Round Robbins: How the Dance World is Celebrating Jerome Robbins' 100th Birthday
From the over-the-top antics of Fancy Free to the stylized realism of West Side Story, the discomfiting world of The Cage to the poignant humanity of Dances at a Gathering, the work of Jerome Robbins redefined what American dance could be. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth, ballet companies across the country are performing his iconic works throughout the year. Here are a few of our favorites, but keep your eyes peeled for more Robbins tributes in 2018.
Miami City Ballet
MCB dancers channel their silly sides for Robbins' The Concert (or, the Perils of Everybody). Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy MCB
MCB's Jerome Robbins Celebration features Circus Polka, The Cage, Other Dances, In the Night and West Side Story Suite, classics spanning over 40 years and illustrating the master's stylistic range. In a delightful twist, Circus Polka will feature artistic director Lourdes Lopez in the role of Ringmaster, making her the first woman ever to perform the part originated by Robbins himself. Miami, Jan. 12–14. Fort Lauderdale, Jan. 27–28. West Palm Beach, Feb. 2–4. For a bonus Robbins treat, his comic masterpiece The Concert (or, the Perils of Everybody) will be performed on a later program with works by George Balanchine and Brian Brooks. Miami, Feb. 9–11. West Palm Beach, March 2–4. Fort Lauderdale, March 17–18. miamicityballet.org.
As part of its Modern Masters program, Joffrey Ballet will present the Chicago premiere of Glass Pieces, set to music by Philip Glass. The angular athleticism of the work, danced by a cast of 42, draws the subtly shifting repetitions in Glass' compositions into focus. Chicago, Feb. 7–18. joffrey.org.
San Francisco Ballet
SFB in Robbins' Fancy Free. Photo by Erik Tomasson, via sfballet.org.
Opus 19/The Dreamer, The Cage, Other Dances and Fancy Free are on the program for SFB's Robbins: Ballet & Broadway. Fancy Free, Robbins' breakout 1944 ballet that later inspired the musical On the Town, is set to music by Leonard Bernstein, whose 100th birthday is also celebrated this year. San Francisco, March 20–25. sfballet.org.
New York City Ballet
Of course NYCB is going all out to honor one of its co-founding choreographers. The Robbins 100 celebration boasts 19 works by the master arrayed in six programs over three weeks, plus a world premiere by resident choreographer Justin Peck inspired by Robbins and set to the music of Bernstein in honor of both men's centennials. New York City, May 3–20. nycballet.com.
And a whole lot more...
Nelson Madrigal and Whitney Jensen in Robbins' Afternoon of a Faun. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy Boston Ballet
There's so much going on that we're not even sure we know about all of it, but here are some of the organizations planning performances, film screenings, exhibitions or other events celebrating Robbins this year. Keep an eye on individual websites and the Jerome Robbins Foundation as details and additional events are announced.
New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
New York Theatre Ballet
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Les Étés de la Danse
Dutch National Ballet
Pacific Northwest Ballet
Paris Opéra Ballet
Brooklyn Academy of Music
Dance on Camera Festival
The Paley Center for Media
92nd Street Y
Spoleto Festival USA
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.