In a sun-soaked studio in Manhattan, members of the Martha Graham Dance Company (all women) lie on the floor with their feet and heads hovering off the ground. Choreographer Bobbi Jene Smith encourages the dancers to be unapologetic about being looked at as their bodies begin to tremble with exhaustion and they move into a new formation.
"Is everyone okay?" was my most used sentence during my time with American Ballet Theatre. There I was, leading world-class ABT dancers through my own choreographic process. I knew that it was unlike anything they'd ever experienced, but I think half of the time I was asking that question, it was really directed to myself.ABT Incubator is a two-week choreographic program created by principal dancer David Hallberg. Supported by The Howard Hughes Corporation, this process-oriented lab gave me and four other choreographers the opportunity to generate ideas for the work we have been inspired to create.
American Ballet Theatre corps de ballet dancer Erica Lall spends most of her day in the studio rehearsing with choreographers like Alexei Ratmansky and Michelle Dorrance. But when she's not in the studio or on stage, this "25 to Watch" dancer is home making her family's Jamaican Curry Chicken.
When Boston Ballet principal dancer Paulo Arrais was approached to choreograph for the company's spring program, Rhapsody, he immediately knew where he wanted to draw inspiration from. "I grew up in a part of Brazil where it was very common to see domestic violence," says Arrais. "I'm angry about this problem and I'm trying to find a way to choreograph with the anger I have."
Choreographer Loni Landon is no stranger to the enticing power of social media. Instagram, for example, makes it very easy for Landon to connect with other artists. "I feel torn about it," says Landon. "On one hand, I think it can be used in a really positive way. I have received so many jobs through connecting with people on social media. But I do think sometimes people are on it for the wrong reasons and it becomes a popularity contest."
"We find ourselves in a situation now with global warming where extreme storms, hurricanes and rising sea levels are happening throughout parts the world, and water is scarce or wasted in others," says choreographer Molissa Fenley. A comment on the current global threats to our environment, Fenley's dance series Water Table explores the patterns of large bodies of water.
We stepped into a rehearsal of Water Table with Molissa Fenley and Company as they prepare for an upcoming show at Danspace Project to talk performing in your 60s and how an international upbringing influenced her as an artist.
Sidra Bell is one of those choreographers whose movement dancers are drawn to. Exploring the juxtaposition of fierce athleticism and pure honesty in something as simple as stillness, her work brings her dancers to the depths of their abilities and the audience to the edge of their seats.
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The role of Harlequin in Marius Petipa's comic ballet Harlequinade is one American Ballet Theatre dancer Gabe Stone Shayer knows quite well. He first performed a variation of the role when he was just nine years old. Today, he explores commedia dell'arte in Alexei Ratmansky's new take on the ballet, premiering at the Metropolitan Opera House this June.
We stepped into a rehearsal of Harlequinade with Shayer and fellow ABT dancer Cassandra Trenary for our "In The Studio" series:
Since starting his company in 1968, Lar Lubovitch has stood at the forefront of modern dance—although he is hesitant to label his work as "modern."
"I've always felt I've been making dances," he says. "I've always called them dances and I've never been one to exclude any language of movement. When I'm making a dance it's sort of an essay of all the movement I have in my body of all the dance I've studied."
After 50 years of creating dances, his work is still as technical and humanistic as ever.
The much-anticipated Martha Graham Dance Company season at New York City Center is upon us. From April 11–14, the company will present classics like Chronicle, the sly melodrama Embattled Garden and of course Graham's visceral masterwork The Rite of Spring. This season also includes works by internationally acclaimed choreographers Lucinda Childs, Lar Lubovitch and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.
We sat down with Graham artistic director Janet Eilber to talk about bringing back older Graham works, working with new choreographers and what Martha would have to say about today's wave of feminism.
