Dancers Trending
The George Mason University students dancing the leads in Lar Lubovitch's A Brahms Symphony connected with the dancers who originated the roles. Photo by Clayton Willis, Courtesy George Mason University

A watershed moment. That's how choreographer Lar Lubovitch recently described his now-classic A Brahms Symphony. Now, a group of 16 George Mason University dance majors are having their own watershed moment with that jubilant work: They will dance it at the venerable Joyce Theater in New York City, where they will close the 50th anniversary season of the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company on April 22. It's such a big deal the college president, Angel Cabrera, likened it to when the basketball team made it to the NCAA Final Four.

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Dancers Trending
Clifton Brown in Alvin Ailey's Revelations. Photo by Andrew Eccles, Courtesy AAADT

Onstage, Clifton Brown is a force of nature. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer joined the celebrated company at 19, in 1999. In 2011, he left to dance with Jessica Lang Dance and Lar Lubovitch Dance Company before returning to Ailey last year. Brown has been trying his hand at choreography on the side, but this week his first larger work—a commission from The Washington Ballet artistic director Julie Kent—premieres on a program of new works by choreographers who still perform.

Brown will take a day or two away from the Ailey company's rigorous tour schedule to see TWB dancers perform his Menagerie, danced to Rossini's Duet for Cello and Double Bass in D Major, at Washington, D.C.'s Harman Center for the Arts. We caught up with him last week in Chicago.

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25 to Watch
Abadoo in her Octavia's Brood: Riding the Ox Home. Photo by C. Stanley Photography, Courtesy Abadoo

MK Abadoo is an unapologetic activist. The dances she creates speak her truth to power. Her choreography offers a socially conscious take on torn-from-the-headlines issues of racial, social and gender equity.

Drawn to community-based work, Abadoo fuses postmodernist aesthetics with fleet-footed and full-bodied West African forms—she spent a Fulbright year in Ghana—and the nonchalant swagger of funk. Her 2015 work Octavia's Brood: Riding the Ox Home is inspired by science-fiction writer Octavia Butler's work and vignettes from the Underground Railroad, toggling between an Afro-futurist view of the U.S. and the searing history of Harriet Tubman. When Abadoo and her dancers stop short, caught by swaths of brown fabric tugging them ceaselessly back, they're trapped in an extension of their skin as Akua Allrich croons "My skin is black." Abadoo's message: The struggle against racism remains real, visceral and unvarnished, and she's ready to confront the issue head-on.

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Dancers Trending
Photo by Matt Andrea, Courtesy Andrea

Ballet teacher Therrell C. Smith may be 100, but she's still got it. She celebrated her 100th birthday with family, friends and former students earlier this month by performing the "Fascination Waltz" with ballroom dancer Stan Kelly. She finished off the afternoon tribute at the University of the District of Columbia's Theater of the Arts at the center of a kick line surrounded by her nephews and great nephews as the recording crooned "Hello, Auntie," to the tune of "Hello, Dolly."

She, of course, stole the show, which featured many tributes and proclamations from the mayor of DC, her alma mater Fisk University and others.

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Dancers Trending
Photo by Theo Kossenas, courtesy The Washington Ballet

With her fearless demeanor onstage, it's easy to see how Washington Ballet apprentice Sarah Steele attracted the keen eye of former American Ballet Theatre stars Julie Kent and Ethan Stiefel. Promoted mid-season from the studio company by artistic director Kent, Steele was cast by Stiefel as the lead in Frontier, his world premiere for The Washington Ballet, this past spring. For the space-themed piece, Steele donned a black-and-white "space suit" onstage, exhibiting dual qualities of strength and grace. Most evocative about Steele's dancing might be her innate intelligence—she was accepted to Harvard on early admission, and plans to resume her studies there in the future. But first, she'll dance.

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News
Photo by Kurt Sneddon, Courtesy McKechnie.

Triple threat Donna McKechnie is cherished for her Tony Award–winning portrayal of Cassie in the 1975 musical A Chorus Line. Her featured number, "The Music and the Mirror," sheds a spotlight on the hopes and dreams of a struggling dancer, willing to return to the chorus for a job doing what she loves. McKechnie has spent her more than 50-year career doing what she loves—dancing, singing and acting. The Broadway darling has grown up onstage, from her first gig as a teen to her latest: Starting October 27 she plays Mabel in Arena Stage's production of The Pajama Game in Washington, DC.

Have you done Pajama Game before?

This is my first. I love the show and was thrilled when choreographer Parker Esse called me. I see connections with my career generationally in the script. When I came to New York, Bob Fosse was my first choreographer. I was in shows that original writer/director George Abbott directed.

Will you be dancing?

I play Mabel, the secretary and mother hen, but Parker said he was going to expand the dancing. I'll be 75 this month and I'm proud of it. I want to be a living example for people to keep dancing and moving. I take ballet class five times a week—if you don't, you lose it. I do the whole barre. If you do a ballet barre correctly, I can't think of anything harder.

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Breaking Stereotypes
Maggie Kudirka. Photo by Dancers Care Foundation/Andrew Holtz

Maggie Kudirka was just beginning her ballet career with the Joffrey Concert Group in New York when she discovered an ache and a knot in her sternum that would not go away. It became excruciating.

The company physical therapist gave her exercises and massages to assuage the pain. "I just thought it was a muscle mass…we were doing a lot of partnering, but it didn't get better," she says.

Months later, as her first season was ending, she found a doctor to take a look. It took a few appointments to get the diagnosis because, at 23, Kudirka was not in the risk group for breast cancer. But that's what the lump was. Within weeks she was in treatment for stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, meaning it had spread to other parts of her body and was incurable.

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Dancers Trending
Baakari Wilder. Photo by Joe McNally, Courtesy Wilder

At 18, Baakari Wilder was flying high. The tap dance kid, who began lessons at 3 in a community center in Laurel, Maryland, was dancing every night on Broadway as part of the hand-selected cast of the George C. Wolfe/Savion Glover vehicle Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk. But in the middle of one show, he came off stage so out of breath the stage manager sent him to the hospital. "I didn't wake back up until months later," he wrote recently. "After leaving the hospital, I recall seeing my fellow dancers promoting Noise/Funk on Jay Leno. That was my motivation. I was determined to dance again. Months later I rejoined the cast on Broadway and when Savion left the show, I assumed the lead until it closed."

Wilder has Lupus, an autoimmune disease that, in his case, has targeted his kidneys. Last week, he opened the Facebook page "Wanted: A Kidney for Baakari," where he tells this story. Back when he was 28, his brother donated a kidney, "And I sure enough felt the difference." Now 40, Wilder is hoping another donor will come forward as his kidney is failing again.

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