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Continuing Thoughts on Restless Creature
Each of the four choreographers found a different treasure in Wendy Whelan.
Alejandro Cerrudo found a partner in his liquid foray of extending gesture into full-out movement, a dancer who could curve her back to great expressive depth.
Photo of Cerrudo and Whelan by Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow:
Joshua Beamish found someone who could match his disembodied, staccato moves but also provide a picture of elegance swooping in a red dress. With the faintest hint of subservience, he stroked her dress, fetish-like, and bowed down, head nestled in that dress. He also found someone he could waltz with, ballroom style.
Photo of Whelan and Beamish by Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow.
Kyle Abraham found a fellow stealth mover who entered a slightly dangerous territory with him. The moments when one touched the other were spare and carefully placed. At one point, he slowly arched back while she held him. When he was so far back that his balance was precarious, she reached and—caressed his arm.
Photo of Whelan and Abraham by Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow.
And Brian Brooks found a creature who is as light as air and for whom he could be the crumbling ground she falls on.
Photo of Brooks and Whelan by Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow.
OK, this is NOT a review, because I already produced what amounted to an advance story in my “Choreography in Focus.” But I’m going to continue with my thoughts here because they expanded as I thought them.
Cerrudo, Abraham, and Beamish are also “creatures” and fascinating to watch at any time. It is therefore just right to end with Brian Brooks, whose plainness as a performer and clarity as a choreographer (his relationship to her was the most humble) anchored the evening and gave the focus back to Whelan.
It’s not unusual for a star performer to create her own program. But only with Wendy Whelan could an event of this nature turn out to be so hugely generous. Restless Creature, as seen at Jacob's Pillow, goes beyond the narcissisism of putting a great ballerina on display. What comes across is Whelan’s hunger for artistic challenges and her ability to stimulate choreographers. Instead of choosing established dance artists whose success would be more assured, she took the risk of inviting younger guys, giving them some visibility. In this she emerged an impresario as well as a performer.
In choosing these particular dancer/choreographers—at least two of whom are more postmodern than ballet—Whelan shows a sharply contemporary vision, the kind that ballet is in great need of now. And in asking the four men to dance with her, she's fulfilling a desire that probably many dancers have about their favorite choreographers. This decision also nicely blurs the line between dancer and choreographer.
And this: With supreme/serene self-knowledge, Whelan has changed the yardstick by which her dancing can be judged. Restless Creature takes her outside the New York City Ballet mold and places her in a more grounded, less position-oriented, more spiritual realm of dance. There was such consistent choreographic interest in this program, and Whelan is such a transcendent performer, that the evening was deeply satisfying. Images of all four works have lingered in my mind.
The revival of everything '90s has been in full-swing for a while now—we saw Destiny's Child reunite at Coachella, Britney Spears is headed back on tour, and the Spice Girls miiight be performing at the Royal wedding next month. But Hollywood saved the best '90s moment for last, bringing *NSYNC back together to receive their official star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 30.
Because we love a good dance #TBT, we're reliving five of the boys' best dance moments.
"I Want You Back"
The band's first single from their self-titled debut album in 1998, "I Want You Back," was the start of their takeover (and their choreographed dance moves).
Looking for your next audition shoe? Shot at and in collaboration with Broadway Dance Center, Só Dança has launched a new collection of shoes working with some pretty famous faces of the musical theater world! Offered in two different styles and either 2.5" or 3" heels, top industry professionals are loving how versatile and supportive these shoes are! Pro tip: The heel is centered under the body so you can feel confident and stable!
When I wrote about my struggle with depression, and eventual departure from dance because of it, I expected criticism. I was prepared to be challenged. But much to my relief, and horror, dancers from all over the world responded with support and stories of solidarity. The most critical response I saw was this one:
"Dance isn't for everyone."
This may as well be a mantra in the dance world. We have become entrenched in the Darwinian notion that the emotionally weak will be weeded out. There is no room for them anyway.
Growing up in a family-owned dance studio in Missouri had its perks for tap dancer Anthony Russo. But it also earned him constant taunting, especially in high school.
"There was a junior in my sophomore year health class who was absolutely relentless," he says. "I'd get tripped on my way to the front of the classroom and he'd say, 'Watch out, twinkle toes.' If I raised my hand and answered a question incorrectly, I'd hear a patronizing 'Nice one, Bojangles.' "
Gina Gibney runs two enormous dance spaces in New York City: Together they contain 23 studios, five performance spaces, a gallery, a conference room, a media lab and more. Gibney is now probably the largest dance center in the country. It's not surprising that Dance Magazine named Gina Gibney one of the most influential people in dance today.
One of the biggest myths about ballet dancers is that they don't eat. While we all know that, yes, there are those who do struggle with body image issues and eating disorders, most healthy dancers love food—and eat plenty of it to fuel their busy schedules.
Luckily for us, they're not afraid to show it:
What does a superstar like Carlos Acosta do after bidding farewell to his career in classical ballet? In Acosta's case, he returns to his native country, Cuba, to funnel his fame, connections and prodigious energies back into the dance scene that formed him. Because of its top-notch, state-supported training programs and popular embrace of the art of dance, Cuba is brimming with talented dancers. What it has been short on, until recently, are opportunities outside of the mainstream companies, as well as access to a more international repertoire. That is changing now, and, with the creation of Acosta Danza, launched in 2016, Acosta is determined to open the doors even wider to new ideas and audiences.
There's so much more to the dance world than making and performing dances. Arts administrators do everything from raising money to managing companies to building new audiences. With the growing number of arts administration programs in colleges, dancers have an opportunity to position themselves for a multifaceted career on- or offstage—and to bring their unique perspective as artists to administrative work.
While Solange was busy helping big sis Beyoncé give Coachella its best performances of all time, an equally compelling project was quietly circulating on Instagram:
New York City Ballet continues its first year without Peter Martins at the helm as our spring season opens tonight.
When he retired at the start of the new year, we plunged headfirst into unknown, murky waters. Who would the new director be? When would we know? Would we dancers get some say in the decision? Who would oversee the Balanchine ballets? Who would be in charge of casting? Would a new director bring along huge upheaval? Could some of us be out of a job?