Pregnancy Was Diana Vishneva's "Only Chance to Take A Rest." Now She's Back and Busier Than Ever.
Diana Vishneva has had a very big year. In 2017, she retired from American Ballet Theatre, performing Onegin with the company one last time, accompanied by her longtime partner Marcelo Gomes. Then, in September, she opened a ballet studio in her home city of St. Petersburg called CONTEXT Pro. Soon after, she marked the fifth edition of her festival of contemporary dance, CONTEXT, with two weeks of performances, workshops and talks in Moscow and St. Petersburg. But the biggest event came several months later, with the birth of her first child. (As she points out with some satisfaction, the timing was perfect—she didn't have to cancel a single engagement.)
The pregnancy allowed Vishneva to step back from an international career that has kept her constantly on the move for the better part of the last two decades. The ballet world receded from her consciousness, but not for long. We spoke in New York, where she resides part of the year, just as she was gearing up for the first of a series of performances and projects. The day after our chat, her son would turn 100 days old.
Congratulations on your new baby! Has the name been made public?
It came out in Russian social media; it's Rudolf Victor.
Does the name have any particular significance for you?
Victor is my father's name, and it has been a lucky patronymic for me.
How has it been for you, coming back from the pregnancy?
I've seen how a lot of ballerinas do class and work well into their pregnancy and how quickly they return after giving birth. But the doctors did not allow me to do this, and even after the birth I was not allowed to practice for six weeks. So as it happened I didn't do anything for 10 months. It was perhaps the only chance in my life I've had to take a rest. Now this has been a very interesting time because in a sense you start over from the beginning. Of course the muscle memory is there, but you need to get back the muscles. It's a very slow process. But I know my body very well, so it's interesting to analyze and start putting things back together. You even have the opportunity to correct certain problems.
What has been your routine in the last few months?
After those first six weeks I did not run back to ballet class. First I went to Pilates. When I was dancing I did not need Pilates, because I got what I needed through dancing. And I didn't want to do it, despite the advice of several people around me. Then I started doing some fitness activities, very light weights, to gain back my strength. And only after that did I go back to class. I've been working with Nancy Bielski at Steps on Broadway for 15 years, since Vladimir Malakhov introduced me to her. Also I have regular massages and I swim whenever I find an hour. It's not easy with a child.
You'll be returning to the stage soon—what is your first engagement?
I'll be dancing Ohad Naharin's Boléro at the Paris Opéra Ballet, with Aurélie Dupont, in late September. We performed it together at my festival, CONTEXT, in 2016. Then, when Aurélie was named director of the Paris Opéra, Ohad said, I want you to dance this in Paris in 2018. But I didn't know then that I would be a mother.
Will you be taking Gaga classes ahead of that performance?
Yes! I'm going to Paris on September 17 and we'll work for 10 days.
Naharin is also coming to the CONTEXT festival this year, isn't he?
Yes, Batsheva Dance Company will be coming and Ohad and I will be leading a series of master classes and public talks. The National Ballet of Canada is also coming, with a repertoire of new works; it's the largest company we've ever invited. [They'll be performing Paz de la Jolla by Justin Peck; Emergence by Crystal Pite; and Guillaume Côté's Being and Nothingness.] And of course we'll be holding the choreographic competition for young choreographers.
The festival seems to be expanding?
Yes, we're doing things in other cities besides Moscow and St. Petersburg now, like Yekaterinburg and Perm. Next March we'll be bringing programs to Tel Aviv and London's Sadler's Wells. And maybe in a year we'll bring something to New York.
One thing I've heard you express often is your love of St. Petersburg. What is it about this city?
The people who live in St. Petersburg are absolutely different from the ones who live in Moscow. I think we are saturated by the architecture, the atmosphere, the culture. It's in our DNA. I went to the oldest and greatest school in St. Petersburg, worked at the Mariinsky, a theater with the most wonderful traditions. I live in a magical city. I don't know how to even put that into words, it's almost a physical part of me. With my art and my work I hope I can make a microscopic contribution to its magical beauty.
What about your latest project, Sleeping Beauty Dreams, this multimedia collaboration with the architect Rem Khass? What is it exactly?
Rem Khass and I started thinking about it a couple of years ago. At some point I thought, I need to do something radically different. I started meeting people from the technology and art world. The idea is not to retell the Sleeping Beauty story—it's about what is happening to the character of Aurora, inside her head, while she's sleeping for 100 years. She has all these dreams. The world of dreams is unique, so it doesn't have to be confined by time or space.
