Here's some Monday news to rock your soul: An upcoming Fox Searchlight film about the life of Alvin Ailey just got even more enticing—Barry Jenkins, the filmmaker who won an Oscar for Moonlight, has signed on as director.
When Rennie Harris first heard that Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater had tapped him to create a new hour-long work, and to become the company's first artist in residence, he laughed.
"I'm a street dance choreographer. I do street dance on street dancers," he says. "I've never set an hour-long piece on any other company outside my own, and definitely not on a modern dance company."
What does it mean to be human? Well, many things. But if you were at the Dance Magazine Awards last night, you could argue that to be human is to dance. Speeches about the powerful humanity of our art form were backed up with performances by incredible dancers hailing from everywhere from Hubbard Street Dance Chicago to Miami City Ballet.
Misty Copeland started off the celebration. A self-professed "Dance Magazine connoisseur from the age of 13," she not only spoke about how excited she was to be in a room full of dancers, but also—having just come from Dance Theatre of Harlem's memorial for Arthur Mitchell—what she saw as their duty: "We all in this room hold a responsibility to use this art for good," she said. "Dance unifies, so let's get to work."
That sentiment was repeated throughout the night.
Few dancers are able to make a comfortable living from their creative pursuits alone. Many rely on non-dance freelance work or multiple part-time gigs, fearing that a full-time job would take too much time away from their dancing. However, plenty of artists manage to balance full-time day jobs with fulfilling dance careers, opting for the security, benefits and opportunity to learn new skills.
In Paramodernities, Netta Yerushalmy deconstructs dance masterworks and presents their movement alongside scholarly essays that contextualize them. Yerushalmy has had a sterling dance career, working with Doug Varone's company and freelancing with notables like Joanna Kotze, as well as making her own dances. This particular project is in demand in such places as Jacob's Pillow this month, and later at venues across the country, including multiple New York City sites.
At a time when the political climate is increasingly divisive, it's no wonder people want to compartmentalize. Some want their pirouettes separate from their politics, and can be quick to protest when dancers challenge that both on and off the stage.
Most recently, American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston was scrutinized when she shared this post on her Instagram.
July 1 marks an exciting new era for The Juilliard School. Vail Dance Festival director and former New York City Ballet principal Damian Woetzel steps into the role of president, and the dance division will also have a new leader: Alicia Graf Mack, 39, will take over from Taryn Kaschock Russell, acting artistic director for the current school year.
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There must be something in the water: Last week, we announced that Madonna is directing Michaela DePrince's upcoming biopic. And yesterday, we got wind of another major dance film: According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox Searchlight has sealed the deal to make Ailey Ailey's life and work into a movie. Yes, please.
While some movies falter along their way to the big screen, we think this one's got legs (and hopefully a whole lot of lateral T's and hinges and coccyx balances, too). Why?
Onstage, Clifton Brown is a force of nature. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer joined the celebrated company at 19, in 1999. In 2011, he left to dance with Jessica Lang Dance and Lar Lubovitch Dance Company before returning to Ailey last year. Brown has been trying his hand at choreography on the side, but this week his first larger work—a commission from The Washington Ballet artistic director Julie Kent—premieres on a program of new works by choreographers who still perform.
Brown will take a day or two away from the Ailey company's rigorous tour schedule to see TWB dancers perform his Menagerie, danced to Rossini's Duet for Cello and Double Bass in D Major, at Washington, D.C.'s Harman Center for the Arts. We caught up with him last week in Chicago.
My first dance photo shoot was an epic fail. The photographer was professional and we had a great working relationship, but I made the rookie mistake of failing to thoroughly prepare. I didn't understand the purpose of the photos and how they should serve my career, so I ended up with images that were beautiful but that belonged on a model comp card, not in a dance portfolio.
Dancers need photos that allow viewers to get a sense of their style, abilities and professionalism, and help them gain more visibility. Yet, dance shots can be incredibly difficult to get right. Avoid these five common mistakes.
When you're offered a chance to take a class with Judith Jamison, you don't say no.
The company's beloved artistic director emerita rarely teaches open classes. But to celebrate the legacy of Alvin Ailey on what would have been his 87th birthday, she gave a special two-hour workshop at the Ailey Extension on Friday night. I had to try it, even though I was desperately hoping that she wouldn't make us do any Horton coccyx balances. (Spoiler alert: She did.)
