The lack of female leaders in ballet is an old conversation. But a just-launched website, called the Dance Data Project, has brought something new to the discussion: actual numbers, not just anecdotal evidence.
Have you seen any shows in 2018 that you can't stop thinking about? Watched any dance videos that blew your mind? Discovered any performers who everyone should know about? We want to hear about them!
Yes, we realize that it's only August. But we're gearing up for our annual Readers' Choice Awards, and it's time to send in your nominations!
It's as easy as filling out the form below. (You don't even have to fill out the whole form—just complete as many categories as you want.) Nominations will be accepted until August 30. You'll then be able to vote on selected nominations beginning September 4, and winners will be announced in our December issue.
So far, the fervor to create diversity in ballet has primarily focused on dancers. Less attention has been paid to the work that they'll encounter once they arrive.
Yet the cultivation of ballet choreographers of color (specifically black choreographers) through traditional pathways of choreographic training grounds remains virtually impossible. No matter how you slice it, we end up at the basic issues that plague the pipeline to the stage: access and privilege.
New York City Center just announced programming for the 2018-19 season, and we're frantically marking our calendars for all the must-see dance. This year is the venue's 75th anniversary, and they're pulling out all the stops—from the reliable fan favorite Fall for Dance to the most epic Balanchine celebration and more:
Running is many things to Joffrey Ballet dancer Joanna Wozniak: It's a way she stays in shape during summer layoff, it's a way she builds strength after injury, and it's a way she balances out her body.
"Even though class has motions that are repeated on both sides, when you're dancing in a performance, that's not always the case," says Wozniak, who's been a runner for more than 10 years. "So it's nice to go for a quick run when you have a day off."
Bales of hay, black umbrellas, bicycles—this Midsummer Night's Dream would be unrecognizable to the Bard. Alexander Ekman's full-length, inspired by Scandinavian solstice traditions and set to music by Mikael Karlsson, is a madcap celebration of the longest day of the year, when the veil between our world and that of the supernatural is said to be at its thinnest. The Joffrey Ballet's performances mark the seductively surreal work's North American premiere. April 25–May 6. joffrey.org.
Lar Lubovitch has made more than 110 dances for his troupe, the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company. For the celebration of its 50th anniversary, the choreographer has programmed his bracing Men's Stories: A Concerto in Ruin (2000) as well as a premiere titled Something About Night, set to choral music by Schubert. The inclusion on the program of The Joffrey Ballet in a quartet from his Othello (1997) and the Martha Graham Dance Company in Legend of Ten (2010) testifies to Lubovitch's command of both ballet and modern dance idioms. Young choreographers would do well to study his craft and passion. April 17–22. joyce.org.
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From the over-the-top antics of Fancy Free to the stylized realism of West Side Story, the discomfiting world of The Cage to the poignant humanity of Dances at a Gathering, the work of Jerome Robbins redefined what American dance could be. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth, ballet companies across the country are performing his iconic works throughout the year. Here are a few of our favorites, but keep your eyes peeled for more Robbins tributes in 2018.
It's an ongoing question for large and small companies alike: How can we increase ticket sales? Tickets are the primary product dance troupes are selling. But what if there were other untapped avenues to make money, and even expand your audience in the process?
Some companies are exploring the possibilities. L.A. Dance Project recently launched the subscription-based ladanceworkout.com, offering streaming workout videos led by company members. Groups of all sizes and even some individual dancers have launched merchandise lines bearing their logos. And, of course, there's the perpetually innovative Pilobolus, which has been in the creative-revenue game for years, with books, advertisements, corporate appearances and more. Companies told us what it takes to expand revenue streams beyond ticket sales:
Photo by Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet.
Christopher Wheeldon's new Nutcracker for the Joffrey Ballet was huge news when it premiered last winter. The choreographer shifted the setting from the home of a well-off German family to the Chicago world's fair, making the hero the young daughter of a working-class, Polish immigrant sculptress. This month, WTTW Chicago, the city's public broadcasting station, will premiere Making a New American Nutcracker, a new documentary showing how Wheeldon and his high-profile collaborators made the magic happen. Premieres on WTTW11 and wttw.com/watch on Nov. 16 before appearing on public television stations across the country. Check your local listings.
