Curtain Up

November 15, 2010

Can a ballet dancer who’s a whiz at contemporary choreography ever reach the pinnacle of a classical ballet company? Misty Copeland’s dazzling performances in ballets by Twyla Tharp, Jorma Elo, and Paul Taylor help bring American Ballet Theatre into the 21st century. So why would they cast her as Odette or Juliet when they have lots of strictly classical principals who can do those roles? There’s been a lot of talk about the limits placed on African American women in ballet, but is that what’s going on here? In “Misty’s Magic,” Astrida Woods takes a close look at which doors have opened for Misty, which remain closed, and what she is doing to build her classical repertoire.


In the area of classic modern, Anna Sokolow was a renegade and a legend. We are marking the centennial of her birth with a terrific little memoir by Kathryn Posin about working with her in the 1960s. Intense, contradictory, poetic, tormented, Sokolow got amazing performances from her dancers. When Kathy reminisces about those rehearsals in “ ‘Jump,’ She Said,” it’s so immediate that you feel like you are in the room with the dancers trying to rise to Sokolow’s do-or-die expectations.


In the opposite direction is another dance icon, Geoffrey Holder. Instead of delving into life’s turmoil, his dances celebrate life. This month the Ailey company revives one of his festive, mythical works, The Prodigal Prince. Assistant editor Kina Poon and I visited Geoffrey at the loft he shares with his equally iconic wife, Carmen deLavallade. His wildly colorful paintings and astonishing sculptures surrounded us while he regaled us with stories. In “Geoffrey Holder’s Royal Vision,” Kina reveals his inspiring approach to creativity—and to life.


We have a celebration of our own this month: It’s photographer Matthew Karas’ 30th cover for Dance Magazine! We love his pictures, and we’ve enjoyed watching how dancers respond to his special combination of fun and professionalism. To see more of his covers, go to



Misty helps photographer Matt Karas celebrate his 30th DM cover.