George Balanchine famously wrote, that ballet "is a woman." Four of his most celebrated women—Allegra Kent, Gloria Govrin, Kay Mazzo and Merrill Ashley—appeared onstage at Jacques d'Amboise's National Dance Institute Monday evening to celebrate his legacy. The sold-out program, called "Balanchine's Ballerinas," included performances of excerpts from ballets closely associated with these women and a discussion, moderated by former New York City Ballet principal Wendy Whelan. Here are some highlights of the conversation, filled with affection, warmth and fond memories.
When I joined the New York City Ballet, I had a million questions. How soon before a performance should I get ready? When should I eat dinner—before or after the performance? How long should I wear my false eyelashes before I throw them out? Should I practice hard steps onstage before the curtain goes up or save them for the show? How long should my warm-up be? How do I do well in this career?
Before long, I discovered that the older dancers were willing to help us newbies. Wendy Whelan, for instance, took me under her wing and helped me with everything from my hair and makeup to what to eat for energy before a performance.
I wanted to see what questions NYCB's newest batch of corps members Mira Nadon, Kennard Henson and Gabriella Domini had. To answer their questions, I spoke to two of our most senior dancers, Maria Kowroski (who's been with the company 24 years) and Jared Angle (who's danced here 21 years).
Before spending a summer at Los Angeles Ballet School, Lillian Glasscock had never learned a Balanchine variation. "The stylistic differences, like preparing for a pirouette with a straight back leg, were at first very challenging," says Glasscock, 17. "But it soon got easier."
Los Angeles Ballet company members were in class daily, motivating and inspiring her. Trying out a new style and expanding her repertoire gave Glasscock more strength, and a better understanding of the varied demands of ballet companies today. Months later, the Balanchine variations she learned are now personal favorites.
While the early years of training are typically spent diligently working through the syllabus of a single ballet technique, when you start to prepare for a professional career, versatility is key. There isn't just one correct version of each step. And as ballet companies continue to diversify their repertoires, directors need dancers who can move fluidly between an array of styles.
2018 has seen an endless parade of celebrations in anticipation of Jerome Robbins' centennial—and now the day has finally arrived. In honor of what would have been his 100th birthday, we dove into our photo archives and selected a few favorite shots of the choreographer whose career defined (and redefined) American dance.
There is no big mystery to why Russell Janzen is often cast in princely parts at New York City Ballet, roles like the cavalier in Diamonds and The Nutcracker, Siegfried in Swan Lake, and the man who partners the "first violin" in the slow movement of Concerto Barocco. His dancing is pristine, and he's tall enough for the tallest ballerinas; he's also handsome, and, most importantly, he's a generous and sensitive partner.
Which is not to say that Janzen is dull or recessive. You want to know what he's thinking whenever he's onstage; one of his greatest assets is an ability to draw you into his world, quietly, engrossingly. He always looks like he's acting out a story in his mind.
"Ballet," said George Balanchine, "is woman." Throughout his long choreographic career, he placed the ballerina at the center of the action, and all eyes were on her. There are numerous examples, from Mozartiana to Theme and Variations, Square Dance and Chaconne.
In this sense, Balanchine was carrying on the tradition of Marius Petipa and other 19th-century choreographers whose story ballets, such as Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and Giselle, featured vibrant ballerinas at the heart of their tales.
Few things are more powerful for promoting ballet performances than captivating trailers—especially in today's visually-focused, digitally-connected world.
We've rounded up some eye-catching ads from seasons past and present that not only make us wish we could have seen the show, but also stand alone as short films.
Bucharest National Opera's La Sylphide
Magnifying the scarf which—spoiler alert—brings about the ballet's tragic conclusion, this 2013 Bucharest National Opera's trailer turns that fateful fabric into a beautiful, deadly web. Its windswept movements form a dance of its own.
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The way you start your morning can set the tone for the rest of the day. Establishing a productive and mindful morning routine can leave you feeling relaxed, grounded, and ready to take on the day ahead, no matter how busy.
We asked five professional dancers to share what they like to do each morning to prepare themselves for the happiest and healthiest day possible.
New York City Ballet continues its first year without Peter Martins at the helm as our spring season opens tonight.
When he retired at the start of the new year, we plunged headfirst into unknown, murky waters. Who would the new director be? When would we know? Would we dancers get some say in the decision? Who would oversee the Balanchine ballets? Who would be in charge of casting? Would a new director bring along huge upheaval? Could some of us be out of a job?
In the 1970s, the Soviet government withdrew Boris Eifman's passport and declared his work pornographic. Today, he has funding from the Russian government for a state-of-the-art school and a company that travels the globe for several months each year. Last year alone, Eifman Ballet presented six different programs on the Bolshoi's historic stage.
What He Has To Say: With Eifman's Anna Karenina running at New York's Lincoln Center this week, Dance Magazine asked him about how he became embraced by Russia, and his thoughts on performing in Balanchine's house.
When Arthur Mitchell set out to prove that African Americans could excel in ballet, there were many skeptics. He not only created a world-class ballet company—Dance Theatre of Harlem—but he launched a discussion about race and ballet that we are still engaged in.
