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Paradise in Positano
What do Christopher Wheeldon, Olga Smirnova, Steven McRae, PeiJu Chien-Pott and Xander Parish have in common? They were all honored with the Premio Positano Danza Léonide Massine on Saturday in Positano, Italy. As one of the judges, I was there to soak in the artistry of these and other dance artists, as well as the beauty of this town on the Amalfi Coast. For the first time, the Positano Prize formed a partnership with the Benois de la danse Prize, which went to the Royal Swedish Ballet’s Marika Kido.
Carla Fracci, Italy's beloved prima ballerina, was on hand, and so was Alberta Testa, founder of the Positano Prize. Here’s a quick rundown of the gala performance, which took place on an outdoors platform on the beach—after the rain:
• Opening the dance portion (after endless speeches) was the kinetically exciting Alvaro Dule of Wayne McGregor|Random Dance. In a solo made for the occasion by Matteo Levaggi, Dule leapt wth leonine strength, distended his ribs, and spiraled his fingers. The effect was sheer contemporary energy.
Alvaro Dule, all photos by Arkimedia Lab Communication - Vito Fusco
• The lifetime award went to Mats Ek and Ana Laguna (click here and scroll down to see our coverage of Mats Ek when he received the Dance Magazine Award last year) To the delight of everyone, Laguna, with her forthright lustiness, played the Nurse to Mariko Kida’s spritely Juliet in an excerpt from Ek’s Juliia & Romeo.
• Steven McRae of The Royal Ballet danced two fast and dense solos (Les Lutins by Johan Kobborg, and Czardas by himself). In Czardas, he whipped the ballet folk form into a tap-dancing frenzy, during which the mic tethered to his body flung outward as he spun around. He caught it in time to finish up with a roll and cool lounge pose.
• I can see why Laura Cappelle wrote that audiences are “awestruck” by Olga Smirnova in the June cover story. In both Balanchine’s Diamonds, with Bolshoi partner Semyon Chudin, and her Dying Swan, her dancing was supremely majestic.
Smirnova and Chudin in "Diamonds."
• PeiJu Chien-Pott, the latest powerhouse of the Martha Graham Dance Company, performed two solos from Cave of the Heart, animating the oppositional Graham shapes with an inner emotional force.
• A moving moment came when the blind dancer Giuseppe Comuniello performed Vergilio Sieni’s Picasso con Sedia. Stretching across the seat of a chair and pressing his face between the slats, he was clearly feeling his way.
* In tribute to Wheeldon, Dutch National Ballet dancers Anna Tsigankova and Jozef Varga performed the intriguingly complex partnering of his recent Duet expertly (with only one flub due to the still-wet floor).
Tsigankova and Varga in Duet by Christopher Wheeldon
• Two Mariinsky dancers, Xander Parish (read his “Why I Dance” here) and Oksana Skorik, performed the White Swan pas de deux. He was every inch the prince, and she was a real creature with a lovely sense of abandon.
• Rudolf Nureyev, who received a Positano Prize in 1982, was represented by Carlo ie Lanno’s sensitive interpretation of a fourth-act solo for Siegfried in the icon's version of Swan Lake. Nureyev loved this region so much that he bought the island Li Galli, just 20 minutes off the coast, and made it his home for the last two decades of his life. Some of us were fortunate to actually visit this fantastic island on Saturday morning, courtesy of the Positano Prize’s artistic director, Daniele Cipriani. Nureyev knew how to live in high style; every object inside the several buildings, now owned by a local hotelier, is exquisite. Massine, who had owned the island before Nureyev, had renovated an ancient lighthouse to create a dance studio. The island itself as well as everything in it and on it was so overwhelmingly beautiful that the word "paradise" was on everyone's lips.
Here’s the list of prizes awarded:
• Lifetime Achievement: Mats Ek and Ana Laguna
• Choreographer of the Year: Christopher Wheeldon
• Benois/Positano Award: Mariko Kida (Royal Swedish Ballet)
• Female Dancer of the Year, international scene: Olga Smirnova (Bolshoi, Moscow)
• Male Dancer of the Year, international: Steven McRae (The Royal Ballet, London)
• Female Emerging Dancer, international: Oksana Skorik (Mariinsky, St. Petersburg)
• Male Emerging Dancer, international: Xander Parish (Mariinsky, St. Petersburg)
• Female Dancer of the Year, contemporary, international: PeiJu Chien-Pott (Martha Graham Dance Company, New York)
• Male Dancer of the Year, contemporary, international: Alvaro Dule (Wayne McGregor|Random Dance, London)
• Classical Dancer of the Year, Italian scene: Carl di Lanno (formerly La Scala in Milan, today San Francisco Ballet)
• Contemporary Dancer of the Year, Italian: Giuseppe Comuniello (Virgilio Sieni Dance)
• Massine Prize Legacy: Elizabeth Souritz (noted dance historian and biographer of Léonide Massine, Moscow)
• For excellent dance training "Luca Vespoli": Larissa Anisimova (President Foundation National Academy of Dance, Rome)
New York City–based dancers know Gibney. It's a performance venue, a dance company, a rehearsal space, an internship possibility—a Rubik's Cube of resources bundled into two sites at 280 and 890 Broadway. And in March of this year, Gibney (having officially dropped "Dance" from its name) announced a major expansion of its space and programming; it now operates a total of 52,000 square feet, 23 studios and five performance spaces across the two locations.
Six of those studios and one performance space are brand-new at the 280 Broadway location, along with several programs. EMERGE will commission new works by emerging choreographic voices for the resident Gibney Dance Company each year; Making Space+ is an extension of Gibney's Making Space commissioning and presenting program, focused on early-career artists. For the next three years, the Joyce Theater Foundation's artist residency programs will be run out of one of the new Gibney studios, helping to fill the gap left by the closing of the Joyce's DANY Studios in 2016.