It's time! You submitted your nominations for the most memorable dance you saw this year. We narrowed down our favorites, and now it's up to you to decide what will make it into our December issue.
Voting will be open until September 25th. Only one submission per person will be counted.
But now the rest of the world is catching on. A new partnership between The Joffrey Ballet and JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts is bringing dancer fitness to vacationers, one workout video at a time.
It feels like just yesterday that we were shocked with the news that pop icon Prince had passed away. Now it's been a year since his untimely death, and we miss his dance-able music and intoxicating stage presence more than ever.
Though Prince was known for his genre-bending music, he was also a huge supporter of the dance community—and a captivating dancer himself. So it feels right to remember him by a few of his contributions to the dance world:
Some dreams really do come true: This Thursday, September 8, you can be a fly on the wall in a rehearsal with choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. And you don't even have to leave the house. From 11:30 am to 1:30 pm Central time (12:30 to 2:30 pm Eastern), Joffrey Ballet will present a live-streamed rehearsal of Wheeldon's brand-new Nutcracker. All you have to do is visit the company's YouTube channel during those hours.
Wheeldon in a recent Nutcracker rehearsal. Photo by Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet.
While details about which sections of the ballet will be previewed are under wraps, we're excited to get a first glimpse at Wheeldon's take on the holiday classic, which will have its world premiere December 10–30. This won't be your typical Nutcracker, though. Wheeldon has transferred the ritzy tale to a more humble setting: Clara is replaced by Marie, the daughter of a poor immigrant family living in Chicago during the 1893 World's Fair. The company is working with a stellar production team, including puppeteer Basil Twist, who's no stranger to ballet. (He previously collaborated with Wheeldon on The Winter's Tale and Cinderella.)
Wheeldon with Amanda Assucena during a 2014 Swan Lake rehearsal. Photo by Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet.
This lunchtime livestream isn't the first time the company has given fans a behind-the-scenes look at a full length. In 2014, it presented a rehearsal when Wheeldon was remounting his Swan Lake. In anticipation of today's event, Joffrey Ballet dancer Amanda Assucena recalled her previous experience. "In the beginning we were all a little nervous and excited," she says. "If you mess it up, the whole world’s watching. It’s a little scary, but I think eventually I just forgot about it. The cameras try to stay out of our way." Now Assucena is learning several Nutcracker roles—Marie, her mother and the grand pas de deux—as Wheeldon crafts them.
In addition to the dancing, viewers will also be treated to an interview between artistic director Ashley Wheater and Wheeldon during a rehearsal break. Merry (very early) Christmas!
Breakfast Philosophy: “Mornings have always been important to me. I can remember watching my mom busy in the kitchen, talking about how it would be a great day because we were sitting down together and eating good food. It's a tradition, but it's also legit—as an athlete, it certainly helps health-wise."
When: “I'm up at 6, because my baby's up. Around 7 or 7:30, my husband, son and I all have breakfast before I go to the studios for our 9:45 class. It's such a lovely time together before we start the day."
Her Go-Tos: “We always have fruit, like pineapple or berries or melon—whatever's seasonal. They're packed with vitamins and just feel fresh before a hard day at work. And protein—eggs or yogurt. Or sometimes oatmeal."
To Drink: “I always have some orange juice, even if it's just a few sips."
Victoria Jaiani's Sunny Side Up Eggs in Pepper
“This is my favorite breakfast. The first time we tried it was in Vienna. It's yummy, brings good memories, and you're getting vegetables and protein—all the good stuff."
• 1 bell pepper, sliced into 1/2" circles
• 1 egg per pepper slice
• salt and pepper to taste
• 1 oz. feta and a few olives
1. Slice a bell pepper into a circle, and place it on a hot, greased pan and crack an egg inside of it.
2. Season with salt and pepper and cook sunny side up until the egg white is cooked through but the yolk is still runny.
3. Serve with feta cheese and olives on
Photo by Erin Baiano for Dance Spirit.
