Michelle Dorrance is Choreographing for ABT. Yes, You Read That Right.
If we weren't already looking forward to American Ballet Theatre's spring gala with trepidation and excitement, we certainly are now. The company announced today that Michelle Dorrance, MacArthur-certified genius and tap dancer extraordinaire, will create a piece d'occasion to kick off ABT's spring season. It will premiere alongside Wayne McGregor's AFTERITE and excerpts from Alexei Ratmansky's new reconstruction of Harlequinade. This marks her first creation for the company.
The work was co-commissioned by Vail International Dance Festival, where Dorrance is artist in residence. ABT is making its first appearance at Vail this summer, during which the company will perform a second work created by Dorrance, accompanied by as-yet-unannounced guest artists from the festival roster.
And if that weren't enough, ABT will debut yet another Dorrance work this October during its fall season. There's no word yet as to whether the dancers will be donning tap shoes, slippers, pointe shoes or some combination thereof for these pieces.
It's a decidedly bold departure for the company. Though Dorrance is known for being a generous collaborator and frequently works with dancers who specialize in styles other than tap (particularly at Vail, where cross-genre collaborations are a matter of course), she has not previously worked with a classical ballet company at this scale.
Dorrance with Nicholas Van Young at the Guggenheim. Photo by Matthew Murphy, Courtesy Works & Process at the Guggenheim
But then again, it wouldn't be the first time that Dorrance has taken an unlikely project—say, making a site-specific, sound-driven work for the acoustically-difficult Guggenheim rotunda—and turned it into something magical. And even though we can't begin to imagine what a piece made for ABT by Dorrance might look like, it will be nice to see the name of one female choreographer in a spring season dominated (per usual) by after-Petipas and male-choreographed story ballets.
We're curious to see what comes of this new collaboration in the coming months.
In the middle of one of New York City Center's cavernous studios, Misty Copeland takes a measured step backwards. The suggestion of a swan arm ripples before she turns downstage, chest and shoulders unfurling as her legs stretch into an open lunge. She piqués onto pointe, arms echoing the sinuous curve of her back attitude, then walks out of it, pausing to warily look over her shoulder. As the droning of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto's mysterious "Attack/Transition" grows more insistent, her feet start to fly with a rapidity that seems to almost startle her.
And then she stops mid-phrase. Copeland's hands fall to her hips as she apologizes. Choreographer Kyle Abraham slides to the sound system to pause the music, giving Copeland a moment to remind herself of a recent change to the sequence.
"It's different when the sound's on!" he reassures her. "And it's a lot of changes."
The day before was the first time Abraham had seen Copeland dance the solo in its entirety, and the first moment they were in the studio together in a month. This is their last rehearsal, save for tech, before the premiere of Ash exactly one week later, as part of the opening night of City Center's Fall for Dance festival.
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:
Dancers are understandably obsessed with food. In both an aesthetic and athletic profession, you know you're judged on your body shape, but you need proper fuel to perform your best. Meanwhile, you're inundated with questionable diet advice.
"My 'favorite' was the ABC diet," says registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, who trained in dance seriously but was convinced her body type wouldn't allow her to pursue it professionally. "On the first day you eat only foods starting with the letter A, on the second day only B, and so on."
"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.