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Dance Magazine Contributors Spill on Their Dance Favorite Moments of 2017

The Museum Workout, PC Paula Lobo

Liveliest Revival: Merce Cunningham's Sounddance

Ballet de Lorraine in Sounddance. PC Laurent Philippe, Courtesy Richard Kornberg & Associates


When Ballet de Lorraine came to The Joyce Theater in February, the dancers looked transformed—electrified—by the final work on the program. The piece was Merce Cunningham's Sounddance, a tour-de-force from 1975 in which the dancers ricochet about the stage without stopping for 17 minutes. The audience held its breath until it was over. Then in June the Merce Cunningham Trust staged Sounddance in New York City with young dancers from Juilliard, Purchase, Ailey and other programs. The results received a whooping ovation. Almost a decade since Cunningham's death, the work's propulsive power is undimmed. —Marina Harss, writer

Most Versatile Soloist: Aakash Odedra

Aakash Odedra. PC Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow

Aakash Odedra slipped into the Doris Duke Theater at Jacob's Pillow this summer with a solo debut show called Rising, an apt way to describe his career momentum. Odedra is both a virtuosic kathak dancer and a smart curator, as he assembled works by global iconoclasts Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Akram Khan and Russell Maliphant, revealing a protean ability to enter each dancemaker's world. Odedra opened the show with a stripped down kathak piece, showing off his attention to rhythm, shape and the malleability of tradition. To witness his extremely light and un-muscled approach throughout the evening proved an astonishing experience. —Nancy Wozny, writer

Most Powerful Documentary: Bronx Gothic

Bronx Gothic. Courtesy Grasshopper Film

Bronx Gothic, directed by Andrew Rossi and based on Okwui Okpokwasili's performance of the same name, grants the choreographer and performer's audience intimate access into her process, including her family life and the struggles and triumphs of being a mother. The film is a reminder that in order to produce meaningful dance, you have to dig deeper than you might anticipate during the initial planning. There is so much power that drives Okpokwasili's work, and Bronx Gothic lets us see the blood, sweat and tears that go into that. —Kelsey Grills, assistant editor, audience engagement

Most Surprising Performance: Catherine Hurlin in Whipped Cream

Hurlin in Whipped Cream. PC Doug Gifford, Courtesy ABT

In Alexei Ratmansky's fantastical Whipped Cream, American Ballet Theatre's Catherine Hurlin was just as bubbly as the champagne she represented. Until this spring's premiere, the crisp technician was known for her more polite performances, but here she was vivacious, fun, enticing. In a show that's full of visual spectacle, I kept being drawn back to Hurlin's antics. Who knew this corps dancer had such comedic flair? —Madeline Schrock, managing editor

Best Non-Dancing on Broadway: Come From Away, Indecent and Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812

Indecent. PC Carol Rosegg, Courtesy Connecticut College

The line separating choreography from musical staging became thinner in 2017. Three musicals put non-dancers front and center and made them look like experts. The actual experts were Kelly Devine, David Dorfman and Sam Pinkleton, expanding Broadway choreography with ordinary moves used in extraordinary ways. Their exuberant dances in Come From Away, Indecent and Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 were utterly distinctive and impossible to extricate from their contexts—a Newfoundland town caught up in the aftermath of 9/11, Jewish actors re-enacting history and a boisterous rendition of War and Peace. —Sylviane Gold, On Broadway columnist

Most Relevant Ballet: Justin Peck's The Times Are Racing

The Times Are Racing. PC Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB

The Times Are Racing is a sneaker ballet in the Robbins tradition with the choreographic inside jokes typical of Justin Peck's work. But it's also wholly contemporary and undeniably reflective of the world we live in now. I loved that the leads were created to be gender neutral, that Peck danced in the original cast and that his duet with Robert Fairchild anchored the ballet. But mostly I loved how recognizable it was as a creative 20-something living in New York City: the anxiety, the friendships, the solidarity, the individuality. —Courtney Escoyne, assistant editor

Zaniest Idea That Totally Worked: Monica Bill Barnes' The Museum Workout

The Museum Workout. PC Paula Lobo, Courtesy Metropolitan Museum

The Museum Workout could have just been a fun gimmick. But Monica Bill Barnes & Company's aerobic journey through the Metropolitan Museum of Art felt not only subversive, but surprisingly poignant. By breaking the rules of expected conduct—doing squats to the Bee Gees while looking at Madame X instead of quietly discussing it with companions—this project made me rethink the whole museum experience, and even wonder what other parts of my life could be improved with some cardio. —Jennifer Stahl, editor in chief

Most Successful Ballet as Theater: Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire. PC Andy Ross, Courtesy Scottish Ballet