Beyoncé's lead dancer and dance captain
Breakfast Philosophy: “I'm not the biggest morning person—but I always eat something before I dance, even if I'm not hungry, because as soon as we start I'll be starving."
When: “Around an hour or so after I get up—about 10:30 or 11."
Her Go-To: “I make a lot of smoothies. They satisfy me but leave me feeling light."
If She's On Set: “I'll do an egg white omelet with vegetables and maybe a piece of toast."
Ashley Everett's Green Smoothie
“When I was growing up, my dad used to always cook french toast and waffles and pancakes, but it was hard for my body to process all that and it would weigh me down. Smoothies have been really helpful, because they're liquid but really filling with all these nutrients in them."
• a handful of kale or spinach
• 1 banana
• 1 apple (green)
• 1/2 an avocado
• 1 orange (or orange juice)
• a splash of almond milk
• optional: cucumber or other veggies
Blend in a high-power blender until smooth, and enjoy!
Sturm performing In Your Arms. Photo by Carol Rosegg, Courtesy In Your Arms.
Breakfast Philosophy: “I usually get tossed around a lot in rehearsals, so I have to make sure I have energy but won't feel sick."
When: “Breakfast tends to be the last thing I do as I'm getting ready, but I try to eat at least an hour before I dance."
Her Go-To: “I'll top an English muffin with ricotta cheese, avocado and red pepper flakes. It's perfect for energy in the morning. You get protein, fiber, carbs—everything you really need to sustain energy."
If Her Boyfriend's Cooking: “He'll make me an omelet—they're his specialty—with two or two and a half eggs, onion, tomato and sometimes avocado."
To Drink: “I have flavored coffee, like hazelnut with almond milk."
Paul Taylor Dance Company
Khobdeh in Brandenburgs. Photo by Paul B. Goode, courtesy PTDC.
Breakfast Philosophy: “I find food to be almost ritualistic—eating and creating the space to eat so that I can really enjoy it."
When: “On rehearsal days, I'll wake up, have coffee and go to the gym. I don't like to dance on a full stomach, so I break my fast after rehearsal around noon."
Her Go-Tos: “I like Siggi's yogurt because it's high in protein and has a good ratio of carbs to fat. I'll add everything I can possibly fit into that cup—banana, berries, chia seeds, maybe peanut butter. Or I'll do a rice cake with peanut butter and top that with chia seeds or fresh fruit. Sometimes I'll start with a raspberry chia kombucha."
If She's Performing: “Even though I'm not hungry when I wake up, I'll eat early in the morning so that my body has time to digest before I dance. I'll have protein for muscle maintenance—egg whites with spinach, cheddar, salt and pepper, and green leaves on the side with a little bit of oil and vinegar, or a smoothie with berries, banana and yogurt or milk."
To Drink: “Coffee when I wake up, with a little bit of whole milk."
Photo by Gadi Dagon, courtesy Batsheva
Batsheva Dance Company
Breakfast Philosophy: “Plain and simple does the job for me in the morning. Especially if I'm in a rush, which is usually the case."
When: “Around 9 am, before class
His Go-To: “When I was in high school
I would commute to Manhattan, and my dad taught me how to make a quick and easy omelet, so the habit has stuck with me: Most mornings I'll make a two- or three-egg omelet with pepper, onion and tomato."
If He's in a Rush: “I'll have a bowl of Cheerios and pick up a salmon, lettuce and cream cheese sandwich on the way to the studio and have it after class at 11:30."
To Drink: “I make a pretty large mug of coffee at the studio after class."
Kremlin Ballet Theatre
Photo by Quinn Wharton for Pointe.
Breakfast Philosophy: “I used to skip breakfast to avoid the feeling of being weighed down. I learned the hard way that was a bad idea."
Her Go-To: “After I wake up, I drink water and a special blend of Russian herb tea for cleansing and hormonal stability. Then I'll have two of my own energy bars, Prima Bar Minis. Each has 10 grams of protein, 9 grams of carbs and 6 grams of natural sugars."
