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Why I Dance: Melissa Toogood
The reasons why I dance constantly shift and change. Sometimes gradually, sometimes all of a sudden. Sometimes the same reasons are all there, but their value changes from one day to the next.
Toogood in Pam Tanowitz‘s Heaven on One’s Head. Photo by Ian Douglas.
Dance is an art form that isn’t fixed. If no one is doing it, it doesn’t exist. Performances are sometimes memorable and sometimes forgotten. Each day is an opportunity to begin again, to reinvent yourself, to confront yourself. You’re never really done. Sometimes it’s hard, it hurts and I don’t feel like doing it anymore. But then I go to class anyway, and, so far, I’m always glad that I did.
As a child I loved to draw, make collages and build things. I played sports and was really good at math. I don’t ever remember not dancing. By the time I was a tween, I was staunchly protective of it. Dance wasn’t just what I did, it became who I was. Looking back now, it makes sense that dance was how I felt I could enter the world. I now draw with my limbs, my spine and my focus. But in dance I can redraw it, color and shade it differently each day. My love of sport stems from a passion for physical rigor and a deep competition with myself that I don’t necessarily want to have with others. My mathematical, problem-solving brain is fully expressed through space, energy, rhythm and navigating relationships with other bodies.
Both as a shy child and an anxious adult, movement has calmed me, centered me, excited me and brought my walls down. My whole life, dancing has been an honest exchange of humanity that has comforted me. I love the repetition of it, like a meditation. And to dance with someone is to really see them and to really let them see you. Live performance is deeply intimate. To be out there is exposing and therefore terrifying and thrilling.
“Dancer” is not the way I describe myself anymore. I’m a person who dances. It’s become less about perfection and more of a chance to play with who I am and what the audience thinks I am in each moment. It remains an excavation, a discovery, but I think—I hope—my dancing has become more layered and complicated. And more about sharing an experience.
Through the rigor of dance, I’ve realized something deeply human about myself: I’m both fallible and triumphant. Each day I’m confronted with my mortality but rejuvenated by my body’s resilience. Dancing allows me to feel deeply, and gives me the courage to share my strength and vulnerability.
Choreographer Sergio Trujillo asked the women auditioning for ensemble roles in his newest musical to arrive in guys' clothing—"men's suits, or blazers and ties," he says. He wasn't being kinky or whimsical. The entire ensemble of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical is female, playing men and women interchangeably as they unfold the history of the chart-busting, Grammy-winning, indisputable Queen of Disco.
Have a scroll through Agnes Muljadi's Instagram feed (@artsyagnes), and you'll notice that in between her ballet shots is a curated mix of lifestyle pics. So what exactly sets her apart from the other influencers you follow? Muljadi has made a conscious effort to only feature natural beauty products, sustainable fashion and vegan foods. With over 500k followers, her social strategy (and commitment to making ethical choices) is clearly a hit. Ahead, learn why Muljadi switched to a vegan lifestyle, and the surprising way it's helped her dance career.
When I wrote about my struggle with depression, and eventual departure from dance because of it, I expected criticism. I was prepared to be challenged. But much to my relief, and horror, dancers from all over the world responded with support and stories of solidarity. The most critical response I saw was this one:
"Dance isn't for everyone."
This may as well be a mantra in the dance world. We have become entrenched in the Darwinian notion that the emotionally weak will be weeded out. There is no room for them anyway.
The #MeToo movement has made its way to France's biggest ballet company.
An anonymous survey recently leaked to the French press revealed major turbulence at the Paris Opéra Ballet. The Straits Times reports that the survey was conducted by an internal group representing POB's dancers. In it, there are numerous claims of bullying, sexual harassment and management issues.
Nearly all of the dancers (132 out of 154) answered the questionnaire, but they didn't know it would be made public. (Around 100 of them later signed a statement saying they didn't consent to its release.)
He may not be a household name, but you probably know Brandon Stirling Baker's work. The 30-year-old has designed the lighting for most of Justin Peck's ballets—including Heatscape for Miami City Ballet, and the edgy The Times Are Racing for New York City Ballet—but also Jamar Roberts' new Members Don't Get Weary at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and a trio of Martha Graham duets for L.A. Dance Project.
He's been fascinated by lighting ever since he attended a public performing arts middle school in Sherman Oaks, California, where he had his first experiences lighting shows. He also has a background in music (he plays guitar and bass) and in drawing. Both, he says, are central to the way he approaches lighting dance.
Update: Due to an overwhelming response, the in-person audition has been moved to a larger location to accommodate more dancers. See details below.
For the first time in more than 10 years, Janet Jackson is holding an open audition for dancers.
Even better? You could land a spot in her #JTribe simply by posting a video on social media.
What does it take to become an international superstar? Carlos Acosta might have a few ideas.
At the Oxford Literary Festival earlier this month, the BBC sat down with Acosta to ask for his life lessons. His answers—which he says he will pass on to his kids one day—give incredible insight into how he's become such a beloved worldwide success.
The ballet world will converge on San Francisco this month for San Francisco Ballet's Unbound: A Festival of New Works, a 17-day event featuring 12 world premieres, a symposium, original dance films and pop-up events.
"Ballet is going through changes," says artistic director Helgi Tomasson. "I thought, What would it be like to bring all these choreographers together in one place? Would I discover some trends in movement, or in how they are thinking?"
Several weeks ago, Youth America Grand Prix announced that the lineup for tonight's Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow gala at Lincoln Center's Koch Theater would include Bolshoi Ballet principal Olga Smirnova and first soloist Jacopo Tissi. But an article in Page Six published last night states that Smirnova and Tissi were denied visas to enter the US.
YAGP organizers "believe the Department of Homeland Security's decision may be motivated by the myriad tensions between the superpowers," says the piece, noting that "Smirnova is so revered in Moscow that her treatment could create a Russian backlash."
Is it any surprise a world premiere by choreographer Uri Sands and musician Justin Vernon, both renowned for the profound beauty and gorgeous musicality of their work, immediately sold out? We're hungry for creative collaborations that take reflective deep dives into what constitutes our humanity—and then there's the undeniable cool factor. Nine members of TU Dance will perform alongside Bon Iver (Vernon's band) during the evening-length piece. Presented as part of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's Liquid Music Series. April 19–21. The work will also appear at the Hollywood Bowl Aug. 5. tudance.org.