Raja Feather Kelly's gender-bending, race-flipping and thought-provoking work Another Fucking Warhol Production or Who's Afraid of Andy Warhol?—now titled The Love Episode (Another Fucking Warhol Production)—is making its way back to the stage. Kelly's company, the feath3r theory, will be performing the revived work at Dance Place in Washington, D.C. on April 21 and 22. Per usual, the music will make you want to stand up in your seat and dance your pants off, but it's not a show you'll want to bring the kids to.
We stepped into the studio with Kelly to talk love, money and his fascination with Andy Warhol.
Dance Theatre of Harlem is busy preparing for the company's Vision Gala on April 4. The works on the program, which takes place on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., reflect on the legacy of Dr. King and his impact on company founder Arthur Mitchell. Among them is the much-anticipated revival of legendary choreographer Geoffrey Holder's Dougla, which will include live music and dancers from Collage Dance Collective.
We stepped into the studio with Holder's wife Carmen de Lavallade and son Leo Holder to hear what it feels like to keep Holder's legacy alive and what de Lavallade thinks of the recent rise in kids standing up against the government—as she did not too long ago.
Los Angeles-based choreographer Danielle Agami is taking on a new role in New York City: performer. While her company Ate9 is on a "vacation," she is in residency at The Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University.
We sat down with Agami to discuss creating her first solo titled framed, which she will perform May 6 at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and why she is excited to get back to her company.
At 5'10" I felt like an ant in the studio with Alonzo King LINES Ballet. The San Francisco-based company is full of statuesque dancers whose passion is infectious. Every story was told not only through their movement, but through the expression on their faces and their connection to one another.
We talked to artistic director Alonzo King about his love of collaborations and why he thinks politicians need to dance more.
In a sun-soaked studio in New York City, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater prepares for their 21-city North American tour beginning January 30. We caught up with artistic director Robert Battle to discuss his work Mass and how the tradition of modern dance has always been connected to social justice.
The ever-so-busy Kyle Abraham is back in New York City for a brief visit with his company Abraham.In.Motion as they prepare for an exciting spring season of new endeavors with some surprising guests. The company will be debuting a new program at The Joyce Theater on May 1, that will include two new pieces from Abraham, restaged works by Doug Varone and Bebe Miller, and a world premiere from Andrea Miller. Talk about an exciting line-up!
We caught up with Abraham during a recent rehearsal where he revealed what he is tired of hearing in the dance community.
It's no wonder Yeman Brown was nominated for a 2017 Outstanding Performer Bessie for his performance in Reggie Wilson's Citizen. Amidst the marathon of broken-up solos, Brown flies through the lightning-fast choreography. His movement is both gestural and athletic—not to mention deeply poetic—and is driven by a particular force which exudes a matter-of-fact command of the stage.
If you've been following our "In The Studio" series you know that most of our episodes take place in just that—a studio. But at a dress rehearsal for Monica Bill Barnes & Company's latest project Happy Hour, I found myself in what looked like an episode of "The Office" on a day of shooting an after-work party.
Inside the Center for Flamenco Arts, you can hear the rattle of castanets and the sounds of Spanish guitar as Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana works on their upcoming tour of Navidad Flamenca, a holiday show they perform every December in each of the five boroughs of New York City. Their outreach spreads from seniors to children with disabilities and working with young girls and women in empowerment workshops.
For the past 3 years, choreographer Stephen Petronio has been reviving groundbreaking works of postmodern dance through his BLOODLINES project. This season, although his company will be performing a work by Merce Cunningham, his own choreography moves in a more luxurious direction. We stepped into the studio with Petronio and his dancers where they were busy creating a new work, Hardness 10, named for the categorization of diamonds.
If you've ever taken class with Kristin Sudeikis you know that she is as much a motivational speaker as she is a choreographer. Her approach to teaching is rooted in the idea that there should be a conversation between the dancer and all the elements that make up the dance: the music, the movement, and most importantly their connection to the other dancers in the room. Same goes for her company members when they are diving into the process of creating work.
We stepped into the studio with Sudeikis and her company to get an inside look at one of their rehearsals and chat with the dancemaker about her process: