Dance Magazine Awards 2014
This year we celebrate six extraordinary dance artists: American Ballet Theatre's Misty Copeland, Youth America Grand Prix's Larissa Saveliev, jazz master Luigi, American Tap Dance Foundation's Brenda Bufalino and Tony Waag, and choreographer Wayne McGregor.
Misty Copeland is more than a dancer. As an outspoken advocate for racial equality in ballet—and living proof of the possibilities—she's an icon.
Her story is by now familiar to Copeland's many fans: She began training at 13 after being discovered at a Boys & Girls Club in California. She was recognized as a prodigy almost instantly, and had her first performance with American Ballet Theatre just four years later.
Since then, she's become the first African-American soloist at ABT in over two decades, and she's used that distinction to become an ambassador for ballet: In the past year alone, she's starred in jaw-dropping ads for Under Armour, debuted as a guest judge on “So You Think You Can Dance" and published a memoir that's now being adapted into a feature film. She is also on the advisory committee of ABT's Project Plié diversity initiative, and spends her “free time" doing outreach at public schools and teaching master classes around the country.
“It's so easy to say my dream is to be the first female African-American principal at a major company," says Copeland. “But, really, my goal is to bring in a new crowd of people who are going to continue to support ballet even after I leave."
Despite her many projects, Copeland's classical career remains her primary commitment. On ABT's Australian tour this August, she made a highly acclaimed debut as Odette/Odile. “Performing Odette is something I never imagined I would do," she says. “I'm always preaching to young dancers of color to see every possibility for themselves. And yet, there's this subconscious thing ingrained in our brains that a white swan is just this ideal of a long, pale, thin Russian woman." Reviews praised her nuanced characterization, and her “ravishing" chemistry with her Prince Siegfried, Alexandre Hammoudi.
Copeland says the challenges of being an African-American ballet dancer change daily. Yet she's confident that race is an issue that will no longer be swept under the rug. “It's a conversation the ballet world has to face because it's gone beyond them," she says. She's thankful her high-profile projects have recently inspired the mass media to cover the topic—but she won't slow down until the major ballet schools are filled with more faces like hers.
With such relentless determination, it's easy to wonder if she ever has any downtime. “I try to take Sundays off," she says, then adds, “in the spring." —Jennifer Stahl
Above: Photo by Nathan Sayers for Pointe.
No nail polish, no jeans and no bangs. These rules were handed down from the Bolshoi management in the 1980s. But at least one teenage corps member didn't listen. Frustrated by the restraints, Larissa Saveliev was a rebel. She cut her hair, painted her nails and wore denim. In 1995 she and her husband, fellow Bolshoi dancer Gennadi Saveliev, came to the United States; three years later they co-founded Youth America Grand Prix, which has become the most successful student ballet competition in the world.
So, how did a teenage rebel from Soviet Russia become a mogul of international ballet?
“In Soviet times we didn't have video or YouTube," recalls Saveliev. Competitions were how the Bolshoi dancers found out about the ballet world outside of Russia. When Saveliev traveled to London on tour in 1994, she got a glimpse of the prosperity in the West. “That was a shock," she says, “like: 'Wow, we don't have anything like that!' "
When she and Gennadi first arrived in the U.S., they taught at a small ballet program at a jazz school in New Jersey. “I really fell in love with teaching," she says. But she noticed a dearth of big conventions where ballet teachers and students could share methods. She took a page from the jazz conventions like New York City Dance Alliance and European international ballet competitions to create a new entity.
Her teenage rebelliousness translated into a whirlwind of DIY energy. With Gennadi's help, she started YAGP in Boston, Washington, DC, Chicago, Los Angeles and Boca Raton. Today, it's expanded to include 14 cities in four countries, for a total of about 50,000 entries (many are repeat participants), with dancers earning $2 million in scholarships. More than 300 alumni now dance with top companies like American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet and Ballet West.
Saveliev is involved in every aspect of the operation. At one point last season, she watched 12-year-olds compete in Philadelphia while stealing looks at her laptop to see 9-year-olds live-streamed from Houston.
Her charisma—part blunt honesty, part sharp wit, all devotion to ballet training—is appreciated by parents and judges alike. She holds the names of myriad students in her head, and her keen eye matches many of them to the school that will best nurture their unique talent. John Selya, a frequent YAGP judge, has watched participants grow into top-notch professionals through the striving that Saveliev fosters. “YAGP is the real ballet academy of this country," he recently declared.
