News
New York City Ballet's Nutcracker has been performed every year since 1954. Photo by Paul Kolnik, via nycb.com

Love it or hate it, come December, The Nutcracker is ubiquitous. It's easy to wonder whether it's sustainable to keep performing the same holiday classic year after year, or to spend millions of dollars reinventing it for new productions. But believe it or not, the show's popularity is only growing.

Every year, Dance/USA conducts a Nutcracker Survey on its member companies, compiling data about ticket sales, attendance and more. The organization just reported on the state of the Nutcracker for the first time since 2008, and the data shows just how much the ballet's prevalence has grown in the past 10 years—and how much companies have come to rely on it as a revenue source:

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Just for Fun
Royal Winnipeg Ballet revived Lila York's adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale earlier this month. Photo by David Cooper, Courtesy RWB

When American Ballet Theatre announced yesterday that it would be adding Jane Eyre to its stable of narrative full-lengths, the English nerds in the DM offices (read: most of us) got pretty excited. Cathy Marston's adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's classic novel was created for England's Northern Ballet in 2016, and, based on the clips that have made their way online, it seems like a perfect fit for ABT's Met Opera season.

It also got us thinking about what other classic novels we'd love to see adapted into ballets—but then we realized just how many there already are. From Russian epics to beloved children's books, here are 10 of our favorites that have already made the leap from page to stage. (Special shoutout to Northern Ballet, the undisputed MVP of turning literature into live performance.)


Northern Ballet in David Nixon's The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

Star-crossed lovers? Check. Wild party scenes? Check. The 1920s aesthetic is just bonus.

Dutch National Ballet in John Cranko's Onegin (Alexander Pushkin)

It's a novel in verse, but it still counts! Cranko's pas de deux work vividly paints the emotional turmoil of Pushkin's characters, such as this sequence in which Tatiana imagines being loved by the haughty Onegin.

The Royal Ballet in Liam Scarlett's Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)

It's spooky, it's sensational, it's a deep meditation on the nature of humanity—oh, and it's alive.

Northern Ballet in David Nixon's The Three Musketeers (Alexandre Dumas)

All for one and one for all! (And we're all in for this epic fight choreography the dancers took to a famous Abbey in their hometown of Leeds, England.)

Charlotte Ballet in Sasha Janes' Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë)

The Brontë sisters had a knack for writing complex, tempestuous relationships—great fodder for pas de deux like this one.

The Washington Ballet in Septime Webre's Peter Pan (J. M. Barrie)

Sword-fighting, pirates, pixie dust and a ticking crocodile? This one simply flies off the page.

Hamburg Ballet in John Neumeier's Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)

Some would argue that Tolstoy's epic is the greatest literature ever written, but you can't argue with the fact that the titular heroine is a deliciously complex character to tackle.

The Royal Ballet in Christopher Wheeldon's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)

Why is a raven like a writing desk? We still might not know the answer to Carroll's riddle, but we do know that Wheeldon's blockbuster production is so full of incredible moments (like Steven McRae stealing the show as a tap-dancing Mad Hatter) that we had trouble narrowing it down.

Atlanta Ballet in Michael Pink's Dracula (Bram Stoker)

There's a reason it seemed at one point like every ballet company in America had a production of Dracula in its repertoire.

Northern Ballet in Jonathan Watkins' 1984 (George Orwell)

Just in case the dystopian nightmare conjured by Orwell wasn't vivid enough in your own imagination.

Just for Fun
Royal Winnipeg Ballet revived Lila York's adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale earlier this month. Photo by David Cooper, Courtesy RWB

When American Ballet Theatre announced yesterday that it would be adding Jane Eyre to its stable of narrative full-lengths, the English nerds in the DM offices (read: most of us) got pretty excited. Cathy Marston's adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's classic novel was created for England's Northern Ballet in 2016, and, based on the clips that have made their way online, it seems like a perfect fit for ABT's Met Opera season.

