB: Unorthodox group motion, gorgeous duets for Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle, haunting music by Nico Muhly
Doug Varone's Lamentation Variations for the Martha Graham company: The brooding of four men looks like an impressionist painting in motion, at Vail International Dance Festival
Five Movements Three Repeats at Fall for Dance at City Center (premiere was at Vail, but it pulled together only later) by Wheeldon for Fang-Yi Sheu and, from NYCB, Wendy Whelan, Craig Hall and Tyler Angle of NYCB: an intriguing hybrid of aesthetics within alert-making strucures
JOLT by Autumn Eckman and Nan Giordano for Giordano Dance Chicago: A caffeine rush a minute in this fast and funny piece, at Jazz Dance World Congress at Byham Theater, Pittsburgh
• Pavement, Kyle Abraham’s opus about inner city life, complete with images of police brutality, at Harlem Stage Gatehouse
The Lottery, by Val Caniparoli for Ballet West in Salt Lake City: depicting societal violence with a brilliant use of surprise
• Aleksei Busko’s Album, won the Grand Prix at the International Festival of Modern Choreography in Vitebsk, Belarus. The Kiev choreographer packed the vicissitudes of a marriage into a clever six-minute duet based on jogging.

Additional Fabulous Solos (beside Nadia Beugré’s)
• Jodi Melnick in One of Sixty Five Thousand Gestures, made by her and Trisha Brown together: The wit is in the details of shape and timing, at NYLA and Vail International Dance Festival.
• Herman Cornejo of ABT in his own Tango Y Yo at Youth America Grand Prix gala at Koch Theatre: One of the great ballet dancers of our time inhabits this solo, choreographed by himself, showing it's possible to blast out virtuosity and still be a sensitive presence.

Best Performances
• Moiseyev Dance Company at Fall for Dance: infectious exhilaration
• Kate Skarpetowska and Brian McGinnis in Lar Lubovitch’s Crisis Variations (2011) at Florence Gould Hall: imaginative, desperate, tangled partnering
• The ragamuffin girls in the musical Annie, aged 8 to 12: professionalism beyond their years. (And, btw, they are more adorable than the dog.)
• Jeanine Durning in Deborah Hay’s As Holy Sites Go/Duet at Danspace Project, part of Platform 2012: Judson Now: Concentrated loopiness
• Justin Souriau-Levine in Ratmansky’s Nutcracker for ABT at BAM: Ever bolder cheekiness in his third year as the Little Mouse
• Rachael McLaren in Evolution of a Secured Feminine, the solo by Camille A. Brown during the Ailey season: theatrical sass
• Peter Chu of Kidd Pivot in The You Show by Crystal Pite: astounding feints and falls, existentially fascinating
• Kaori Nakamura of PNB: strong, yet aching with caring, in Cylindrical Shadows by Lopez Ochoa
• Fang-Yi Sheu: Charismatic leader of the women warriors in Martha Graham’s Chronicle at City Center
• Blakeley White-McGuire, cast later in the year in Chronicle at the Joyce: a sturdy exemplar of Graham’s forcefulness
• Yekaterina Osmolkina of the Mariinsky Ballet: serene sensuality and airy breath in Emeralds at the Mariinsky Theater, St. Petersburg
• Ethan Stiefel as the Slave in Corsaire: For his amazing turns and jumps, even with the headdress falling over his eyes, in his penultimate performance with ABT
• Misty Copeland as the Firebird in Ratmansky’s new production at ABT: Strong, striking, and sensual 
• David Hallberg as Cranko’s Onegin with ABT: perfectly sinister
• Two terrific Tatianas in ABT’s Onegin: Hee Seo and Irina Dvorovenko: shyness turning to surrender, turning to inner conflict
• Joseph Gorak as Lensky in Onegin with ABT: Applying perfect pirouettes to a noble soul
• Jun Kuribayashi of Pilobolus: a visible inner life even during the most extroverted actions at the Joyce.
• Jonathan Royse Windham: losing himself in a supremely eccentric, poignantly unstable sequence in Andrea Miller’s Sit, Kneel, Stand at Gallim’s Joyce season

