Carmen de Lavallade Wins a Kennedy Center Honor
Carmen de Lavallade will soon be be stepping onstage at the Kennedy Center with quite an eclectic group of artists: musicians Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan and LL Cool J, and TV writer/producer Norman Lear.
That's because all five have just been selected to receive a 2017 Kennedy Center Honor. A celebration (which will be broadcast on CBS December 26) will celebrate each of their artistic achievements.
At the Central Park Harkness Festival in 1966. Photo by George E. Joseph, courtesy DM archives
In a press release announcing the honors, Kennedy Center chairman David M. Rubenstein wrote, "Carmen de Lavallade is a national treasure whose elegance and talent as a dancer led to a career touching many art forms."
That's an understatement.
De Lavallade's list of accomplishments is as dizzying as it is inspiring: She danced with Lester Horton, performed on Broadway with Alvin Ailey in Truman Capote's House of Flowers, guested with American Ballet Theatre, became a principal with the Metropolitan Opera, appeared on TV and in movies like 1959's Against The Odds, joined the Yale School of Drama as a choreographer and performer in residence, and choreographed for Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Ailey company, among others.
With Harry Belafonte in Odds Against Tomorrow. Photo courtesy DM archives.
And she hasn't stopped! Today, she's touring a dance theater work about her life, called As I Remember It. It's clear that when we gave her a Dance Magazine Award back in 1967, she was just getting started.
Congratulations, Ms. de Lavallade! You continue to inspire us all.
A publicity shot for de Lavallade's American Dance Quartet
In the middle of one of New York City Center's cavernous studios, Misty Copeland takes a measured step backwards. The suggestion of a swan arm ripples before she turns downstage, chest and shoulders unfurling as her legs stretch into an open lunge. She piqués onto pointe, arms echoing the sinuous curve of her back attitude, then walks out of it, pausing to warily look over her shoulder. As the droning of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto's mysterious "Attack/Transition" grows more insistent, her feet start to fly with a rapidity that seems to almost startle her.
And then she stops mid-phrase. Copeland's hands fall to her hips as she apologizes. Choreographer Kyle Abraham slides to the sound system to pause the music, giving Copeland a moment to remind herself of a recent change to the sequence.
"It's different when the sound's on!" he reassures her. "And it's a lot of changes."
The day before was the first time Abraham had seen Copeland dance the solo in its entirety, and the first moment they were in the studio together in a month. This is their last rehearsal, save for tech, before the premiere of Ash exactly one week later, as part of the opening night of City Center's Fall for Dance festival.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
Dancers are understandably obsessed with food. In both an aesthetic and athletic profession, you know you're judged on your body shape, but you need proper fuel to perform your best. Meanwhile, you're inundated with questionable diet advice.
"My 'favorite' was the ABC diet," says registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, who trained in dance seriously but was convinced her body type wouldn't allow her to pursue it professionally. "On the first day you eat only foods starting with the letter A, on the second day only B, and so on."
"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.