We love The Nutcracker as much as the next person, but that perennial holiday classic isn't the only thing making its way onstage this month. Here are five alternatives that piqued our editors' curiosity.
Diana Vishneva has had a very big year. In 2017, she retired from American Ballet Theatre, performing Onegin with the company one last time, accompanied by her longtime partner Marcelo Gomes. Then, in September, she opened a ballet studio in her home city of St. Petersburg called CONTEXT Pro. Soon after, she marked the fifth edition of her festival of contemporary dance, CONTEXT, with two weeks of performances, workshops and talks in Moscow and St. Petersburg. But the biggest event came several months later, with the birth of her first child. (As she points out with some satisfaction, the timing was perfect—she didn't have to cancel a single engagement.)
The pregnancy allowed Vishneva to step back from an international career that has kept her constantly on the move for the better part of the last two decades. The ballet world receded from her consciousness, but not for long. We spoke in New York, where she resides part of the year, just as she was gearing up for the first of a series of performances and projects. The day after our chat, her son would turn 100 days old.
In our eyes, being a dancer is remarkable. Add motherhood to the mix, and you're practically a superhero.
We salute all the incredible women who have two of the hardest—and most rewarding—jobs around. Here are just a few of our favorite #ballerinamom moments. (And don't say we didn't warn you: Prepare for full-on cute overload.)
Just when we thought we could no longer be surprised by the headlines coming out of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, a New York Magazine report has our jaws on the floor.
The latest former Trump aide to be interviewed by Mueller is a man named Michael Caputo, who worked for the President during the campaign, but has since moved on to more artistic endeavors. Like producing ballets. For Diana Vishneva.
Here is my list of favorites from this year, some of them with video clips embedded. I've also added "lingering thoughts" about certain situations in the dance world. As usual, my choices are limited by what I have actually seen. Most of the following are world premieres.
• Andrea Miller's Stone Skipping in the Egyptian room at the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Ancient and ultra-modern at once, gaga-initiated grapplings, telling many stories of people in struggle and solidarity. The group sequence (with her company Gallim plus dancers from Juilliard) from lying on the floor with pelvis bobbing to standing, to swaying, to skipping wildly about was transcendent.
Some nights, you head home buzzing with energy. After last night's Dance Magazine Awards, we were dancing with it.
For years, Diana Vishneva seemed to be an exotic creature who landed in New York City: If we held our collective breath long enough, perhaps she wouldn't fly away. But last June, this Russian ballerina did just that after delivering her farewell performance of Onegin with American Ballet Theatre, where she had been a principal since 2005. Her wild passion, her musicality and her ability to hold nothing back made her classical dancing all the more thrilling.
Vishneva got her start at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg. Seven years later she won the Prix de Lausanne, and in 1995, she joined the Mariinsky Ballet, with whom she gave her first major performances in New York City. In 2001, she began her guest artist career, performing with La Scala Ballet, the Paris Opéra Ballet, Staatsballett Berlin and others over the years.
Get Dance Magazine in your inbox
Part of the reason we chose international ballet star Diana Vishneva as one of our Dance Magazine Awardees this year is because she's always been an innovator. Before it was normal for ballet dancers to travel the world guesting for numerous companies, Vishneva, who began at the Mariinsky Ballet and later became a principal at American Ballet Theatre, was doing it. Today, she's opened a new chapter of her career by departing ABT and devoting more time to her CONTEXT Festival in Russia. But she's still innovating, commissioning her first original work for the festival this year and creating programming aimed at developing contemporary choreographers in Russia. We caught up with her to hear how the 2017 festival is shaping up:
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:
From Stage to Stage
November is a busy month for Minneapolis’ resident jack-of-all-trades, Zenon Dance Company. Nov. 1–8, it will join in Minnesota Opera’s new Hansel and Gretel, choreographed by Doug Varone. Then, the company will try on the athletic, yet silky-smooth contemporary work of rising Cuban choreographer Osnel Delgado in his first piece for a U.S. company, at the Cowles Center, Nov. 21–30. zenondance.org.
Above: Alyssa Mann rehearsing Delgado’s Coming Home. Photo by William Cameron, Courtesy Zenon.
