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.
As a very shy little girl, my happy place was my room, where I would wear improvised costumes and giggle with happiness while dancing for an imaginary audience. I was raised in a family where dancing was "normal." My mom and sisters graduated from the national ballet academy in Poland, and I, of course, wanted to follow their steps. But I was never forced to. I am proud to say I discovered the magic of ballet all by myself.
Photo by Costin Radu, courtesy of Petra Conti
It's contest time! You could win your choice of Apolla Shocks (up to 100 pairs) for your whole studio! Apolla Performance believes dancers are artists AND athletes—wearing Apolla Shocks helps you be both! Apolla Shocks are footwear for dancers infused with sports science technology while maintaining a dancer's traditions and lines. They provide support, protection and traction that doesn't exist anywhere else for dancers, helping them dance longer and stronger. Apolla wants to get your ENTIRE studio protected and supported in Apolla Shocks! How? Follow these steps:
The midterm elections are less than three weeks away on November 6. If you're registered to vote, hooray!
But you can't fully celebrate before you've completed your mission. Showing up at the polls is what matters most—especially since voter turnout for midterms doesn't have a fabulous track record. According to statistics from FairVote, about 40 percent of the population that is eligible to vote actually casts a ballot during midterm elections.
Many members of the dance community are making it clear that they want that percentage go up, and they're using social media to take a stand. Here's how they're getting involved:
Dancers will do just about anything to increase their odds of staying injury-free. And there are plenty of products out there claiming that they can help you do just that. But which actually work?
We asked for recommendations from four experts: Martt Lawrence, who teaches Pilates to dancers in San Francisco; Lisa-Marie Lewis, who teaches yoga at The Ailey Extension in New York City; physical therapist Alexis Sams, who treats dancers at her clinic in Phoenix; and stretch training coach Vicente Hernandez, who teaches at The School of Pennsylvania Ballet.
With a contemporary air that exalts—rather than obscures—flamenco tradition, and a technique and stamina that boggle the mind, Eduardo Guerrero's professional trajectory has done nothing but skyrocket since being named one of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch" earlier this year. His 2017 solo Guerrero has toured widely, and he has created premieres for the Jerez Festival (Faro) and the 2018 Seville Flamenco Biennial (Sombra Efímera). In the midst of his seemingly unstoppable ascension, he's created Gaditanía, his first work utilizing a corps de ballet. Guerrero is currently touring the U.S. with this homage to Cadiz, the city of his birth.
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At our cover shoot for the November issue, Bobbi Jene Smith curated one of the best lineups of YouTube music videos that I've heard in a long time. From Bob Dylan to Tom Waits, they felt like such perfect choices for her earthy, visceral movement and soulful approach to dance.
Dance technology has come a long way from ballet variations painstakingly learned by watching fuzzy VHS tapes. Over the last few years, a dizzying number of online training programs have cropped up, offering the chance to take class in contemporary, jazz, ballet, tap, hip hop and even ballroom from the comfort of your own living room or studio.
Usually, it takes new recruits a few seasons to make their mark at the Paul Taylor Dance Company. But Taylor wasted no time in honing in on the talents of Alex Clayton. Only a few months after Clayton joined in June 2017, Taylor created an exciting solo for him in his new Concertiana, filled with explosive leaps and quick footwork. Clayton was also featured in new works by Doug Varone and Bryan Arias. At 5' 6" he may be compact, but onstage he fills the space with a thrilling sense of attack.
Scottish Ballet is turning 50 next year, but they'll be the one giving out the gifts.
In 2019, the company will make five wishes from fans come true, as a way of thanking them for their loyalty and support over the years. "It can be anything from the dancers performing at a birthday party or on the banks of Loch Ness, or even the chance to get on stage and be part of a Scottish Ballet show," according to the company.
Recently, English National Ballet first artist Precious Adams announced that she will no longer be wearing pink tights. With the support of her artistic director Tamara Rojo, she will instead wear chocolate brown tights (and shoes) that match her flesh tone.
It may seem like a simple change, but this could be a watershed moment—one where the aesthetics of ballet begin to expand to include the presence of people of color.
Flamenco dancer and choreographer Rocío Molina created her first full-length production, Entre paredes ("Between Walls"), at the age of 22. At 26, the prodigy received Spain's National Dance Prize, the most coveted dance award in Spain. Now 34, her rupture with tradition makes her no stranger to controversy. But it, and her fiercely personal and contemporary style, means that each new project is a fascinating voyage.
Molina is the subject of French filmmaker Emilio Belmonte's first feature length documentary, IMPULSO. The film, which makes its U.S. theatrical premiere at New York City's Film Forum on October 17, follows Molina for two years as she tours Europe presenting a series of improvised works. These improvisations ultimately inspired the creation of one of Molina's masterworks, Caída de Cielo ("Fallen from Heaven"), which premiered in 2016.
