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.

The Conversation
Health & Body

When Thomas Forster isn't in the gym doing his own workout, he's often coaching his colleagues.

Two years ago, the American Ballet Theatre soloist got a personal training certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Now he trains fellow ABT members and teaches the ABT Studio Company a strength and conditioning class alongside fellow ABT soloist Roman Zhurbin.

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Glenn Allen Sims and Linda Celeste Sims (here in Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain) are couple goals both onstage and off. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

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Rennie Harris leads a rehearsal of Lazarus. Photo by Kyle Froman

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Last summer's off-Broadway run of Be More Chill. Photo by Maria Baranova, Courtesy Keith Sherman & Associates

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Via Facebook

Camille Sturdivant, a former member of the Blue Valley Northwest High School dance team is suing the school district, alleging that she was barred from performing in a dance because her skin was "too dark."

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Rachel Papo

Aside from a solid warm-up, most dancers have something else they just have to do before performing. Whether it's putting on the right eyelashes before the left or giving a certain handshake before a second-act entrance, our backstage habits give us the comfort of familiar, consistent choices in an art form with so many variables.

Some call them superstitions, others call them rituals. Either way, these tiny moments become part of our work—and sometimes even end up being the most treasured part of performing.

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Just for Fun
Samantha Sturm shared an outtake from a photo shoot. Photo by Ronnie Nelson via Sturm

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Every time you fall out of a pirouette, just remember: The stars—and literally every. single. dancer.—have been there, too. (Even Misty Copeland.)

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Brendan McCarthy, Courtesy Brrrn

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Dance Training
Sin #2: Misaligning the spine. Photo by Erin Baiano

Throughout your dancing life, you've heard the same corrections over and over. The reason for the repetition? Dancers tend to make the same errors, sometimes with catastrophic results. Dance Magazine spoke to eight teachers about what they perceive to be the worst habits—the ones that will destroy a dancer's technique—and what can be done to reverse the damage.

Rolling In

To get a 180-degree first position, dancers will sometimes let their arches roll forward. But turnout is not about forcing your feet open; it's about opening up in the hips. “Turning out is an activity, not a position," says Irene Dowd, who teaches anatomy at the Juilliard School. “If we stop sustaining that movement, our feet will passively roll in." Rolling in places stress on the tendons of the feet and leads to injury because the rest of the body compensates for the imbalance when your knees can't line up over your toes.

Dowd warns against using only the arch to combat rolling in. “Dancers will try to lift up their arches and pull up on the inside of the ankle," she says. This can result in the inflammation of the tendons in the ankle and lead to tendinitis, a painful overuse injury that's common in dancers. What she feels are “Victorian furniture feet—feet that aren't fully in contact with the ground" should be solid in three areas: the heel, the ball of the big toe, and the ball of the little toe. Imagine how your weight is being transferred from above, through the body and down the legs, rather than gripping the foot and lifting from the arch.

Misaligning the Spine

Distorting the back, either by crunching the lumbar vertebrae and splaying the rib cage open or by hunching the shoulders forward and tucking the pelvis under, affects every other part of the body. Since the proper placement of the torso is the foundation of any movement, a dancer with a misaligned spine will develop other deadly technique sins. Problems can ripple all the way down to the extremities and upward to the neck and head. The core will be loose, unable to provide essential support. A pelvis that either tips back or tucks under will limit the range of motion in the hips.

Christine Spizzo's students at the North Carolina School of the Arts constantly work on their placement. “The one directive I give in class more than any other," she says, “is tailbone down, navel muscles lifted." She emphasizes that the tailbone lengthens downward without tucking under, and the navel muscles lift upward, not inward. This opposition allows the external rotator muscles to be actively engaged at the top of the thigh. Spizzo uses the expression the Four Ts—“no tucking, tipping, tilting, or twisting of the pelvis"—as a reminder for students.

Clenching the Toes

Clenching, curling, knuckling—no matter what it's called, this condition hampers a dancer's ability to articulate the feet. Clenched toes also make the feet an unstable platform to stand on, creating problems for the rest of the body. The muscles and tendons of the foot, knee, and ankle must work together to perform a relevé or jump, says Edward Ellison, director of Ellison Ballet Professional Training Program in New York. Clenched toes will place unwanted stress on the joints of the legs, leading to imbalance and overuse injuries. On pointe, knuckling over can damage the bones and tendons of the feet.

