Curtain Up

It’s become famously difficult for a female soloist at American Ballet Theatre to rise to principal. Some of the best dancers in New York are at the soloist level. But ABT imports spectacular guest artists from abroad (which is great for box office and buzz) with such regularity that it creates a ceiling beyond which these terrific dancers cannot pass.


Hee Seo is one of the very few women soloists to break through that ceiling. With her swoon-y dramatic gifts, strong technique, and capacity to devour coaching, she has proved herself to be a magnificent interpreter of a wide range of roles. Her Tatiana is heart rending, her Nikiya sensual, her Juliet passionate. This spring she’ll make her debut as the lead in Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and Ashton’s A Month in the Country. Read our cover story on Hee Seo, written by Dance Magazine associate editor Kina Poon, to find out why Seo felt happier as a soloist than she does as a principal—at least for now.


Hee Seo loves her Aurora tutu. Photo by Nathan Sayers.


For our second annual Technique Issue, our sharp-eyed senior advising editor, Joseph Carman, suggested a story on beats. He feels that batterie is in danger of becoming a thing of the past—and that we can help save it. As Patricia Wilde says in his feature story “In Praise of Beats,” that particular realm of virtuosity can add “wonderful excitement” to allégro variations.


Very often the push for extreme technique leaves out subtlety and style. That’s where Fosse comes in. Lauren Kay talks to Fosse mavens in our “Centerwork” column, titled “Not the ‘Old’ Razzle-Dazzle.” Yes, his choreography is iconic in its extreme hinges and lust for detail, but it’s the emotional connection Fosse demands that deepens a performance.


In “Technique My Way,” the ultra-fluid Doug Varone dancer Julia Burrer talks about extending her movement practice outside the studio. She does yoga, rolls on balls, and works on her posture in non-dance moments. And that’s what makes a dancer—when the mind and body involvement is total.



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Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

How Do Choreographers Bring Something Fresh to Music We've Heard Over and Over?

In 2007, Oregon Ballet Theatre asked Nicolo Fonte to choreograph a ballet to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. "I said, 'No way. I'm not going near it,' " recalls Fonte. "I don't want to compete with the Béjart version, ice skaters or the movie 10. No, no, no!"

But Fonte's husband encouraged him to "just listen and get a visceral reaction." He did. And Bolero turned into one of Fonte's most requested and successful ballets.

Not all dance renditions of similar warhorse scores have worked out so well. Yet the irresistible siren song of pieces like Stravinsky's The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, as well as the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, seem too magnetic for choreographers to ignore.

And there are reasons for their popularity. Some were commissioned specifically for dance: Rite and Firebird for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Boléro for dance diva Ida Rubinstein's post–Ballets Russes troupe. Hypnotic rhythms (Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel) and danceable melodies (Bizet's Carmen) make a case for physical eye candy. Audience familiarity can also help box office receipts. Still, many choreographers have been sabotaged by the formidable nature and Muzak-y overuse of these iconic compositions.