Our 2018 Cover Stars Shared Their Biggest Hopes for the Year Ahead
It's that time again: Everyone's looking at the year to come and thinking about what they might want to get out of it.
So we asked our cover stars from Dance Magazine's 2018 issues what they're hoping for. Their answers spanned everything from more growth and more touring, to more family time and more rest.
Emma Portner, October
"I would like to be directed by, work for and collaborate with others much more. To 'be my own boss' much less. I hope to perform. I will continue starting an organic farming operation and I will build my forever studio space on a river (that is not a joke). I will start acting. I will continue working on my mental and physical health in order to sustain my career. Mostly, I hope to be healthier so that I can keep up with the demands of my dreams."
Adji Cissoko, December
"I'm so grateful for my family and my boyfriend who have been supporting me from afar while I'm living my dream in California, dancing with LINES Ballet and seeing the world. So I'm excited our 2019 touring schedule includes multiple trips to Germany, which means my family and friends will get to see me perform.
"My goal is to keep growing as an artist and as a person, which go hand-in-hand really. I'm happy and proud of my achievements so far, but I know there's always more and further to go and I can't wait to start another year of curious exploring."
Alice Sheppard, July
"Some years are so wonder-filled that they could not be imagined and wished for at all: 2018 was one. I am hesitant to dream ahead for 2019. It's almost as if naming something jinxes it. And yet for all of the magic moments of 2018, I do want 2019 to be different. I hope for space and time to think, breathe and work differently onstage and in the world. I am reducing some of my work commitments so that I can spend more time being human. I lost touch with people I care about; I am actively making sure that doesn't happen again. I am also giving myself the personal challenge of learning new and non-dance-specific things. I've been horse riding horses now for several years; I find it simultaneously exhilarating and restoring. This year, I want to learn to jump. I'm also giving myself space and time to build my resilience. I don't know how to change the world, but I do know that the first step is to enhance my skill set by sharing what I know and learning from others. I am curious to see how these joys and learnings will affect my creative practice."
Leal Zielińska and Erica Lall, January
Leal Zielińska: "2018, to me, has been a year full of surprises and nurturing opportunities. I've received a tremendous amount, all for which I am continuously grateful. Moving forward, aside from tackling the everyday pleasures and challenges of dancing full-time, I'm creating an advocacy project under the wings of Gibney Dance Company. It's been a goal of mine for a while, and now I'm finally empowered to act, focusing on mental health and how we as dance artists address it. It's something I'm very passionate about, and I can't wait to see my efforts around it flourish in the new year!"
Erica Lall: "Because I lived on my own from the age of 15 and started my professional career when I joined American Ballet Theatre at 17, there is a lot that I would like to achieve in 2019 in the area of rounding out the person that I am. I hope the new year brings me many opportunities to enrich my mind and soul with knowledge and wisdom to take me forward into my 21st year and the years ahead as a better person who is ready for the bends and twists of my path, ready to serve, and able to shine my light even brighter to my audiences.
"I also hope that we can, as a nation, find more love for one another and have greater appreciation of our differences in all aspects of life."
James Whiteside, August
"I'd like 2019 to be a year of creative expression, opportunity and growth. I want to find new ways to give back to the dance world for all it's given me. I'm going to be making new music as my alter ego, JBDUBS, and exploring choreography in a way I have not been able to in the past. Most importantly, I'd like to dance often and well, in New York City and around the world. I'd love to be a guest artist at The Royal Ballet in London or the Paris Opéra Ballet in Paris. Don't dream it, BE IT!"
Camille A. Brown, April
"I want to lift up my community! My dancers, musicians and administrative staff are also choreographers, teachers, educators, composers and directors. With all of their workload, they still give so much to my company and are a solid foundation for me. May all of their wildest dreams come true in 2019!
"Personally, I want to continue to listen, love, learn and always stay true to myself. To continue building stamina, courage and strength. To keep self-care at the top of my priority list as I climb the hills leading to my goals! Cheers to 2019! Let's do this!"
Laura Halzack, February
"As 2018 comes to a close I can't help but first feel especially humbled and grateful to be a part of the Taylor family. We lost our fearless and ever-inventive leader this year. Losing Mr. Taylor has made me feel even more connected to his beautiful canon and to the incredible individuals that I get to share this dance journey with.
"My first wish for 2019 is to continue to find an even deeper courage to explore the plethora of emotional and physical nuances in Mr. Taylor's work. I hope the joy that my colleagues and I feel engaging in this creative and sacred process continues to honor his work for years to come and bring joy to audiences old and new.
"Beyond that, I hope for 2019 to be a year filled with more love, more tolerance, more generosity of spirit and less hate. I hope that our incredible dance community will have opportunities to continue to be at the forefront of being positive, provocative and proactive as we all seek happiness in a hopefully more tolerant world."