Master ballet teacher Sara Neece of Ballet Arts in New York says that when the first joint of the toe presses down into the floor too hard, the second joint of the toe jams into the metatarsal. For Neece, the key to remedying clenched toes lies in “bringing sensation to those unused tendons" beneath the second joint, and teaching the toes how to work in a careful and deliberate manner. While seated, a dancer should prick the back of each clenched toe with a fingernail about 20 times. Sitting on a chair with the foot on the ground, she should drag it back toward the body, slowly raising it to demi-pointe with a forced arch. Teachers must pay attention to the response of the feet to this localized work, since overstressing the tendons can damage them. Another way to teach the toes to stretch out is to weave a strip of cloth over the second toe and alternate below and above successive toes, leaving it there during barrework and nondance activities.

Giving In to Extreme Hyperextension

Hyperextended legs, in which the straightened knee naturally curves behind the thigh and calf muscles, are prized in the world of extreme ballet bodies. Christine Spizzo sings the praise of a moderately hyperextended leg line, as the leg fits snugly in fifth position, and the arabesque looks gorgeous, with that slight curve offsetting the arch of the foot. However, dancers with extreme hyperextension must take special care. “The hyperextended dancer tends to have weak external rotator muscles," she says, so the legs are more prone to collapse in on themselves when landing from a jump, letting the body weight fall on the knees. This can result in damage to the joints that maintain the alignment of the leg, including twisted knees and sprained ankles. Even if the dancer understands how to avoid giving in to her hyperextension, she has to learn how to express herself fully while restraining her legs.

But Spizzo points to dancers such as international star Sylvie Guillem, who has used her extreme hyperextension to her advantage. The dancer must think of lengthening rather than straightening or locking the knee, even if it feels slightly bent. She must develop a heightened awareness of the turnout muscles from the top of the thigh down to the calf. “The muscles must be activated to not allow the dancer to give in to the hyperextension," says Spizzo. She uses the image of the barbershop pole to encourage dancers to apply that feeling of an infinite spiral to their legs. Somatic practices such as Pilates can help to strengthen those stabilizing turnout muscles. Spizzo insists that dancers stand with the heels together in first position and never be allowed to press back into that knee joint. To do this, “the quadriceps must remain soft. As soon as you grip, it pulls that kneecap back dangerously."

Using Unnecessary Tension

“Tension," says Daniel Lewis, dean of dance at the New World School of the Arts, “pulls you off balance. It tightens the muscles and causes injury." Stiff muscles are injury-prone muscles, which make free and confident movement impossible.

Unwanted stiffness can also limit your versatility as a dancer. “Modern dance is concerned with trying to go into space off-center and off-balance," says Mary Cochran, chair of the dance department at Barnard College. “If you spend too much time holding your body stiffly, it's hard to make the transition from working in-balance to working off-balance."

Rhythmic breathing helps dissipate tension. Think of the lungs as another limb and pace the breath with the dynamics of the music. Sustain a sense of motion in the body, even when you are still, advises Cochran. Doing so will help reverse the muscle memory of using tension as a form of stability.

Pinching Your Shoulder Blades

Although used as a strategy to open the chest in front, pinching your shoulder blades together immobilizes the back. The serratus anterior on the sides of your rib cage is so overstretched that it can't work. Edward Ellison says that pinched shoulder blades impede the freedom of the arms and the support of the upper spine. He feels that they “cause your weight to fall behind your axis, and strain the trapezius and rhomboid muscles of the back."

Irene Dowd suggests thinking about widening the tips of the shoulders to the side, to allow plenty of room for the chest. “It helps to think about the chest—full of your lungs, your heart, all those organs—as a sphere," says Dowd. “We need to have enough room for all those precious organs to breathe." To relax shoulder blades, sometimes she will tell students to focus on the movement of the hands. “Is the hand really a lively part of my being?" Dowd has her students ask. “The shoulder blade should support that hand."

Getting Stuck in a Rut

While physical habits impede progress, the deadliest sin is losing the drive to improve technique at all. Franco De Vita, principal of American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, says good technique begins with a dancer's approach to class. Being present and focused enables the dancer to learn combinations quickly—and correctly. “Not listening and changing the exercise is unacceptable," says De Vita.

Michael Vernon, chair of the ballet department at Indiana University, feels the worst thing a dancer can do “is to get fixed into doing something a certain way, being safe. I love young dancers who understand that you have to dance for tomorrow, and not yesterday." Keeping an open mind means more than just trying a different preparation for a pirouette. “Being open to new styles of dance and new ways of moving the body is vital to keeping the art relevant."

