When Boston Ballet principal dancer Paulo Arrais was approached to choreograph for the company's spring program, Rhapsody, he immediately knew where he wanted to draw inspiration from. "I grew up in a part of Brazil where it was very common to see domestic violence," says Arrais. "I'm angry about this problem and I'm trying to find a way to choreograph with the anger I have."
Choreographer Loni Landon is no stranger to the enticing power of social media. Instagram, for example, makes it very easy for Landon to connect with other artists. "I feel torn about it," says Landon. "On one hand, I think it can be used in a really positive way. I have received so many jobs through connecting with people on social media. But I do think sometimes people are on it for the wrong reasons and it becomes a popularity contest."
"We find ourselves in a situation now with global warming where extreme storms, hurricanes and rising sea levels are happening throughout parts the world, and water is scarce or wasted in others," says choreographer Molissa Fenley. A comment on the current global threats to our environment, Fenley's dance series Water Table explores the patterns of large bodies of water.
We stepped into a rehearsal of Water Table with Molissa Fenley and Company as they prepare for an upcoming show at Danspace Project to talk performing in your 60s and how an international upbringing influenced her as an artist.
Sidra Bell is one of those choreographers whose movement dancers are drawn to. Exploring the juxtaposition of fierce athleticism and pure honesty in something as simple as stillness, her work brings her dancers to the depths of their abilities and the audience to the edge of their seats.
The role of Harlequin in Marius Petipa's comic ballet Harlequinade is one American Ballet Theatre dancer Gabe Stone Shayer knows quite well. He first performed a variation of the role when he was just nine years old. Today, he explores commedia dell'arte in Alexei Ratmansky's new take on the ballet, premiering at the Metropolitan Opera House this June.
We stepped into a rehearsal of Harlequinade with Shayer and fellow ABT dancer Cassandra Trenary for our "In The Studio" series:
Since starting his company in 1968, Lar Lubovitch has stood at the forefront of modern dance—although he is hesitant to label his work as "modern."
"I've always felt I've been making dances," he says. "I've always called them dances and I've never been one to exclude any language of movement. When I'm making a dance it's sort of an essay of all the movement I have in my body of all the dance I've studied."
After 50 years of creating dances, his work is still as technical and humanistic as ever.
The much-anticipated Martha Graham Dance Company season at New York City Center is upon us. From April 11–14, the company will present classics like Chronicle, the sly melodrama Embattled Garden and of course Graham's visceral masterwork The Rite of Spring. This season also includes works by internationally acclaimed choreographers Lucinda Childs, Lar Lubovitch and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.
We sat down with Graham artistic director Janet Eilber to talk about bringing back older Graham works, working with new choreographers and what Martha would have to say about today's wave of feminism.
Raja Feather Kelly's gender-bending, race-flipping and thought-provoking work Another Fucking Warhol Production or Who's Afraid of Andy Warhol?—now titled The Love Episode (Another Fucking Warhol Production)—is making its way back to the stage. Kelly's company, the feath3r theory, will be performing the revived work at Dance Place in Washington, D.C. on April 21 and 22. Per usual, the music will make you want to stand up in your seat and dance your pants off, but it's not a show you'll want to bring the kids to.
We stepped into the studio with Kelly to talk love, money and his fascination with Andy Warhol.
Dance Theatre of Harlem is busy preparing for the company's Vision Gala on April 4. The works on the program, which takes place on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., reflect on the legacy of Dr. King and his impact on company founder Arthur Mitchell. Among them is the much-anticipated revival of legendary choreographer Geoffrey Holder's Dougla, which will include live music and dancers from Collage Dance Collective.
We stepped into the studio with Holder's wife Carmen de Lavallade and son Leo Holder to hear what it feels like to keep Holder's legacy alive and what de Lavallade thinks of the recent rise in kids standing up against the government—as she did not too long ago.
Los Angeles-based choreographer Danielle Agami is taking on a new role in New York City: performer. While her company Ate9 is on a "vacation," she is in residency at The Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University.
