Pop Culture
Unity Phelan and director Chad Stahelski on the set of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. Photo by Niko Tavernise, Courtesy Lionsgate

When New York City Ballet soloist Unity Phelan appeared as a ballerina training to become an assassin in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum earlier this year, it could have easily been a one-off. This particular backstory has become prevalent at the movies over the last few years—take Jennifer Lawrence's character in Red Sparrow and Natasha Romanov, aka Black Widow, of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Though it's become its own trope, it's also been dealt with in a fairly cursory manner.

But we had an inkling that this might not be the last we heard of the idea in the John Wick franchise—and it seems our suspicions that Parabellum was testing the waters for a female-led, ballet-infused spin-off were correct.

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Original photos: Getty Images

We've been dying to hear more about "On Pointe," a docuseries following students at the School of American Ballet, since we first got wind of the project this spring. Now—finally!—we know where this can't-miss show is going to live: It was just announced that Disney+, the new streaming service set to launch November 12, has ordered the series.

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The ever-fabulous Emma Portner (photo by Quinn Wharton for Dance Magazine)

Tucked into an almost two-hour Apple announcement video is pure dance gold: a promo for the newest version of the Apple Watch featuring none other than the trailblazing jack-of-all-styles herself, Emma Portner.

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News
Anita Mann. Photo by Susy Miller, Courtesy Wicked Creative.

With so much dance in pop culture these days—from TV shows like "Fosse/Verdon" and "Pose" to the resurgence of movie musicals to movement-rich music videos—it's not surprising that the entertainment industry has decided to tip its hat to dance.

This week, plans for a Los Angeles–based Dance Hall of Fame were announced.

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Pop Culture

Seventy one years age today, a new movie hit theaters: The Red Shoes. For a certain generation of dancers, this was the movie—the one that initially inspired them to step inside the studio.

For others, it was the first film they ever saw that finally "got" them. When Moira Shearer's character Victoria Page answers the question "Why do you want to dance?" with the response "Why do you want to live?" she channeled the inexplicable passion of thousands who dedicate their lives to this art.

Of course, many dance movies have followed in The Red Shoes' footsteps. But not all are created equal. We polled some of the Dance Magazine staff to find out what they rate as the G.O.A.T. of dance movies. It turns out, there was a pretty clear favorite in the office.

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Chava Lansky

After days spent rallying against "Good Morning America" host Lara Spencer's flippant comments about boys doing ballet, the dance world triumphed on Monday. Not only did Spencer issue a lengthy on-air apology, complete with an interview with Robbie Fairchild, Travis Wall and Fabrice Calmels, but over 300 dancers gathered outside of the "GMA" studios for an impromptu ballet class.

The dance field seemed geared to press forward with positivity; a change.org petition urging "GMA" to cover the benefits of ballet for young men has gathered over 40,000 signatures, and many are examining the ways in which the #boysdancetoo movement can be made more inclusive. This made it all the more disheartening to open Instagram this morning and see that Fox News commentators Raymond Arroyo and Laura Ingraham took the bullying a step further last night, mocking Spencer's apology on a program called "The Ingraham Angle."

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The ballet class in front of the Good Morning America studio on Monday morning. Caroline Shadle, Courtesy Chava Lansky

Last Friday, Dance Magazine published what has already become our most-read story of all time. At 2.8 million views and counting, our take on Lara Spencer's cruel comments about Prince George taking ballet prompted an enormous response from both the dance community and those who were simply bothered by what amounted to the bullying of a 6-year-old on national television.

But Spencer's comments struck a nerve for dancers especially. Rarely have we seen our field so united, or so passionate.

Most everyone agrees that Spencer's comments were unacceptable and reflect broader ignorance about both dance and gender. But some more nuanced takes have been left out of the hundreds of new stories about the controversy.

We found some perspectives from the dance world you might not have seen yet—and broke down why they're important:

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News

On this morning's edition of "Good Morning America," host Lara Spencer did what the dance community has been clamoring for since last Thursday, when her flippant comments about Prince George enjoying ballet lessons provoked widespread outrage: She apologized live on air.

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Rant & Rave

When the news broke that Prince George, currently third in line for the British throne, would be continuing ballet classes as part of his school curriculum this year, we were as excited as anyone. (Okay, maybe more excited.)

This was not, it seems, a sentiment shared by "Good Morning America" host Lara Spencer.

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News
A still from Dancing Dreams. Courtesy OVID

If you're seeking an extra dash of inspiration to start the new season on the right—dare we say—foot, look no further than dance documentaries.

Starting August 23, OVID, a streaming service dedicated to docs and art-house films, is adding eight notable dance documentaries to its library. The best part? There's a free seven-day trail. (After that, subscriptions are $6.99 per month or $69.99 annually.)

From the glamour of Russian ballet stars to young dancers training in Cuba to a portrait of powerhouse couple Carmen de Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder, here's what's coming to a couch near you:

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Pop Culture
Via @lizzo on Twitter

On August 20, pop goddess Lizzo tweeted, "Someone do a ballet routine to truth hurts pls," referring to the anthem that's been top on everyone's playlists this summer. Lizzo might not know it yet, but ballet dancers are not known for shying away from a challenge. In the past two days, the internet has exploded which responses, with dancers like Houston Ballet's Harper Watters and American Ballet Theatre's Erica Lall tagging the singer in submissions.

Below are a few of our favorites so far, but we're guessing that this is just the beginning. Ballet world, consider yourselves officially challenged! (Use #LizzoBalletChallenge so we know what you're up to.)

