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Crazed Chipmunks & Royal Boxes: Dancers on Their Fave Theaters
For most dancers, walking into the theater elicits a familiar emotion that's somewhere between the reverence of stepping into a chapel and the comfort of coming home. But each venue has its own aura, and can offer that something special that takes your performance to a new level. Six dancers share which theaters have transported them the most.
GLENN ALLEN SIMS
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Glenn Allen Sims in Alvin Ailey's Masekela Langage. Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy AAADT
Favorite theater: Teatro Real in Madrid, Spain
Royal details: "The theater is gorgeous and ornate, with deep red upholstery and gold trim. There is a huge royal box in the center, which takes you back to when kings and queens were watching performances there."
Impressive facilities: Even the dressing rooms are a sight to see: Amenities for the dancers include large, carpeted rooms, and towel service.
Spanish history: Sims was fascinated by the history of the theater, which was founded by King Ferdinand VII. "Knowing that I performed at one of the greatest theaters in Europe really holds a warm spot in my heart."
Martha Graham Dance Company
Natasha Diamond-Walker at Teatro Greco Siracusa. Photo by CJ Nye, courtesy Diamond-Walker
Favorite theaters: The Joyce Theater in New York City and the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail, Colorado
City-sized: "The Joyce has a vintage '80s vibe to it, and the backstage space is limited, but that gives it a very signature New York City feel. I love that it's really intimate—I feel like I can relate to the audience because I can see everyone's faces when I'm dancing."
Mountain air and animals: Diamond-Walker recalls performing at the Vail Dance Festival once when a "crazed chipmunk" ran onto the stage. "I love that it's outdoors. The backdrop of the mountains and the natural light that pours in is really beautiful. There is also the altitude issue—they have an oxygen tank on the side of the stage, and it adds a little bit of a dangerous edge to it all."
ALICIA MAE HOLLOWAY
Dance Theatre of Harlem
Alicia Mae Holloway with Nicholas Rose in Dialogues. Photo by Nan Melville, courtesy DTH.
Favorite theater: New York City Center
Proud moment: "Dance Theatre of Harlem performs at City Center every year, and my first year in the company I was injured and couldn't do the performance. I was devastated. But this April, I got to perform Return by our resident choreographer Robert Garland. When I walked on that stage for the first time, I realized that this was exactly what I was working towards all those years of training."
Backstage quirk: "City Center is unique in the way that backstage on stage left is tiny, but backstage on stage right is very open and about the size of a dance studio." For Holloway, having adequate space in the wings eases pre-performance jitters. "I feel more relaxed before a show because it's not the same feeling as when I'm waiting backstage in a tiny wing."
Victoria Hullond (second from right) and Sarasota Ballet at Jacob's Pillow. Photo courtesy Hullond.
Favorite venue: Jacob's Pillow
Peaceful vibe: "It's so different from any other venue. It's kind of out in the middle of nowhere. I found it really peaceful to be able to take class in a barn and walk around outside in between shows to collect my thoughts and refocus. And there's so much dance history there."
Audience appreciation: "In between performances you can hear the audience talking about the show. They have a real appreciation for dance—they all traveled all the way there specifically because they love dance."
Special spot: There's a wall backstage that past dancers have written messages on over the years. "It was fun to read them before the show and find a new one every day to get encouraged before performing. It was comforting to know that we all feel the same way as performers."
Freelance artist specializing in jookin
Lil Buck. Photo by Random Vision Photography, courtesy Lil Buck.
Favorite theater: Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Endless fans: Lil Buck danced in Madonna's The MDNA Tour here in 2012. "The audience was as far back as the eye could see. I stage-dived for the first time!"
Perfectly planned: Madonna's team set up everything beforehand—hair, makeup, food and dressing rooms. "It was perfectly choreographed for the safest routes from the backstage area to where we needed to be on the stage."
Nederlands Dans Theater
Prince Credell in Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot's Stop-Motion. Photo by Rahi Rezvani, courtesy NDT.
Favorite theater: New York City Center
Major nostalgia: When Credell performed at City Center last year, it brought him back to his adolescence at The Ailey School. "During Ailey's 40th-anniversary season gala many years ago, I was able to make a big impression on that stage that inspired the artistic staff to foster my growth from a young age." After spending so many years training to make it to the professional level, performing on that stage felt like coming full circle. "Performing at City Center reminded me how my love of dance has defined so much of my life."
When Rachel Hamrick was in the corps of Universal Ballet in Seoul, her determination to strengthen her flexibility turned into a side hobby that would eventually land her a new career. "I was in La Bayadere for the first time, and I was the first girl out for that arabesque sequence in The Kingdom of the Shades," she says. "I had the flexibility, but I was wobbly because I wasn't stretching in the right way. That's when I first started playing around with the idea of the Flexistretcher. It was tied together then, so it was definitely more makeshift," she says with a laugh, "But I trained with it to help me get the correct alignment so that I would have the strength to sustain the whole act."
Now, Hamrick is running her own business, complete with an ever-growing product line and her FLX training method—all because of her initial need to make it through 38 arabesques.
For the new Broadway season, Ellenore Scott has scored two associate choreographer gigs: For Head Over Heels, which starts previews June 23, Scott is working with choreographer Spencer Liff on an original musical mashing up The Go-Go's punk-rock hits with a narrative based on Sir Philip Sidney's 1590 book, Arcadia. Four days after that show opens, she'll head into rehearsals for this fall's King Kong, collaborating with director/choreographer Drew McOnie and a 20-foot gorilla.
