Making a Splash
Vampires bare their fangs in the Carolinas, bayadères besiege Boston, and you can’t make a move without encountering a ballet set to Carmina Burana. The dancescape this autumn looks promising. At home, ballet companies favor narratives, some traditional, others original. The touring slate includes major expeditions from Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Sankai Juku, and, as it celebrates its 30th anniversary, the Mark Morris Dance Group.
What’s different this autumn? American Ballet Theatre is missing from the boards (in order to concentrate on its new Nutcracker), but New Yorkers will have the opportunity to enjoy a fall season with New York City Ballet, the company’s first (at Lincoln Center, Sept. 14–Oct. 10). The Oct. 7 gala features a local premiere by the prolific Benjamin Millepied, and the fall run includes a revival of Peter Martins’ charming 1981 production of The Magic Flute. Several of the “Architecture of Dance” commissions (see “Reviews,” page 62) will be reprised.
A national rundown of the always popular story ballets must begin with Swan Lake. You can find our feathered friends at the Nashville Ballet Oct. 29. The Sleeping Beauty has inspired a new version (based on the Petipa original) from Oregon Ballet Theatre’s artistic director Christopher Stowell, completing his triptych of full-length Tchaikovsky ballets; the company unveils the production in Portland Oct. 9. More Petipa is due Nov. 4 from Boston Ballet in the guise of the exotic 1877 hit, La Bayadère. Former Paris Opéra Ballet étoile Florence Clerc assumes choreographic duties.
For Cinderella, you get a choice. In Toronto, The National Ballet of Canada reprises James Kudelka’s widely seen version Nov. 11. Texas Ballet Theater goes to the ball in Ben Stevenson’s version, set for both Dallas and Fort Worth. No fall season is complete without a Romeo and Juliet. For that, head to the Kennedy Center, where Septime Webre’s Washington Ballet staging receives a revival Nov. 3. At Ballet Arizona, Ib Andersen celebrates his 10th anniversary as artistic director with a revival of his Midsummer Night’s Dream; it opens in Phoenix Nov. 5.
Nobody living knows what Perrot’s original steps for the 1844 Esmeralda looked like, a fact that hasn’t stopped choreographers from attempting their own productions. The latest artistic director to take the plunge is the Milwaukee Ballet’s Michael Pink, whose staging of Esmeralda (inspired by Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) will recruit additional dancers from Milwaukee’s junior company for its premiere Oct. 28. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre opens its season Oct. 22 with a revival of André Prokovsky’s The Three Musketeers, with plot adapted from the Dumas novel and music borrowed from Verdi.
For the Halloween season, vampires are giving regional companies a transfusion at the box office. Mark Godden’s Dracula, an erstwhile hit at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, arrives at North Carolina Dance Theatre with music by Mahler. The piece launches the 40th-anniversary season Oct. 8 in Charlotte. In Raleigh on Oct. 14, Carolina Ballet serves up a premiere of its own romantic bloodsucker with choreography by Lynne Taylor-Corbett. Dracula will be preceded by artistic director Robert Weiss’ staging of Firebird, which opens the season in tandem with a premiere by principal dancer Timour Bourtasenkov. Also in Raleigh, Bruce Wells’ Pinocchio opens Nov. 24. Michael Pink’s Dracula will be imported by the Colorado Ballet in Denver starting Oct. 15, a highlight of the company’s 50th-anniversary season.
In the category of one-act narratives, few are as compelling or as enduring as Roland Petit’s Carmen. It forms the centerpiece of Pennsylvania Ballet’s season opener Oct. 21 in Philadelphia. Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco and a premiere by resident choreographer Matthew Neenan complete the evening. As for Carmina Burana, John Butler’s version of Carl Orff’s scenic cantata, which has achieved near-classic status, will be revived by Ballet West for its season opener in Salt Lake City Oct. 29. (Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments completes the program.) Not to be topped, Stephen Mills, the artistic director of Ballet Austin, offers his own take on the piece Sept. 24, partnered by the choreographer’s Kai, to music by John Cage.
