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Endings: The Suzanne Farrell Ballet Faces Its Last Season
When it was announced last fall that 2017 would be The Suzanne Farrell Ballet's final season, the news rippled through the American ballet community. Farrell, who for many represents the embodiment of George Balanchine's '60s and '70s style, had been producing lucid, emotionally connected performances of his works annually at The Kennedy Center since 2001. In that time, dozens of dancers took time away from their home companies to perform with her troupe and benefit from Farrell's coaching. "The dancers tell me they feel different" after working with her, Farrell says, because "I worked with Mr. Balanchine so closely that I know things other people don't."
Even more, she worked to preserve ballets that might otherwise have been forgotten. In 2007 she created the Balanchine Preservation Initiative dedicated to reviving Balanchine rarities, some of which, like Pithoprakta (1968) and the "Contrapuntal Blues" pas de deux from Clarinade (1964), are performed by no other company.
Suzanne Farrell rehearsing Balanchine's Gounod Symphony. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy The Kennedy Center.
But her troupe has faced challenges. Based at The Kennedy Center, which also underwrites the company's budget, the ensemble has always been a part-time affair, providing work for only short periods. This meant that the roster of dancers varied from year to year (though there were many who returned), as did, inevitably, the quality of performances. Overall, though, Farrell has been pleased with the results: "I feel proud of what I've done. This company is extraordinarily unique, and human."
The question, then, is why close now? It is not entirely clear whether the decision was Farrell's to make. According to a Kennedy Center representative, the arts complex's upcoming expansion created "a natural moment to transition." Farrell is also circumspect. Asked why, give the company's hard-won successes, she did not decide to persevere, she answers, enigmatically, "I don't really know. If I had my choice I would go on forever." Perhaps someday the details behind the decision will emerge.
For its final season, December 7–9, the company will perform a group of works closely linked with Farrell's own decades-long relationship to Balanchine. Serenade, from 1934, contains the first solo she ever danced at New York City Ballet, the "Dark Angel," set to the elegy from Tchaikovsky's Serenade in C. Tzigane and Meditation were both made for her. Chaconne, set to ballet music from Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice, contains one of Balanchine's most voluptuous pas de deux, created for Farrell and Peter Martins. Gounod Symphony, a large, formal ballet in the French style, is the latest rarity staged by Farrell. The arc of a career, on a single program.
The Suzanne Farrell Ballet's Natalia Magnicaballi and Michael Cook in Balanchine's Meditation. Photo by Teresa Wood, Courtesy The Kennedy Center.
What comes next is still unclear. According to a Kennedy Center representative, Farrell has been invited to "expand her teaching" within the new studio spaces being developed at the center. "We're still in the planning stages," echoes Farrell. Only one thing seems set—her three-week summer intensives (Exploring Ballet with Suzanne Farrell) will continue. She's also thinking about writing another book, a sequel, perhaps, to her autobiography Holding On to the Air.
Whatever she does, she's unlikely to stray far from her core mission of teaching and passing on the ballets of George Balanchine. "I believe that ballet and Mr. B are my destiny," she says with quiet intensity over the phone, "and we'll go on somehow."
Season 2 of World of Dance is almost here! The new season officially kicks off on Tuesday on NBC, and it's bringing a whole new crew of talented dancers with it (plus, some old favorites). Dance pro judges Jennifer Lopez, Derek Hough and Ne-Yo are back, too, with Jenna Dewan serving as the show's host.
Obviously we'll be watching, but just in case you're not completely sold, here's why you're not going to want to miss out:
JLo Might Be Performing
Earlier this week, JLo (who serves as the show's executive producer) posted this insane promo clip to her Instagram. Dancing to a mashup of Cardi B's "Bodak Yellow" and her new single "Dinero," JLo reminded us all of her dance skills while also leading us to believe she might just hit the stage herself for a performance.
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."
A few weeks ago, American Ballet Theatre announced the A.B.T. Women's Movement, a new program that will support three women choreographers per season, one of whom will make work on the main company.
"The ABT Women's Movement takes inspiration from the groundbreaking female choreographers who have left a lasting impact on ABT's legacy, including Agnes de Mille and Twyla Tharp," said artistic director Kevin McKenzie in a press release.
Hypothetically, this is a great idea. We're all for more ballet commissions for women. But the way ABT has promoted the initiative is problematic.
On the occasion of its 70th anniversary, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba tours the U.S. this spring with the resolute Cuban prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso a the helm. Named a National Hero of Labor in Cuba, Alonso, 97, has weathered strained international relations and devastating fiscal challenges to have BNC emerge as a world-class dance company. Her dancers are some of ballet's best. On offer this time are Alonso's Giselle and Don Quixote. The profoundly Cuban company performs in Chicago May 18–20, Tampa May 23, Washington, D.C., May 29–June 3 and Saratoga, New York June 6–8.
Considering we practically live in our dance clothes, there's really no such thing as having too many leotards, tights or leggings (no matter what our mom or friends say!). That's why we treat every sale as an opportunity to stock up. And thanks to the holiday weekend, you can shop all of your dancewear go-tos or try something totally new for as much as 50% less than the usual price.
Here are the eight sales we're most excited about—from online options to in-store retailers that will help you find the perfect fit. Happy Memorial Day (and shopping)!
Now through Monday, Danskin's site will automatically take 25% off your entire purchase at checkout. Even new items like their Pintuck Detail Floral Print Sports Bra and Pintuck Detail Legging (pictured here) are fair game.
"The sun may be shining brightly, but we are not in a very sunny mood today!" said New York State assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal during yesterday's rally for the Artists of Ailey.
The dancers and stage crew are demanding increased wages and more comprehensive benefits, what they have termed "reaching for the standard" and "fair wages."
Pain is an inevitable part of a dancing life and dancers have a high tolerance for it, according to Sean Gallagher, a New York physical therapist whose practice includes many professional performers. "So when dancers complain, it really means something," he says.
But women and men experience pain differently, and tend to be treated for it differently as well. Female dancers need to understand those differences before they go to a doctor, so they can make sure they get treated promptly and effectively.
Rebecca Warthen was on a year-long assignment with the Peace Corps in Dominica last fall when a storm started brewing. A former dancer with North Carolina Dance Theatre (now Charlotte Ballet) and Columbia City Ballet, she'd been sent to the Caribbean island nation to teach ballet at the Dominica Institute of the Arts and in outreach classes at public schools.
But nine and a half months into her assignment, a tropical storm grew into what would become Hurricane Maria—the worst national disaster in Dominica's history.
Sidra Bell is one of those choreographers whose movement dancers are drawn to. Exploring the juxtaposition of fierce athleticism and pure honesty in something as simple as stillness, her work brings her dancers to the depths of their abilities and the audience to the edge of their seats.