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
• 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.
• 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.)
• 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).
• 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
More transgender performers than before, indicating greater comfort, on both sides of the footlights, with the growing number of young people opting to change their gender
As a very shy little girl, my happy place was my room, where I would wear improvised costumes and giggle with happiness while dancing for an imaginary audience. I was raised in a family where dancing was "normal." My mom and sisters graduated from the national ballet academy in Poland, and I, of course, wanted to follow their steps. But I was never forced to. I am proud to say I discovered the magic of ballet all by myself.
Photo by Costin Radu, courtesy of Petra Conti
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:
The midterm elections are less than three weeks away on November 6. If you're registered to vote, hooray!
But you can't fully celebrate before you've completed your mission. Showing up at the polls is what matters most—especially since voter turnout for midterms doesn't have a fabulous track record. According to statistics from FairVote, about 40 percent of the population that is eligible to vote actually casts a ballot during midterm elections.
Many members of the dance community are making it clear that they want that percentage go up, and they're using social media to take a stand. Here's how they're getting involved:
Dancers will do just about anything to increase their odds of staying injury-free. And there are plenty of products out there claiming that they can help you do just that. But which actually work?
We asked for recommendations from four experts: Martt Lawrence, who teaches Pilates to dancers in San Francisco; Lisa-Marie Lewis, who teaches yoga at The Ailey Extension in New York City; physical therapist Alexis Sams, who treats dancers at her clinic in Phoenix; and stretch training coach Vicente Hernandez, who teaches at The School of Pennsylvania Ballet.
With a contemporary air that exalts—rather than obscures—flamenco tradition, and a technique and stamina that boggle the mind, Eduardo Guerrero's professional trajectory has done nothing but skyrocket since being named one of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch" earlier this year. His 2017 solo Guerrero has toured widely, and he has created premieres for the Jerez Festival (Faro) and the 2018 Seville Flamenco Biennial (Sombra Efímera). In the midst of his seemingly unstoppable ascension, he's created Gaditanía, his first work utilizing a corps de ballet. Guerrero is currently touring the U.S. with this homage to Cadiz, the city of his birth.
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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.
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.
Usually, it takes new recruits a few seasons to make their mark at the Paul Taylor Dance Company. But Taylor wasted no time in honing in on the talents of Alex Clayton. Only a few months after Clayton joined in June 2017, Taylor created an exciting solo for him in his new Concertiana, filled with explosive leaps and quick footwork. Clayton was also featured in new works by Doug Varone and Bryan Arias. At 5' 6" he may be compact, but onstage he fills the space with a thrilling sense of attack.
Scottish Ballet is turning 50 next year, but they'll be the one giving out the gifts.
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.
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.
It may seem like a simple change, but this could be a watershed moment—one where the aesthetics of ballet begin to expand to include the presence of people of color.
Flamenco dancer and choreographer Rocío Molina created her first full-length production, Entre paredes ("Between Walls"), at the age of 22. At 26, the prodigy received Spain's National Dance Prize, the most coveted dance award in Spain. Now 34, her rupture with tradition makes her no stranger to controversy. But it, and her fiercely personal and contemporary style, means that each new project is a fascinating voyage.
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.
In a move that was both surprising and seemingly inevitable, New York City Ballet closed its fall season by promoting seven dancers. Joseph Gordon, who was promoted to soloist in February 2017, is now a principal dancer. Daniel Applebaum, Harrison Coll, Claire Kretzschmar, Aaron Sanz, Sebastian Villarini-Velez and Peter Walker have been promoted to soloist.
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.
Ryan Steele has a simple rule for demanding days on Broadway: "I listen to my body," he says. "I have whatever I'm craving: If I need more protein, I go straight for that. If I'm tired, I know I need carbs."
This wasn't always Steele's approach. Growing up, shuttling between the studio and school meant relying on McDonald's and Burger King.
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?
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.
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?
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.
In the final years of her decade-long career with the Lewitzky Dance Company, University of Arizona Associate Professor Amy Ernst began to develop an interest in dance injury prevention. She remembers feeling an urge to widen her understanding of dance and the body. Soon after retirement from the Company, she was hired by the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Inglewood, California as a physical therapy assistant, where she worked for the next three and a half years. This work eventually led her to pursue an M.F.A. in dance at the University of Washington-Seattle. She remembers growing into the role of a professor during her time pursuing her degree. That incubation phase was critical. Ernst joined the faculty at the University of Arizona in 1995, and now as director of the M.F.A. program, mentors the new generation of dance faculty, company directors and innovators.
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.
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.
A few weeks back, I had a starkly different experience—one that has caused me to think deeply about how consent should play into audience-performer relationships.
What happens when you mix two really good things together? Sometimes, it can be magical. It's practically guaranteed when one of those elements is the wizarding world of Harry Potter, and the other is—wait for it—dance-team–style hip hop.
When the Bible spoke of the "ingathering of the exiles," it didn't have dance in mind. Yet, this month, more than 100 dancers, choreographers and scholars from around the world will gather at Arizona State University to celebrate the impact of Jews and the Jewish experience on dance. From hora to hip hop, social justice to somatics, ballet to Gaga, the three-day event (Oct. 13–15) is "deliberately inclusive," says conference organizer and ASU professor Naomi Jackson.