When: “My breakfast is usually on the go—I like to work out right after I wake up. If it's a light workout day, I'll eat after the gym and before I head to class. If it's a 'push it' kind of workout day, then I have one Prima Bar Mini to fuel me through my session, and one after."B
To Drink: “I drink coffee with lemon. When I'm in the States I enjoy having coffee with almond or coconut milk, but unfortunately that's not available in Russia. Lemon is healthy, tasty, and now I prefer my coffee like this. It's kind of like a coffee lemonade." n
Ashley Rivers, a writer and dancer in Boston, once read that Ginger Rogers ate two eggs and toast for breakfast, so that's what she's eaten ever since.
What do Americans get out of training at Bolshoi Ballet Academy?
Waiting in the wings during rehearsal for an end-of-term BBA performance. Photo by James Hill/Contact Press Images
Moscow is at least eight times zones away from any city in the contiguous United States. The Russian language has a different alphabet. The floors are raked. The tuition costs more than $20,000 a year. And, well, it’s cold in Moscow. But none of those obstacles stand in the way of American students hell-bent on getting pure Russian training.
In the last few years, more young Americans have enrolled at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy (also known as the Moscow State Academy of Choreography) than ever before. Since 2007, the Russian American Foundation’s U.S. summer intensives and government-funded scholarship program have helped pave the road from America to Moscow as BBA has become increasingly open to foreign students. Now, Bolshoi-trained Americans still in their 20s are making their marks with top international companies, bringing with them a distinct blend of Russian training and American spirit.
Going Back to Zero
Despite being hand-picked for BBA, most Americans who arrive in Moscow have to start again from the beginning. “The first day I came into class,” relates Mario Vitale Labrador from California, “my teacher Ilya Kuznetsov made me do a tendu to the side and he smacked his thigh and yelled, ‘Stop, stop, stop!’ He came up to me and said, ‘Would you like to be stupid for the rest of your life?’ For the next month we worked on tendus and turnout. He tore me apart and built me back up from the bottom.”
For American students, who often tackle variations for competition from a young age, this process can feel tediously slow. “I didn’t have the clean, polished technique like everyone in my class did,” says Philadelphian Gabe Stone Shayer, who had the same teacher. “So I started at the bottom, like a first-year student, with very slow tendus and port de bras.” But it paid off, especially for his elevation. “When working on jumps,” he says, “the teachers focused on getting as much power as possible from a deeper demi-plié with your heels solidly on the ground.” Now a corps member of American Ballet Theatre, Shayer says the technical effort has helped him in featured roles like Ariel, in Ratmansky’s Tempest. The approach eventually proved intellectually stimulating, too. “Ilya’s training helped me to ask questions,” he says. “I wanted to know why we were learning what we were learning…to find the root of everything.”
Precious Adams, a Michigan native who joined English National Ballet in 2014, found that the challenges developed sequentially. “Once you’re real whacked out—really flexible—then you work on building strength, consistency, control, style,” she says. At some point, the difficulty shifted to the psychological arena. “Your body can be pushed, but being able to tell yourself to do it every day, it’s more of a mental game.”
Acting classes drew Adams (left) out of her artistic shell. Photo by Laurent Liotardo, Courtesy ENB.
Inspiration and Artistry
For many, the desire to train in Moscow stems from a love of “Russian soul.” Labrador, now a soloist with the Mikhailovsky Ballet, admires Uliana Lopatkina, longtime principal of the Mariinsky Ballet: “Every step she makes she’s in the now, she never dances two steps ahead of herself. You can feel the deliciousness of every movement, even just standing still, because she’s there with you.”
Adams enthuses over Natalia Osipova, the former Bolshoi star now with The Royal Ballet: “Her artistry is just so overpowering. ‘Bolshoi’ means big, so everything is very clean and precise and very long and beautiful, but then there’s this grandness, this artistry factor, that takes it outside the box.”
Adams found that artistry was cultivated in the academy’s acting classes. They taught her to get out of her shell, to explore different characters and feelings. “Then when you go back to variations class, you have a better understanding of how you should be doing it: not just with a plastic smile on your face, but really telling the story through movement.” While working on Roland Petit’s Carmen, for example, “we looked in depth at how you walk, how you stand by the window…playing with being sensual but not trashy.”
