On the Rise: Samara Seligsohn
Even while tapping with live accompaniment, Samara Seligsohn shows that she is the musician in charge. A percussive chameleon, she can alternate between impeccably crisp rhythmic bursts and delicate melodies, displaying both effortlessness and athleticism. Several burgeoning tap troupes in New York City have already claimed her, and now she’s starting to find her own voice as a choreographer.
Seligsohn's side job at Then She Fell is much more than a paycheck: Watching the cast grow in their roles inspires her to delve deeper into her tap work. Photo by Eric Tronolone, courtesy Seligsohn.
Companies: Nicholas Young’s SoundMovement Dance Company & Chloe Arnold’s Apartment 33
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Training: Ballet, tap, jazz, modern and lyrical at Meg Segreto’s Dance Centre in Davie, Florida; ballet and modern at Barnard College, where she earned a BA in dance.
Her second home: Steps on Broadway, where she spent two years in the work-study program and met three significant mentors: Derick K. Grant, Lynn Schwab and Nicholas Young.
Breakthrough moment: She presented her first ensemble piece this spring at American Tap Dance Foundation’s Rhythm in Motion showcase. The New York Times praised her and her dancers for “punctuating their soundtrack…with unexpected pockets of stillness.” Seligsohn says, “Choreographing filled an artistic void I wasn’t even aware I was feeling.”
Insider tips: During and after college, Seligsohn worked for Divine Rhythm Productions, an artist management collective headed by Elka Samuels Smith, sister of tap star Jason Samuels Smith. “I got an inside look and deeper understanding of what went into a career in tap.”
Improving her improv: “I’m still really working on opening up my flow, looking for a balance between control and spontaneity,” she says. “For me, I think this means developing a fluid translation from idea to action, and keeping my technique sharp.”
What Derick K. Grant says: “Her hunger to get better has set the bar for her friends and classmates—it’s infectious. She’s confident enough to be a leader among her peers, but humble to the point where people are happy to hire her.”
Double life: She’s also an assistant stage manager swing, working behind the scenes about once every two weeks, for Then She Fell, an interactive theatrical experience. “I’ve been so inspired watching these performers stay excited and refreshed in their characters. It gives me something to strive for as a creator and performer.”
On the horizon: Next season, she’ll return as an artist in residence with ATDF. “I come primarily from a concert dance background, so I’m interested in creating concept-based tap works that hopefully stand beside other dance forms more heavily represented on proscenium stages.”
Jennifer Kahn knew the theater industry could do better. As a professional stage manager for 17 years she worked on regional, off-Broadway and Broadway shows. Nearly each time a show closed, something unsettling happened: "I would watch them throw away our shows. All of the beautiful artwork by my friends in the paint shop would go in the trash." The elaborate backdrops? Gone.
But she had an idea: What if the material used in the backdrops and legs could be upcycled into something new? And what if theater lovers could literally keep a piece of a beloved show?
"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.
For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.
New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.
"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "
She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.