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All Aboard: Two Cruise Lines Are Investing in Top-Tier Dance Talent

James Whiteside and Cassandra Trenary perform a section of Liam Scarlett's With a Chance of Rain on a Celebrity Cruises voyage. Photo courtesy Celebrity Cruises

Could the hottest new ticket in dance be at sea? While Virgin Voyages will offer immersive dance theater on its maiden ship the Scarlet Lady, Celebrity Cruises is bringing guests closer to the stars through a partnership with American Ballet Theatre. With these new ventures, Celebrity and Virgin will bring bespoke dance experiences to their guests, and dancers will have a chance to push their artistry off the proscenium stage while sailing between exotic ports of call.


Celebrity Cruises

Trenary performing a pas de deux from Le Corsaire

Courtesy Celebrity Cruises

Guests sailing with Celebrity Cruises will be able to see ABT members perform, take dancer-led barre classes and have intimate conversations with the artists about their lives and work. "We love the idea of meeting new audiences where they are," says ABT's executive director Kara Medoff Barnett. "There are 3,000-plus guests per week and many have never encountered ballet, so that delivers on our mission to bring the best of ballet to the widest possible audience."

Throughout the year, both during the season and on off weeks, ABT will send two dancers at a time to perform both classical and contemporary pas de deux. Cassandra Trenary and James Whiteside were the first pair to voyage out back in March. In total, 12 pairs will perform on various routes this year, with destinations from Alaska to the Carib­bean. "While it is a casting and scheduling puzzle," says Medoff Barnett, "for the dancers, it is a chance to take a breather and have some fun." As for safety concerns, such as performing on pointe when the sea is rough, the dancers are given ultimate discretion over determining what they can do and when.

Virgin Voyages

Pinkleton (right) rehearsing Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

Evgenia Eliseeva, Courtesy ICM Partners

In preparation for the launch of their luxury Adult-by-Design cruise line in April 2020, Virgin Voyages and its Creative Collective have partnered with RWS Entertainment Group to bring a slate of brand-new productions to life from the likes of producer Randy Weiner (Sleep No More), Broadway's Sam Pinkleton and The Dance Cartel's Ani Taj, and circus group The 7 Fingers. In an email, Pinkleton and Taj wrote: "A cruise ship is a place where strangers come together and often end up heading back to their rooms at night dancing, sweaty and carrying their high heels in their hands. We couldn't imagine a more perfect—um—vessel—for our work." Pinkleton and Taj's UNTITLED DANCESHOWPARTYTHING is billed as a "hype music video disguised as an absurdist-style dance party." The audition tour for this, and other cutting-edge shows, happened in the spring; rehearsals are set to begin in January 2020.

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