Dance Matters: Ballet Across America at the Kennedy Center

Alison Roper, Paul DeStrooper, and Damian Drake of Oregon Ballet Theatre in Kudelka’s Almost Mozart. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert, Courtesy Kennedy Center.

 

In the five years since the Kennedy Center launched its Ballet Across America celebration, the focus has shifted from larger companies to those smaller in size, but large in impact. In this year’s edition, six of the nine companies have fewer than 30 dancers on their rosters.

 

The larger companies have chosen masterworks that take advantage of their size: Boston Ballet performs Balanchine’s modernist Symphony in Three Movements, Pennsylvania Ballet his iconic The Four Temperaments, and Sarasota Ballet Ashton’s delightful Les Patineurs. But the smaller companies’ offerings show that there is plenty of new work being made across the nation.

 

Along with Sarasota, new to the festival are Ballet Austin, the revamped Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Richmond Ballet, making its Kennedy Center debut. The choreography ranges from that by company directors (Stephen Mills at BA), associate directors (Sasha Janes for North Carolina Dance Theatre) and resident choreographers (Robert Garland at DTH) to dancemakers with ties to other small companies, expanding the festival’s reach further. Ma Cong, who recently retired from Tulsa Ballet to focus on choreography (see “Transitions,” p. 90), made Ershter Vals, Richmond’s offering; and Wunderland by Edwaard Liang, recently tapped to lead BalletMet Columbus, will be danced by The Washington Ballet. Oregon Ballet Theatre performs Almost Mozart by James Kudelka, who has been leading BalletMet as an artistic consultant in the interim. Having so many smaller troupes showcased is something to applaud.

Latest Posts


Courtesy Schelfhaudt

These Retired Ballroom Dancers Started a Dance-Themed Coffee Company

Like many dancers, when Lauren Schelfhaudt and Jean Paul retired from professional ballroom dancing in 2016, they felt lost. "There was this huge void," says Schelfhaudt.

But after over 20 years of dancing, plus United States and World Championship titles, reality shows, and high-profile choreography gigs (and Paul's special claim to fame, as "the guy who makes Bradley Cooper look bad" in Silver Linings Playbook), teaching just didn't fill the void. "I got to the point where it wasn't giving me that creative outlet," says Paul.

When the pair (who are life and business partners but were never dance partners—they competed against one another) took a post-retirement trip to Costa Rica, they were ready to restart their lives. They found inspiration in an expected place: A visit to a coffee farm.

Though they had no experience in coffee roasting or business, they began building their own coffee company. In 2018, the duo officially launched Dancing Ox Coffee Roasters, where they create dance-inspired blends out of their headquarters in Belmont, North Carolina.

We talked to Schelfhaudt and Paul about how their dance background makes them better coffee roasters, and why coffee is an art form all its own:

GO DEEPER