A Tribute to Carol Warner (1935-2018)
She did rhythm tap as a kid because she found it fun to make her feet talk. She turned back-flips imitating a photograph she saw on the wall at her dancing school. She donned pointe shoes to assist choreographers lecture-demonstrating their classical hows and whys. She danced on television for Andy Williams, did movies for Herbert Ross, Broadway for Michael Kidd.
She was Barbra Streisand's personally chosen stunt double for her battle royal falling down Funny Girl roller rink skating scene. She was the referenced human dancing body model for the creation, building and expansion of a major choreographer's dance technique. She was a dancer who believed that to dance was to live. She was the dancer chosen by Martha Graham to demonstrate her work after dancing in only one Graham-taught dance class. She was the teacher French dancers wanted to hold captive in their country for more of the gift she gave them. She was the mentor and teacher whose students "got it." She was the artist who created dances that made viewers want to dance. She was that rare mover who exuded a physical life energy that suggested being alive: bounding, jumping and running freely through space, even as she was simply standing still. A woman whose highly kinetic dance technique facilitated an expressivity that emanated from realms unknown, and spoke to all. She was one of a dedicated triumvirate of over-forty dance artists who danced together in consort for the purpose to further dance as an art form. She was a dancer who made music dance.
Partnering Carol was like opening a package at Christmas not knowing what was inside until opened—then, Shazam! A soulful, trust-filled, risk-takingly in synch, new each time improvisation bordering on magic—somewhere beyond reality—ensued. She was what the Gods had in mind when they invented Terpsichore. She is written across my brain, living in my spine and continues to inhabit my heart.
Carol Warner was a dancer who lived and danced from the heart by, with and for love. She has gone away from us now. She is out in deep space dancing with a new dance partner in a continuance without-end dance, dancing new dances and all the other dances ever danced on this terrestrial surface by everyone who has ever danced since time began.
Jennifer Kahn knew the theater industry could do better. As a professional stage manager for 17 years she worked on regional, off-Broadway and Broadway shows. Nearly each time a show closed, something unsettling happened: "I would watch them throw away our shows. All of the beautiful artwork by my friends in the paint shop would go in the trash." The elaborate backdrops? Gone.
But she had an idea: What if the material used in the backdrops and legs could be upcycled into something new? And what if theater lovers could literally keep a piece of a beloved show?
"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.
For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.
New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.
"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "
She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.