It also got us thinking about what other classic novels we'd love to see adapted into ballets—but then we realized just how many there already are. From Russian epics to beloved children's books, here are 10 of our favorites that have already made the leap from page to stage. (Special shoutout to Northern Ballet, the undisputed MVP of turning literature into live performance.)

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Health & Body
Whole-body cryotherapy rapidly drops the skin temperature to speed up recovery. Photo courtesy CryoUSA

Dancers are known for going to great lengths to prepare their bodies to perform at their best. But the latest recovery trend that dancers—and star athletes from Kobe Bryant to Floyd Mayweather Jr.—are using is perhaps the most extreme treatment yet.

Whole-body cryotherapy (as opposed to other forms of cryotherapy, such as an ice bath or an ice pack) is said to significantly speed up recovery time by immersing the body in a chamber of very cold air. Once only available in fancy professional sports locker rooms, there are now over 700 whole-body cryotherapy locations across the country.

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News
CONTRA-TIEMPO co-founder Ana Maria Alvarez will participate in USC's inaugural New Movement Residency. Photo by Eric Wolfe, Courtesy USC

While there are more women making dance than ever before, the question still swirls: Do they have the same programming and mentoring opportunities as their male counterparts? This spring, Ballet West and the University of Southern California are choosing to tackle the question head-on, with performances and residencies that focus on female dancemakers.

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25 to Watch
Barkley and James Kopecky in Dwight Rhoden's The Groove. Photo by Jeff Cravotta, Courtesy Charlotte Ballet

Surrounded by 10 male dancers, Charlotte Ballet's Raven Barkley holds her own in a thrilling grand allégro combination filled with jumps, beats and tours en l'air. In the "Winter" section of Sasha Janes' The Four Seasons, she matches the electrifying intensity of Antonio Vivaldi's music.

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Dancers Trending
Pina Bausch's The Rite of Spring. Photo by Oliver Look, Courtesy Brooklyn Academy of Music.

On the cusp of a new performance season, our calendars are chock full with shows we're dying to see. But it can be hard to know where to start with a season filled to bursting with promising premieres, tours and revivals. We've picked 12 shows that should definitely be on your radar.

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Dance Training
PC Kyle Froman, Courtesy Ailey

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.

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Popular
Charlotte Ballet's Sarah Hayes Harkins and Josh Hall rehearse Wuthering Heights with Sasha Janes. Photo by Jeff Cravotta, Courtesy Charlotte Ballet.

Wuthering Heights

Love them or hate them, the ill-fated lovers at the center of Emily Brontë's masterpiece have loads of dramatic potential, and Charlotte Ballet associate artistic director Sasha Janes' new take on the novel is sure to draw on its psychological potency. April 27–29. charlotteballet.org.

Pride and Prejudice

Mr. Darcy might not dance if he can help it, but he and the vivacious Elizabeth Bennet—not to mention the colorful cast of characters in Jane Austen's witty novel—will have excellent reason to do so in American Repertory Ballet's new production. The ballet features choreography by artistic director Douglas Martin and live accompaniment by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra. April 21–22. americanrepertoryballet.org.

Inside DM
Photo by Joe Toreno for Pointe.

Natalia Osipova and Sergei Polunin broke the ballet internet in November when they confirmed their relationship to the press. She, one of ballet's most explosive performers, and he, its high-profile bad boy, declared their offstage partnership, and juicily alleged that directors were trying to stifle their creative one. But what perhaps made it even more gossip-worthy was the fact that before Polunin, Osipova had another very public relationship—and very public breakup—with Ivan Vasiliev.

Dancers dating dancers isn't uncommon. Some will even date multiple co-workers over their career. Ballet West artistic director Adam Sklute guesses that out of his company's 40 members, about one-third are romantically involved with each other. Dancers get together for some obvious reasons: It can be difficult to meet other people, they have a mutual devotion to their work, they're together all the time, and the physical act of partnering (in leotards and tights, no less) is a natural gateway to flirtation.

But for every happily-ever-after there are just as many examples of love stories gone sour. What happens when you're dealing with a real-life drama with a former significant other, and then have to dance an imagined one with them onstage?