Who was Arthur Mitchell and how did he get the chutzpah to start a (mostly) black ballet company? Now we have a multi-faceted answer in an exhibit at Columbia University titled "Arthur Mitchell: Harlem's Ballet Trailblazer." It's curated by 2016 Dance Magazine Awardee Lynn Garafola, who is considered the foremost American dance historian.
"My whole mission in life is to keep Balanchine's work alive," says former New York City Ballet dancer Karin von Aroldingen in Frances Mason's I Remember Balanchine, a collection of interviews by George Balanchine's friends and colleagues. Her words feel especially potent now—and never more true. On Friday, January 5, news came to light that the German-born dancer, teacher, NYCB ballet master and longtime stager for the Balanchine Trust had died at age 76.
Born in East Germany in 1941, von Aroldingen joined Frankfurt Ballet as a first soloist before George Balanchine invited her to join NYCB in 1962. Trained in the Russian method, she had to adjust her technique to fit NYCB's fast, streamlined style. "It took me years to unwind myself, to be good," she says in Mason's book. She eventually rose to principal dancer in 1972. Her dancing was strong, assertive and passionate. During her 22-year career at NYCB, Balanchine created 20 roles for her, including Kammermusik No. 2, Union Jack, Vienna Waltzes, Who Cares?, Robert Schumann's Davidsbündlertanze and her most well-known, Stravinsky Violin Concerto. (Who hasn't marveled at her elastic backbends in the 1972 "Dance in America" broadcast above?)
As any good bunhead would tell you, for me, Nutcracker is a yearly tradition as old as leaving cookies out for Santa Claus. But this year, I got to experience it with fresh eyes by taking both my 35-year-old fiancé and my 5-year-old nephew for their first times.
I didn't plan on being a Nutcracker evangelist. But my fiancé Brent decided he really, really wanted to see it, and my mother decided that Nutcracker tickets were really what I should give my nephew Robbie for Christmas. So I found myself taking Brent with me to New York City Ballet, and Robbie to San Francisco Ballet while I was home for the holidays.
And experiencing it with them made me realize just how much those of us who've seen and performed Nutcracker dozens of time take for granted. Their reactions made me see the ballet in a whole new light:
In the October 1957 issue of Dance Magazine, we received the latest updates on New York City Ballet dancer Tanaquil Le Clercq's health nearly a year after her polio diagnosis. Le Clercq, who at the time was George Balanchine's wife and muse, had become immobile from the waist down and was taken to a rehabilitation center in Warm Springs, Georgia. Balanchine told us that "Tanny" was keeping her humor and grace through her suffering, adding, "People too often think only of the future, always making plans for what they'd like to do someday. How do they know what's going to be tomorrow? Why not think of the present?" Although Le Clercq never danced again, she didn't let polio shatter her passion for dance. She spent the rest of her life teaching at Dance Theatre of Harlem with the same loving light that she was adored for onstage.
This Saturday night, New York City Ballet principal Rebecca Krohn is performing for the last time, in Balanchine's Stravinsky Violin Concerto. After 19 years at the company, she's transitioning into a ballet master role. As she told Playbill, she's incredibly grateful for the coaching she's received during her career, and now she wants to give back to the next generation.
In a company filled with buzzed-about stars, Krohn can sometimes fly under the radar. But then you'll see her in certain roles—particularly in Balanchine's "leotard ballets" —and she'll completely win you over with her bright, charming presence. Here are a few of the reasons we're going to miss her.
In the August 1977 issue of Dance Magazine, cover star Patricia McBride told us, "My first performance with [New York City Ballet] was as an apprentice in Symphony in C. It was a disaster. There's a very complicated tendu combination that the ensemble does in unison, framing the stage. I was right in front and I was so nervous I got out of sync and my foot was going out when everyone else's was going in, and of course my arms were going the wrong way, too. I thought I was going to be fired right there and then." Needless to say, that didn't happen. McBride danced at NYCB for over 30 years, with George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins both creating iconic roles in their ballets for the fearless dancer, from Who Cares? to Dances at a Gathering. She continues to teach and coach, and is the recipient of a 1980 Dance Magazine Award and a 2014 Kennedy Center Honor.
To celebrate our 90th anniversary, we excavated some of our favorite hidden gems from the DM Archives—images that capture a few of the moments in time we've documented over the decades.
This image was captured during a 1978 New York City Ballet tour that took the company to Copenhagen—home turf for Adam Luders (right), who trained at the Royal Danish Ballet School and briefly danced with the company before joining NYCB as a principal dancer in 1975. Next to Luders is (of course) George Balanchine, in conversation with ballerina Suzanne Farrell. And looking on with a smile? NYCB's current ballet master in chief Peter Martins.
A long time ago, I was a teenager, just hired as a member of the corps with New York City Ballet. I found myself standing in B-plus at the very back corner of the State Theater stage, clutching the hand of fellow teenage corps member Shawn Stevens. Though the expansive stage was filled with dozens of talented dancers, I was most awed by the two who stood front and center: Suzanne Farrell and Peter Martins. With a sudden and sweeping downbeat from maestro Robert Irving, the full power of Balanchine and Tchaikovsky flooded the stage and the final triumphant moments of "Diamonds" began.