San Francisco Ballet Just Announced an Epic 2018 Season
Top ballet companies have earned a reputation for being a bit safe and predictable in their programming in recent years. Which may be why San Francisco Ballet's 2018 lineup is making bunheads' jaws drop.
Artistic director Helgi Tomasson just announced a New Works festival that will include 12—yes, 12!—world premieres by a range of today's "most inspired" classical and contemporary ballet choreographers. The works will debut over a series of four programs from April 20 to May 6, 2018.
This raises the stakes even higher than SFB's 2008 New Works Festival, which celebrated the company's 75th anniversary with 10 new works by 10 choreographers.
“To ensure that ballet...continues to evolve, we need to support and showcase choreographers who display ingenuity, passion for the art form, and fresh thinking—and who are willing to take risks,” Tomasson said in a press release. "This festival will offer audiences a rare and unique opportunity to see where the work of some the most exciting choreographers of our time is headed... I think the future of ballet looks very bright.”
So who are those choreographers he chose?
Alonzo King: Despite being artistic director/choreographer of the beautifully noodle-y LINES Ballet, San Francisco's beloved contemporary ballet troupe, this will be the first time King's creating a piece on SFB's dancers.
David Dawson: The Forsythe disciple and associate artist at Dutch National Ballet is beloved in Europe, but rarely seen in the U.S.
Christopher Wheeldon: The much-heralded contemporary ballet choreographer and director of Broadway's An American in Paris has a long history at SFB. The nine ballets he's created there include his full-length Cinderella.
Stanton Welch: Artistic director of Houston Ballet since in 2003, Welch was previously resident choreographer at The Australian Ballet. His more than 20 works for Houston Ballet include full-length story ballets ranging from Romeo and Juliet to Marie (inspired by the life of Marie Antoinette).
Edwaard Liang: This former New York City Ballet dancer took over as artistic director at BalletMet in 2013, and has since been bringing that company into the spotlight.
Cathy Marston: Formerly an associate artist at The Royal Opera House, Marston is known for her historical and literature-based works, bringing a contemporary perspective to old narratives.
Dwight Rhoden: The man behind the wow-worthy whiplash choreography of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Rhoden has created work for over a dozen American ballet companies, plus TV and theater, including So You Think You Can Dance and Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity.
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa: This Colombian-Belgian choreographer is on a serious roll, creating new work everywhere from NYCB to English National Ballet to Danza Contemporanéa de Cuba just last year.
Arthur Pita: This London-based dance theater choreographer takes on intriguingly odd projects, from a solo based on Kafka's Metamorphosis to the sci-fi film Ex Machina.
Yuri Possokhov: SFB’s choreographer in residence since 2006 (and former SFB principal), Possokhov has created 16 ballets on the company, and also gained accolades for his ballets at the Bolshoi Ballet and other troupes.
Trey McIntyre: Since shutting down the Trey McIntyre Project in 2014, this contemporary choreographer has experimented in film, writing and photography, but hasn't stopped choreographing fun, irresistible ballets to pop music.
Justin Peck: Companies around the world already have ballets by this 29-year-old whiz kid of NYCB—and he still performs as a soloist.
This is an exciting gamble for SFB. Five of those 12 choreographers (Ochoa, King, Marston, Rhoden and Dawson) have never created on the company's dancers before. Only two of them are women, but to SFB's credit that is a larger number than many ballet companies can claim. Though we can't help wishing Tomasson had nabbed one or two local female talents, like Amy Seiwert or Julia Adam.
We haven't seen any info on where the funding is coming from to underwrite such a massive festival of premieres. But SFB has a reputation for being a company where choreographers create some of their best work, so the excitement over the lineup is justifiably high.
One thing is for sure: The SFB dancers have some seriously awesome work ahead of them next year.
Choosing music for your first-ever choreography commission can feel daunting enough. But when you're asked to create a ballet using the vast discography of the Rolling Stones—and you happen to be dating Stones frontman Mick Jagger—the stakes are even higher.
So it's understandable that as of Monday, American Ballet Theatre corps de ballet dancer Melanie Hamrick, whose Port Rouge will have its U.S. premiere tonight at the Youth America Grand Prix gala, was still torn about which songs to include.
The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.
What is an acceptable request from a choreographer in terms of nudity? On the first day of shooting All That Jazz in the 1970s, Bob Fosse asked us men to remove everything but our jock straps and the women to remove their tops. His rationale was to shock us in order to build character, and it felt disloyal to refuse. Would this behavior be considered okay today?
As much as audiences might flock to Swan Lake or The Nutcracker, ballet can't only rely on old war horses if it wants to remain relevant. But building new full-lengths from scratch isn't exactly cheap.
So where can companies find the money?
It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.
Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
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Today—April 16, 2019—marks what would have been Merce Cunningham's 100th birthday. As dancers from Los Angeles to New York City to London gear up for Night of 100 Solos (the marathon performance event being livestreamed today), and as companies and presenters worldwide continue to celebrate the Cunningham Centennial through their programming, we searched through the Dance Magazine Archives to unearth our favorite images of the groundbreaking dancemaker.
A bright disposition with a dab of astringent charm is how I remember Brock Hayhoe, a National Ballet School of Canada schoolmate. Because we were a couple years apart, we barely brushed shoulders, except at the odd Toronto dance party where we could dance all night with mutual friends letting our inhibitions subside through the music. Dancing always allows a deeper look.
But, as my late great ballet teacher Pyotr Pestov told me when I interviewed him for Dance Magazine in 2009, "You never know what a flower is going to look like until it opens up."
