Dance in 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.

Dance in Pop Culture
Indya Moore as Angel in "Pose." Photo by JoJo Whilden, Courtesy FX

Last summer, the FX television series "Pose" served us a debut season which, over eight episodes, grew from a splashy echo of the seminal vogueing documentary Paris Is Burning into an affecting portrait of one of the most marginalized, most vulnerable, most creative communities in New York City in the late 1980s.

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Dance on Broadway
Screenshot from Bathtubs Over Broadway, via YouTube

"Life can be so rich and wonderful when we step off the logical path and embark on eccentric adventures."

For a sentiment that sounds like it belongs in a fortune cookie, you'd never expect that Steve Young is actually referencing a subset of offbeat, secret musicals: Shows about toilets and tractors and dog food and cars. Shows with big names, like Bob Fosse attached, and even bigger Broadway-style budgets. Shows that were never seen by the public.

These musicals are the subject of Bathtubs Over Broadway, the Tribeca Film Festival–winning documentary that begins streaming on Netflix today.

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Dance in Pop Culture
Courtesy Boston Calling

Twenty One Pilots, Janelle Monáe, Tame Impala, Boston Ballet.

One of these things is not like the others.

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Including co-host Lady Gaga (via Instagram)

Last night's Met Gala featured, as always, oodles of celebs in deliciously over-the-top ensembles. And since editorial fashion always looks better in motion, Vogue (which hosts the bash) brought in Sherrie Silver to choreograph videos starring some of the gala's biggest names.

Silver—the mastermind behind Childish Gambino's "This Is America" video—kept the movement simple but 1000 percent in line with the gala's "camp" theme. The resulting videos are delightfully weird. Bette Midler does the swim to a Cher soundtrack! Lady Gaga swoons in a sculpture gallery! Jared Leto tenderly fondles a model of his own head!

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Dancers Trending
From left: via jonahbokaer.net; via Wikimedia Commons

Contemporary dance world darling Jonah Bokaer takes his work very seriously, and it shows. Highly focused on craft and unconstrained by the traditional definition of a choreographer, the former Cunningham dancer has developed dance apps, pioneered new relationships between visual art and dance, and worked with collaborators as illustrious as Pharrell Williams.

But fans of his heady, intellectual work may be surprised by a recent project that he calls one of the most rewarding of his life: Choreographing for Team USA ice dance pair Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter. Bokaer was introduced to the pair by the mother of one of his company's supporters, who just happens to be an Olympic ice skating judge.

We talked to Bokaer—who, true to form, takes his work for the ice incredibly seriously, too—about what it was like to go back to basics as a non-skater, and why he thinks skating is even more technical than ballet:

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Dance in Pop Culture
In a still from The White Crow, Rudolf Nureyev (Oleg Ivenko) looks out over Paris from the roof of the Palais Garnier. Photo courtesy Sony Pictures Classics

I caught a preview screening of The White Crow earlier this week at New York City's 92Y, and I have to say: Even with a solid grasp of dance history and a smattering of film studies knowledge, I had some questions when the credits rolled. The Ralph Fiennes–directed Rudolf Nureyev biopic dramatizes the events leading up to the ballet star's famous defection from the Soviet Union, touching on incidents from his childhood and his years at the Leningrad Choreographic School.

So before you check out the film (which has a limited release in NYC and Los Angeles today), here are a few details that might be helpful to know.

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Dance in Pop Culture
Michelle Williams as Gwen Verdon. Photo by Eric Liebowitz/FX Networks

You can see them in "Fosse/Verdon" episode one. Michelle Williams, playing Gwen Verdon, wears them with a cool, retro, forest-green jumpsuit. Tucked beneath a mop top of tousled Gwen Verdon locks, Williams sports a pair of discreet and tasteful onyx drop-earrings—the dancer's favorites. Verdon wore them all her adult life, according to her daughter Nicole Fosse, a co-executive producer of the FX series that puts a spotlight on a great woman of American dance.