Scott gave us the inside scoop about Head Over Heels, the craziness of her freelance hustle and the most surprising element of working on Broadway.
Dance in movies is a trend as old as time. Movies like The Red Shoes and Singin' in the Rain paved the way for Black Swan and La La Land; dancing stars like Gene Kelly and Ginger Rogers led the way for Channing Tatum and Julianne Hough.
Lucky for us, some of Hollywood's most incredible dance scenes have been compiled into this amazing montage, featuring close to 300 films in only seven minutes. So grab the popcorn, cozy on up, and watch the moves that made the movies.
Broadway musicals have been on my mind for more than half a century. I discovered them in grade school, not in a theater but electronically. On the radio, every weeknight an otherwise boring local station would play a cast album in its entirety; on television, periodically Ed Sullivan's Sunday night variety show would feature an excerpt from the latest hit—numbers from Bye Bye Birdie, West Side Story, Camelot, Flower Drum Song.
But theater lives in the here and now, and I was in middle school when I attended my first Broadway musical, Gypsy—based, of all things, on the early life of the famed burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee. I didn't know who Jerome Robbins was, but I recognized genius when I saw it—kids morphing into adults as a dance number progresses, hilarious stripping routines, a pas de deux giving concrete shape to the romantic yearnings of an ugly duckling. It proved the birth of a lifelong habit, indulged for the last 18 years in the pages of this magazine. But all long runs eventually end, and it's time to say good-bye to the "On Broadway" column. It's not the last of our Broadway coverage—there's too much great work being created and performed, and you can count on hearing from me in print and online.
If you want to know how scary the AIDS epidemic was in the 1980s, come see Ishmael Houston-Jones' piece THEM from 1986. This piece reveals the subterranean fears that crept into gay relationships at the time. Houston-Jones is one of downtown's great improvisers, and his six dancers also improvise in response to his suggestions. With Chris Cochrane's edgy guitar riffs and Dennis Cooper's ominous text, there's an unpredictable, near-creepy but epic quality to THEM.
What is the right flooring system for us?
So many choices, companies, claims, endorsements, and recommendations to consider. The more you look, the more confusing it gets. Here is what you need to do. Here is what you need to know to get the flooring system suited to your needs.
This time last year, Catherine Conley was already living a ballet dancer's dream. After an exchange between her home ballet school in Chicago and the Cuban National Ballet School in Havana, she'd been invited to train in Cuba full-time. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and one that was nearly unheard of for an American dancer. Now, though, Conley has even more exciting news: She's a full-fledged member of the National Ballet of Cuba's corps de ballet.
"In the school there were other foreigners, but in the company I'm the only foreigner—not just the only American, but the only non-Cuban," Conley says. But she doesn't feel like an outsider, or like a dancer embarking on a historic journey. "Nobody makes me feel different. They treat me as one of them," she says. Conley has become fluent in Spanish, and Cuba has come to feel like home. "The other day I was watching a movie that was dubbed in Spanish, and I understand absolutely everything now," she says.
Chantel Aguirre may call sunny Los Angeles home, but the Shaping Sound company member and NUVO faculty member spends more time in the air, on a tour bus or in a convention ballroom than she does in the City of Angels.
Aguirre, who is married to fellow Shaping Sound member Michael Keefe, generally only spends one week per month at home. "When I'm not working, I'm exploring," Aguirre says. "Michael and I are total travel junkies."
Akram Khan and Florence Welch (of Florence + The Machine) is not a pairing we ever would have dreamt up. But now that the music video for "Big God" has dropped, with choreography attributed to Khan and Welch, it seems that we just weren't dreaming big enough.
In the video, Welch leads a group of women standing in an eerily reflective pool of water. They seem untouchable, until they begin shedding their colorful veils, movements morphing to become animalistic and aggressive as the song progresses.
Savannah Lowery is about as well acquainted with the inner workings of a hospital as she is with the intricate footwork of Dewdrop.
As a child, the former New York City Ballet soloist would roam the hospital where her parents worked, pushing buttons and probably getting into too much trouble, she says. While other girls her age were clad in tutus playing ballerina, she was playing doctor.
"It just felt like home. I think it made me not scared of medicine, not scared of a hospital," she says. "I thought it was fascinating what they did."
It can be hard to focus when Alice Sheppard dances.
Her recent sold-out run of DESCENT at New York Live Arts, for instance, offered a constellation of stimulation. Onstage was a large architectural ramp with an assortment of peaks and planes. There was an intricate lighting and projection design. There was a musical score that unfolded like an epic poem. There was a live score too: the sounds of Sheppard and fellow dancer Laurel Lawson's bodies interacting with the surfaces beneath them.
And there were wheelchairs. But if you think the wheelchairs are the center of this work, you're missing something vital about what Sheppard creates.
A Jellicle Ball is coming to the big screen, with the unlikeliest of dancemakers on tap to choreograph.
We'll give you some hints: His choreography can aptly be described as "animalistic," though Jellicle cats have never come to mind specifically when watching his hyper-physical work. He's worked on movies before—even one about Beasts. And though contemporary ballet is his genre of choice, his choreography is certainly theatrical enough to lend itself to a musical.