Yet YAGP is more than a competition or an academy. By commissioning new work, Saveliev has also developed the choreographic abilities of the likes of Marcelo Gomes and Emery LeCrone. And, to inspire the students, she has invited international figures to perform at the annual galas, giving American audiences their first glimpse of many superstars. Before joining ABT, Natalia Osipova, Ivan Vasiliev and Polina Semionova all made their New York debuts at YAGP. —Wendy Perron
Above: Saveliev teaching class in Southern California. Photo by Joe Toreno.
Brenda Bufalino and Tony Waag
An American Tap Dance Foundation event is bound to feature virtuosity in a variety of styles: cheeky song-and-dance duets, ensemble numbers brimming with up-and-comers, rhythmic solos paying tribute to tap's lineage and ingenious contemporary works drawing inspiration from all of the above. It's also sure to feature two individuals: Brenda Bufalino and Tony Waag.
Working together, with Bufalino serving as the resolute captain and Waag the bright beacon searching for new paths ahead, they have nurtured a thriving tap community in New York City. And they've held fast to their artistic mission, providing a home for dancers that's rooted in the rhythmic tap tradition yet expansive in its outlook.
ATDF began in 1986 as the American Tap Dance Orchestra, founded by Bufalino. She and her mentor Charles “Honi" Coles thought company work could be the antidote to tap's dilemma: Traditionally considered a soloist's form, tap was vulnerable to setbacks when individual stars fell out of favor. “We were trying to move tap dance from being a vaudeville act onto the concert stage," says Bufalino.
The ATDO toured extensively, often performing Bufalino's choreography, an enticing mix of sophisticated counterpoint melodies and lilting phrasing. (Two of her creations, Haitian Fight Song and Buff Loves Basie Blues, have since been honored with American Masterpiece grants from the National Endowment for the Arts).
Perhaps most important, ATDO provided a supportive creative environment. Although the group performed as an ensemble, each member's individual style was celebrated.
But in the 1990s, the ATDO fell victim to dwindling financial support. Waag, an original member—and an indefatigable optimist—launched Tap City, the New York City Tap Festival in 2001. In 2002, he relaunched the ATDO as the American Tap Dance Foundation, taking over as artistic and executive director. Bufalino became artistic mentor.
“This organization has been very successful at returning to its roots and reinspiring itself," Waag says. ATDF's many programs include concerts, choreography residencies and showcases. They have also built a comprehensive educational program founded on the Copasetics' rhythm tap canon.
Yet ATDF welcomes tappers of every stripe, a tribute to its original mission: inclusive, community-minded collaboration. “That is where Tony and I both have stood together," Bufalino says, “and are still standing." —Katie Rolnick
Above: Bufalino and Waag. Photo by Rachel Papo for Dance Teacher.
From lengthened reaches up to the sky to sultry walks with opposing shoulder angles, Luigi's trademarks can be found on the Broadway stage and TV screen alike. His classic jazz technique, born out of exercises aimed at healing himself after a devastating car accident in 1946, is now known world-over for its sophistication, elegance and sensuality. The gliding footwork, majestic épaulement and jazzy musicality are so imbued in classic jazz that, often, students don't even realize they've already learned Luigi's basics.
Originally Eugene Louis Faccuito, the Steubenville, Ohio, native was one of 11 children, and he started his career tapping and later singing in a touring orchestra act. After serving in the Navy during World War II, Luigi made his way to Hollywood, training with Bronislava Nijinska, Michel Fokine and Eugene Loring.
Upon waking from a coma after the car accident with one side of his body partially paralyzed, doctors telling him he'd never walk again, Luigi resolved to inhabit his now-trademark saying “Never stop moving." He practiced modern choreographer and eurythmic dancer Michio Ito's angular port de bras, which became the underpinning for his own technique, eventually morphing into the 24 arm motions dubbed L'urythmics. Back in the studio post-injury, Luigi worked on creating a stable second position that would help him regain balance, pressing down on an invisible barre—now a recognizable Luigi stance.