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Courtesy Baytos

There's a type of dance you've never heard of: It's called "classical ballet." The progenitors included Mathilde Kschessinska, Vaslav Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova. The art form passed through generations from Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev to Mikhail Baryshnikov. It continues in our own time—Misty Copeland!

It would be far-fetched, even absurd, to hear that in a lecture today! But that is how revelatory "The Choreography of Comedy: The Art of Eccentric Dance" was, at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles on August 5.

The evening program rediscovered a once-flourishing, but critically undervalued dance genre with deep historic roots. Betsy Baytos, an eccentric-dance expert and leading connoisseur of the loose-limbed, rubbery, out-of-joint, prat-fallish, snake-hipped and peg-legged, hosted and curated.

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Thom Yorke in Anima

Tunneling through the labyrinth of Prague's underground transport system, a subway car is packed full of dreamy-eyed commuters. Drifting between states of sleep and consciousness, the somber-clad workers perform a mechanical dance of nodding heads and drooping shoulders.

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, who executes the same choreography as his fellow travelers, struggles to make a connection with a female passenger danced by Dajana Roncione (Yorke's partner in real life).

The opening images of the new short film Anima, now on Netflix, are playful yet dystopian, accompanied by a soundtrack of electro beats and Yorke's dronelike vocals that are sourced from three songs on his latest solo album of the same name. But there are no vain attempts to link the singer to his music by mouthing the words on camera. Instead, he portrays an unnamed protagonist in a loosely woven narrative performed through dance.

Inspired by silent cinema, Anima recalls an era when screen actors were strongly encouraged to hone their dance skills for stories told through the body.

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NBCUniversal

Jellicle obsessives, rejoice: There's a new video out that offers a (surprisingly substantive) look at the dancing that went down on the set of the new CATS movie.

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Dancers Trending
Robbie Fairchild in a still from In This Life, directed by Bat-Sheva Guez. Photo courtesy Michelle Tabnick PR

Back when Robbie Fairchild graced the cover of the May 2018 issue of Dance Magazine, he mentioned an idea for a short dance film he was toying around with. That idea has now come to fruition: In This Life, starring Fairchild and directed by dance filmmaker Bat-Sheva Guez, is being screened at this year's Dance on Camera Festival.

While the film itself covers heavy material—specifically, how we deal with grief and loss—the making of it was anything but: "It was really weird to have so much fun filming a piece about grief!" Fairchild laughs. We caught up with him, Guez and Christopher Wheeldon (one of In This Life's five choreographers) to find out what went into creating the 11-minute short film.

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Jamie Smed via Wikimedia Commons

Congratulations to the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team for their epic World Cup dominance! Now that the tournament is over and we're basking in all the patriotic feminist glory, we decided to do the only thing that made sense to us as soccer-obsessed dancers: Decide what kind of dancers the USWNT players would be if they made sudden and drastic career changes.

We've been watching their technique closely for weeks now, and have come up with what we're pretty sure is a definitive and highly accurate list:

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Pop Culture
WWE diva "Naomi" in the ring. Photo via wwe.com

Although the dance world has its fair share of divas, there is a different type of diva that's coming out of the dance studio.

"Diva" is the coined term for a female professional wrestler in the World Wrestling Entertainment organization. More than a few dancers—as well as gymnasts and cheerleaders—have taken their training and applied it to successful careers in this comical yet physically grueling art form.

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Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman. Photo courtesy Paramount Pictures

Rocketman is not your typical biopic. The film charts Elton John's rise to fame and the construction of his beloved, audacious persona in the only way that could be appropriate for the subject: via a splashy, fantastical movie musical bursting with over-the-top production numbers. We chatted with Adam Murray, the British choreographer who worked with director Dexter Fletcher and star Taron Egerton, to find out how they made the magic happen. As Murray puts it, "It was like being in the best sweets shop ever, with all of these creative geniuses."

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Pop Culture
David Knight

Mumford & Sons' banjoist and lead guitarist Winston Marshall used to consider himself someone who "vaguely appreciated" dance. But then, about a year ago, he saw Yeman Brown improvise to Beyoncé's "Halo."

"My heart went into my throat and I was quite literally moved to tears," he says. "It stole my breath away. I didn't know dance could make you feel that way."

That moment—which occurred during a video shoot at choreographer Kristin Sudeikis' Forward Space in New York City—not only changed Marshall's relationship to dance, but his relationship to music, he says. It also inspired Mumford & Sons' newest video, "Woman," choreographed by Sudeikis and featuring Brown and dancer Stephanie Crousillat, and debuting here on dancemagazine.com:

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A still from "Fosse/Verdon." Michael Parmalee/FX

When you're talking about a style as distinct as Fosse, a flick of the wrist or a roll of the hip is never just that. It takes intention, finesse, exactness and, of course, that characteristically smoldering sex appeal.

Now that the finale of "Fosse/Verdon" has aired, FX is taking viewers behind the scenes to reveal how the dancing came together—and it wasn't just a quick reconstruction.

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Pop Culture
Unity Phelan in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. Photo by Niko Tavernise, Courtesy FRANK PR

"New York City Ballet star appears in a Keanu Reeves action movie" is not a sentence we ever thought we'd write. But moviegoers seeing John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum will be treated to two scenes featuring soloist Unity Phelan dancing choreography by colleague Tiler Peck. The guns-blazing popcorn flick cast Phelan as a ballerina who also happens to be training to become an elite assassin. Opens in theaters May 17.

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