Jason Samuels Smith, June
"I would love to see the Super Villainz (Jason, Dormeshia and Derick) do a tour of some sort, teaching and performing together. There is a lot of talent in the pool of tap dance that extends beyond just dance—I would love to see more dancers, including myself, writing more stories. I want to personally record more tap dance as music and begin being more of a presence in the recording world.
"I am also working on a new show, and planning to launch a new youth company in the near future. There is a lot of work to do, but it's exciting to continue to collaborate and work on new projects and visualize another phase for tap dance for 2019."
Robbie Fairchild, May
"My hope for the year ahead is that we stop living in our phones so much. Social media can be toxic if it's not kept at a balance. I believe class and performances are more important than your social media posts. No matter how many followers you have or how many likes you get on a post, the only lasting validation you can get is from yourself. Let's all love ourselves a bit more and be our own cheerleaders this year. If we love and support ourselves we can love and support those around us better."
Last night, longtime theater legends (including Chita Rivera herself!) as well as rising stars gathered to celebrate one of Broadway's danciest events: the third annual Chita Rivera Awards.
The evening paid tribute to this season's dancer standouts, fabulous ensembles, and jaw-dropping choreography—on- and off-Broadway and on film.
As usual, several of our faves made it into the mix. (With such a fabulous talent pool of nominees to choose from, we're glad that ties were allowed.) Here are the highlights from the winner's list:
The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.
When you're a foreign dancer, gaining legal rights to work in the U.S. is a challenging process. It's especially difficult if you're petitioning to work as a freelance dancer without an agent or company sponsorship.
The process requires professional muscle along with plenty of resources and heart. "There's a real misnomer that it's super easy," says Neena Dutta, immigration attorney and president of Dutta Law Firm. "People need to educate themselves and talk to a professional."
Here are four things every foreign dancer who wants to work in the U.S. needs to know to build a freelance dance career here.
What does it take to "make it" in dance? It's no secret that turning this passion into a profession can be a struggle. In such a competitive field, talent alone isn't enough to get you where you want to be.
So what kinds of steps can you take to become successful? Dance Magazine spoke to 33 people from all corners of the industry to get their advice on the lessons that could help us all, no matter where we are in our careers.
It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.
Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
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On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.
Memorial Day is notoriously one of Chicago's bloodiest weekends. Last year, 36 people were shot and seven died that weekend. In 2017 and 2016, the number of shootings was even higher.
When Garley "GiGi Tonyé" Briggs, a dance teacher and Chicago native, started noticing this pattern, she was preparing her second annual Memorial Day workshop for local youth.
The event's original aim was simple: "I wanted the youth of Chicago to have somewhere they could come and learn from different dancers and be off the streets on the South Side on this hot holiday," she says.
A recent trip I took to Nashville coincided with the NFL draft. As we drove into town, my Uber driver was a fount of information on the subject.
I learned that there are 32 NFL teams and that the draft takes place over seven rounds. That the team that did the poorest during the previous season gets first pick. That during an earlier event called the scouting combine, the teams assess college football players and figure out who they want.
There is also the veteran combine for "free agents"—players who have been released from their contracts or whose contracts have expired. They might be very good players, but their team needs younger members or ones with a certain skill set. All year round, experienced NFL scouts scan games across the country, checking out players and feeding that information back to the teams. Players' agents keep their eyes on opportunities for their clients which might be more rewarding.
While I sat in the traffic of 600,000 NFL fans I got thinking, is there something ballet could learn from football? Could a draft system improve young dancers' prospects and overall company caliber and contentment?
Despite what you might think, there's no reason for dancers to be afraid of bread.
"It's looked at as this evil food," says New York State–certified dietitian and former dancer Tiffany Mendell. But the truth is, unless you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, bread can be a healthy source of carbohydrates—our body's preferred fuel—plus fiber and vitamins.
The key is choosing your loaf wisely.
It can be hard to imagine life without—or just after—dance. Perhaps that's why we find it so fascinating to hear what our favorite dancers think they'd be doing if they weren't performing for a living.
We've been asking stars about the alternate career they'd like to try in our "Spotlight" Q&A series, and their answers—from the unexpected to the predictable—do not disappoint:
"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.
The Brooklyn-based choreographer Gillian Walsh is both obsessed with and deeply conflicted about dance. With her latest work, Fame Notions, May 17–19 at Performance Space New York, she seeks to understand what she calls the "fundamentally pessimistic or alienating pursuit" of being a dancer. Noting that the piece is "quiet and introverted," like much of her other work, she sees Fame Notions as one step in a larger project examining why dancers dance.
What does Mikhail Baryshnikov have to say to dancers starting their careers today? On Friday, he gave the keynote speech during the graduation ceremony for the inaugural class of the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance.
The heart of his message: Be generous.