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Choreographers and Muses
Travis Wall draws inspiration from dancers Tate McCrae, Timmy Blankenship and more.
One often-overlooked relationship that exists in dance is the relationship between choreographer and muse. Recently two-time Emmy Award Winner Travis Wall opened up about his experience working with dancers he considers to be his muses.
"My muses in choreography have evolved over the years," says Wall. "When I'm creating on Shaping Sound, our company members, my friends, are my muses. But at this current stage of my career, I'm definitely inspired by new, fresh talent."
Wall adds, "I'm so inspired by this new generation of dancers. Their teachers have done such incredible jobs, and I've seen these kids grown up. For many of them, I've had a hand in their exposure to choreography."
But it's the movement of these young dancers that truly inspires Travis. "When I'm by myself making up a phrase, these are the people I envision executing the choreography," says Wall. "My body doesn't do what theirs can do."
When asked which specific young dancers he puts in the category of his muses, Travis praised Timmy Blankenship, Lex Ishimoto (SYTYCD Season 14 Winner), Lucy Vallely, Jake Tribus, Findlay McConnell, Megan Goldstein, Morgan Higgins and Tate McRae.
"These dancers, these artists are individuals," Wall says about his list of muses, "They take my structure and they completely exceed my expectations, which inspires me to go even further. Each piece would look different on each person in this group, and that's so inspiring to me because it elevates my work. It inspires me to be a better choreographer and creator in every possible way."
When Tate McRae and Timmy Blankenship were asked how it felt to be considered a muse by an award-winning choreographer like Wall, they were overcome with appreciation. "It's absolutely surreal," says McRae, "because Travis is one of my biggest role models and mentors. It's so exciting because he inspires me so much." Blankenship says, "As a young male dancer, I grew up watching Shaping Sound and Travis on 'So You Think You Can Dance'. He's the biggest reason I was inspired at such a young age, and ten years later, here I am with him as my inspiration. It's amazing to think that I'm also one of his."
When asked if either of them felt pressure knowing Travis considers them muses, both Tate and Timmy say that when they're in the moment of working with Travis, they don't feel any pressure at all. "I think with choreographers like Travis," says McRae, "the energy in the room is so inspiring, and motivation is bouncing back and forth between the dancer and choreographer. It becomes not about dance moves anymore, but you get lost in the story you're telling the audience." Blankenship adds, "Travis's work comes from a place of encouragement. He pushes me to be the best possible version of myself."
Further cultivating these relationships and sharing them with other dancers and choreographers is a driving goal of The Travis Wall Experience which is a new Intensive being offered at DancerPalooza in San Diego this year from July 24-29th.
"I think opening up the door to not only my creation process with dancers," says Wall, "but making it our creative process for everyone at the Intensive will be exciting for everyone. The Travis Wall Experience is about encouraging people to take the base and structure of choreography and then remove the feeling of what they think is possible and allow themselves to be pushed in different directions."
Of course, that's how Travis works with his muses and the unique aspect of this new Intensive. "I think there's going to be a lot of student choreography," says Wall, "a lot of opportunities for the students to create for themselves and put that together into one large performance."
Tate and Timmy will also be attending the Intensive and each of them has their own set of reasons for choosing The Travis Wall Experience. Timmy is intrigued by the title of the intensive. "I want an Experience," he says, "I am beginning to explore choreographing and I know this experience with Travis can open up a lot of doors for young dancers like me."
Tate is looking forward to not only working with Travis, but also several of the other choreographers on the faculty for The Travis Wall Experience. "So many of the choreographers that will be there are huge inspirations of mine," says McRae, "People like Jason Parsons, Lauren Adams, Al Blackstone and Mandy Moore. They're amazing people in the industry and it's super exciting that we're getting offered this Intensive."
For Travis, he hopes that during this week of performance and choreography work he can allow young dancers a more in-depth and detailed look into the process he uses as a creator. "For me it's about coming up with that idea, pushing the boundaries of it and following inspiration whenever it comes to create a story with only movement," says Wall, "And sometimes you might find, you are your own muse."
New York City–based dancers know Gibney. It's a performance venue, a dance company, a rehearsal space, an internship possibility—a Rubik's Cube of resources bundled into two sites at 280 and 890 Broadway. And in March of this year, Gibney (having officially dropped "Dance" from its name) announced a major expansion of its space and programming; it now operates a total of 52,000 square feet, 23 studios and five performance spaces across the two locations.
Six of those studios and one performance space are brand-new at the 280 Broadway location, along with several programs. EMERGE will commission new works by emerging choreographic voices for the resident Gibney Dance Company each year; Making Space+ is an extension of Gibney's Making Space commissioning and presenting program, focused on early-career artists. For the next three years, the Joyce Theater Foundation's artist residency programs will be run out of one of the new Gibney studios, helping to fill the gap left by the closing of the Joyce's DANY Studios in 2016.
What is the right flooring system for us?
So many choices, companies, claims, endorsements, and recommendations to consider. The more you look, the more confusing it gets. Here is what you need to do. Here is what you need to know to get the flooring system suited to your needs.