We sat down with Agami to discuss creating her first solo titled framed, which she will perform May 6 at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and why she is excited to get back to her company.
At 5'10" I felt like an ant in the studio with Alonzo King LINES Ballet. The San Francisco-based company is full of statuesque dancers whose passion is infectious. Every story was told not only through their movement, but through the expression on their faces and their connection to one another.
We talked to artistic director Alonzo King about his love of collaborations and why he thinks politicians need to dance more.
American Ballet Theatre is officially on the road. Since kicking their national tour off at Washington D.C.'s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts this past week, ABT has been keeping us up-to-date: From how many pointe shoes they need to pack (spoiler alert, it's a lot), to rehearsal silliness and even an onstage moment or two. W
e rounded up our favorite moments so far—including a Facebook Live where Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside finally explain the meaning behind their nickname, The Cindys. Next stop, Detroit!
Principals Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside and corps member Lauren Post make travel sweats look chic.
In a sun-soaked studio in New York City, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater prepares for their 21-city North American tour beginning January 30. We caught up with artistic director Robert Battle to discuss his work Mass and how the tradition of modern dance has always been connected to social justice.
The ever-so-busy Kyle Abraham is back in New York City for a brief visit with his company Abraham.In.Motion as they prepare for an exciting spring season of new endeavors with some surprising guests. The company will be debuting a new program at The Joyce Theater on May 1, that will include two new pieces from Abraham, restaged works by Doug Varone and Bebe Miller, and a world premiere from Andrea Miller. Talk about an exciting line-up!
We caught up with Abraham during a recent rehearsal where he revealed what he is tired of hearing in the dance community.
If you've been following our "In The Studio" series you know that most of our episodes take place in just that—a studio. But at a dress rehearsal for Monica Bill Barnes & Company's latest project Happy Hour, I found myself in what looked like an episode of "The Office" on a day of shooting an after-work party.
Inside the Center for Flamenco Arts, you can hear the rattle of castanets and the sounds of Spanish guitar as Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana works on their upcoming tour of Navidad Flamenca, a holiday show they perform every December in each of the five boroughs of New York City. Their outreach spreads from seniors to children with disabilities and working with young girls and women in empowerment workshops.
For the past 3 years, choreographer Stephen Petronio has been reviving groundbreaking works of postmodern dance through his BLOODLINES project. This season, although his company will be performing a work by Merce Cunningham, his own choreography moves in a more luxurious direction. We stepped into the studio with Petronio and his dancers where they were busy creating a new work, Hardness 10, named for the categorization of diamonds.
If you've ever taken class with Kristin Sudeikis you know that she is as much a motivational speaker as she is a choreographer. Her approach to teaching is rooted in the idea that there should be a conversation between the dancer and all the elements that make up the dance: the music, the movement, and most importantly their connection to the other dancers in the room. Same goes for her company members when they are diving into the process of creating work.
We stepped into the studio with Sudeikis and her company to get an inside look at one of their rehearsals and chat with the dancemaker about her process:
Unbeknownst to pedestrians on the street, inside a warehouse at 383 Troutman is one of the most eccentric dance companies in Brooklyn. Company XIV is known for their ostentatious costumes, raunchy choreography and taboo twists on old classics like Snow White and The Nutcracker. From former Limon dancers on trapeze swings to opera-singing pole dancers, this company has talents that, woven together through a familiar storyline, make for an exciting show.
Between rehearsing for the company's upcoming holiday season run of Nutcracker Rouge in their newly-renovated theater and his choreography work for the Metropolitan Opera, we caught up with artistic director Austin McCormick for our latest rendition of In The Studio.
Award-winning choreographer Preeti Vasudevan has been praised for the juxtaposition of traditional and contemporary elements of Bharatanatyam (classical Indian dance) she implements in her work. We ventured to New York Live Arts where Vasudevan will be performing her new work, titled Stories By Hand, later this week.
Preeti Vasudevan "Stories By Hand" photo by Peter Cunningham
So much of Bharatanatyam is story driven. How do you implement that same communication to your audience when you are doing a non-traditional performance?