What is the right flooring system for us?
So many choices, companies, claims, endorsements, and recommendations to consider. The more you look, the more confusing it gets. Here is what you need to do. Here is what you need to know to get the flooring system suited to your needs.
"I'm sorry, but I just can't possibly give you the amount of money you're asking for."
My heart sinks at my director's final response to my salary proposal. She insists it's not me or my work, there is just no money in the budget. My disappointment grows when handed the calendar for Grand Rapids Ballet's next season with five fewer weeks of work.
"It just...always looks better in my head."
While that might not be something any of us would want to hear from a choreographer, it's a brilliant introduction to "Off Kilter" and the odd, insecure character at its center, Milton Frank. The ballet mockumentary (think "The Office" or "Parks and Recreation," but with pointe shoes) follows Frank (dancer-turned-filmmaker Alejandro Alvarez Cadilla) as he comes back to the studio to try his hand at choreographing for the first time since a plagiarism scandal derailed his fledgling career back in the '90s.
We've been pretty excited about the series for a while, and now the wait is finally over. The first episode of the show, "The Denial," went live earlier today, and it's every bit as awkward, hilarious and relatable as we hoped.
Dancers crossing over into the fitness realm may be increasingly popular, but it was never part of French-born Julie Granger's plan. Though Granger grew up a serious ballet student, taking yoga classes on the side eventually led to a whole new career. Creating her own rules along the way, Granger shares how combining the skills she learned in ballet with certifications in yoga, barre and personal training allowed her to become her own boss (and a rising fitness influencer).
Travis Wall draws inspiration from dancers Tate McCrae, Timmy Blankenship and more.
One often-overlooked relationship that exists in dance is the relationship between choreographer and muse. Recently two-time Emmy Award Winner Travis Wall opened up about his experience working with dancers he considers to be his muses.
"My muses in choreography have evolved over the years," says Wall. "When I'm creating on Shaping Sound, our company members, my friends, are my muses. But at this current stage of my career, I'm definitely inspired by new, fresh talent."
Wall adds, "I'm so inspired by this new generation of dancers. Their teachers have done such incredible jobs, and I've seen these kids grown up. For many of them, I've had a hand in their exposure to choreography."
José Greco popularized Spanish dance in 1950s and '60s America through his work onstage and on screen. Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater's American Spanish Dance & Music Festival is honoring the icon in recognition of what would have been his 100th birthday. As part of the tribute, Greco's three dancing children are reuniting to perform together for the first time since their father's death in 2000. Also on the program is the premiere of contemporary flamenco choreographer Carlos Rodriguez's Mar de Fuego (Sea of Fire). June 15–17, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. ensembleespanol.org.
Dance Theatre of Harlem dancers Christopher McDaniel and Crystal Serrano were working on Nacho Duato's Coming Together in rehearsal when McDaniel's foot hit a slippery spot on the marley. As they attempted a swinging lift, both dancers went tumbling, injuring Serrano as they fell. She ended up being out for a week with a badly bruised knee.
"I immediately felt, This is my fault," says McDaniel. "I broke my friend."
What's on the minds of college students today?
I recently had the honor of adjudicating at the American College Dance Association's National College Dance Festival, along with choreographer Dana Tai Soon Burgess and former National Endowment for the Arts dance specialist Douglas C. Sonntag. We chose three winners—one for Outstanding Choreography and two for Outstanding Performance—from 30 pieces representing schools throughout the country. It was a great opportunity to see what college dance students are up to—from the issues they care about to the kinds movement they're interested in exploring.
Here were the biggest trends and takeaways:
It's summer festival season! If you're feeling overwhelmed by the dizzying array of offerings, never fear: We've combed through the usual suspects to highlight the shows we most want to catch.
Subscription box services have quickly gained a dedicated following among the fashion and fitness set. And while we'd never say no to a box with new jewelry or workout wear to try, we've been waiting for the subscription model to make its way to the dance world.
Enter barre + bag, a new service that sends a curated set of items to your door each season. Created by Faye Morrow Bell and her daughter Tyler, a student in the pre-professional ballet program at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, this just-launched service offers dance, lifestyle and wellness finds in four themed bags each year: Spring Performance, Summer Study, Back-to-Studio and Nutcracker. Since all the products are specifically made for dancers, everything barre + bag sends you is something you'll actually use, (Plus, it all comes in a bag instead of a box—because what dancer can ever have enough bags?).
barre + bag's Summer Collection
Today, American Ballet Theatre announced a new initiative to foster the development of choreography by company members and freelance dancemakers. Aptly titled ABT Incubator, the program, directed by principal David Hallberg, will give selected choreographers the opportunity to spend two weeks workshopping new dances.
"It has always been my vision to establish a process-oriented hub to explore the directions ballet can forge now and in the future," said Hallberg in a press release from the company. Interested? Here's how you can apply to participate.
Back in January, Chase Johnsey grabbed headlines when he resigned from Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, where his performances had garnered critical acclaim for over a decade, alleging a culture of harassment and discrimination. (An independent investigation launched by the company did not substantiate any legal claims.) Johnsey, who identifies as genderqueer, later told us that he feared his dance career was at an end—where else, as a ballet dancer, would he be allowed to perform traditionally female roles?
But the story didn't end there. After a surprise offer from Tamara Rojo, artistic director of English National Ballet, Johnsey has found a temporary artistic home with the company, joining as a guest at the rank of first artist for its run of The Sleeping Beauty, which continues this week. After weeks of working and rehearsing with the company, last week Johnsey quietly marked a new milestone: He performed with ENB's corps de ballet as one of the ladies in the prince's court.