Fesa Barocca with Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Allen Sims

Bigonzetti's Amazing Partnering

In Festa Barocco, Mauro Bigonzetti’s new work for the Ailey company, there are two knockout duets. Each seems like a secret that bursts open little by little, with equal parts desire and combat. They had sudden drops and soaring lifts, and odd places of touch: his head on her knee, her foot at his throat.

In the first one, Gwynenn Taylor Jones and Clifton Brown seemed to turn each other inside out, crawling through each other’s open spaces. The awkwardness of their intimacy was pretty wonderful.

In the second, the astounding Linda Celeste Sims was held by elbow and knee by Glenn Allen Sims (her husband) while the rest of her body dangled downward. Suddenly he hoisted her upward like a rolled carpet—or did she propel herself upward? Her strength and daring are breathtaking. These two don’t have to look at each other to know what the other will do; they sense each other’s strength and act on a dare. If you blink, you’ll miss something.

These exciting duets reminded me of the partnering in Oltremare, Bigonzetti’s piece for New York City Ballet last year. The ballet depicts couples fleeing their own country, desperate to start a new life. In music, tone, and atmosphere, it’s completely different from Festa Barocca, but they are similar in one way: the terrific duets. Here again, a woman might toss herself at a man and end up almost impaled on him. We see desperate flings, threatening moves, a leg that can strangle someone. All this requires a fierceness of the dancers and a physicality they can sink their teeth into.

And for the audience, we get a fearless picture of real life relationships: how two people can need, reject, desire, move together, push apart, explode. The actual inter-twinings seem like formations we’ve never seen before, but we recognize the impulses and the danger. We are seeing something hard, tension-filled, yet intimate, and full of surprises and counter-surprises.

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Stark Photo Productions, Courtesy Harlequin

Why Your Barre Can Make or Break Your At-Home Dance Training

Throughout the pandemic, Shelby Williams, of Royal Ballet of Flanders (aka "Biscuit Ballerina"), has been sharing videos that capture the pitfalls of dancers working from home: slipping on linoleum, kicking over lamps and even taking windows apart at the "barre." "Dancers aren't known to be graceful all of the time," says Mandy Blackmon, PT, DPT, OSC, CMTPT, head physical therapist/medical director for Atlanta Ballet. "They tend to fall and trip."

Many dancers have tried to make their home spaces as safe as possible for class and rehearsal by setting up a piece of marley, like Harlequin's Dance Mat, to work on. But there's another element needed for taking thorough ballet classes at home: a portable barre.

"Using a barre is kinda Ballet 101," says 16-year-old Haley Dale, a student in her second year at American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. She'd bought a portable barre from Harlequin to use at her parents' home in Northern Virginia even before the pandemic hit. "Before I got it, honestly I would stay away from doing barre work at home. Now I'm able to do it all the time."

Blackmon bought her 15-year-old stepdaughter a freestanding Professional Series Ballet Barre from Harlequin early on in quarantine. "I was worried about her injuring herself without one," she admits.

What exactly makes Harlequin's barres an at-home must-have, and hanging on to a chair or countertop so risky? Here are five major differences dancers will notice right away.

December 2020