Ballet Idaho's Megan Hearn says she will think twice before dating another co-worker. Photo by Mike Reid, courtesy Ballet Idaho.

Unlike some jobs, most dance companies don't have policies about dating, Sklute's Ballet West included. He believes his dancers' personal lives are exactly that, as long as their working relationships remain professional. Most of the time, they do. “Some are so professional you would never know they're dating. Some have such a great connection that having them partner can be a wonderful, positive thing," he says. But, “sometimes it's like oil and water. You can feel their energy for the negative."

Yet no matter how much you may come to loathe an ex, seeing them is an unavoidable part of your paycheck. “You're in class together, you're rehearsing together, you used to room together on tour and now you don't," says Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's Kevin Shannon, who had a two-year relationship with Jonathan Fredrickson, who danced with the company at the time. Standing in the studio with an ex right after the split can be exhausting. “It's challenging. You feel drained. Dancers are emotional people; we're artists. And that can create volatility. It took so much energy to stay calm and focused at work."

A lot of that energy goes towards keeping your composure, and showing the former significant other that you're doing just fine. “There's a certain amount of ego involved," says Charlotte Ballet's Alessandra Ball James, who has dated two fellow company dancers. “You want to come in looking good and dancing good. And it's hard to keep your emotions in check because you're already physically exhausted from dancing." There's also jealousy. It bubbles up during what used to be everyday moments, like how well the other is dancing in class, the praise they're getting or casting. “We were doing Mats Ek's Casi-Casa and he got the lead role," says Shannon. “I was excited for him, but at the same, here he is doing this role I wish I could have done."

Then, there's the added pressure of gossip among co-workers and shared friends, which James counts among the most terrible parts of breaking up with a colleague. People may show loyalties to one person and pick sides. “There was a breakup that actually pulled dancers into different camps," says Sklute of a particularly difficult experience. “I had to bring in our HR depart­ment to have a conversation with the dancers about keeping their issues out of the studio."

Dancers who used to date may try to put as much physical distance between each other in the studio as possible. But eventually, the job will force them to interact, or even partner. “As the director is partnering people off in rep, he's getting to the end of the list and you realize, Oh no!" says James, who admits the awkwardness can become paralyzing enough to get in the way of the work. “It's easy to be quick to say what they're doing wrong—you want to get your little jab in. Or sometimes it's the opposite: You don't want to say anything because you just want to get through it. But in the end, maybe it's good. You are forced to dance together and forced to just move forward."

Shannon says it took about a year for interactions to feel completely relaxed between him and Fredrickson at work. Then, Fredrickson started dating another dancer in the company. “You think you're over it, and then you see him with someone else," says Shannon. In James' case, she was the one to move on to another dancer. “It was very awkward starting the second relationship," she says. “You have to find a good balance of being happy and sensitive to the situation."

Alessandra Ball James says gossip makes at-work breakups difficult. Photo by Peter Zay, courtesy Charlotte Ballet.

So is there a best way to break up with a co-worker? It's different for everyone, says Ballet Idaho's Megan Hearn, who dated fellow company dancer Daniel Ojeda for a few months. “Looking back, we should have had a discussion about how we would deal with each other in the studio" if forced to interact or partner. “But really, we just kind of figured it out as we went along."

The top priority is not letting heartbreak come between you and your dancing. “When it comes to personal things, I try to keep the directors out," says James. “I also don't want to mess with someone else's position in the company. But if a director asked me, I would let them know about the situation." Sklute confirms: “I've had people tell me they'd rather not dance with someone. I don't have a problem with them telling me, but I tell them that I can't make any promises."

Her experience dating Ojeda has made Hearn think she wouldn't mix romance and work again. “Dating someone in the company, you don't get any personal time. I needed more of my own space," she says. But if you do find yourself in a relationship with your colleague, and then suddenly out of one, take James' advice, served with both sarcasm and sincerity: “Summer layoff is the prime time to break up."

Kristin Schwab is Dance Magazine's associate editor.