Soon, Luigi was dancing again, working in such films as An American in Paris and Annie Get Your Gun, before adding Broadway to his resumé. Eventually he opened Luigi's Jazz Centre in New York City. “When I first started to do exercises, I wanted to make sure I'd always be able to dance," says Luigi. “And, I wanted to teach it correctly."
Today, Luigi's classes are still filled with Broadway veterans (past students have included Barbra Streisand and Liza Minnelli, among others) and recreational dancers alike, and the immense value of his technique in creating balance, a center and style are obvious. Though his classes are now mostly taught by his invaluable assistant, teacher and dancer Francis Roach, Luigi is still very much involved, always maintaining a supervising eye. “The dancers still move the way I wanted to see it," Luigi says, his signature black leather cap perched on his head. “The sophistication of it, the beauty: To me it's just as elegant as when I started." —Lauren Kay
From top: Luigi in 1964 (2), photos by Jack Mitchell, Courtesy DM Archives; Watching a class today, photo by Lucas Chilczuk.
When Wayne McGregor burst onto the ballet scene in 2006, it was as a disarming outsider. Chroma, his landmark hit for The Royal Ballet, was an idiosyncratic shot of energy, all fast, quirky feats of hyper-articulation, plugged into the zeitgeist of the time with its White Stripes score and roots in scientific research. The ballet was in the deconstructivist tradition of William Forsythe, yet unlike anything else being created. In a matter of weeks, McGregor became the first non-ballet-trained choreographer in residence at The Royal.
It wasn't the first time the choreographer had come from left field to change dance from within. McGregor founded Random Dance in 1992, and began spinning original movement out of his unique body, mining its loose-jointed, alien-like quality. He drew inspiration from fields as apparently distant as cognitive science, medicine and digital technology, earning acclaim for the savvy results onstage. “Learning through the process of making is one of the most exciting things for me, and we do ourselves a big disservice in dance by saying it's a non-intellectualized art form," he says. “Actually, the relationship between the brain and the body is absolutely critical."
At the heart of his work is a desire to position dance into the wider world and foster collaboration, whether it's with anthropologists or rock singers. No venture is too lowbrow or highbrow. In 2012, he created a public dance with 1,000 participants for London's Olympic Games; this fall, he commuted from the set of a new Tarzan movie to New York Fashion Week, where he created an installation for Gareth Pugh.
Companies around the world, from the Mariinsky to Alvin Ailey, have embraced his work, with multiple productions of Chroma and 2008's Infra. McGregor has also nurtured budding choreographers at The Royal Ballet and Random Dance, taking them out to see performances in other genres or meet artists. “I think one of the great aspirations in creativity is difference, and what is asked for in training is often sameness."
His own work shows astonishing creative facility. In 2015, he will tackle his first full-length ballet for The Royal, Woolf Works, and Random Dance will gain a new building with a “huge capacity for technology" in London's former Olympic Park, designed as a creation space and innovation hub. The outsider has arrived, and his imagination shows no signs of running dry. —Laura Cappelle
From top: McGregor with composer Dustin O'Halloran; McGregor rehearsing Atomos. Photos by Ravi Deepres, Courtesy McGregor.
Adji Cissoko has the alchemical blend of willowy limbs and earthy musicality you expect from a dancer in Alonzo King LINES Ballet. But she also has something more—a joy in dancing that makes every step feel immediate.
"She has this soulful quality of an ancient spirit coming through her body," says LINES chief executive officer Muriel Maffre, a former prima ballerina with San Francisco Ballet. "She's fearless, which is fun to work with," says artistic director Alonzo King. "I don't know how to put it into words— she's herself."
So you're on layoff—or, let's be real, you just don't feel like going to the studio—and you decide you're going to take class from home. Easy enough, right? All you need is an empty room and some music tracks on your iPhone, right?
Wrong. Anyone who has attempted this feat can tell you that taking class at home—or even just giving yourself class in general—is easier said than done. But with the right tools, it's totally doable—and can be totally rewarding.
When Jan Fabre's troupe Troubleyn presents his Mount Olympus: To glorify the cult of tragedy (a 24 hour performance) at NYU Skirball tomorrow it does so under a heavy cloud of controversy.
Fabre is a celebrated Belgian multidisciplinary artist who has been honored as Grand Officer in the Order of the Crown, one of the country's highest honors. His visual art has been displayed at the Louvre and at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. According to The New York Times, his dance company, Troubleyn, receives about $1 million a year from the Belgian government.