"I have very little memory of my mother wearing other earrings. They were her Gwen Verdon earrings," says Fosse, speaking by phone from her home in Vermont. "She's wearing them in 99 percent of the pictures of her performing."

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Dance in Pop Culture
Carlos Acosta in a still from Yuli. Photo by Denise Guerra, Courtesy Janet Stapleton

Since the project was first announced toward the end of 2017, we've been extremely curious about Yuli. The film, based on Carlos Acosta's memoir No Way Home, promised as much dancing as biography, with Acosta appearing as himself and dance sequences featuring his eponymous Cuba-based company Acosta Danza. Add in filmmaking power couple Icíar Bollaín (director) and Paul Laverty (screenwriter), and you have a recipe for a dance film unlike anything else we've seen recently.

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Dancers Trending
Hamrick rehearsing Port Rouge in St. Petersburg. Photo courtesy Hamrick

Choosing music for your first-ever choreography commission can feel daunting enough. But when you're asked to create a ballet using the vast discography of the Rolling Stones—and you happen to be dating Stones frontman Mick Jagger—the stakes are even higher.

So it's understandable that as of Monday, American Ballet Theatre corps de ballet dancer Melanie Hamrick, whose Port Rouge will have its U.S. premiere tonight at the Youth America Grand Prix gala, was still torn about which songs to include.

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Dance in Pop Culture
Courtesy MPRM Communications

A bright disposition with a dab of astringent charm is how I remember Brock Hayhoe, a National Ballet School of Canada schoolmate. Because we were a couple years apart, we barely brushed shoulders, except at the odd Toronto dance party where we could dance all night with mutual friends letting our inhibitions subside through the music. Dancing always allows a deeper look.

But, as my late great ballet teacher Pyotr Pestov told me when I interviewed him for Dance Magazine in 2009, "You never know what a flower is going to look like until it opens up."

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Dance in Pop Culture
Michael Parmalee/FX

It's a bit of an understatement to say that Bob Fosse was challenging to work with. He was irritable, inappropriate and often clashed with his collaborators in front of all his dancers. Fosse/Verdon, which premieres on FX tonight, doesn't sugarcoat any of this.

But for Sasha Hutchings, who danced in the first episode's rendition of "Big Spender," the mood on set was quite opposite from the one that Fosse created. Hutchings had already worked with choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, who she calls "a dancer's dream," director Tommy Kail and music director Alex Lacamoire as a original cast member in Hamilton, and she says the collaborators' calm energy made the experience a pleasant one for the dancers.

"Television can be really stressful," she says. "There's so many moving parts and everyone has to work in sync. With Tommy, Andy and Lac I never felt the stress of that as a performer."

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Dance in Pop Culture
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

If you're like me and have sobbed through every episode of "This Is Us" since the show premiered back in 2016, you might have been taken aback when a ballet plot was introduced absolutely out of nowhere earlier this season.

We'd gotten to know the fictional Pearson family pretty well by that point, though we hadn't yet explored Beth's past as exhaustively as we had that of her husband Randall, and his siblings Kevin and Kate.

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Dancers Trending
A still from Girl. Courtesy Netflix

Before she watched her life play out on screen, transgender dancer Nora Monsecour never felt she could truly connect with a character in a film.

And though Girl—which was released on Netflix today after being highly awarded at the Cannes Film Festival last year—isn't a biography, "the essence of the story is the same," says Monsecour. "A trans girl with a big dream, finding the strength to pursue this career. It was very emotional to watch. It's very strange when you recognize yourself so closely."

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Dance in Pop Culture
Rudolf Nureyev. Courtesy Spotlight Cinema Networks.

What's better than one film about Rudolf Nureyev? Two films about Rudolf Nureyev!

We're excited to share that a feature-length documentary titled Nureyev is slated to make its North American premiere next month. Nureyev will be shown in major U.S. cities starting April 19, giving you just enough time time to brush up on your Nureyev history before the Ralph Fiennes directed biopic, The White Crow, hits U.S. theaters on April 26.

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