The fall also abounds in major choreographer tributes. At the Kennedy Center Nov. 17, the resident Suzanne Farrell Ballet offers the former dancer’s stagings of Balanchine’s La Sonnambula and Monumentum Pro Gesualdo & Movements for Piano and Orchestra, as well as Robbins’ In Memory of… . Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet delivers an all-Tharp bill (Opus 111, Afternoon Ball, Waterbaby Bagatelles) Nov. 5. Company premieres by Balanchine and Wheeldon fill the Joffrey Ballet’s opening bill Oct. 13 in Chicago.
Dancemakers will continue to seek outside inspiration for their work. For the bicentennial of the Ballets Russes, Alonzo King prepared his own version of Fokine’s Schéhérazade, not set to the original Rimsky-Korsakov, but to a reinterpretation of the music by classical Indian music legend Zakir Hussain. After performing it at the Monaco Dance Forum (see “Dance Matters,” July), LINES Ballet brings it to San Francisco Oct. 14.
Premieres and debuts are sprouting all over the map this fall. Start with Ralph Lemon’s full-evening creation, How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere? Described as a “speculative fiction epic,” and danced by Lemon’s Cross Performance troupe, this project involves a collaboration with Walter Carter, a 102-year-old ex-sharecropper, and references Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Solaris. The work opens in San Francisco Oct. 7 and moves to the Brooklyn Academy of Music Oct. 13. Also coming to BAM are Angelin Preljocaj’s Cunningham-esque Empty moves Oct. 27; and—their first trip to the U.S. after Pina Bausch’s death—Tanztheater Wuppertal Sept. 29, with the U.S. premiere of Vollmond (Full Moon). (See more about Bausch’s company on the next page.)
The Mark Morris Dance Group promises a world premiere for the Celebrity Series of Boston Oct. 14. MMDG will also offer three West Coast premieres (Behemoth, Looky, Socrates) when it launches the Cal Performances dance programming in Berkeley Sept. 30.
The expanded Dance at the Music Center series in Los Angeles hosts the West Coast debut of Corella Ballet Castilla y León, which opens the season Nov. 5 with dances by Welch, Tippet, Wheeldon, and María Pagés’ charming duet for the Corella siblings Ángel and Carmen.
Substantial touring schedules loom this fall. The Paul Taylor Dance Company will be performing its glorious repertory in more than a dozen cities in October and November, including Philadelphia Oct. 21 and Minneapolis Nov. 30. Lucinda Childs takes the revival of her classic DANCE to White Bird in Portland, OR, Oct. 7. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago has announced an extensive traveling schedule; stops include Berkeley (Oct. 29), Cleveland (Nov. 6), Washington, DC (Nov. 12), Dallas (Nov. 19), and Miami (Dec. 11). The dances are by Duato, Kylián, and resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo.
Among the most illustrious visitors this fall is the Japanese butoh troupe Sankai Juku, who will be touring with a pair of the slow-moving epics that have riveted audiences for decades. New York’s Joyce Theater (Oct. 5) gets director Ushio Amagatsu’s recent work Tobari. Most other places, which include Montreal (Sept. 30), Chicago (Oct. 20), and San Francisco (Nov. 11) will see the 1998 Hibiki—Resonance from Far Away. Less familiar to American audiences will be Mexico City’s visually stunning modernist Tania Pérez-Salas, who makes a major tour with her company this month. The troupe opens the Northrop dance season in Minneapolis Sept. 24, then launches the contemporary dance series at the Kennedy Center Sept. 28 before making a Miami debut Oct. 2.