• Tiler Peck of NYCB in Less Carillons, Two Hearts, and Nutcracker as Sugar Plum: glorious amplitude
• Hélène Bouchet of Hamburg Ballet: a tender, sweeping drama to John Neumeier’s Liliom, at Benois de la Danse Gala, Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow
• Yoshihisa Arai of Tulsa Ballet: killer technique and mischief to match, as Mercutio in Edwaard Liang’s new Romeo and Juliet, in Tulsa, OK
• Travis Walker in Trey McIntyre Project work at BAM: A hint of soul while being sexy
• Isabelle Ciaravola of Paris Opera Ballet: Her slow-motion Giselle moved me to tears, at Lincoln Center Festival
• Marie-Agnès Gillot of Paris Opera Ballet: Cold and still as ice, then warm and flowing as Eurydice in Pina Bausch’s Orpheus et Eurydice at Lincoln Center Festival
• Céline Cassone: Technique worthy of Sylvie Guillem in Cayetano Soto’s hard-edged Zero In On, and a vivid, emotional protagonist in Barak Marshall’s Harry, with Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal at the Joyce

Fort Blossom (2000) by John Jasperse, exploring male nudity with a blunt sort of intimacy and playfulness, New York Live Arts
• Trisha Brown’s Astral Converted at the Park Avenue Armory: vast space inhabited by silvery, slivery creatures, making it feel like being on the moon
• L. A. Dance Project bringing Winterbranch (1964), lighting (originally by Robert Rauschenberg) illuminated the corners of the space more than the dancers, creating a mystery of shards in space and time, at Peak Performances in Montclair, NJ

Best Musical Revival
Porgy and Bess, heart-wrenching, with folk-like, non-showy choreography, by Ron Brown (not to mention that Audra MacDonald is a life force onstage.)

Student performances
• Shu Kinouchi in Balanchine’s Tarantella, a JKO student, in ABT Studio Company performance at Pace University: Astounding technique and bounding joy
• Robert Maynard, boldy androgynous in his own Fase, Six Abbreviated Movements to the Music of Nicki Minaj, part of Lang Dance, Eugene Lang College of The New School, at Ailey Citigroup Theater

Most Joyous Reunion performance

• Life’s Force, bringing together alumnae from 40 years of Dianne McIntyre/Sounds in Motion, during American Dance Guild festival at Ailey Citigroup

Most Investigative Curation
• Judy Hussie-Taylor for taking on two epic cultural phenomena in the  2012 Platforms at the Danspace Project. First, “Parallels," going back to 30 years ago when Ishmael Houston-Jones brought black dancers into downtown, and following up with the expansion into many directions in the present. And “Judson Now,” investigating Judson Dance Theater of 50 years ago and its influence on the present (disclosure I was an advisor in that series).

Set Design
• Simon Pastukh for his twisty tree bundles topped with burning embers for Ratmansky's Firebird
• Anthony McCall for Eclipse, choreographed by Jonah Bokaer at BAM: a mathematically intriguing, slanted grid of light bulbs

• The David Gordon/Valda Setterfield relationship in In the beginning at Joyce Soho and The Matter/2012 at Danspace reminded me of their 50 or so years of achievement: He gives her material, and she gives his work an inquisitive, Shakespearean dignity.
• Desmond Richardson in Moonlight Solo from Frames by Dwight Rhoden at Stars of the 21st Century, at Koch Theater. A sterling example of expressiveness through technique
• Renee Robinson in Revelations during her final week after 30 years with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Revelations resides in her body and comes bursting out as joy. We'll miss her. 

Most Realistic New TV Dance Show
Breaking Pointe, on the CW: Real dancers of Ballet West talk about life off and onstage in their striving , thriving company

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Dancers Trending
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Photo by Costin Radu, courtesy of Petra Conti

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At our cover shoot for the November issue, Bobbi Jene Smith curated one of the best lineups of YouTube music videos that I've heard in a long time. From Bob Dylan to Tom Waits, they felt like such perfect choices for her earthy, visceral movement and soulful approach to dance.

