Oltremare, PC Paul Kolnik

What Wendy's Watching: NYCB Reprises Its Immigrant Ballet—With Passion

Fourteen dancers troop in, all with suitcases as though just getting off the boat. They seem tired and anxious; they don't know what to expect in this new country.


Italian choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti created Oltremare for New York City Ballet in 2008. This ballet plunges the dancers into a world where they have to fight for their survival. He portrays the plight of seven immigrant couples with force, passion and inventiveness. He has given the dancers feisty duets that are continually surprising. They roll, they pounce, they hurl themselves at each other. They are drumming up the courage to face the hardships of a new life. This immigrant ballet is even more relevant now than it was 10 years ago. We've all become aware of the risks of immigrating to this country and the precariousness of staying here. The NYCB dancers perform this ballet with a fierceness that makes it exciting to watch.

I've been struck by Bigonzetti's hugely inventive partnering before, especially with his Festa Barocca for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

This is Bigonzetti's third piece for NYCB; all have music by his frequent collaborator, Bruno Moretti. The choreographer was briefly director of La Scala Ballet and before that, the longterm director of Compagnia Aterballetto. He has made dozens of works for both ballet and modern companies including Stuttgart Ballet, English National Ballet, Ailey, Pennsylvania Ballet and National Ballet of China.

Oltremare will be performed Feb. 2, 6, 7 and 10. The entire NYCB Winter Season, with more than 25 ballets, goes until March 4.

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Stark Photo Productions, Courtesy Harlequin

Why Your Barre Can Make or Break Your At-Home Dance Training

Throughout the pandemic, Shelby Williams, of Royal Ballet of Flanders (aka "Biscuit Ballerina"), has been sharing videos that capture the pitfalls of dancers working from home: slipping on linoleum, kicking over lamps and even taking windows apart at the "barre." "Dancers aren't known to be graceful all of the time," says Mandy Blackmon, PT, DPT, OSC, CMTPT, head physical therapist/medical director for Atlanta Ballet. "They tend to fall and trip."

Many dancers have tried to make their home spaces as safe as possible for class and rehearsal by setting up a piece of marley, like Harlequin's Dance Mat, to work on. But there's another element needed for taking thorough ballet classes at home: a portable barre.

"Using a barre is kinda Ballet 101," says 16-year-old Haley Dale, a student in her second year at American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. She'd bought a portable barre from Harlequin to use at her parents' home in Northern Virginia even before the pandemic hit. "Before I got it, honestly I would stay away from doing barre work at home. Now I'm able to do it all the time."

Blackmon bought her 15-year-old stepdaughter a freestanding Professional Series Ballet Barre from Harlequin early on in quarantine. "I was worried about her injuring herself without one," she admits.

What exactly makes Harlequin's barres an at-home must-have, and hanging on to a chair or countertop so risky? Here are five major differences dancers will notice right away.

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December 2020