Vishneva As Impresario
Always up for an artistic challenge, ballet superstar Diana Vishneva is producing a festival of contemporary dance in Moscow, where classical ballet reigns. Last year, the event’s first, CONTEXT. Diana Vishneva brought together artists as far apart in style and distance as Cunningham-influenced Richard Alston from London and Israeli/American Barak Marshall. This year the festival introduces L.A.–based contemporary Ate9 dANCE cOMPANY, led by the wildly imaginative Danielle Agami, plus Nederlands Dans Theater 2, Ballet Preljocaj and Germany’s Gauthier Dance. CONTEXT, curated by Holland Dance Festival’s Samuel Wuersten, also aims to cultivate emerging choreographic talent. The festival includes a dance film program and provides a smaller, modern venue for young Russian dance artists to show their work and interact with more established choreographers. “Today there exists a hunger for new things in Russia,” says Vishneva. “We are still missing a choreographer of the Ratmansky caliber.” Fear not: The ravishing Vishneva isn’t just staying behind the scenes. She plans to perform works by Hans van Manen and Paul Lightfoot and Sol León—along with some surprises. Mossoveta Theatre. Nov. 26–29. vishnevafest.com.
Right: Vishneva in Carolyn Carlson’s Woman in a Room. Photo by Jerry Metellus, Courtesy Vishneva.
Elo at X
BalletX is getting Jorma Elo’s European touch with a premiere at the Wilma Theater, Nov. 19–23. Audiences can catch the troupe’s new hires from Miami City Ballet and Complexions Contemporary Ballet tackling his ooey, gooey choreography. balletx.org.
Left: BalletX in Elo’s Scenes View 2. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy BalletX.
Sashaying with Scissors
Matthew Bourne first showed his Edward Scissorhands, based on the 1990 Tim Burton film, back in 2005. Nearly 10 years later, the storyteller revisits the production, touring this November through March 2015. new-adventures.net.
Right: A scene from the original production. Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy Raw PR.
NEW YORK CITY
What do dancers love most about Broadway? The dancing, of course! That’s the bread and butter of American Dance Machine for the 21st Century, a new troupe with a rotating cast of professional ballet and Broadway dancers, led by artistic producer and founder Nikki Feirt Atkins. The company will stage numbers of pure dancing that run musical theater’s gamut—from Jack Cole’s Someone to Watch Over Me to Michael Bennett’s A Chorus Line to Andy Blankenbuehler’s In the Heights. The Joyce Theater, Nov. 11–16. adm21.org.
Above: ADM21’s Stephen Hanna and Naomi Kakuk in Susan Stroman’s Contact. Photo by Christopher Duggan, Courtesy ADM21.
A Different Kind of Rainbow
When you hear “Over the Rainbow,” you probably imagine a utopian place. So does Heidi Latsky. Her poignant piece Somewhere creates a world that accepts difference with grace and gravitas: One dancer has Parkinson’s, another is deaf and a third has cerebral palsy. Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, Nov. 6–8. colum.edu/dance-center.
Right: Saki Masuda and Jillian Hollis in Somewhere. Photo by Darial Sneed, Courtesy Latsky.
Our cover story reveals Ailey artistic director Robert Battle’s thinking behind his choices, as well as the challenges that two of his most stunning dancers, Jamar Roberts and Rachael McLaren, face with these new works. In Kina Poon’s “The New Ailey,” you’ll get a sense of how much the company has changed, and yet how much the Ailey spirit has remained an anchor.
On the other side of the dance universe, I got to see the legendary Lyudmila Kovaleva teach class at the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg last June. Apparently, Kovaleva still, to this day, coaches her former student Diana Vishneva on certain roles. That gave me the idea to ask Vishneva, as well as other top dancers, about their favorite teachers, the ones who really made a difference. Read “They Taught Me To...” to learn who Ashley Bouder, Kathleen Breen Combes, Desmond Richardson, and Jason Samuels Smith cherish as the mentors who changed their lives.
Right: Rachel McLaren and Jamar Roberts in Barton's LIFT. By Jayme Thornton
While I watched class and rehearsals at the old Mariinsky theater, I was surprised to encounter a British dancer. I had no idea that Xander Parish had left The Royal Ballet and joined the Mariinsky. He guided me from one studio to another, and I soon realized that his story could be told quite nicely in a “Why I Dance”—which appears on our back page this month.
Lastly, this is my final “Curtain Up” because I have transitioned into a role as editor at large. As you will see in “DM Recommends,” a book of my writings has just come out, and it has opened up some new opportunities for me. I am leaving the magazine in good hands, those of the very capable Jennifer Stahl. I have enjoyed working on Dance Magazine immensely.