So what's it like to take class with the larger-than-life icon?
In 1960, America was in the midst of a social transformation. The Supreme Court had ruled "separate but equal" unconstitutional six years prior, but the country's response was slow and turbulent as desegregation incited violent responses. Surrounded by powerful civil rights momentum, a 29-year-old Alvin Ailey created an ode to the resilience of the human spirit: Revelations.
"Alvin was making a statement about African-American cultural experience, saying, 'Hey, this is who we are, we live here, we were born here,' " says Judith Jamison, artistic director emerita of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. "It was a brave action. Civil rights were roaring, and our protest was our performance."
It may be her eighteenth season with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, but Hope Boykin is showing no signs of slowing down. Not only is she one of the company's most striking performers, but she's proven that she's a choreographer with something to say. The company will dance her powerful 2016 work, r-Evolution, Dream. again during its New York City Center season, which begins tomorrow.
We caught up with her for our "Spotlight" series:
While directing and choreographing the Paper Mill Playhouse production of the musical Bandstand, Andy Blankenbuehler found himself tied into knots. After the wild success of the juggernaut Broadway musical Hamilton, for which he would win the 2016 Tony Award for Best Choreography, he began comparing his unsatisfactory rehearsal rut to what he called "the best work of my career."
"I was really struggling," he says. "I knew I wasn't reaching the same bar as I had with Hamilton." Seeing his frustration, his wife reminded him that there would never be another Hamilton—but that didn't mean his other work couldn't be great, too. "She saw how I was beating myself up trying to accomplish a similar thing." Happy ending detour: Blankenbuehler regained his footing and won his third Tony Award for choreography for the Broadway production of Bandstand.
OUT just released their round-up of the 100 most influential LGBTQ people of the year, and it features some familiar faces. In a list that included actors, musicians, writers and even military veterans, we were excited to see a few dance world icons included:
What do Fred Astaire, Pina Bausch and Misty Copeland have in common? They are all part of one of the most prestigious groups in dance: the Dance Magazine Award recipients. A tradition that dates back to 1954, the Dance Magazine Awards celebrate the living legends who have made a lasting impact on our field.
Today, we are thrilled to announce the four honorees for 2017:
When I'm dancing, I feel so alive, like every single part of me that makes me who I am is participating in moving my body.
When I was little, I wouldn't stop dancing if I could help it. One of my favorite things to do was to pretend to be Gene Kelly in the backyard on my parents' deck. As soon as a prairie sun shower came raining down I would drop everything and run out there to sing, laugh and listen to the echo of my tapping toes.
All dancers work hard to hone technical skills and master thrilling moves. Musical dancers, however, offer something more. Their daring play with rhythm and their completely present reactions to the score make for bold performances that are mesmerizing to watch.
But how can performers learn to let music drive the dance? We asked some of today's most musical dancers how they do it.
Attending the right summer intensive at the right time can be life-changing—and potentially career-launching. But it's up to you to make the most of the experience. From building your technique to trying new styles to expanding your network, getting everything you want from an intensive takes focus and planning. Strategize for success with these tips from five professional dancers looking back on what they wish they'd done differently during their own summer study years.
Q: Why donate millions to The Juilliard School and Ailey, plus an undisclosed sum to launch University of Southern California's new Glorya Kaufman School of Dance?
"I wish everyone would turn on the music and dance. It helps in so many ways to make life happier and more interesting."
Q: Do you feel the role of the philanthropist has changed in today's political climate?
"I believe that giving to humanity in any way that is beneficial is what the world needs now."
Judith Jamison was always going to be a tough act to follow. But in the six years since Robert Battle took the helm of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, he's launched a new era for the iconic troupe. Take last season: Battle revived Ailey's Masekela Langage, pushed the envelope with Kyle Abraham's new Untitled America and promoted one of the company's own voices with Hope Boykin's r-Evolution Dream—a combination of old, new and homegrown works tackling social issues with beauty and hope. Ailey hasn't lost sight of its storied past, and, under Battle's leadership, it's as relevant today as it ever has been.