Of all the touring events the next three months, perhaps the most unusual and unmissable may be “FLY: Five First Ladies of Dance.” They are Germaine Acogny, Carmen deLavallade, Dianne McIntyre, Bebe Miller, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar—all instrumental in shaping the modern dance landscape and all presenting solo work here. In their own way, they’re all legends. Catch “FLY” Nov. 2 at the Kennedy Center and Dec. 3 at Oberlin College, OH.
Allan Ulrich is a Dance Magazine Senior Advising Editor.
Pictured: Pina Bausch's Vollmond to appaear at BAM's Next Wave Festival. Photo by Laurent Phillippe, Courtesy BAM.
Choosing music for your first-ever choreography commission can feel daunting enough. But when you're asked to create a ballet using the vast discography of the Rolling Stones—and you happen to be dating Stones frontman Mick Jagger—the stakes are even higher.
So it's understandable that as of Monday, American Ballet Theatre corps de ballet dancer Melanie Hamrick, whose Port Rouge will have its U.S. premiere tonight at the Youth America Grand Prix gala, was still torn about which songs to include.
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.
What is an acceptable request from a choreographer in terms of nudity? On the first day of shooting All That Jazz in the 1970s, Bob Fosse asked us men to remove everything but our jock straps and the women to remove their tops. His rationale was to shock us in order to build character, and it felt disloyal to refuse. Would this behavior be considered okay today?
As much as audiences might flock to Swan Lake or The Nutcracker, ballet can't only rely on old war horses if it wants to remain relevant. But building new full-lengths from scratch isn't exactly cheap.
So where can companies find the money?
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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Today—April 16, 2019—marks what would have been Merce Cunningham's 100th birthday. As dancers from Los Angeles to New York City to London gear up for Night of 100 Solos (the marathon performance event being livestreamed today), and as companies and presenters worldwide continue to celebrate the Cunningham Centennial through their programming, we searched through the Dance Magazine Archives to unearth our favorite images of the groundbreaking dancemaker.
A bright disposition with a dab of astringent charm is how I remember Brock Hayhoe, a National Ballet School of Canada schoolmate. Because we were a couple years apart, we barely brushed shoulders, except at the odd Toronto dance party where we could dance all night with mutual friends letting our inhibitions subside through the music. Dancing always allows a deeper look.
But, as my late great ballet teacher Pyotr Pestov told me when I interviewed him for Dance Magazine in 2009, "You never know what a flower is going to look like until it opens up."
One night. Three cities. Seventy-five dancers. And three unique sets of 100 solos, all choreographed by Merce Cunningham.
This incredible evening of dance will honor Cunningham's 100th birthday on April 16. The Merce Cunningham Trust has teamed up with The Barbican in London, the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City and the Center for the Art of Performance in Los Angeles for a tri-city celebration.
The best part? You don't have to be in those cities to watch—Night of 100 Solos is being live-streamed in its entirety for free.
When George Balanchine's full-length Don Quixote premiered in 1965, critics and audiences alike viewed the ballet as a failure. Elaborate scenery and costumes framed mawkish mime passages, like one in which the ballerina washed the Don's feet and dried them with her hair. Its revival in 2005 by Suzanne Farrell, the ballerina on whom it was made and to whom Balanchine left the work, did little to alter its reputation.
Yet at New York City Center's Balanchine festival last fall, some regretted its absence.
"I'd want to see Balanchine's Don Quixote," says Apollinaire Scherr, dance critic for the Financial Times. "It was a labor of love on his part, and a love letter as well. And you want to know what that looks like in his work."
Even great choreographers make mistakes. Sometimes they fail on a grand scale, like Don Quixote; other times it may be a minor misstep. Experiment and risk help choreographers grow, but what happens when a choreographer of stature misfires? Should the work remain in the repertory? And what about a work that fails on some levels but not others?
After the horrific March 15 terrorist attacks at two New Zealand mosques, the music and arts community sprang into action to plan a way to help victims and their families. A series of resulting concerts, titled "You Are Us/Aroha Nui," will take place in New Zealand (April 13 and 17), Jersey City, New Jersey (April 17) and Los Angeles (April 18). Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Our People, Our City Fund, which was established by the Christchurch Foundation to aid those affected by the attacks.
