The (Non-Dancer) Husbands and Wives Who Swept Dancers Off Their Feet
Considering the demands of a career in dance, it isn't surprising that many professionals find romance in the rehearsal studio. With taxing schedules, perfectionist tendencies and quirky habits, it can be challenging to find true love outside of the art form. We spoke with three non-dancer spouses to hear what it's like sharing their life with professionals from ballet to Broadway.
The Musician Husband, Christopher Dale Ryan
Allison Walsh with husband Christopher Dale Ryan. Photo by Ed Israel, Courtesy Ryan.
Profession: Bassist in the band Deer Tick
Who he's married to: Allison Walsh, who danced with The Joffrey Ballet before breaking into Broadway as an original cast member in An American in Paris. Since transitioning to musical theater, Walsh has created the roles of Odette/Olga Romanov in Anastasia and headlined as Lise Dassin in the first national tour of An American in Paris.
Length of relationship: 9 years together, 1 year married
How they met: "Our best friends dated while at Hampshire College," says Ryan. "We met while visiting them. Though, it took four years for us to become friends, and several more to start dating."
Seeing his wife's performances: "I attend as many as possible. Ballet and Broadway are pretty stingy with comp tickets, and I could spend my entire income on going to see Allison perform. But I have been known to put on legwarmers and sneak through the stage door to watch Allison dance from the back of the house."
Staying connected when they're both on tour: "We talk on the phone when we can. We have negotiated long-distance logistics since the beginning of our relationship, but it was hardest this past year when we were both on the road for 10 months. We had to work extra hard to make sure we were communicating and checking how one another was doing."
Getting to the pointe: "I've grown to love helping her sew pointe shoes by picking out the threads in reused ribbons."
Handling "dancer speak" at social events: "I follow it like a tennis match, bouncing from face to face, trying to absorb and keep up with the volley words—terms, pieces, repertoires, names."
Being inspired to take dance: "After being together for several years, I realized I still didn't understand the slightest thing about dance. So, I secretly started taking adult ballet classes at Mark Morris Dance Center. It helps me to think about how I carry myself onstage."
The Yogi-Cop Wife, Colleen Quinn
From walking the beat to the Broadway beat, Colleen Quinn (left) and Stephanie Klemons. Photo courtesy Quinn.
Profession: Police officer and yoga instructor
Who she's married to: Stephanie Klemons, an award-winning Broadway performer and choreographer. Klemons currently serves as associate choreographer and global dance supervisor for Hamilton. Other credits include working as associate choreographer and dance captain on Broadway and pre-Broadway productions of Bring It On, In The Heights, and If/Then.
Length of relationship: 5 years together, 1 year married
How they met: "I used to practice yoga with her best friend. When we finally met, Stephanie barely made eye contact. A year later, we were both at a party and she finally spoke to me. We hit it off right away."
Favorite dance-related memory: "The opening night party for Hamilton. We danced our faces off until 4 am. I sweat through my whole suit."
Photo by Amanda-Lee Seely, Courtesy Quinn.
Challenges of living with a dancer: "Sweaty and stinky clothes."
On how her wife supports her work: "Stephanie is always there for me no matter what. She knows my job can be difficult, stressful and sometimes traumatic, which I try not to dump on her. But she never shies away from listening."
Favorite attributes of her spouse: "Her butt. But seriously, Stephanie has a presence when she walks into a room, which is what attracted me to her in the first place. She embodies what it means to be a woman."
The Life-Saving Husband/Dad, David (DJ) Jackson Jr.
Pennsylvania Ballet's Jermel Johnson (left) and husband DJ Jackson Jr. are fathers to a boy and baby girl. Photo courtesy Jackson.
Profession: Transplant coordinator and part-time paramedic/volunteer firefighter
Who he's married to: Jermel Johnson, a principal dancer with Pennsylvania Ballet. Throughout his 16 seasons with the company, Johnson has danced leading roles in repertoire ranging from Balanchine to classical works and contemporary world premieres.
Length of relationship: 12 years together, 4 years married
How they met: "Online through Myspace."
Favorite wedding memory: "Standing in the wedding chapel, looking into each other's eyes in amazement that society has changed so much that we were able to get married in front of our friends and family."
Jermel Johnson found love on Myspace. Photo by Arian Molina Soca, Courtesy Johnson.