In a move that was both surprising and seemingly inevitable, New York City Ballet closed its fall season by promoting seven dancers. Joseph Gordon, who was promoted to soloist in February 2017, is now a principal dancer. Daniel Applebaum, Harrison Coll, Claire Kretzschmar, Aaron Sanz, Sebastian Villarini-Velez and Peter Walker have been promoted to soloist.
Newly promoted soloist Peter Walker has been showing his abilities as a leading man in ballets like Jerome Robbins' West Side Story Suite. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB
The announcement was made on Saturday by Jonathan Stafford, the head of NYCB's interim leadership team. These seven promotions mark the first since longtime ballet master in chief Peter Martins retired in the midst of harassment allegations at the beginning of this year. While Stafford and fellow interim leaders Rebecca Krohn, Craig Hall and Justin Peck have made some bold choices in terms of programming—such as commissioning Kyle Abraham and Emma Portner to create new works for the 2018–19 season—their primary focus has appeared to be keeping the company running on an even keel while the search for a new artistic leader is ongoing. Some of us theorized that we would not be seeing any promotions until a new artistic director was in place.
Ryan Steele has a simple rule for demanding days on Broadway: "I listen to my body," he says. "I have whatever I'm craving: If I need more protein, I go straight for that. If I'm tired, I know I need carbs."
This wasn't always Steele's approach. Growing up, shuttling between the studio and school meant relying on McDonald's and Burger King.
The entrancing power of Instagram can't be denied. I've lost hours of my life scrolling the platform looking at other people documenting theirs. What starts as a "quick" fill-the-moment check-in can easily lead to a good 10-15 minute session, especially if I enter the nebulous realm of "suggested videos."
My algorithm usually shows me professional ballet dancers in performances, rehearsals, class, backstage and on tour, which I quite enjoy. But there are the other dance feeds that I find myself simultaneously intrigued and horrified by: the hyper-elastic, hyper-extended, gumby-footed girls always at the barre doing developpés to six o'clock. There are the multiple turners, the avid stretchers and we can't forget the endless balancers.
This parade of tricksters always makes me wonder, What else can they do? Can they actually dance?
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.
Earlier this week, a friend of a friend reached out to me seeking recommendations for a dancer/choreographer to hire. She wanted someone who could perform a solo and talk about their process for an arts-appreciation club. After a few emails back and forth, as I was trying to find out exactly what kind of choreographer she was looking for, it eventually emerged that she was not looking to pay this person.
"We are hoping to find someone who would be willing to participate in exchange for the exposure," she wrote.
Why do people think this is an okay thing to ask for?
For over a decade, husband-and-wife team Pascal Rioult and Joyce Herring, artistic and associate artistic directors of RIOULT Dance NY, dreamed of building a space for their company and fellow artists in the community, and a school for future dancers. This month, their 11,000-square-foot dream opens its doors in the Kaufman Arts District in Astoria, Queens, a New York City neighborhood across the East River from Manhattan.
In the final years of her decade-long career with the Lewitzky Dance Company, University of Arizona Associate Professor Amy Ernst began to develop an interest in dance injury prevention. She remembers feeling an urge to widen her understanding of dance and the body. Soon after retirement from the Company, she was hired by the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Inglewood, California as a physical therapy assistant, where she worked for the next three and a half years. This work eventually led her to pursue an M.F.A. in dance at the University of Washington-Seattle. She remembers growing into the role of a professor during her time pursuing her degree. That incubation phase was critical. Ernst joined the faculty at the University of Arizona in 1995, and now as director of the M.F.A. program, mentors the new generation of dance faculty, company directors and innovators.
With cooler weather finally here, it's time to talk warm-ups. And while your dancewear drawer is probably overflowing with oversized sweaters, leggings and enough leg warmers to outfit the whole class, warm-up boots are often forgotten. To keep your feet and ankles cozy in between rehearsals, we rounded up dance warm-up boots that suit every style.
Bloch Inc. Printed Warm-up Bootie
via Bloch Inc.
Created by Irina Dvorovenko and Max Beloserkovsky, this collection comes in a variety of tie dye, floral and even butterfly prints.
Some of my favorite experiences as both an audience member and a dancer have involved audience participation. Artists who cleverly use participatory moments can make bold statements about the boundaries between performer and spectator, onstage and off. And the challenge to be more than a passive viewer can redefine an audience's relationship to what they're watching. But all the experiences I've loved have had something in common: They've given audiences a choice.
A few weeks back, I had a starkly different experience—one that has caused me to think deeply about how consent should play into audience-performer relationships.
What happens when you mix two really good things together? Sometimes, it can be magical. It's practically guaranteed when one of those elements is the wizarding world of Harry Potter, and the other is—wait for it—dance-team–style hip hop.
When the Bible spoke of the "ingathering of the exiles," it didn't have dance in mind. Yet, this month, more than 100 dancers, choreographers and scholars from around the world will gather at Arizona State University to celebrate the impact of Jews and the Jewish experience on dance. From hora to hip hop, social justice to somatics, ballet to Gaga, the three-day event (Oct. 13–15) is "deliberately inclusive," says conference organizer and ASU professor Naomi Jackson.