On the Rise: Joseph Gordon

With his aristocratic line, unforced assurance and charming presence, Joseph Gordon stands out among New York City Ballet's corps men. During the company's 2015–16 winter season, he received an impressive number of opportunities to step into demanding roles, easily mastering corps, demi, soloist and principal parts.

Company: New York City Ballet

Age: 23

Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona

Training: Phoenix Dance Academy, School of American Ballet

Accolades: Melissa Hayden Dance Scholarship at SAB and the 2016–17 Janice Levin Dancer Honoree at NYCB

Breakout season: Gordon debuted in two major roles in January. He was utterly convincing as the innocent, trusting Second Sailor in Jerome Robbins' Fancy Free and followed that just two days later with his first performance as the ultra-sophisticated partner of three ballerinas in Balanchine's Who Cares? By the season's end, he was bringing a new, unsuspected elegance to the third movement of Balanchine's Symphony in C while maintaining its high spirits.

An instant balletomane: Gordon says, “My parents knew dance meant a lot to me after they took me to my first ballet, a Nutcracker, when I was 5. I was so excited I stood up for the whole performance."

Raves from colleagues: Ballet master Jean-Pierre Frohlich, who oversees the Robbins repertoire, recalls, “It was easy to direct Joe in Fancy Free. He just got better and better at every rehearsal." Principal dancer Daniel Ulbricht says, “It was a joy to share the stage with Joe in Fancy. His eagerness and charm brought his role to life."

Addicted to the best: When asked about the Balanchine roles he is eager to conquer, Gordon cites Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream, “Rubies" in Jewels, Melancholic in The Four Temperaments and the Fourth Campaign in Stars and Stripes. One ballet that he speaks of in rapturous terms, however, is the powerfully abstract Agon: “I am overwhelmed by its concept. There's no major male solo, but it would be an honor to dance that pas de deux."

Broadway
The "Merde" bag. Courtesy Scenery

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.

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Left: Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston Ballet's Dance Lab; Courtesy Harlequin. Right: The Dance Lab pre-Harvey; Nic Lehoux, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

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Photo by Gabriel Davalos, Courtesy Valdés

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.

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Sara Mearns in the gym. Photo by Kyle Froman.

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.' "

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