The Scottish Ballet's production of A Streetcar Named Desire made its West Coast premiere in Los Angeles in May, and Tennessee Williams' classic play came to life with all the poetry and tragedy that ballet demonstrates in peak form. By collaborating with theater director Nancy Heckler, choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa wove a complex portrait of Blanche Dubois, including her vital backstory. It's an idea for a ballet that could have gone wrong in every way, but instead emerged brilliantly with the luminous Eve Mutso as the ill-fated protagonist. This production, led by women, shed a light on a 20th-century play from a 21st-century feminist perspective. —Joseph Carman, writer

Boldest Site-Specific Performance: Solange's An Ode To

Solange's An Ode To. PC Carys Huws, Courtesy Red Bull Content Pool

Recording artist and indie music world icon Solange's An Ode To in the Guggenheim Museum's rotunda was nothing short of magical. She demanded that we be fully present the moment we entered the room, having all phones checked at the door and requesting that audience members wear white. Solange's own choreography—performed by an army of black women and occasionally by her super-groovy band—at some points felt like an homage to Trisha Brown. But at other moments, she completely let loose, twerking on the floor, sprinting through the audience. It was beyond special to see postmodern dance used by a high-profile artist in a way that made it an essential partner to the music and the experience. —Lauren Wingenroth, assistant editor

Most Exciting Debut: Sarah Lane in Giselle

Lane in Giselle. PC Erin Baiano, Courtesy ABT

Sarah Lane seemingly did the impossible by making a 19th-century ballet feel completely fresh and modern—and during her New York City debut as Giselle, no less. She was technically pristine, with jumps that soared and arabesque lines held until the last second. Her acting was equally impressive: From starry-eyed innocence, as she falls in love with Albrecht, to heart-wrenching devastation when she learns of his engagement and later protects him from the wilis, Lane swept the audience into the story along with her. —Marissa DeSantis, assistant editor

Find out what Dance Magazine readers chose as their favorite performances of the year here.

Cover Story
Alice Sheppard photographed by Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine

It can be hard to focus when Alice Sheppard dances.

Her recent sold-out run of DESCENT at New York Live Arts, for instance, offered a constellation of stimulation. Onstage was a large architectural ramp with an assortment of peaks and planes. There was an intricate lighting and projection design. There was a musical score that unfolded like an epic poem. There was a live score too: the sounds of Sheppard and fellow dancer Laurel Lawson's bodies interacting with the surfaces beneath them.

And there were wheelchairs. But if you think the wheelchairs are the center of this work, you're missing something vital about what Sheppard creates.

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Breaking Stereotypes
Omar Román De Jesús in rehearsal with Joffrey Academy trainees. Photo by Todd Rosenberg

So far, the fervor to create diversity in ballet has primarily focused on dancers. Less attention has been paid to the work that they'll encounter once they arrive.

Yet the cultivation of ballet choreographers of color (specifically black choreographers) through traditional pathways of choreographic training grounds remains virtually impossible. No matter how you slice it, we end up at the basic issues that plague the pipeline to the stage: access and privilege.

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Dancer Voices
Yuka Oba, Ednis Ariel Gomez Mallol and Connie Flachs in Swing by Olivier Wevers. Photo by Ryan Jackson, courtesy Flachs

"I'm sorry, but I just can't possibly give you the amount of money you're asking for."

My heart sinks at my director's final response to my salary proposal. She insists it's not me or my work, there is just no money in the budget. My disappointment grows when handed the calendar for Grand Rapids Ballet's next season with five fewer weeks of work.

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Dancers Trending
"Off Kilter" has real dancers playing dancers. Still courtesy CBC Arts

"It just...always looks better in my head."

While that might not be something any of us would want to hear from a choreographer, it's a brilliant introduction to "Off Kilter" and the odd, insecure character at its center, Milton Frank. The ballet mockumentary (think "The Office" or "Parks and Recreation," but with pointe shoes) follows Frank (dancer-turned-filmmaker Alejandro Alvarez Cadilla) as he comes back to the studio to try his hand at choreographing for the first time since a plagiarism scandal derailed his fledgling career back in the '90s.

We've been pretty excited about the series for a while, and now the wait is finally over. The first episode of the show, "The Denial," went live earlier today, and it's every bit as awkward, hilarious and relatable as we hoped.

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Dance on Broadway
We suspect it will be...a thriller. Giphy

Christopher Wheeldon is going to be giving Michael Jackson some new moves: The Royal Ballet artistic associate is bringing the King of Pop to Broadway.

The unlikely pairing was announced today by Jackson's estate. Wheeldon will serve as both director and choreographer for the new musical inspired by Michael Jackson's life, which is aiming for a 2020 Broadway opening. This will be Wheeldon's second time directing and choreographing, following 2015's Tony Award-winning An American in Paris.

Wheeldon is a surprising choice, to say the least. There are many top choreographers who worked with Jackson directly, like Wade Robson and Brian Friedman, who could have been tapped for the project. Or the production could have even hired someone who actually choreographed on Jackson when he was alive, like Buddha Stretch.