San Francisco native Jeraldine Mendoza appreciated the detail work. “My acting teacher described every single movement, every single eye gesture, every single feeling that I should have.” For her exam in acting—the exams can take months of preparation—she was assigned the role of a blind woman in love who didn’t want her lover’s help. “I didn’t feel like I was acting. I was just being.”
Shayer says the training at BBA improved his elevation. Photo by Marty Sohl, Courtesy ABT.
Coping With the Environment
Despite rigorous expectations at the school, relationships with fellow students and teachers are nurturing. “I did see the ugly side of ballet: girls not eating and girls crying because their neck’s too short or their boobs are too big,” recalls Mendoza. “There are politics at Bolshoi, but we all were there for one thing—to become a ballerina. My group supported each other.” She admits she missed her family and American food. “But I was mesmerized by where I was.” She still stays in touch with her Bolshoi teacher, Vera Potashkina, through Facebook.
“It’s a hard environment to survive in, but if you do, you will prosper from it,” says Shayer. His advice? “Never get defensive or offended by how things work there.” He now considers Moscow his second home and will be happy to return to Russia when he guests with the Mikhailovsky this summer in St. Petersburg.
Labrador, who was recently coached in the role of Albrecht by the Mikhailovsky’s ballet master, admits, “There’s always gossip going on, but it’s not the same gossip as in the States. The students make fun of you and talk behind your back, but once they get to know you, they’re your friends.” And now, he says simply, “I’m happy here.”
Wendy Perron is Dance Magazine’s editor at large and the author of Through the Eyes of a Dancer.
The Joffrey Ballet dancer resets before performances by napping in her sleeping bag.
Rocas with Rory Hohenstein in Romeo & Juliet. Photo by Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey.
It’s been a challenging year for Joffrey Ballet dancer Christine Rocas. She starred in the company premiere of Krzysztof Pastor’s Romeo & Juliet, danced The Siren in Balanchine’s The Prodigal Son and Odette/Odile in Christopher Wheeldon’s Swan Lake, then alternated as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Snow Queen in The Nutcracker. Now she is learning Wheeldon’s Liturgy pas de deux as well as works by Stanton Welch and Val Caniparoli.
“I really push myself in class and rehearsal and performance, so I don’t do a lot of cross-training,” says Rocas, the willowy 28-year-old who joined the company in 2005. “And it’s weird, I really don’t like walking—even three blocks is hard for me—or running. So I’ll take a yoga or Pilates class from time to time. But on performance days I mostly try to go home to rest for a couple of hours. Or, if there’s no time, I reset my body by taking a nap in my sleeping bag, under a counter in the dressing room.”
Rocas describes herself as “pretty healthy, but never pain-free.” When she first came to the Joffrey she had ankle problems and had to learn how to engage and strengthen her calves so her feet were supported. She says her hamstrings are a bit weak, too, so when she’s on pointe she needs to be “very conscious of the connection between them and my butt.”
Recently, Rocas has been focusing on her back. “I tend to over-arch it and it gets sore and achy,” she says. To counteract this habit, she engages her abdominals by holding a plank before class. “I rest on my forearms, with my legs together, and make sure I make a straight line from the tip of my head to the back of my heels,” she says. “I hold that for a minute until it burns.”
Rocas also goes to the pool regularly to take a water workout class. “There’s no fatigue while I’m in the pool,” says Rocas. “I only realize how tired I am when I get out of the water.”
Her Water Workout
1. Start in the shallow end. Push your kickboard down into the water and place both feet on it. (This takes some practice.)
2. Keeping your balance, paddle with your arms so that you start to move. You can bend your knees as needed. This exercise stabilizes your core and upper body.
3. Once you’re in the deep end, you can extend your legs more. If the kickboard pops up, just reset it.
4. Then, take the kickboard and hold it parallel to your face as you paddle with your legs. This strengthens your arms and your core.