The story of Sleeping Beauty is very black and white, about good and evil. Our idea is that both good and evil exist within her, and they fight each other. We're going to create digital characters who exist exclusively in the virtual world. They will come alive and interact with me. So I will have virtual partners. [The show opens on Dec. 7 in Miami and then comes to New York on Dec. 14.]
In an odd intersection of art and politics, a person involved in promoting the show early on, Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign aide, was recently interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller. Were you surprised?
He was once part of the marketing team but is no longer involved. He originally told the team that he had put his political career behind him, but when it turned out not to be so, there was a collective decision to part ways.
Over the past 15 years, Gesel Mason has asked 11 choreographers—including legends like Donald McKayle, David Roussève, Bebe Miller, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Rennie Harris and Kyle Abraham—to teach her a solo. She's performed up to seven of them in one evening for her project No Boundaries: Dancing the Visions of Contemporary Black Choreographers.
Now, Mason is repackaging the essence of this work into a digital archive. This online offering shares the knowledge of a few with many, and considers how dance can live on as those who create it get older.
The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.
When a musical prepares to make the transfer from a smaller, lesser-known venue to Broadway (where theaters hold 500-plus seats), often there's a collective intake of breath from all involved. After all, a bigger house means more tickets to sell in order to stay in the black, and sometimes shows with even the most tenacious fan bases can't quite navigate such a jump. But what about the transfer from stage…to screen? Is Broadway ready to be consumed from the comfort of your couch?
Daphne Lee was dancing with Collage Dance Collective in Memphis, Tennessee, when she received two difficult pieces of news: Her mother had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma cancer, and her father had Parkinson's disease, affecting his mobility and mental faculties.
The New Jersey native's reaction: "I really need to move home."
It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.
Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
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Summer is almost upon us, and whether you're a student about to go on break or a pro counting the days till layoff, don't forget that with warm weather comes a very serious responsibility: To maintain your cross-training routine on your own.
Those of us who've tried to craft our own cross-training routine know it's easier said than done. So we consulted the stars, and rounded up the best options for every zodiac sign. (TBH, you should probably consult an expert, too—we'd recommend a physical therapist, a personal trainer or your teacher.)
It's become second nature in dance studios: The instant anyone gets hurt, our immediate reaction is to run to the freezer to grab some ice (or, more realistically, a package of frozen peas).
But as routine as icing our injuries might be, the benefits are not actually backed up by scientific studies. And some experts now believe icing could even disrupt the healing process.
I'm a contemporary dancer, and I'm nervous about trying to get pregnant since I can't predict if it might happen during the middle of the season. We have a union contract that is supposed to protect us. But I'm scared because several of my colleagues' contracts weren't renewed for no particular reason. Having a big belly could be a big reason to get rid of me!
—Andrea, New York, NY
When the going gets tough, the tough start dancing: That's the premise behind "Dance of Urgency," a recently opened exhibit at MuseumsQuartier Vienna that features photos, video and other documentary material relating to the use of dance as political protest or social uprising.
The groups featured in the show, largely based around clubs and electronic dance music scenes, span the globe and respond to a variety of issues—from inequality and social stratification to racial divides to crackdowns on club culture itself.
Last night, longtime theater legends (including Chita Rivera herself!) as well as rising stars gathered to celebrate one of Broadway's danciest events: the third annual Chita Rivera Awards.
The evening paid tribute to this season's dancer standouts, fabulous ensembles, and jaw-dropping choreography—on- and off-Broadway and on film.
As usual, several of our faves made it into the mix. (With such a fabulous talent pool of nominees to choose from, we're glad that ties were allowed.) Here are the highlights from the winner's list:
When you're a foreign dancer, gaining legal rights to work in the U.S. is a challenging process. It's especially difficult if you're petitioning to work as a freelance dancer without an agent or company sponsorship.
The process requires professional muscle along with plenty of resources and heart. "There's a real misnomer that it's super easy," says Neena Dutta, immigration attorney and president of Dutta Law Firm. "People need to educate themselves and talk to a professional."
Here are four things every foreign dancer who wants to work in the U.S. needs to know to build a freelance dance career here.
What does it take to "make it" in dance? It's no secret that turning this passion into a profession can be a struggle. In such a competitive field, talent alone isn't enough to get you where you want to be.
So what kinds of steps can you take to become successful? Dance Magazine spoke to 33 people from all corners of the industry to get their advice on the lessons that could help us all, no matter where we are in our careers.
On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.