"I'm sorry, but I just can't possibly give you the amount of money you're asking for."
My heart sinks at my director's final response to my salary proposal. She insists it's not me or my work, there is just no money in the budget. My disappointment grows when handed the calendar for Grand Rapids Ballet's next season with five fewer weeks of work.
"It just...always looks better in my head."
While that might not be something any of us would want to hear from a choreographer, it's a brilliant introduction to "Off Kilter" and the odd, insecure character at its center, Milton Frank. The ballet mockumentary (think "The Office" or "Parks and Recreation," but with pointe shoes) follows Frank (dancer-turned-filmmaker Alejandro Alvarez Cadilla) as he comes back to the studio to try his hand at choreographing for the first time since a plagiarism scandal derailed his fledgling career back in the '90s.
We've been pretty excited about the series for a while, and now the wait is finally over. The first episode of the show, "The Denial," went live earlier today, and it's every bit as awkward, hilarious and relatable as we hoped.
Dancers crossing over into the fitness realm may be increasingly popular, but it was never part of French-born Julie Granger's plan. Though Granger grew up a serious ballet student, taking yoga classes on the side eventually led to a whole new career. Creating her own rules along the way, Granger shares how combining the skills she learned in ballet with certifications in yoga, barre and personal training allowed her to become her own boss (and a rising fitness influencer).
José Greco popularized Spanish dance in 1950s and '60s America through his work onstage and on screen. Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater's American Spanish Dance & Music Festival is honoring the icon in recognition of what would have been his 100th birthday. As part of the tribute, Greco's three dancing children are reuniting to perform together for the first time since their father's death in 2000. Also on the program is the premiere of contemporary flamenco choreographer Carlos Rodriguez's Mar de Fuego (Sea of Fire). June 15–17, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. ensembleespanol.org.
Dance Theatre of Harlem dancers Christopher McDaniel and Crystal Serrano were working on Nacho Duato's Coming Together in rehearsal when McDaniel's foot hit a slippery spot on the marley. As they attempted a swinging lift, both dancers went tumbling, injuring Serrano as they fell. She ended up being out for a week with a badly bruised knee.
"I immediately felt, This is my fault," says McDaniel. "I broke my friend."
What's on the minds of college students today?
I recently had the honor of adjudicating at the American College Dance Association's National College Dance Festival, along with choreographer Dana Tai Soon Burgess and former National Endowment for the Arts dance specialist Douglas C. Sonntag. We chose three winners—one for Outstanding Choreography and two for Outstanding Performance—from 30 pieces representing schools throughout the country. It was a great opportunity to see what college dance students are up to—from the issues they care about to the kinds movement they're interested in exploring.
Here were the biggest trends and takeaways:
It's summer festival season! If you're feeling overwhelmed by the dizzying array of offerings, never fear: We've combed through the usual suspects to highlight the shows we most want to catch.
Subscription box services have quickly gained a dedicated following among the fashion and fitness set. And while we'd never say no to a box with new jewelry or workout wear to try, we've been waiting for the subscription model to make its way to the dance world.
Enter barre + bag, a new service that sends a curated set of items to your door each season. Created by Faye Morrow Bell and her daughter Tyler, a student in the pre-professional ballet program at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, this just-launched service offers dance, lifestyle and wellness finds in four themed bags each year: Spring Performance, Summer Study, Back-to-Studio and Nutcracker. Since all the products are specifically made for dancers, everything barre + bag sends you is something you'll actually use, (Plus, it all comes in a bag instead of a box—because what dancer can ever have enough bags?).
barre + bag's Summer Collection
Today, American Ballet Theatre announced a new initiative to foster the development of choreography by company members and freelance dancemakers. Aptly titled ABT Incubator, the program, directed by principal David Hallberg, will give selected choreographers the opportunity to spend two weeks workshopping new dances.
"It has always been my vision to establish a process-oriented hub to explore the directions ballet can forge now and in the future," said Hallberg in a press release from the company. Interested? Here's how you can apply to participate.
Back in January, Chase Johnsey grabbed headlines when he resigned from Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, where his performances had garnered critical acclaim for over a decade, alleging a culture of harassment and discrimination. (An independent investigation launched by the company did not substantiate any legal claims.) Johnsey, who identifies as genderqueer, later told us that he feared his dance career was at an end—where else, as a ballet dancer, would he be allowed to perform traditionally female roles?
But the story didn't end there. After a surprise offer from Tamara Rojo, artistic director of English National Ballet, Johnsey has found a temporary artistic home with the company, joining as a guest at the rank of first artist for its run of The Sleeping Beauty, which continues this week. After weeks of working and rehearsing with the company, last week Johnsey quietly marked a new milestone: He performed with ENB's corps de ballet as one of the ladies in the prince's court.
Ukrainian ballet dancer Sergei Polunin doesn't appear to have completely shed his bad-boy skin. A new video from Rankin Hunger Magazine, "Sergei x Rankin," shows us what happens when Polunin is given total freedom to explore his tendency for raw, emotional movement. Paired with British photographer Rankin, the duo creates a captivating video that explores our primal need for unrestrained expression set to an alternative rock soundtrack by Husky Loops.