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“Off Kilter” Is the Ballet Comedy We’ve Been Waiting For

More often than not, we're disappointed when ballet is depicted in pop culture. Sometimes, the dance world is made out to be incredibly dark and depressing. Or, worse, non-dancers are hired to play dancers. (Gasp!)

But a new series is giving us hope that it is possible to make ballet content that is both entertaining and true to what the dance world is actually like. "Off Kilter," created by former Compania Nacional de Danza and Ballet Frankfurt dancer Alejandro Alvarez Cadilla and comedian Amy Cunningham, follows fictional choreographer Milton Frank as he creates his first work in over two decades.


The show's dry humor is enough to have us hooked (imagine if "Parks and Recreation" was set in a dance company), but "Off Kilter" also cleverly tackles important issues in the ballet world like sexism, ageism and ego.

National Ballet of Canada principal Harrison James and former Royal Winnipeg Ballet soloist Sarah Murphy-Dyson play the dancer roles, so obviously their technique is gorgeous. And they aren't bad actors, either.

Our other favorite thing about "Off Kilter": It contains delightful dance insider references, but is still relatable to non-dancers (we think?!). From the ridiculous nonsense sounds Milton uses when he's choreographing to his refusal to call his return to choreography a "comeback," we can all recognize these sometimes-quirky, sometimes-irritating behaviors in people we've worked with. But as the show's teaser points out, "You don't have to be a ballerina to know a Milton Frank."

The show is in early stages of development, but we can't wait to see more.

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Rachel Papo

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.

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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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Health & Body
Getty Images

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."

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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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