Dancers Trending

Misty Copeland's well-chronicled journey to becoming the first female African American principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre has helped jumpstart conversations about racial representation in ballet companies. But how Copeland's success may influence ballet training still remains to be seen. Of course, she's already helped launch ABT's Project Plié, which seeks to boost racial and ethnic diversity in ballet through partnerships with organizations like the Boys & Girls Club and with other companies, including Ballet Austin, Cincinnati Ballet and Orlando Ballet.

But there are other U.S. ballet companies making a deliberate effort to hire black dancers. Since 2013, Charlotte Ballet has partnered with Dance Theatre of Harlem to hire DTH students for Charlotte Ballet II. “In an audition with hundreds of dancers we'd only see one, maybe a handful of black dancers," says artistic director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux. “But we are in America and the world is very diverse and we have to do something ourselves." This season, Charlotte Ballet will have two African American dancers in the main company, both hired through a regular company audition. The second company has one African American dancer; another was offered a contract through the DTH initiative but declined.

The Washington Ballet is also taking a more proactive approach to diversifying its company. This season, it has launched a new program called Let's Dance Together and has brought Arthur Mitchell on as an artistic adviser specifically for the initiative. The program aims to bring in new dancers of color, provide a stronger support system for its pre-professional students who come from diverse backgrounds and promote choreographers of color. Former DTH dancer Ashley Murphy has also joined the company, though Washington Ballet artistic director Septime Webre was careful to point out that Murphy was not recruited. But he says attracting a dancer of Murphy's stature was a part of his long-held goal to improve diversity at the company. “We have always had a commitment to diversity, and as a Cuban American I was sensitive to the fact that even though Cubans have always been part of ballet, I was still somehow an outsider to some degree."

These are just the latest in a series of efforts by The Washington Ballet, which have included regularly turning to Mitchell and DTH artistic director Virginia Johnson for valuable advice and bringing in Copeland last season to perform with Brooklyn Mack in Swan Lake. The company's roster this season will include three black, five Latino and three Asian dancers out of 21 total. “We have made a real effort to send out a message to the ballet world that this is an organization that welcomes dancers of all cultures and complexions," says Webre. “It's really taken some time for directors to feel comfortable talking about this subject, but now the topic is out in the ether. Misty is a big part of that. And people aren't just talking now, they're really trying to find ways to do something about it."

Magazine

Strengthening ties with its community, North Carolina Dance Theatre has rebranded itself as Charlotte Ballet.

Gregory Taylor and Emily Ramirez in Dwight Rhoden’s Gateways. Photo by Peter Zay, Courtesy Charlotte Ballet.

 

 

To some, it was a surprise when North Carolina Dance Theatre announced in April that it had changed its name to Charlotte Ballet. But for artistic director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and his wife, associate artistic director Patricia McBride, who took over the Charlotte-based company in 1996, solidifying NCDT’s regional brand had been a long-term goal. “Jean-Pierre and Patricia have always thought the name should be Charlotte Ballet,” says executive director Douglas Singleton. “Everything we do is ballet.”

The name change has come in response to an evolving Charlotte, now home to Bank of America and many other large financial operations. Today, the city ranks as one of the fastest growing in the U.S. As its population has shifted, so has NCDT’s audience. “Many folks moving to Charlotte haven’t brought an understanding of the ‘dance theater’ tradition with them,” says Singleton. “They are bringing a ‘ballet’ tradition with them.”

North Carolina Dance Theatre had spent recent years refocusing its audience development and marketing strategies. It has paid off: Ticket sales have increased 75 percent and donor gifts have tripled. And in 2010, NCDT moved into the Patricia McBride and Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux Center for Dance. Still, consultants agreed that renaming the company would substantially help it bridge connections to Charlotte’s artistically conservative community: In a preliminary poll surveying potential local customers—people who had not attended a performance in at least three years—nearly 50 percent said they were familiar with the name Charlotte Ballet, even though the brand did not yet exist.

Singleton emphasizes that the company programming of family-friendly classics and innovative contemporary works will not shift. “The product has not changed,” he says. “Our name has aligned with the product.”

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