Last week, Variety reported that Sergei Polunin would reunite with the team behind Dancer for another documentary. "Where 'Dancer' looked at his whole life, family and influences," director Steven Cantor said, " 'Satori' will focus more squarely on his creative process as performer and, for the first time ever, choreographer." The title references a poorly received evening of work by the same name first presented by Polunin in 2017. (It recently toured to Moscow and St. Petersburg.)
I cannot be the only person wondering why we should care.
In the middle of one of New York City Center's cavernous studios, Misty Copeland takes a measured step backwards. The suggestion of a swan arm ripples before she turns downstage, chest and shoulders unfurling as her legs stretch into an open lunge. She piqués onto pointe, arms echoing the sinuous curve of her back attitude, then walks out of it, pausing to warily look over her shoulder. As the droning of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto's mysterious "Attack/Transition" grows more insistent, her feet start to fly with a rapidity that seems to almost startle her.
And then she stops mid-phrase. Copeland's hands fall to her hips as she apologizes. Choreographer Kyle Abraham slides to the sound system to pause the music, giving Copeland a moment to remind herself of a recent change to the sequence.
"It's different when the sound's on!" he reassures her. "And it's a lot of changes."
The day before was the first time Abraham had seen Copeland dance the solo in its entirety, and the first moment they were in the studio together in a month. This is their last rehearsal, save for tech, before the premiere of Ash exactly one week later, as part of the opening night of City Center's Fall for Dance festival.
Yvonne Rainer's Parts of Some Sextets (AKA "the mattress dance") hasn't been revived since it premiered in 1965. Nor has Rainer had any wish to do it again, to ask performers to heave 10 mattresses around while carrying out 31 tasks that changed every 30 seconds. It was an unwieldy, difficult dance. (Even the title is unwieldy.) But Emily Coates, who has danced in Rainer's work for 20 years, became curious about this piece and was determined to see it again—and to dance in it. She will get her wish November 15–17, when the mattress dance will be performed as part of the Performa 19 Biennial.
It's one thing to understudy three different demanding principal roles in one show. But sometimes, Sasha Hutchings has to perform them all in one day.
Hutchings, a Broadway dancer who originated an ensemble role in Hamilton and was recently seen in "Fosse/Verdon," understudies both Laurey and Ado Annie in the current Broadway revival of Oklahoma!—plus the lead dancer, who performs the 13-minute dream ballet practically solo. Though she hasn't performed the dream ballet yet, she rehearses it every Friday, right before rehearsing the whole show as either Ado Annie or Laurey, then sometimes performing one of those roles in the evening show.
"As soon as I'm done rehearsing the dream ballet, I have to let that fade in order to fully immerse myself in Laurey," she says. "And if I ran Laurey earlier in the day and I'm watching her scene as Ado Annie, I have to let go of her lines. Once you start going down the thought pattern of that character, it takes you to a whole other place."
We talked to Hutchings about the mental and physical gymanstics of understudying three such distinct roles—and how her dance training helps her do it:
Alexander Pham's movements seem to have no noticeable beginning or end. Though he's a fluid, silky performer, his electrifying dancing also exhibits impressive power. These qualities have made audiences and artistic directors alike take notice in his three years with Donald Byrd's Spectrum Dance Theater and now at TU Dance. Byrd finds Pham's ability to translate technical demand into artistic expression remarkable, saying, "He is a rare and marvelous combination of intelligence and kinetic acumen."
Savion Glover is one of the biggest names in the dance world, and perhaps the biggest in the tap world. The trailblazing hoofer's hard-hitting, rhythmically intricate style has fundamentally altered the tap landscape.
Glover is also a master teacher. But during his many years on the scene, he's never appeared regularly at a major dance convention. That is, until this season: Glover is now teaching at JUMP Dance Convention, scheduled to appear at approximately 15 more cities on its 2019–2020 tour.
We talked with JUMP director Mike Minery, himself a gifted hoofer, about working with a living legend—and how Glover is already changing the convention class game.
After earning a dance degree from Juilliard and accumulating a resume of professional dance experience, Charlotte Bydwell grew tired of the professional dancer grind. "I had become encumbered by the conservatory training and the challenges of having a professional career," she says. For the past several years, Bydwell has been focused on acting instead.
But her latest project—The Michaels, a new play at The Public Theater by writer/director Richard Nelson—has reawakened Bydwell's relationship with dance. No, it's not a musical, or even a dance-theater work, but a play about a fictional choreographer named Rose Michael and her family. Bydwell plays Rose's daughter, Lucy, who is a also a dancer and choreographer.
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Breeanne Saxton isn't afraid of taking risks. Last spring she left her comfortable contract with Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company to pursue a freelance career performing and choreographing in Berlin. The bold decision has turned out to be an auspicious one: Within just a few months of moving, she had a piece accepted into the popular Artlake Festival in Lichterfeld, Germany. No matter where she's living, Saxton's clean, intentional movement and avant-garde choreography are turning heads.