“I’ve learned that I have to eat in the morning. I bake scrambled eggs, turkey sausage and cheese in muffin pans over the weekend, freeze and then heat them up in the microwave during the week.”
From All the Earth’s Corners
The global reach of this year’s Edinburgh International Festival is awe-inspiring. At the top of the dance agenda is the beguiling union of kathak/postmodern wizard Akram Khan and powerful Taiwanese modern dancer Fang-Yi Sheu. Their collaboration Gnosis is based on an ancient story about a blind king whose wife blindfolds herself for life to share in his journey. Other offerings include I AM, by New Zealand choreographer Lemi Ponifasio; Sweet Mambo, one of Pina Bausch’s last works; and Rambert Dance Company director Mark Baldwin’s Inala, to be performed alongside the South African choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. August 8–31. eif.co.uk/2014.
Above: Akram Khan in Gnosis. Photo by Richard Haughton, Courtesy Akram Khan Company.
Ballet’s Little Great Britain
Will Tuckett has made a career of storytelling, both as a Royal Ballet principal character artist and a choreographer whipping up whimsical fantasies. This month, the Sarasota Ballet—already well praised for its dancing of Ashton’s English classics—will premiere Tuckett’s full-length The Secret Garden. Based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved novel, which has been adapted for the screen several times, Tuckett’s ballet will feature oversized puppets and a narrator—dreamlike elements fit for a fable. August 8–16 at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts. sarasotaballet.org.
At right: Tuckett in rehearsal with Sarasota Ballet. Photo Courtesy Sarasota Ballet.
New and Classic, Outdoors and Free
Kyle Abraham’s world premiere for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is only one of the reasons why we’re excited about this year’s Chicago Dancing Festival. The Joffrey Ballet will perform Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs and an excerpt from Bells by Yuri Possokhov, San Francisco Ballet’s masterful (and under-recognized) resident choreographer. The Juilliard School will dance Eliot Feld’s delightfully zany The Jig Is Up and Pam Tanowitz will bring her Cunningham-esque Passagen. A great sampler of genre-spanning classics awaits: Rennie Harris Puremovement in Students of the Asphalt Jungle; Robbins’ Fancy Free danced by Daniel Ulbricht’s Stars of American Ballet; Martha Graham’s Errand into the Maze; and The Washington Ballet’s stunning Brooklyn Mack and Maki Onuki in an excerpt of Le Corsaire. August 20–23. chicagodancingfestival.com.
At left: Joffrey Ballet’s Fabrice Calmels and April Daly in Bells. Photo by Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey.
Many dancers say that the stage is where they reveal the most about themselves, that it’s where they feel most vulnerable. But the members of Oregon Ballet Theatre may argue otherwise. The company’s annual OBT Exposed event offers audiences a chance to peer into the dancers’ very first week of the rehearsal season. This year, they’ll share the process of working with choreographer Nicolo Fonte on his third commission for the company, to premiere on the OBT 25 program in October. The free event will be held outdoors at Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square, August 25–28. For rehearsal hours, see obt.org.
At right: Alison Roper and Lucas Threefoot at a previous OBT Exposed. Photo by Renata Kostina, Courtesy OBT.
Powerful, energized and politically driven, the work Lloyd Newson has choreographed for his company DV8 Physical Theatre doesn’t shy away from bold topics. This time around, he’s interviewed 50 men to tell the stories of “life, love, solitude and male sexuality,” for John, which premieres at ImPulsTanz Vienna International Dance Festival, August 5–9. Newson, who studied psychology and social work before finding his way to dance, has created a piece that is “for grown-ups, about grown-ups and with grown-up issues, using blunt language and an unmasked physique.” Hint: Leave the kids at home. impulstanz.com.
At left: DV8 in rehearsal for John. Photo by Ben Hopper, Courtesy DV8.
Above: Ben Folds and Nashville Ballet’s Sadie Bo Harris
Ben Folds Joins the Ballet
It’s no surprise that in Nashville, aka “Music City,” Nashville Ballet has become known for its collaborations with musical artists. Pop star Ben Folds visits the company May 2–4 to accompany artistic director Paul Vasterling’s new Ben Folds Piano Concerto at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. The starry collaboration with Folds, one of the biggest celebrities to pair up with Nashville Ballet, may bring new audiences to Petite Mort (a company premiere) and Serenade, which complete the program. nashvilleballet.com.
