Dance & Activism

Midterm Elections Are Nov. 6. Treat Them Like a Performance: Show Up

The midterm elections are less than three weeks away on November 6. If you're registered to vote, hooray!

But you can't fully celebrate before you've completed your mission. Showing up at the polls is what matters most—especially since voter turnout for midterms doesn't have a fabulous track record. According to statistics from FairVote, about 40 percent of the population that is eligible to vote actually casts a ballot during midterm elections.

Many members of the dance community are making it clear that they want that percentage go up, and they're using social media to take a stand. Here's how they're getting involved:


Rachel Neville's #movethevote

On August 20, popular dance photographer Rachel Neville announced her #movethevote campaign. Since then, she's been steadily posting photographs of dancers clad in white, all wearing a bar of bold red lipstick across their face. Some of the images include political statistics or messages about what's at stake—big issues like women's rights, gun control and arts advocacy just to name a few.

Her subjects are well-known performers, like New York City Ballet's Ashley Bouder, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Fana Tesfagiorgis and Neil Haskell, who's currently in Hamilton. Not only do they take arresting photographs, but they have robust social media followings, which will hopefully help boost voter turnout.

Dance for Democracy

Another dancer-driven campaign is Dance for Democracy, which released a video featuring choreography by a host of dancer-activists, including Debbie Allen, Kenny Ortega, Chloe Arnold and Wade Robson.

UPDATE 10/25: "Blue Wave," choreographed and directed by Andrew Winghart

Since posting this original story, another dance-heavy campaign has started gaining ground. Andrew Winghart has teamed up with Swing Left, a grassroots organization that aims to inspire more votes for Democratic candidates in swing districts. The video above, directed and choreographed by Winghart, features his signature brand of unison and canon moves en masse to make a powerful statement. It's set to a soundtrack of Sia's "Never Give Up" with voiceovers from volunteers explaining why your vote matters.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS' #beltthevote

And if you're more of the song-and-dance type, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is encouraging voter registration with its #betlthevote campaign. ("You vote, Glen Coco!") We don't care whether you sing or dance your way to the polls, as long as you get there. See you November 6!

Broadway

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.)

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Sponsored by NYCDA
Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

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:

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Cover Story
Jayme Thornton

It's a much-repeated part of Francesca Hayward's origin story that she discovered ballet at age 3, when her grandparents bought a video of The Nutcracker to keep her occupied and she immediately started dancing around the room. What's less well-known is that there was another video lined up next to The Nutcracker that Hayward liked to dance along to: Cats. "I really just did the White Cat bit and fast-forwarded the rest," she remembers. "I'd make my friends who came around be the other cats."

Twenty-four years later, she's not only become a Royal Ballet principal, but has been cast as Victoria the White Cat in Tom Hooper's new movie adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, out in theaters on December 20. "I remember the director telling me I'd got the part: 'Just to let you know you're the lead in a Hollywood film,' he said." Hayward laughs. "This is crazy!"

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Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Left: Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston Ballet's Dance Lab; Courtesy Harlequin. Right: The Dance Lab pre-Harvey; Nic Lehoux, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

"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.

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