Odd dancer habits: "Jermel stretches 24/7. Also, many nights he sleeps on soft balls to relax his muscles."
Favorite dance-related memories: "Seeing Jermel perform for the first time and watching him win his Princess Grace Award. I'm developing new favorite memories as our son, Jaden, watches him perform. He gets excited and starts pointing and saying, 'There's Papa!' "
How life has changed since they've become a family of four: "Having two children has fulfilled the purpose in life questions. Raising our children and instilling values that will equip them to be a part of changing society is an amazing feeling. When I think about our family, I tear up. I've seen all too many times how short life can be, and I truly treasure each day I get with my family."
Four years of lectures, exams and classes can feel like a lifetime for college dancers who have their sights set on performing. So when a professional opportunity comes knocking, it can be tempting to step away from your academics. But there are a few things to consider before putting your education on hold.
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.
We've all been there: You see the craziest/most beautiful/oddest/wildest clip of a dance on Facebook and you simply have to see more.
But do you actually get yourself to the theater and sit through a 90-minute performance? The consensus, at this point, typically seems to be: No.
There is no clear correlation between a company's social media campaigns and how many seats they fill in the theater. That doesn't mean social media isn't, of course, vital. It simply means that "social media campaigns operating without other marketing campaigns don't cut it," says Rob Bailis, associate director of Cal Performances at UC Berkeley. "But campaigns without social media are far worse off."
Since the project was first announced toward the end of 2017, we've been extremely curious about Yuli. The film, based on Carlos Acosta's memoir No Way Home, promised as much dancing as biography, with Acosta appearing as himself and dance sequences featuring his eponymous Cuba-based company Acosta Danza. Add in filmmaking power couple Icíar Bollaín (director) and Paul Laverty (screenwriter), and you have a recipe for a dance film unlike anything else we've seen recently.
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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One of the country's top arbitrators has decided to reinstate Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro to New York City Ballet. The former principals were fired last fall for "inappropriate communications," namely graphic text messages.
The dancers' union, American Guild of Musical Artists, fought the termination, arguing that the firings were unjust since they related entirely to non-work activity. After a careful review of the facts, an independent arbitrator determined that while the company was justified in disciplining the two men, suspension was the appropriate action and termination took it too far.
A woman passes three men in the street. The men pursue her. They thrust their pelvises at her. They continue to pursue her after she slaps one's hand and walks away. They surround her. She glances around at them in alarm. One snatches her purse (to review the Freudian significance of purses, click here) and saunters off with it, mocking her. She tries to take the purse back, and the three men toss it over her head among each other. They make her dance with them. Each time she indicates "No," the men try harder to force her submission to their advances.
This is all within the first 10 minutes of Jerome Robbins's Fancy Free, a 1944 ballet about three sailors frolicking on shore leave during World War II, beloved by many and still regularly performed (especially during the last year, since 2018 was the centennial celebration of Robbins's birth). Critic Edwin Denby, after the premiere with Ballet Theatre, called it "a remarkable comedy piece" and "a direct, manly piece."
When you're bouncing between hotel rooms without access to a kitchen, eating a pescatarian diet can be challenging. Stephanie Mincone, who most recently traveled the globe with Taylor Swift's Reputation Stadium Tour, told Dance Magazine how she does it—while fueling herself with enough energy to perform for thousands of Taylor fans.
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.
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?
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."
The entrancing power of Instagram can't be denied. I've lost hours of my life scrolling the platform looking at other people documenting theirs. What starts as a "quick" fill-the-moment check-in can easily lead to a good 10-15 minute session, especially if I enter the nebulous realm of "suggested videos."
My algorithm usually shows me professional ballet dancers in performances, rehearsals, class, backstage and on tour, which I quite enjoy. But there are the other dance feeds that I find myself simultaneously intrigued and horrified by: the hyper-elastic, hyper-extended, gumby-footed girls always at the barre doing developpés to six o'clock. There are the multiple turners, the avid stretchers and we can't forget the endless balancers.
This parade of tricksters always makes me wonder, What else can they do? Can they actually dance?
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.
As more states legalize cannabis, it seems the sales pitch for cannabidiol—or CBD—gets broader and broader. A quick internet search turns up claims that CBD helps with pain, depression, acne, arthritis, anxiety, insomnia, heart disease, post-traumatic stress, epilepsy and cancer. But the marketplace is unregulated, which makes it tricky to find out what CBD actually does.
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.