I think the biggest difference in this project is actually breaking the boundaries of Bharatanatyam to make it accessible. Because with all the gestures we have and the makeup and costumes we put on as well, there's a distancing that goes on. Even in India, not just here. People who know will sort of get it, but generally not too many people know all the fine layers of it unless you're part of the profession. Over here, the idea of also bringing personal stories is to break that wall. People immediately get access to the gestures. I think that's the difference in communication between this project and if I were to do, say, a traditional Bharatanatyam show.
Preeti Vasudevan "Stories By Hand" photo by Peter Cunningham
What are your thoughts on bringing Bharatanatyam off the proscenium stage and onto more commercial platforms?
When it came out of the temple for the proscenium stage it was a statement -- a nationalistic statement at the time of the independence of India. But now it's been more than 70 years and we're still doing the same thing. I have a big problem about the spaces which Bharatanatyam inhabits. I think it affects the way the dancer responds viscerally to her or his own body. The projection of what they do becomes a performance and then their inner narrative goes away.
Stories By Hand runs November 2-4 at New York Live Arts.
Although she constantly pushes the level of risk in her work, Streb Extreme Action Company artistic director Elizabeth Streb surprisingly looks for more than just a passion for physicality when recruiting
dancers action heroes. We went to S.L.A.M (Streb Lab for Action Mechanics) to get an inside look at a rehearsal, and quickly learned that though she may have an addiction to danger, Streb isn't quite as tough as she seems.
A sense of teamwork is really clear amongst your dancers when they are working. How is that something you have tried to instill in your company environment?
You have to be a team in this work or you are in big trouble. It certainly wasn't like that in the beginning. So this was an end game for a very incremental process. I figured out how to have people who love people in the room. It's a very pacific concept but it's a humane concept. And as we went along we realized it's our job to be socially kind and interested in anyone who walks in the room.
Speaking of which, your rehearsals are all open to the public. Is that something you have always been interested in doing?
When we moved from the Canal Street studio to garages in Williamsburg they were all on the ground floor, so we started practicing what it meant to invite the community in and let people who walk by and don't know Streb come in and be interested in watching us. And that's changed my set of questions and has changed who I'd like our public to be.
Photo by Teresa Wood
The level of risk in your work heightens each year. How do you visualize that risk in the beginning stages of a new work?
There's this great quote from Tim Cahill that says "the explorer is the person who is lost," so I don't pretend to know what I'm doing. I have an idea—is it the spinning ladder idea? Is it the high speed windshield idea? In any of those circumstances where we try to create a sense on unfamiliarity in the space, I don't really pre-amp ideas. If I know before I see it then it's happened before.
This week American Ballet Theatre launches its fall season at Lincoln Center with an exciting lineup of performances. One last-minute addition to the program is a new work from Benjamin Millepied, which will be performed by ABT Studio Company and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School dancers in the theater's promenade during select intermissions. Although the specifics of the performance are hush hush, we stepped into the studio with Millepied for an inside look.
What has it been like to choreograph on younger dancers and how, if at all, did you change your approach?
To be honest, they're really good. Rhythmically, it's not easy at all and they've done incredibly well. The piece could be longer. It's really one movement but, for the first time, to use that space it felt right. Nothing says I couldn't add two more movements next season to make it longer.
What are your thoughts on bringing classical ballet outside the proscenium setting?
For me, it's great to think of spaces theatrically. We build sets with lighting and props, but there are also all these environments that are beautiful and theatrical, and with a little bit of work you can create something within them and that becomes site-specific. That's really fun because you create something really specific for the environment.
What would you like to see more of from young ballet dancers?
What I would want to see more of in ballet is just more interesting collaborations. These ballet dancers are great and they're ready and what they need is more interesting work. I feel people are playing it safe a lot. If anything, I think it's the choreographers and the directors who need to make an effort for these dancers who have made this art form their passion, and to really be as daring or at least as relevant as some of our peers were when they were commissioning pieces a long time ago.