Curtain Up

July 24, 2007
A performance is like the tip of an iceberg. What we see onstage is very small compared to all the work that goes on beforehand. Many people work behind the scenes to make stage magic happen. On Broadway, the “swings” are the people who make it possible to say, under any circumstances, “The Show
Go On.” A swing has to know almost all the dancers’ parts, sometimes learning as many as eight “tracks.” Not every dancer has the mind for it, not to mention the ability to jump into action at a moment’s notice. “On Broadway” columnist Sylviane Gold talks to six swings in the casts of The Lion King, Hairspray, and Movin’ Out about how they accomplish their near-impossible tasks.
Speaking of the near-impossible, dancing with wheelchairs would seem to fall into that category. But companies that pair able-bodied dancers with “wheelchair dancers” are growing in number. In “Wheels Welcome,” Jessie Male describes the appeal of such efforts for dancers, choreographers, and audiences. Groups like Axis Dance Company, Infinity Dance Theater, and Dancing Wheels demonstrate that beauty is not limited to flawless bodies, but can emerge from the sensitive and imaginative interactions of very differently abled performers. These groups create poetry in motion, a motion that happens to be aided by wheels.
One-on-one coaching is the behind-the-scenes contribution that can deepen the portrayals of a lead role. This month we see Balanchine’s
La Sonnambula
from two sides. Allegra Kent, the legendary ballerina who was unforgettable as the Sleepwalker, coaches three dancers from Miami City Ballet in the role. Kent, now an author and contributing writer to Dance Magazine, tells us what Mr. B expected of her—the yearning, the extrasensory perception, and the sense of danger. And MCB dancer Jennifer Kronenberg shares her notes on being coached by Kent. Between Kent’s memories and Kronenberg’s insights, you almost feel like you’re in the studio with them. Together they give a sense of the exquisite nuances of a role that is like no other in ballet.
In the case of Ashley Bouder, this month’s cover girl, the tip of the iceberg is her assured and joyous performances at New York City Ballet. The rest of the iceberg is her long training at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, her sustained energy, and her recovery from an injury early in her career. In this issue, Roslyn Sulcas interviews Bouder (who was a Dance Magazine “25 to Watch” in 2001) about what comes easily—and what she still has to work on.
So let the curtain rise, or rather, let’s look behind the curtain at the swings, the coaches, and the dancers—with and without wheels—who do whatever is necessary to get on with the show.
Wendy Perron
Editor in Chief