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Dance technology has come a long way from ballet variations painstakingly learned by watching fuzzy VHS tapes. Over the last few years, a dizzying number of online training programs have cropped up, offering the chance to take class in contemporary, jazz, ballet, tap, hip hop and even ballroom from the comfort of your own living room or studio.

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In 2019, the company will make five wishes from fans come true, as a way of thanking them for their loyalty and support over the years. "It can be anything from the dancers performing at a birthday party or on the banks of Loch Ness, or even the chance to get on stage and be part of a Scottish Ballet show," according to the company.

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Precious Adams performing Harlequinade pas de deux for English National Ballet's Emerging Dancer competition 2018. Photo by Laurent Liotardo via

Recently, English National Ballet first artist Precious Adams announced that she will no longer be wearing pink tights. With the support of her artistic director Tamara Rojo, she will instead wear chocolate brown tights (and shoes) that match her flesh tone.

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Molina is the subject of French filmmaker Emilio Belmonte's first feature length documentary, IMPULSO. The film, which makes its U.S. theatrical premiere at New York City's Film Forum on October 17, follows Molina for two years as she tours Europe presenting a series of improvised works. These improvisations ultimately inspired the creation of one of Molina's masterworks, Caída de Cielo ("Fallen from Heaven"), which premiered in 2016.

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Newly promoted soloist Peter Walker has been showing his abilities as a leading man in ballets like Jerome Robbins' West Side Story Suite. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB

The announcement was made on Saturday by Jonathan Stafford, the head of NYCB's interim leadership team. These seven promotions mark the first since longtime ballet master in chief Peter Martins retired in the midst of harassment allegations at the beginning of this year. While Stafford and fellow interim leaders Rebecca Krohn, Craig Hall and Justin Peck have made some bold choices in terms of programming—such as commissioning Kyle Abraham and Emma Portner to create new works for the 2018–19 season—their primary focus has appeared to be keeping the company running on an even keel while the search for a new artistic leader is ongoing. Some of us theorized that we would not be seeing any promotions until a new artistic director was in place.

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Rant & Rave
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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?

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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.

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Earlier this week, a friend of a friend reached out to me seeking recommendations for a dancer/choreographer to hire. She wanted someone who could perform a solo and talk about their process for an arts-appreciation club. After a few emails back and forth, as I was trying to find out exactly what kind of choreographer she was looking for, it eventually emerged that she was not looking to pay this person.

"We are hoping to find someone who would be willing to participate in exchange for the exposure," she wrote.

Why do people think this is an okay thing to ask for?

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For over a decade, husband-and-wife team Pascal Rioult and Joyce Herring, artistic and associate artistic directors of RIOULT Dance NY, dreamed of building a space for their company and fellow artists in the community, and a school for future dancers. This month, their 11,000-square-foot dream opens its doors in the Kaufman Arts District in Astoria, Queens, a New York City neighborhood across the East River from Manhattan.

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Photo by Ed Flores/MFA candidate Kara Madden rehearses undergraduate dance majors Gregory Taylor and Joe Ogren

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Editors’ List: The Goods
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With cooler weather finally here, it's time to talk warm-ups. And while your dancewear drawer is probably overflowing with oversized sweaters, leggings and enough leg warmers to outfit the whole class, warm-up boots are often forgotten. To keep your feet and ankles cozy in between rehearsals, we rounded up dance warm-up boots that suit every style.

Bloch Inc. Printed Warm-up Bootie

via Bloch Inc.

Created by Irina Dvorovenko and Max Beloserkovsky, this collection comes in a variety of tie dye, floral and even butterfly prints., $48

Rant & Rave
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Some of my favorite experiences as both an audience member and a dancer have involved audience participation. Artists who cleverly use participatory moments can make bold statements about the boundaries between performer and spectator, onstage and off. And the challenge to be more than a passive viewer can redefine an audience's relationship to what they're watching. But all the experiences I've loved have had something in common: They've given audiences a choice.

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