Wendy Perron, Editor in Chief
Top dancers on how their favorite teachers shaped their dancing
Behind every gravity-defying leap, each soul-wrenching solo, each flawless fouetté is a great teacher who worked tirelessly to hone a young dancer’s potential. Ask any successful dancer how they got to where they are today and they will always thank a teacher (or three!) for helping them to reach their potential. Dance Magazine’s Emily Macel Theys spoke to five top-of-their-game dancers about mentors who helped to sculpt their careers.
Ashley Bouder on Darla Hoover
Ashley Bouder, principal dancer with New York City Ballet, credits Darla Hoover, now at New York’s Ballet Academy East as well as Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, for her mastery of Balanchine technique. The two have very similar career trajectories: Both trained at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, both received scholarships to the School of American Ballet, and both became dancers at New York City Ballet. “I’ve known Darla since I was very young. She grew up dancing with my mother and she trained me until I was 15.” A répétiteur for the Balanchine Trust, Hoover worked with Bouder on a core Balanchine aesthetic. “She taught me how to bring out the music through the way you’re moving your body,” says Bouder. “She teaches you how to be a dancer rather than just how to dance.”
Above: Ashley Bouder on Darla Hoover: “She teaches you how to be a dancer rather than just how to dance.” Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.
What stands out to Bouder is what Hoover helped her to refine: speed and technical cleanliness. “She starts you off going slow and building strength so that when you get to moving fast, it’s accurate. You need to have a clean fifth position and clean pointed feet and can’t be messy in between.” Bouder started attending Hoover’s advanced class when she was 11. “She would have me stand behind one of the other girls to learn. The girl she had me behind was Noelani Pantastico, now with Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo.” Bouder says she transitioned from being the dancer standing behind another to being a model in the class for younger dancers to stand behind.
Though now a celebrated principal dancer, Bouder still keeps Hoover’s advice close at heart. “She’s always with me when I do petit allégro because that’s what she teaches best.”
Jason Samuels Smith on Savion Glover
Jason Samuels Smith is one of the busiest tappers in the world. He’s sought after to perform on national and international stages, on TV shows, and in movies—but perhaps even more to spread his rhythmic command through master classes, workshops, and festivals. While the 33-year-old tap-lebrity gives credit to many tap legends and teachers for his dance upbringing (including his mother Sue Samuels, who got him into dance), Samuels Smith says his most influential tap teacher was Savion Glover.
Left: Jason Samuels Smith on Savion Glover: “He was the kind of teacher that acknowledged hard work and effort.” Photo by Jayme Thornton.
“Savion showed me that you could accomplish anything that you wanted to as an artist,” Samuels Smith says. “He was involved in so many things at an early age, from Broadway to teaching to choreography, and that was definitely a major influence for me.”
Samuels Smith started studying with Glover at Broadway Dance Center, where his mother was teaching, when he was 8. Glover was only 15 but was already a buzz-worthy Broadway veteran. Glover instilled a strong work ethic in Samuels Smith from the get-go. “He was the kind of teacher that acknowledged hard work and effort. If you were hitting it and doing what he wanted to hear, that was a plus. But the harder you worked, your work ethic was what he would praise the most.” Glover saw talent in Samuels Smith early on and gave him his first highly visible dance gig—a spot on on the PBS show Sesame Street, where Glover had become a regular guest.
What the younger tapper appreciates most about Glover’s mentorship is his focus on those who came before: Gregory Hines and Lon Chaney, Chuck Green, Buster Brown, Jimmy Slyde, Dianne Walker. The ways he presented the vocabulary of the greats was new and accessible, Samuels Smith says. “He focused on a lot of paddle and roll, things rooted in cramp rolls and pullbacks, but it was all about how he was using the steps and creating musical phrases. That still inspires me when I think back to some of the stuff that I learned as a kid.”
Desmond Richardson on Penny Frank
“You’re coming to the space to electrify the sanctuary. You have to infect that space.” This was advice that Penny Frank, Graham teacher at the LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts, gave to a young Desmond Richardson. And clearly, the advice hit home.
Right: Desmond Richardson on Penny Frank: “Because of her, I understand that the beauty is in the transition.” Photo by Jae Man Joo, Courtesy Complexions.
Richardson, the co-artistic director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet who has electrified stages as a principal for both Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and American Ballet Theatre, as well as bringing his larger-than-life presence to Broadway (he’s currently a member of the ensemble in the Broadway show After Midnight), got a late start to dance. “I came into the audition at the High School of Performing Arts not knowing that there were dance clothes needed. I just knew I wanted to dance. I got into the school and I was very hard on myself because I have a perfectionist mind and I knew that I was late to dance.” Richardson says Frank noticed how he was correcting himself constantly. “She would say ‘instead of beating yourself up, why don’t you take the opportunity to use this to think about your process. Take your time to get everything.’ When she told me that, things started to come faster.”