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Popular
Stagestep's Encore hardwood flooring for full-service broadcast production facility, dance center and venue, Starwest, in Burbank, CA.

What is the right flooring system for us?

So many choices, companies, claims, endorsements, and recommendations to consider. The more you look, the more confusing it gets. Here is what you need to do. Here is what you need to know to get the flooring system suited to your needs.

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Dance on Broadway
In rehearsal for Dreamgirls. Photo Courtesy DM Archives.

Broadway musicals have been on my mind for more than half a century. I discovered them in grade school, not in a theater but electronically. On the radio, every weeknight an otherwise boring local station would play a cast album in its entirety; on television, periodically Ed Sullivan's Sunday night variety show would feature an excerpt from the latest hit—numbers from Bye Bye Birdie, West Side Story, Camelot, Flower Drum Song.

But theater lives in the here and now, and I was in middle school when I attended my first Broadway musical, Gypsy—based, of all things, on the early life of the famed burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee. I didn't know who Jerome Robbins was, but I recognized genius when I saw it—kids morphing into adults as a dance number progresses, hilarious stripping routines, a pas de deux giving concrete shape to the romantic yearnings of an ugly duckling. It proved the birth of a lifelong habit, indulged for the last 18 years in the pages of this magazine. But all long runs eventually end, and it's time to say good-bye to the "On Broadway" column. It's not the last of our Broadway coverage—there's too much great work being created and performed, and you can count on hearing from me in print and online.

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It's already on its way to legendary status. (screenshot via YouTube)

Let's start with the obvious: Over the weekend, Beyoncé and Jay-Z released a joint album, Everything Is Love. Bey and Jay also dropped a video for the album's lead track, which they filmed inside the actual Louvre museum in Paris (as one does, when one is a member of the Carter family). And the vid features not only thought-provoking commentary on the Western art tradition, but also some really incredible dancing.

So, who choreographed this epic? And who are the dancers bringing it to life in those already-iconic bodystockings?

Read the full story at dancespirit.com.

Popular

Travis Wall draws inspiration from dancers Tate McCrae, Timmy Blankenship and more.

One often-overlooked relationship that exists in dance is the relationship between choreographer and muse. Recently two-time Emmy Award Winner Travis Wall opened up about his experience working with dancers he considers to be his muses.

"My muses in choreography have evolved over the years," says Wall. "When I'm creating on Shaping Sound, our company members, my friends, are my muses. But at this current stage of my career, I'm definitely inspired by new, fresh talent."

Wall adds, "I'm so inspired by this new generation of dancers. Their teachers have done such incredible jobs, and I've seen these kids grown up. For many of them, I've had a hand in their exposure to choreography."

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News
MADBOOTS DANCE in MASC. Photo by Scott Shaw, Courtesy Richard Kornberg & Associates

This week, New York City's Joyce Theater presents two companies addressing LGBTQ+ issues.

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Dance Training
Kerollis and students in his 8-week Absolute Beginner Workshop at Broadway Dance Center

When most people think of dance students, they imagine lithe children and teenagers waltzing around classrooms with their legs lifted to their ears. It doesn't often cross our minds that dance training can involve an older woman trying to build strength in her body to ward off balance issues, or a middle-aged man who didn't have the confidence to take a dance class as a boy for fear of bullying.

Anybody can begin to learn dance at any age. But it takes a particular type of teacher to share our art form with dancers who have few prospects beyond fun and fitness a few nights a week.

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News
Gina Gibney's organization has grown invaluable to the NYC dance scene. Photo by Scott Shaw, Courtesy Gibney

New York City–based dancers know Gibney. It's a performance venue, a dance company, a rehearsal space, an internship possibility—a Rubik's Cube of resources bundled into two sites at 280 and 890 Broadway. And in March of this year, Gibney (having officially dropped "Dance" from its name) announced a major expansion of its space and programming; it now operates a total of 52,000 square feet, 23 studios and five performance spaces across the two locations.

Six of those studios and one performance space are brand-new at the 280 Broadway location, along with several programs. EMERGE will commission new works by emerging choreographic voices for the resident Gibney Dance Company each year; Making Space+ is an extension of Gibney's Making Space commissioning and presenting program, focused on early-career artists. For the next three years, the Joyce Theater Foundation's artist residency programs will be run out of one of the new Gibney studios, helping to fill the gap left by the closing of the Joyce's DANY Studios in 2016.

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Health & Body
Jay Sullivan Photography, courtesy Julie Granger

Dancers crossing over into the fitness realm may be increasingly popular, but it was never part of French-born Julie Granger's plan. Though Granger grew up a serious ballet student, taking yoga classes on the side eventually led to a whole new career. Creating her own rules along the way, Granger shares how combining the skills she learned in ballet with certifications in yoga, barre and personal training allowed her to become her own boss (and a rising fitness influencer).

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