Why It's Okay to Be Choosy About Who You Dance For
I have a commitment, a romance, a love affair with dance, with the feeling that happens when the music and the steps so perfectly align and I can't help but get chills. That feeling when my partner and I are dancing as one, when everyone onstage feels the same heartbeat, when it's just me alone in my bedroom.
Holly James, Courtesy Garcia-Lee
I fall madly in love when I dance. I love the work. I grow in the grind. I show up to the studio and the music and the steps and I allow them to wash over me. I emerge hours later a better and more alive person.
I have become incredibly picky about who I dance for. I want to dance with choreographers who really see me, who see my heart and soul. I want to be in the space of someone who loves creating and storytelling in a way that lights me up and inspires me. I want to connect with the people I work with, knowing that we complement each other's energy.
Photo by Susan Stripling, Courtesy Garcia-Lee
When I audition now, I feel a sense of holding a personal audition, as well. Is this someone who sees me? Is this someone I feel a resounding pull to create with? It's similar to the way that I feel with any relationship in my life—I am incredibly picky about who I open up to and share my soul with. I feel lucky to have marvelous working relationships with brilliant choreographers who I truly believe see me clearly. Choreographers who I have been artistically vulnerable with—I have trusted them and in turn I believe they trust me too.
I am at a point where, in addition to performing on Broadway, I am falling in love with storytelling on camera. Stepping into the next chapter of my artistic experience, playing roles and dancing on screen, expanding into a new medium. It's special knowing that no matter where I am, no matter what I am doing, it is all born from and it all returns to my first love, my first language—dance.
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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:
We knew that Ivo van Hove and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's production of West Side Story would challenge our preconceived notions about the show.
But a recent Vogue story gives us a taste of just how nontraditional the Broadway revival will be. Most notably, van Hove is cutting "I Feel Pretty" and the "Somewhere" ballet, condensing the show into one act to better reflect the urgency of the 48-hour plot. (The choice has been approved by the West Side Story estate, including Sondheim, who has "long been uncomfortable" with some of the "I Feel Pretty" lyrics.)
"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.