Frank taught Richardson the Graham principal of movement starting at the core. “I do that ad nauseam now because I had that information when I was young.” She also emphasized awareness of time and space. Richardson remembers, “She would say, ‘You must sustain at this moment because people are watching. If you continue through movement, it’s like a run-on sentence: There’s no pause, no lilt, no rise.’ I say that to my dancers today. Because of her, I understand that the beauty is in the transition.”
In addition to teaching technique and artistry, she also gave Richardson advice that has helped him throughout his wildly successful career. “She taught me to be humble, to be real and honest in all of my dancing.”
Diana Vishneva on Lyudmila Kovaleva
‘‘All my years at the company school, I worked with her, and whenever I am in St. Petersburg, dancing at the Mariinsky, I go back to her. She’s strong and demanding and pays a lot of attention to details. She doesn’t care how you feel, what bothers you. If you come to work, be ready to work hard and be very precise.
Left: Diana Vishneva on coach Lyudmila Kovaleva: “Lyudmila knows how to hide all problems, and look the best onstage.” Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT.
‘‘Every dancer knows his body better than anybody else. Everyone has their own problems—me, too. I know that my body is probably not ideal. Lyudmila knows how to hide all problems, and look the best onstage. She has a very good eye, and she’s always honest with me. We trust each other. If that were not so, we probably would not have been able to work together all these years.’’
Kathleen Breen Combes on Magda Aunon
Kathleen Breen Combes, principal with Boston Ballet, says she wouldn’t be the powerhouse jumper that she is today without Magda Aunon, her teacher at Fort Lauderdale Ballet Classique from ages 8 to 12. “She was the first teacher who saw real potential in me. She honed in on that and made me realize that I could have a future.”
Above: Kathleen Breen Combes on Magda Aunon: “She would tell us, ‘Dance is an art form, not just a sport.’" Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy Boston Ballet.
With Aunon, it wasn’t just about the technique. “She was always interested in the artistic quality,” Combes remembers. “Her biggest thing was the performing qualities in dance. She would tell us, ‘Dance is an art form, not just a sport.’ ”
Having a teacher who urged Combes to prepare for a performance by starting at the barre made a huge impact on her as both a performer and now as a teacher herself. “I find myself telling my students a lot of things she said to me. It’s not just about what’s happening from the waist down, it’s about the big picture.”
What stands out to Combes about Aunon’s teaching style was the individualized attention she received. “She saw you for what you had to offer and tried to make you the best that you could be rather than fitting into a mold. She would adjust her teaching style to make sure you’re featured in the best way you could be.”
As a young dancer Combes admits she wasn’t a very good jumper. “When I was 9 she brought a mini trampoline in and she made me do all my small jumps on it during class. She would hold my hand while I worked on my ballon. I think that’s why I can jump as high as I do now.”
Emily Macel Theys is a Pittsburgh-based contributing writer to Dance Magazine.
Double the Diva
MONTE CARLO What do you get when you combine the sublime dramatics of Diana Vishneva and the stylish eloquence of Bernice Coppieters? Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Switch, which comes to the Salle Garnier in Monte Carlo Dec. 18–19. Maillot chose a cinematic score by Danny Elfman for the work, which features longtime Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo dancer Gaëtan Morlotti alongside Maillot’s two muses. Switch is paired on the program with Carolyn Carlson’s solo for Vishneva, Woman in a Room, part of Vishneva’s “On the Edge” evening, which premiered last month at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Southern California. www.balletsdemontecarlo.com.
Coppieters, Vishneva, and Maillot. Photo by Alice Blangero, Courtesy Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo.
Danzón in DC
WASHINGTON, DC This month, Ballet Hispanico visits the Kennedy Center for the first time under director Eduardo Vilaro. The soulful Jardí Tancat, Nacho Duato’s first choreographic work, joins the spirited duet Sortijas (Rings) by fellow Spaniard Cayetano Soto, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s vivacious all-male Sombrerísimo, and Vilaro’s own Danzón, made extraordinary by the infectious onstage musical performance of jazz saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera. Dec. 5–6, with masterclass led by BH company members on Dec. 4. www.kennedy-center.org.
Ballet Hispanico in Nacho Duato's Jardi Tancat. Photo by Paula Lobo, Courtesy Michelle Tabnick.