NEW YORK CITY
These days, it seems like French contemporary dance has gone conceptual. But there’s a wide range, and we’re about to see a big slice of it. From May 1–18, under the banner DANSE: A French-American Festival of Performance & Ideas, 17 U.S. premieres will fill New York City theaters, from the Chocolate Factory to the Joyce. One highlight is the excellent Lyon Opera Ballet in Christian Rizzo’s dreamlike ni fleurs, ni ford-mustang at BAM. Another is the disturbingly bizarre Baron Samedi, a “choreographic opera” by the late Alain Buffard, at New York Live Arts. Look for familiar New York City dancers David Thomson and Will Rawls—and, from the Ivory Coast, the raw, awe-inspiring Nadia Beugré. frenchculture.org/DANSE.
Above: Lyon Opera Ballet in ni fleurs, ni ford-mustang
NEW YORK CITY
Danspace Project has deepened the way we look at choreography through its PLATFORM programming. Launched in 2010, the series refracts many ideas through a single theme or dance artist, spreading its offerings over a month. PLATFORM 2014: Diary of an Image delves into the work of DD Dorvillier, a supremely quirky dancer/choreographer. Nothing she does can be construed as graceful, yet her antics—be they austere or silly—draw you in. From May 19–June 14, Danspace presents two new works by Dorvillier, performances by her collaborators (including favorite downtown composer Zeena Parkins) and a publication that includes writings by some of her fellow explorers: Heather Kravas, Jennifer Lacey and Jennifer Monson. danspaceproject.org.
Above: DD Dorvillier in No Change or “freedom is a psycho-kinetic skill”
Twice as Nice
Geographically, the Netherlands may only be about the size of Maryland, but the tiny country has produced a disproportionate number of remarkable artists. Dutch National Ballet shows off that cultural abundance in Dutch Doubles, which matches up four Netherlands-based choreographers with fellow countrymen from the fields of fashion, music, photography and sculpture. Hans van Manen, one of the founding fathers of European contemporary dance, will work with renowned harpist Remy van Kesteren, 56 years van Manen’s junior; honorary Dutchman Jorma Elo (he’s Finnish, but danced with Nederlands Dans Theater for years) will pair his spiky pop culture–tinged choreography with fashion from red-hot design duo Viktor & Rolf. Rounding out the choreographic quartet are the acutely musical Ton Simons and rising star Juanjo Arqués. National Opera & Ballet, April 16–May 7. operaballet.nl.
Above: DNB’s Igone de Jongh (right) and Rink Sliphorst in Viktor & Rolf’s costumes
Romeo and Juliet Redux
It takes a sort of wild courage to reimagine a work as iconic as Romeo and Juliet. But beyond the name and score, it’s hard to make a side-by-side comparison between Krzysztof Pastor’s contemporary take on the story, which the Joffrey Ballet gives its U.S. premiere starting April 30, and the more traditional version by Kenneth MacMillan. Choreographed on the Scottish Ballet in 2008, Pastor’s ballet is set in three different decades of 20th-century Italy, following the country through fascism and war. In lieu of a set, a multimedia video backdrop allows Pastor to jump from era to era. The costuming is more pedestrian than Shakespearean, the choreography more confrontational than swoony. Roosevelt University, April 30–May 11. joffrey.org.
Above: Joffrey Ballet’s Alberto Velazquez and Mahallia Ward as Romeo and Juliet
Photos from top: ANTHONYMATULA, Courtesy Nashville Ballet; Michael Cavalca; Thomas Dunn; Petrovsky & Ramone, Courtesy Dutch National Ballet; Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet
IN HIS FIRST GO at a romantic role, Houston Ballet’s Joseph Walsh dove deep into the delirium of love. He’d been cast opposite Sara Webb in Manon, and danced as though every muscle in his body was longing for her. Then, as soon as bows finished opening night, the first person he ran into in the green room was Webb’s husband.
