Dance Matters: Fit for a King (of the Dance)

The Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Photo by RMA Photography, Courtesy SCFTA.



On California’s huge map, Costa Mesa forms a relative pinprick. But for the past 25 years, the Orange County city has been a beacon of international ballet, as world-class troupes perform at the House that Henry (Segerstrom) Built 45 miles south of L.A.

Segerstrom Center for the Arts, situated on a former lima bean field donated by the family of the 88-year-old real estate magnate, comprises four arts spaces, with the Orange County Museum of Art soon to join the campus. The heart of the complex is the 3,000-seat Segerstrom Hall, which was inaugurated in September 1986 and celebrates its 25th anniversary season this fall.

“We started with a strong commitment from the community and our board,” says executive vice president Judy Morr. “When Henry got involved, he made it fly.”

With its generous stage and fine sightlines, Segerstrom Hall represents the West Coast’s paramount house for dance. Under the leadership of Morr, one of the nation’s most sophisticated dance presenters, ABT has been a regular presence, and other biggies like NYCB, Paris Opéra Ballet, and the Royal have been frequent visitors, along with the Teatro alla Scala Ballet Company, Ballet Nacional de Cuba, Hamburg Ballet, and Aterballetto.

The Center has special ties with the Russians. The Kirov appeared the year the Berlin Wall fell, in 1989, and the Bolshoi and Eifman quickly followed. Today’s Russian-star–studded extravaganzas, co-produced by Ardani Artists and specially developed for the Center, have included “Diana Vishneva: Beauty in Motion” and “Kings of the Dance.”

The 2011–12 season features the world premiere of Ratmansky’s The Firebird for ABT, San Francisco Ballet, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and a new edition of “Kings.” The Access for All program allocates $10 tickets for selected shows, and community programs reach approximately 375,000 students each year.

“This Center has had a core of dance that grew up with the community. It’s been a community that has responded to the best. But I believe people cannot help but respond to dance,” says Morr.

Health & Body
Gettty Images

It's a cycle familiar to many: First, a striking image of a lithe, impossibly fit dancer executing a gravity-defying développé catches your eye on Instagram. You pause your scrolling to marvel, over and over again, at her textbook physique.

Inevitably, you take a moment to consider your own body, in comparison. Doubt and negative self-talk first creep, and then flood, in. "I'll never look like that," the voice inside your head whispers. You continue scrolling, but the image has done its dirty work—a gnawing sensation has taken hold, continually reminding you that your own body is inferior, less-than, unworthy.

It's no stretch to say that social media has a huge effect on body image. For dancers—most of whom already have a laser-focus on their appearance—the images they see on Instagram can seem to exacerbate ever-present issues. "Social media is just another trigger," says Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with the dancers of Atlanta Ballet. "And dancers don't need another trigger." In the age of Photoshop and filters, how can dancers keep body dysmorphia at bay?

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Dance on Broadway
Courtesy Boneau/Bryan-Brown

If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.

Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.

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What Dancers Eat
Lindsay Thomas

Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.

So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?

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Simon Soong, Courtesy DDT

When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.

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