Throughout 2019, the Merce Cunningham Trust continues a global celebration that will be one of the largest tributes to a dance artist ever. Under the umbrella of the Merce Cunningham Centennial are classes and workshops, film screenings and festivals, art exhibitions and symposia, and revivals and premieres of original works inspired by the dancemaker's ideas. The fever peaks on April 16, which would have been the pioneering choreographer's 100th birthday, with Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event, featuring a total of 75 dancers in three performances live-streamed from London, Los Angeles and New York City.
Cloud & Victory gets dancers. The dancewear brand's social media drools over Roberto Bolle's abs, sets classical variations to Beyoncé and moans over Mondays and long adagios. And it all comes from the mind of founder Tan Li Min, the boss lady who takes on everything from designs to inventory to shipping orders.
Known simply (and affectionately) to the brand's 41K Instagram followers as Min, she's used her wry, winking sense of humor to give the Singapore-based C&V international cachet.
She recently spoke with Dance Magazine about building the brand, overcoming insecurity and using pizza as inspiration.
The Ballet Memphis New American Dance Residency, which welcomes selected choreographers for its inaugural iteration next week, goes a step beyond granting space, time and dancers for the development of new work.
This is huge news, so we'll get straight to it:
We now (finally!) know who'll be appearing onscreen alongside Ariana DeBose and the other previously announced leads in Steven Spielberg's remake of West Side Story, choreographed by Justin Peck. Unsurprisingly, the Sharks/Jets cast list includes some of the best dancers in the industry.
The pleasure of watching prodigies perform technical feats on Instagram can be tinged with a sense of trepidation. Impressive tricks, you think, but do they have what it takes for an actual career?
Just look at 18-year-old Maria Khoreva, who has more followers than most seasoned principals; in videos, her lines and attention to detail suggested a precocious talent, and led to a Nike ambassador contract before she even graduated from the Vaganova Ballet Academy. Still, when she joined the Mariinsky Ballet last summer, there was no guarantee any of it would translate to stage prowess.
What's next for the dance world? Our annual list of the dancers, choreographers and companies that are on the verge of skyrocketing has a pretty excellent track record of answering that question.
Here they are: the 25 up-and-coming artists we believe represent the future of our field.
At six feet tall, Jesse Obremski dances as though he's investigating each movement for the first time. His quiet transitional moments are as astounding as his long lines, bounding jumps and seamless floorwork. Add in his versatility and work ethic, and it's clear why he's an invaluable asset to New York City choreographers. Currently a freelance artist with multiple contemporary groups, including Gibney Dance Company and Limón Dance Company, Obremski also choreographs for his recently formed troupe, Obremski/Works.
Last night at Parsons Dance's 2019 gala, the company celebrated one of our own: DanceMedia owner Frederic M. Seegal.
In a speech, artistic director David Parsons said that he wanted to honor Seegal for the way he devotes his energy to supporting premier art organizations, "making sure that the arts are part of who we are," he said.
It's a bit of an understatement to say that Bob Fosse was challenging to work with. He was irritable, inappropriate and often clashed with his collaborators in front of all his dancers. Fosse/Verdon, which premieres on FX tonight, doesn't sugarcoat any of this.
But for Sasha Hutchings, who danced in the first episode's rendition of "Big Spender," the mood on set was quite opposite from the one that Fosse created. Hutchings had already worked with choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, who she calls "a dancer's dream," director Tommy Kail and music director Alex Lacamoire as a original cast member in Hamilton, and she says the collaborators' calm energy made the experience a pleasant one for the dancers.
"Television can be really stressful," she says. "There's so many moving parts and everyone has to work in sync. With Tommy, Andy and Lac I never felt the stress of that as a performer."