Dancers Trending
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Cover Story
Portner's embrace of the unexpected has led to unexpected opportunities. Photo by Quinn Wharton for Dance Magazine

Clad in her signature loose black T-shirt and baggy gym shorts, Emma Portner is standing in a cavernous industrial space in downtown Los Angeles. A glass box—big enough to fit five dancers with only a little room to maneuver inside—sits in the middle. The five performers, Portner included, are standing inside it, side by side, palms on the glass.

"Question," Portner asks. "Are we looking at our hands?"

She steps out to watch the others try the phrase, and adds a few more steps. Quick, staccato movement, legs kicking out, torsos swiveling around, fists hitting glass. "This is a puzzle," she says, almost to herself. "I'm not sure I'll like it." The statement, like so many, is punctured with a sweet, nervous laugh.

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Rant & Rave
Matthew Murphy

I write this letter knowing full well and first-hand the financial challenges of running an arts organization. I also write this letter on behalf of dancers auditioning for your companies. Lastly, I write this letter as a member of society at large and as someone who cares deeply about the culture we are leading and the climate we create in the performing arts.

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Dance History
Bob Fosse rehearses a group of dancers for Sweet Charity's psychedelic "Rhythm of Life" sequence. Photo by Universal Pictures, Courtesy DM Archives

In the February 1969 issue of Dance Magazine, we talked to Bob Fosse about taking Sweet Charity from stage to screen. Though he already had a string of Tony Awards for Best Choreography and had spent plenty of time on film sets as a choreographer, this adaptation marked his first time sitting in the director's chair for a motion picture.

"When I started out, I wanted to be a Fred Astaire," he told us, "and after that a Jerome Robbins. But then I realized there was always somebody a dancer or choreographer had to take orders from. So I decided I wanted to become a director, namely a George Abbott. But as I got older I dropped the hero-worship thing. I didn't want to emulate anyone. Just wanted to do the things I was capable of doing—and have some fun doing them. By this time I'm glad I didn't turn out to be an Astaire, a Robbins or an Abbott." He would go on to become an Academy Award–winning director, indelibly changing musical theater in the process.

The Creative Process
Pat Boguslawski

If you've ever wondered where models get their moves, look just off-camera for Pat Boguslawski. As a movement director and creative consultant based in London, he works with top brands, fashion designers, magazines and film directors to elicit bold, photogenic movement for ad campaigns, runway shows and film. Boguslawski has collaborated with plenty of big-name talent—FKA Twigs, Hailey Baldwin, Victoria Beckham, Kim Kardashian—and draws on his diverse experience in hip hop, contemporary dance, acting and modeling.

Dance Magazine recently asked him about how he got this career, and what it takes to thrive in it.

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Health & Body
Leon Liu/Unsplash

Let's say that today you're having a terrible time following your class's choreography and are feeling ashamed—you're always stumbling a few beats behind. Do you:

1. Admit it's your fault because you didn't study the steps last night? Tonight you'll nail them down.
2. Feel worthless and alone? You slump your shoulders, avoid eye contact with your teacher and fellow dancers, and wish to disappear.

Shame is a natural emotion that everyone occasionally feels. If you answered #1, it may be appropriate—you earned it by not studying—and positive if it motivates you to do better in the future.

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Advice for Dancers
Getty Images

My hypermobility used to cause me a lot of trouble, but I've gained confidence and strength after reading about it in one of your columns. I now have a Pilates instructor who's retraining my body and helping me dance in a consistent way. Thank you!

—No Longer Anxious, Philadelphia, PA

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Dance History
Wendy Whelan spoke with Balanchine legends Allegra Kent, Kay Mazzo, Gloria Govrin and Merrill Ashley. Eduardo Patino.NYC, Courtesy NDI

George Balanchine famously wrote, that ballet "is a woman." Four of his most celebrated women—Allegra Kent, Gloria Govrin, Kay Mazzo and Merrill Ashley—appeared onstage at Jacques d'Amboise's National Dance Institute Monday evening to celebrate his legacy. The sold-out program, called "Balanchine's Ballerinas," included performances of excerpts from ballets closely associated with these women and a discussion, moderated by former New York City Ballet principal Wendy Whelan. Here are some highlights of the conversation, filled with affection, warmth and fond memories.

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