Philadelphia's Pew Center for Arts & Heritage announced its 2019 grantees Monday evening, and the list included a couple of familiar names: Dinita Clark and David Gordon.
For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.
Just hearing the word "improvisation" is enough to make some ballet dancers shake in their pointe shoes. But for Chantelle Pianetta, it's a practice she relishes. Depending on the weekend, you might find her gracing Bay Area stages as a principal with Menlowe Ballet or sweeping in awards at West Coast swing competitions.
She specializes in Jack and Jill events, which involve improvised swing dancing with an unexpected partner in front of a panel of judges. (Check her out in action below.) While sustaining her ballet career, over the past four years Pianetta has quickly risen from novice to champion level on the WCS international competition circuit.
A master of cross-pollination, Annie-B Parson pulls material from dance, film, music, literature, theater and more into deeply satisfying dialogues. And she has a busy fall: Her new book is being published in November. Big Dance Theater, the company she leads in partnership with Paul Lazar, brings three works to the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts November 8 and 9. And American Utopia, the acclaimed concert tour she choreographed for David Byrne and an ensemble of musicians, appears on Broadway from October through January.
New York City Ballet's Fall Fashion Gala always gives us a chance to admire the dancers at their most glamorous, and this year was no exception. From premieres of new works by Lauren Lovette (paired with designer Zac Posen) and Edwaard Liang (with Anna Sui), to a sparkling rendition of Balanchine's Symphony in C, to a star-studded red carpet and reception, we had plenty to swoon over, both onstage and off.
For choreographer and former River North Dance Chicago director Frank Chaves, this weekend is a reemergence. Since 2005, Chaves has managed syringomyelia, a degenerative spinal cord disease which results in spasticity, chronic pain and loss of mobility. The first major work he choreographed while using a wheelchair full-time was In the End—his last before retiring in 2015 from River North, the company he had led since 1993 and which folded unceremoniously about a year after he left. Now, he's created a new work on Kansas City's Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company as part of New Dance Partners, a platform curated by Michael Uthoff in which local KC companies are matched with notable choreographers commissioned to create world premieres. Ahead of the work's debut, I met up with him in Kansas City and asked him about the end of River North and the adjustments he's made as he has learned to choreograph differently.
A radiant person onstage and off, former New York City Ballet star Joaquin De Luz is shifting from being in the spotlight to giving back. After training with famed teacher Víctor Ullate, the Spanish dancer moved to the U.S. at 20, dancing with American Ballet Theatre for six years before alighting at NYCB in 2003, where he gave his final performance last fall. This month, he returns home to Madrid to take the reins at Compañía Nacional de Danza, a company of 50 dancers that gives 85 performances a year.
The ability to communicate clearly is something I've been consumed with for as long as I can remember. I was born in the Bronx and always loved city living. But when I was 9, a family crisis forced my mom to send me to Puerto Rico to live with my grandparents. I only knew one Spanish word: "hola." I remember the frustration and loneliness of having so many thoughts and feelings and not being able to express them.
You ever just wish that Kenneth MacMillan's iconic production of Romeo and Juliet could have a beautiful love child with the 1968 film starring Olivia Hussey? (No, not Baz Luhrmann's version. We are purists here.)
Wish granted: Today, the trailer for a new film called Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words was released, featuring MacMillan's choreography and with what looks like all the cinematic glamour we could ever dream of:
At this point, you'd think we'd all be used to the level of technical absurdity Daniil Simkin achieves when he's playing around in the studio. But then he did this:
...and now we're low-key appalled in the absolute best way.
After we picked our jaws up from the floor, we were inspired to dig up clips of some of our other favorite dancers turning like it's no big deal. Here are just a few standouts.
With her curly red tresses, Houston Ballet soloist Alyssa Springer may look like she stepped out of a Botticelli painting, making her a natural fit in classic story ballets. But watch her in contemporary work, and you see the great bones of her versatile technique. A favorite of visiting choreographers, Springer was promoted to demi-soloist in 2017 and soloist earlier this year. She continually stands out for her acting skills and ability to morph her style to whatever the choreographer in the room needs.
Roberto Bolle's rise in ballet reads like a fairy tale—one in which he's the prince. At 15, he was hand-picked by Rudolf Nureyev to perform with La Scala Ballet, and by 19 he was hired into the company. Two years later, he rose to the rank of principal, and in 2009, he joined American Ballet Theatre.
"A lot of ballets remind me of Roberto," says Hee Seo, ABT principal, who danced the role of Manon in Bolle's farewell performance this summer. Although Bolle will continue to guest with La Scala, he is leaving ABT to devote more time to a festival he's building in Italy. His final role with the company had special significance: Bolle also debuted with ABT in Manon, when Italian ballerina Alessandra Ferri requested him as her partner.