Artistry isn’t something you can build simply by showing up at the barre every morning. It’s a mysterious, elusive quality, one of the most difficult to master in dance. And yet it’s the ultimate goal of every dancer. So, how do you get it?
As we put together our first Artistry Issue, I reached out to a friend, Batsheva’s supremely quirky Ian Robinson. He’s the kind of dancer who disappears into roles as though he’s traveled to another world. I wanted to know how he does it—where does his artistry come from? “I think it has to do with being mindful about the way you see the world,” he told me. “Mindful about experiences, or habits, or weaknesses—and how you combine all that into your craft.” He thinks of his creativity like a muscle, and strengthens it by seeking out other kinds of art, by stepping outside, by paying attention to the idiosyncrasies of the people around him.
Photo: “Sometimes my approach to choreographing is like, ‘Mark, come in at the wrong time.’ ” —Doug Elkins. Deborah Lohse, Kyle Marshall and Mark Gindick rehearse Doug Elkins’ Hapless Bizarre.
Every dancer has to find their own way of working their creativity muscle. Throughout this issue, we asked a number of dance artists to share their tactics. For choreographer Doug Elkins, it’s about staying open to mistakes, seeing where “the mess-ups” might lead. In our “In Training” column, Helen Pickett talks about teaching students to dance in silence to help them dig deeper inside themselves for inspiration.
Ironically, the dancers who often have the biggest challenges developing their artistry are the ones who’ve earned acclaim for their preternatural abilities from the time they were students. Our cover story profiles one of the latest, Catherine Hurlin, who’s just joined American Ballet Theatre as an apprentice. The 18-year-old prodigy seems to have been born with charisma and stage presence. But how will she deepen her artistry now that she’s a professional? Naturally, we turned to former ABT prodigy Paloma Herrera, among others, for her advice: “It has to come from within yourself. You want to keep growing. You have to really love what you do and always want to make it better. I’m always happy to be on the stage and working. That fulfills my soul.”
Editor in Chief
Photos from top: Kyle Froman; Nathan Sayers
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
We knew that Ivo van Hove and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's production of West Side Story would challenge our preconceived notions about the show.
But a recent Vogue story gives us a taste of just how nontraditional the Broadway revival will be. Most notably, van Hove is cutting "I Feel Pretty" and the "Somewhere" ballet, condensing the show into one act to better reflect the urgency of the 48-hour plot. (The choice has been approved by the West Side Story estate, including Sondheim, who has "long been uncomfortable" with some of the "I Feel Pretty" lyrics.)
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.