But in an open letter posted to Belgian magazine Rekto Verso just a few months ago, 20 of his company's current and former dancers outline a horrific culture of sexual harassment, bullying and coercion. This comes on the heels of similar accusations at New York City Ballet and Paris Opèra Ballet.
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Today, we are thrilled to announce the honorees of the 2018 Dance Magazine Awards. A tradition dating back to 1954, the Dance Magazine Awards celebrate the living legends who have made a lasting impact on dance. This year's honorees include:
Earlier this week, New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck gave us some major onstage makeup inspiration while attending an offstage event. While walking the red carpet at the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund gala, Peck's beauty look was still perfectly suited for the ballet with her top knot hairstyle and stage-worthy red lip. Peck's makeup artist for the night, Daniel Duran, shared his exact breakdown on the look, working exclusively with beauty brand Chantecaille. So, whether you're in need of a waterproof brow pencil, volumizing mascara or long-lasting red lip this Nutcracker season, we've got you covered.
There's a new tool that lets amputee ballet dancers perform on pointe. As reported in Dezeen, an architecture and design magazine, industrial designer Jae-Hyun An has created a prosthesis he calls the "Marie . T" (after Marie Taglioni, of course) that allows dancers with below-the-knee amputations to do pointe work.
A carbon fiber calf absorbs shock while a stainless steel toe and rubber platform allow a dancer to both turn and grip the floor to maintain balance. What it doesn't allow the dancer to do? Roll down to demi-pointe or flat.
Former chair of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts dance department Linda Tarnay died on Tuesday, November 6. Her wish was to have her ashes interred in the columbarium at St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery—the site of Danspace Project and just a few blocks away from the Tisch dance building.
Before her 35 years of teaching at NYU, Tarnay was a founding member of Dance Theater Workshop. She performed with choreographers like Anna Sokolow, Phyllis Lamhut and Jamie Cunningham. She also started her own company, Linda Tarnay and Dancers, and was an artist-in-residence at The Yard.
Margaret Selby never dreamed that her passion for dance would lead her everywhere from working on live TV specials like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to producing hip-hop musical Jam on the Groove, from Columbia Artists Management, Inc., to public TV's "Great Performances: Dance in America."
Now, through her company Selby/Artists MGMT, she helps clients like Dorrance Dance, MOMIX and Pacific Northwest Ballet navigate the behind-the-scenes elements that get their work onstage, like booking tours, marketing and planning upcoming seasons.
According to the new documentary DANSEUR, 85% of males who study dance in the United States are bullied or harassed. A quote in the film from Dr. Doug Risner, faculty member at Wayne State University, states, "If this scope of bullying occurred in any activity other than dance, it would be considered a public health crisis by the CDC."
So why is it allowed to persist in ballet? And why aren't we talking about it more? These are the questions that DANSEUR seeks to answer. But primarily consisting of dance footage and interviews with male dancers like ABT's James Whiteside, Houston Ballet's Harper Watters and Boston Ballet's Derek Dunn, the film only addresses these issues superficially, with anecdotes about individual experiences and generalizations about what it's like to be a male dancer.
When you're unable to dance, it's easy to feel like you're falling behind and losing out on opportunities. But this can be a time to reset your body and come back even stronger, says Ilana Goldman, BFA program director at Florida State University's School of Dance. "Some of the greatest leaps I made in my technique happened because of injuries," she says. "Learning how to deal with them is part of being a professional dancer."
Dancers are human, which means they're bound to make mistakes from time to time, both on and off the stage. But what happens when those mistakes burn bridges? In an industry so small, is it possible for choreographers and performers to recover?In a moment of vulnerability, three-time Emmy Award winning choreographer Mia Michaels opened up to Dance Magazine about some of the bridges she herself has burned, the lengths she's gone to in order to rebuild and the peace she's made with the new direction her career has taken because of them. —Haley Hilton
Are auditions rigged? Sometimes I see mediocre dancers make it into a company, and I just don't get it. The audition process is unnerving for me without feedback or any understanding of the rules.
—Madison, Santa Monica, CA
Raise your hand if you've received bad advice from well-meaning friends or family (or strangers, tbh) who don't know anything about what it really takes to be a dancer.
