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On the Rise: Margaret Mullin
Margaret Mullin unfurls a luxurious développé in the middle of a pas de deux. This brief moment of unhurried classical grace comes as a surprise amid the fast, fierce, contemporary angles of Jirí Kylián’s Sechs Tänze. Yet Mullin makes it feel all of a piece, and it becomes clear she not only understands classical and contemporary vocabulary, she can make them work together.
That suits Pacific Northwest Ballet artistic director Peter Boal, who cast the 22-year-old corps member in eight soloist roles last season. He points to her successes in such varied ballets as Sleeping Beauty (Bluebird), The Four Temperaments (demi-soloist), and Victor Quijada’s oozing Suspension of Disbelief (ensemble). “With Maggie, it’s all been surprises. I expected her to do well, and she did better than expected at many different turns.”
Mullin grew up in Tucson with her mother and grandmother. She took her first dance class at age 4. At 9, she moved to Ballet Arts, where she stayed through high school. She spent five summers at the PNB School, a year in its professional division, and joined PNB’s corps in 2009.
It was not a straight shot, however. Helping her were other students’ parents, who drove her to class when her mother was struck by a longterm illness, and her dance teachers Mary Beth Cabana and Chieko Imada. At 16, Mullin was sidelined by an ankle injury for nearly a year. She spent her downtime choreographing. The months off showed Mullin how committed she was to dancing. And she realized how crucial it is to know your body and take time as you learn. “Everyone gets injured; it’s just a part of what we do,” she says. “It’s important to not punish yourself for that.”
It’s easy to trace certain aspects of Mullin’s dancing to Ballet Arts, where the curriculum incorporated many styles. Variation classes—even for the little kids—emphasized artistry. Technique was not ignored, however. “Everything was very, very clean,” says Mullin.
The results were apparent even at the start of her 2008 apprenticeship, when she danced in Benjamin Millepied’s 3 Movements. She showed her strong stage presence, musicality, clean lines, and ability to fly across the stage. (“Her traveling is beautiful,” says Boal. “She lets the music help her jump.”)
Mullin works hard in class (even her tendus are a dramatic performance, strong feet slicing fast and clear). And she has performed challenging roles this spring, including Butterfly in Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Peasant Pas de Deux in Giselle. If Ballet Arts gave her what Mullin describes as “the raw material,” she says her years at PNB have been about “putting it into motion in the right way” with the help of Boal and the company’s ballet masters. Her control, refinement, and sophistication have increased so much so that Boal nominated her for a Princess Grace Award.
As for her interests outside of dance, Mullin says that she loves drawing, writing, and watching old movies. She also goes to lots of concerts with her boyfriend, who is a musician. Even at the symphony she catches herself choreographing in her head. Part of Ballet Arts’ curriculum, choreographing is something Mullin has continued to do at PNB for its annual choreographers’ showcase. Boal says this has helped her grow as an artist.
Watching Mullin set a piece on some poised Professional Division students, one can see how already she is passing down some of what she appreciates so deeply from teachers like Boal and PNB’s Elaine Bauer (who coached her on her Princess Grace Award submission). Bauer says that Mullin “has the fertile mind of an artist, taking the seed of an idea and making it grow before our eyes.” This bodes well for Mullin’s dream of someday dancing Juliette in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette. Character, motivation, and musicality are key in this role—a role made for those who understand both contemporary and classical. It could be a perfect fit.
Rosie Gaynor is a Seattle dance writer.
Mullin in Paul Gibson’s The Piano Dance. Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.
Is it any surprise a world premiere by choreographer Uri Sands and musician Justin Vernon, both renowned for the profound beauty and gorgeous musicality of their work, immediately sold out? We're hungry for creative collaborations that take reflective deep dives into what constitutes our humanity—and then there's the undeniable cool factor. Nine members of TU Dance will perform alongside Bon Iver (Vernon's band) during the evening-length piece. Presented as part of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's Liquid Music Series. April 19–21. The work will also appear at the Hollywood Bowl Aug. 5. tudance.org.
Ah, the quest for the perfect, foot-flattering, technique-enhancing pointe shoe: It can feel like a never-ending saga. Still on the hunt for that ideal pair? Then you won't want to miss The School at Steps' annual Pointe Shoe Workshop and Fair, happening this Sunday, April 22nd, at 6:30 pm in NYC.
As always, the event—which is sponsored by our friends at Pointe—will feature an impressive panel of experts. This year's lineup includes orthopedist Dr. Andrew Price, professional fitter Mary Carpenter, master teacher Linda Gelinas, Pointe style editor Marissa DeSantis, and New York City Ballet star Sara Mearns (eee!).
Jennifer Nichols was rehearsing barefoot this winter when she got a split in the bottom of her foot. An independent choreographer, she was preparing a self-made solo to be performed as part of a new music show in Toronto, and the studio's Marley floor was usually used by winter boot–wearing musicians.
A split may not seem like a big deal. But this one led to a serious infection that would land Nichols in hospital and almost end her performing career.
You might feel like the second choice when you look at the casting sheet, but understudies are necessary, valued team members who are regularly called off the bench to perform—even with very little prep time. "It is like the ultimate trust exercise with your director," says Mia J. Chong, who understudied many roles in ODC/Dance's The Velveteen Rabbit as an apprentice before becoming a company dancer this year. "Often, you do a lot of the homework on your own to make sure you can produce a quality performance, even if you don't have the chance to demonstrate it right away."
Here's what to expect when you're learning from the back of the room and—when you're needed—how to step into the part with confidence.
In his final bow at New York City Ballet, during what should have been a heroic conclusion to a celebrated ballet career, Robert Fairchild slipped and fell. His reaction? To lie down flat on his back like he meant to do it. Then start cracking up at himself.
"He's such a ham," says his sister Megan Fairchild, with a laugh. "He's really good at selling whatever his body is doing that day. He'll turn a moment that I would totally go home and cry about into something where the audience is like, 'That's the most amazing thing ever!' "
I found a great boyfriend in my ballet company. I love how he understands my life as a professional dancer. The problem is we've started fighting whenever one of us gives the other a correction during partnering. Is dating him a bad idea?
—Lovesick, Toronto, Ontario
The #MeToo movement has made its way to France's biggest ballet company.
An anonymous survey recently leaked to the French press revealed major turbulence at the Paris Opéra Ballet. The Straits Times reports that the survey was conducted by an internal group representing POB's dancers. In it, there are numerous claims of bullying, sexual harassment and management issues.
Nearly all of the dancers (132 out of 154) answered the questionnaire, but they didn't know it would be made public. (Around 100 of them later signed a statement saying they didn't consent to its release.)
Merce Cunningham would have been 99 years old today, and, as a present to the dance world, the Merce Cunningham Trust has announced a dizzying array of celebrations to unfold over the next year in honor of the groundbreaking choreographer's 2019 centennial.
"Merce liked saying he didn't want to celebrate his birthday, and yet he always enjoyed when we threw parties for him," Trevor Carlson, producer of the Merce Cunningham Centennial, said in a press release. Though the Merce Cunningham Dance Company shuttered in 2011 (two years after the choreographer's death, per his wishes), plans to celebrate his legacy range from performances to film screenings to workshops to education programs to dinner parties.