“That was awkward!” Walsh jokes.
Creating onstage chemistry comes with many awkward moments—such as kissing your coworker. But when done well, a romantic pas de deux can be the most powerful moment in a ballet. How do dancers build the kind of connection that feels real enough to move an audience? Six top performers share their secrets.
Establishing eye contact is the biggest thing—it’s all in the eyes. From the first moment of the first rehearsal we need to learn how to look at one another. It helps us breathe in the music together. That’s a big deal. And it happens before we know the steps. We can mess up the choreography, but the character, the feeling, needs to be believable from the get-go. Even in an abstract piece without a story, we still need that connection.
Left: Jaiani with Fabrice Calmels in After the Rain. Photo by Herbert Migdoll, Courtesy Joffrey.
The National Ballet of Canada
I danced the John Cranko Romeo and Juliet with Guillaume Côté before we were married. It would be years before we even dated, but there was a chemistry between us. In fact, my first stage kiss was with him. It’s funny, in the beginning you wonder, Do we mark the kiss? But by the time you perform, it’s second nature. Although we weren’t romantically involved then, it gave us the chance to get to know each other. Now, dancing Ratmansky’s Romeo and Juliet as husband and wife just feels so natural. We can take more risks. But the challenge is remembering what it was like when we didn’t know each other, and the feeling of that first meeting.
Right: Ogden with Guillaume Côté in Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Johan Persson, Courtesy NBoC.
When I find out who I’m paired with, the first thing I do is spend more time with her. Whether it’s chatting before class, having lunch or a drink after rehearsal, I need to know what makes her happy, how her personality works. Inside the studio, there’s a lot of talking—I need to know what she’s thinking so we’re on the same page. I also have to work out all the technical kinks so they are second nature, get my grips exact and then I’m free to be in love onstage. In Don Q, for example, my partner Sayaka Ohtaki and I looked for places to connect. Whether it was a wink, a smile or a kiss, we found as many ways to flirt with each other as possible. In fact, as a gay man, ballet is the only place I ever kiss a girl!
Above: Mattingly with Sayaka Ohtaki in Don Quixote. Photo by Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West.
Pacific Northwest Ballet
I might watch DVDs and do some studying on my own, but ultimately that chemistry is created together in the studio. I need to be able to play off of my partner. In my first Cinderella with Lucien Postlewaite, we had the kind of relationship where I could feel him even when I could not see him. I remember getting chills when, as the Prince, he looked at me for the first time onstage.
Honestly I wish my husband, Le Yin, a former PNB principal, would get a bit more jealous watching me with another dancer! Instead, while I was rehearsing Juliet recently, he gave me a critique on a kiss, telling me my head should be tilted in a different way.
Right: Foster with Lucien Postlewaite in Cinderella. Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.
The Royal Ballet
It’s amazing how much you get to know a person by dancing a pas de deux—what you discover through working together, sharing ideas and thoughts on the ballet. I’m lucky that I often get to dance with my husband, Thiago Soares. But when we work with other people, we learn a lot that we can share later when dancing together again. Whomever you’re paired with, both dancers need to open themselves up and trust each other. When they are ready to become one person, the magic happens.
Left: Nuñez with Thiago Soares in Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Dee Conway, Courtesy Royal Opera House.
That first rehearsal together is always like a first date. I know immediately if there is a connection. I remember doing Sleeping Beauty with Joseph Walsh; it was the first time for both of us in those roles. We were both nervous, but we had that connection, so we eventually got there. For my first Romeo and Juliet with Ian Casady, I remember how hard we laughed after our first try at a kiss. We weren’t sure how to tilt our heads, how far to lean in or how many counts to hold the kiss. We had to choreograph it, but still be authentic about it. Really, we should know how to do this from real life!
It does change a relationship with a company member when you have danced a romantic role. I just saw Joe, whom I haven’t partnered with in a while, and I told him, “I miss you.”
Above: González with Joseph Walsh in La Bayadère. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.
Nancy Wozny frequently contributes to Dance Magazine and Pointe.