*everyone raises hands*
Sometimes it's even dance insiders whose advice can send you down the wrong path. We've been asking pros about the worst advice they've ever received in our "Spotlight" Q&A series, and rounded up some of the best answers:
Where in the world is Miko Fogarty? Just three years ago, she seemed unstoppable. After being featured in the 2011 ballet documentary First Position, she became a teenage social-media star, winning top prizes at competitions in Moscow and Varna and at Youth American Grand Prix, and dancing in galas around the world. Last most of us heard, it was 2015 and she had just joined the corps of Birmingham Royal Ballet. A year later, she dropped off the ballet radar.
Turns out Fogarty, now 21, was taking time off to reevaluate her life, including the role she wanted ballet to play in it. She is now starting her junior year as a biology major at University of California—Berkeley and is considering going to medical school. (Her brother and fellow First Position subject, 19-year-old Jules, is a junior in the Berkeley economics department.) On the side she teaches private ballet lessons and gives master classes, and is the part-time conservatory director at San Jose Dance International, a new school in the San Francisco Bay Area led by artistic director Yu Xin. We caught up with her by phone.
New York City Ballet fired principal dancers Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro on Saturday. Both had initially been suspended until 2019 for engaging in "inappropriate communications," while principal Chase Finlay, who was the instigator of those communications, resigned. (Although, in a statement on Saturday, NYCB made it clear they had decided to terminate Finlay prior to his resignation.)
The New York Times reports that NYCB says the change from suspension to termination resulted from hearing the concerns of dancers, staff members and others in the NYCB community. Yet it's hard to ignore the fact that a lawsuit against NYCB had been filed in the meantime. A statement from NYCB executive director Katherine Brown and interim artistic team leader Jonathan Stafford stated:
"We have no higher obligation than to ensure that our dancers and staff have a workplace where they feel respected and valued, and we are committed to providing that environment for all employees of New York City Ballet."
Since the news was announced, both Catazaro and Ramasar have spoken out publicly about being fired.
In dance, pushing through pain is often glorified. Dancers can be reluctant to take time off when sick or injured for fear of missing out on opportunities. It can feel even harder to justify when the pain isn't physical. Though it's becoming more commonly acknowledged that mental health is just as important as physical health, a dance career doesn't leave much time to address mental or emotional issues.
But dancers need to take care of their mental well-being to be able to perform at their best, says Catherine Drury, a licensed clinical social worker for The Dancers' Resource at The Actors Fund. So what can you do if you need a mental health day?
The fall performance season continues at breakneck speed with everything from an international ballet company making its U.S. debut to a retrospective on one of New York City's most iconic dancemakers—not to mention more than a few intriguing new works. Here's what we've got pencilled in.
Yabin Wang converts movement into liquid that spills across the stage. A celebrity in her home country of China, this choreographer, dancer and actress has helped to pioneer modern dance there by blending Chinese classical and contemporary dance. Wang's international career was kick-started in 2010 at American Dance Festival, where she returned this summer to perform on a shared program with Michelle Dorrance, Aparna Ramaswamy, Rhapsody James and Camille A. Brown. She has also worked with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui on Genesis and was commissioned by English National Ballet to create a piece for its Olivier Award–winning She Said program. This month, she is back stateside for the U.S. premiere of her Moon Opera, Nov. 3 in Pittsburgh.
It's the casting news we didn't know we needed until we heard it. Ever since it was announced that Wayne McGregor would be choreographing the new film adaptation of CATS, we've been anxiously waiting to hear whether any recognizable names from the dance world would be joining the A-list cast (which, in case you missed it, already includes Jennifer Hudson, Sir Ian McKellan, Taylor Swift and James Corden). But never in our wildest dreams did we think that a Royal Ballet principal would be the first dancer to sign on.
The wait for Disney's reimagining of The Nutcracker is over. Although The Nutcracker and The Four Realms is not a full-length ballet, woven into the plot is a five-minute performance by megastars Misty Copeland and Sergei Polunin alongside 18 supporting dancers, with a CGI Mouse King moved by jookin sensation Lil Buck (aka Charles Riley). Royal Ballet artist in residence Liam Scarlett led the film's choreography in his first major motion picture experience. "It was a call I didn't expect to get," says Scarlett. "I really am the biggest Disney fan, so I couldn't believe it!"