From Screen to Stage
PHILADELPHIA The wizards of BodyVox bring The Cutting Room, an homage to films of all persuasions, to the Annenberg Center in Philly. Under co-directors Ashley Roland and Jamey Hampton, who count MOMIX and Pilobolus among their credits, the Portland-based company is known for its theatricality and eye-catching physicality. The Cutting Room incorporates video clips to explore motion pictures, from documentary to romantic comedy to sci-fi. Dec. 12–14. www.danceaffiliates.org.
BodyVox in The Cutting Room. Photo by David Krebs, Courtesy BodyVox.
Moseying Along Moses’ Paths
NEW YORK CITY Leave it to Reggie Wilson to dig up rousing vocal music from the depths of black culture for his dances. The sound score for his new Moses(es), presented by Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival, combines hip-hop, house, and traditional music from Egypt, Senegal, and Zanzibar. This full-length piece draws from another American who researched her roots: Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston. The nine dancers of Wilson’s Fist & Heel Performance Group will explore responses to questions inspired by various versions of the Moses narrative: How do we lead and why do we follow? Dec. 4–7, BAM Harvey Theater. www.bam.org.
Reggie Wilson's Moses(es). Photo by Julia Cervantes, Courtesy BAM.
CHICAGO Alejandro Cerrudo’s evening-length One Thousand Pieces for the dancers of both Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Hubbard Street 2 returns to the Harris Theater Dec. 12–15. Described as a “rarely pausing onslaught of silky, gorgeous, often classically pure dance, dotted with bits of its choreographer’s persona” by Sid Smith of the Chicago Tribune, the piece, which premiered last year, draws inspiration from Marc Chagall’s blue-tinged America Windows and its Philip Glass score. (See “DM Awards,” p. 36). www.hubbardstreetdance.com.
Jessica Tong and Jesse Bechard in One Thousand Pieces. Photo by Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy HSDC.
Mad for MADboots
NEW YORK CITY After meeting in Sidra Bell’s contemporary dance company, Jonathan Campbell and Austin Diaz joined forces in 2011, creating compelling male-centered work for their NYC–based troupe MADboots dance co. The two have a knack for unison, and though Campbell comes by way of Juilliard and Diaz from NYU’s Tisch School, it’s like they were cut from the same postmodern cloth—gesturing, slicing, and rolling through space as one. This month MADboots will present two works for the 92nd St. Y’s Dig Dance series: their 2013 piece, blue, a work for three men with bouquets of brightly colored flowers inspired by Picasso’s Blue Period, along with a premiere, ACADEMY, a dance for five men set to an eclectic music and sound score. Dec. 7–8. www.madbootsdance.com or www.92y.org.
The men of MADboots. Photo by Nir Ariel, Courtesy MADboots.
Downtown Dance Sampler
NEW YORK CITY Every year Movement Research, that fortress of experimental dance and performance, holds a fall festival. Curated by Adrienne Truscott and Jibz Cameron, this edition is hosted by the Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church. It includes masters of improvisation like Ishmael Houston-Jones, Greg Zuccolo, and members of a younger generation. For instance, Nikki Zialcita has worked with “25 to Watch” choreographer Faye Driscoll, and Sophia Cleary has worked with the brazen Ann Liv Young. Expect a range from serene to boisterous. Dec. 5–7 at Danspace Project. www.movementresearch.org or www.danspaceproject.org.
Adrienne Truscott. Photo by Ian Douglas, Courtesy Movement Research
Tolerance and Tragicomedy
NEW YORK CITY With its talkback format, Camille A. Brown’s latest work, Mr. TOL E. RAncE, is meant to engender conversation around race and humor. Through Brown’s vibrant choreography, the evocative piece, which Camille A. Brown & Dancers perform at the Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts in Brooklyn, Dec. 6–7, explores the historical roots of minstrelsy and its present-day forms. (Paging Miley Cyrus.) See www.camilleabrown.org to participate in the dialogue online.
Waldean Nelson in Mr. TOL E. RAncE. Photo by Paula Court, Courtesy Camille A. Brown
What’s Left Behind
MIAMI In Jonah Bokaer’s latest work, Occupant, premiering at Art Basel Miami on Dec. 6, dancers manipulate chalk plaster sculptures by visual artist Daniel Arsham, Bokaer’s frequent collaborator (who also worked with Merce Cunningham, Bokaer’s former boss). The work removes divisions between process and product—traces of the objects will transform the black-papered floor of the Carnival Studio Theater into a drawing. www.arshtcenter.org.
Jonah Bokaer. Photo courtesy Ellen Jacobs.