One night. Three cities. Seventy-five dancers. And three unique sets of 100 solos, all choreographed by Merce Cunningham.
This incredible evening of dance will honor Cunningham's 100th birthday on April 16. The Merce Cunningham Trust has teamed up with The Barbican in London, the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City and the Center for the Art of Performance in Los Angeles for a tri-city celebration.
The best part? You don't have to be in those cities to watch—Night of 100 Solos is being live-streamed in its entirety for free.
When George Balanchine's full-length Don Quixote premiered in 1965, critics and audiences alike viewed the ballet as a failure. Elaborate scenery and costumes framed mawkish mime passages, like one in which the ballerina washed the Don's feet and dried them with her hair. Its revival in 2005 by Suzanne Farrell, the ballerina on whom it was made and to whom Balanchine left the work, did little to alter its reputation.
Yet at New York City Center's Balanchine festival last fall, some regretted its absence.
"I'd want to see Balanchine's Don Quixote," says Apollinaire Scherr, dance critic for the Financial Times. "It was a labor of love on his part, and a love letter as well. And you want to know what that looks like in his work."
Even great choreographers make mistakes. Sometimes they fail on a grand scale, like Don Quixote; other times it may be a minor misstep. Experiment and risk help choreographers grow, but what happens when a choreographer of stature misfires? Should the work remain in the repertory? And what about a work that fails on some levels but not others?
After the horrific March 15 terrorist attacks at two New Zealand mosques, the music and arts community sprang into action to plan a way to help victims and their families. A series of resulting concerts, titled "You Are Us/Aroha Nui," will take place in New Zealand (April 13 and 17), Jersey City, New Jersey (April 17) and Los Angeles (April 18). Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Our People, Our City Fund, which was established by the Christchurch Foundation to aid those affected by the attacks.
Throughout 2019, the Merce Cunningham Trust continues a global celebration that will be one of the largest tributes to a dance artist ever. Under the umbrella of the Merce Cunningham Centennial are classes and workshops, film screenings and festivals, art exhibitions and symposia, and revivals and premieres of original works inspired by the dancemaker's ideas. The fever peaks on April 16, which would have been the pioneering choreographer's 100th birthday, with Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event, featuring a total of 75 dancers in three performances live-streamed from London, Los Angeles and New York City.
Cloud & Victory gets dancers. The dancewear brand's social media drools over Roberto Bolle's abs, sets classical variations to Beyoncé and moans over Mondays and long adagios. And it all comes from the mind of founder Tan Li Min, the boss lady who takes on everything from designs to inventory to shipping orders.
Known simply (and affectionately) to the brand's 41K Instagram followers as Min, she's used her wry, winking sense of humor to give the Singapore-based C&V international cachet.
She recently spoke with Dance Magazine about building the brand, overcoming insecurity and using pizza as inspiration.
The Ballet Memphis New American Dance Residency, which welcomes selected choreographers for its inaugural iteration next week, goes a step beyond granting space, time and dancers for the development of new work.
This is huge news, so we'll get straight to it:
We now (finally!) know who'll be appearing onscreen alongside Ariana DeBose and the other previously announced leads in Steven Spielberg's remake of West Side Story, choreographed by Justin Peck. Unsurprisingly, the Sharks/Jets cast list includes some of the best dancers in the industry.
The pleasure of watching prodigies perform technical feats on Instagram can be tinged with a sense of trepidation. Impressive tricks, you think, but do they have what it takes for an actual career?
Just look at 18-year-old Maria Khoreva, who has more followers than most seasoned principals; in videos, her lines and attention to detail suggested a precocious talent, and led to a Nike ambassador contract before she even graduated from the Vaganova Ballet Academy. Still, when she joined the Mariinsky Ballet last summer, there was no guarantee any of it would translate to stage prowess.
What's next for the dance world? Our annual list of the dancers, choreographers and companies that are on the verge of skyrocketing has a pretty excellent track record of answering that question.
Here they are: the 25 up-and-coming artists we believe represent the future of our field.
At six feet tall, Jesse Obremski dances as though he's investigating each movement for the first time. His quiet transitional moments are as astounding as his long lines, bounding jumps and seamless floorwork. Add in his versatility and work ethic, and it's clear why he's an invaluable asset to New York City choreographers. Currently a freelance artist with multiple contemporary groups, including Gibney Dance Company and Limón Dance Company, Obremski also choreographs for his recently formed troupe, Obremski/Works.
Last night at Parsons Dance's 2019 gala, the company celebrated one of our own: DanceMedia owner Frederic M. Seegal.
In a speech, artistic director David Parsons said that he wanted to honor Seegal for the way he devotes his energy to supporting premier art organizations, "making sure that the arts are part of who we are," he said.
It's a bit of an understatement to say that Bob Fosse was challenging to work with. He was irritable, inappropriate and often clashed with his collaborators in front of all his dancers. Fosse/Verdon, which premieres on FX tonight, doesn't sugarcoat any of this.
But for Sasha Hutchings, who danced in the first episode's rendition of "Big Spender," the mood on set was quite opposite from the one that Fosse created. Hutchings had already worked with choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, who she calls "a dancer's dream," director Tommy Kail and music director Alex Lacamoire as a original cast member in Hamilton, and she says the collaborators' calm energy made the experience a pleasant one for the dancers.
"Television can be really stressful," she says. "There's so many moving parts and everyone has to work in sync. With Tommy, Andy and Lac I never felt the stress of that as a performer."