We had a feeling that our ambitious list of "The Most Influential People in Dance Today" in celebration of Dance Magazine's 90th anniversary would turn some heads. But it's gotten even more attention than we'd expected.
It's not often that a magazine compilation of "movers and shakers" can be celebrated in the literal sense. But when the publication is Dance Magazine, that is of course the case.
The story mentions Dance Magazine's 1927 beginnings under the name The American Dancer, and highlights how our July issue tackled the idea of "influence" from many angles.
Thank you Adweek for the shoutout and the happy anniversary wishes!
As soon as we started putting together a list of the most influential people in dance today, we knew two things. By the very nature of the topic we were tackling, our final list was going to be:
1. Entirely subjective, and
2. By no means comprehensive.
We wanted to get your input and hear who else you felt should be on the list. So we asked you who we missed, and here's what you told us through email, Facebook and Twitter:
For Dance Magazine's 90th anniversary issue, we wanted to celebrate the movers, shakers and changemakers who are having the biggest impact on our field right now. There were so many to choose from! But with the help of dozens of writers, artists and administrators working in dance, the Dance Magazine staff whittled the list down to those we felt are making the most difference right now.
Click through the links below to find out why they made our list.
Not only has Larissa Saveliev made competition "acceptable" for ballet students, but her blockbuster Youth America Grand Prix has given those students a chance to measure themselves against peers from across the world—and be seen by directors. More than 450 YAGP alums are currently dancing in professional companies around the world.
Q: Why donate millions to The Juilliard School and Ailey, plus an undisclosed sum to launch University of Southern California's new Glorya Kaufman School of Dance?
"I wish everyone would turn on the music and dance. It helps in so many ways to make life happier and more interesting."
Q: Do you feel the role of the philanthropist has changed in today's political climate?
"I believe that giving to humanity in any way that is beneficial is what the world needs now."
Petipa relied on Tchaikovsky, Balanchine bonded with Stravinsky and Merce Cunningham collaborated with John Cage. When a choreographer cultivates a special partnership with a composer, their collaborations often take on a deeper richness. In the current creative climate, young choreographers have successfully enticed composers to lay out their musical blueprints for both narrative and non-narrative ballets.
Joby Talbot has written highly memorable scores: the whimsical Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, with its fantastical percussion and its riff on the "Rose Adagio," illustrates Christopher Wheeldon's trippy imagination. Similarly, the drama and joy of his Winter's Tale lay the groundwork for Wheeldon's contrast of the night and day of the ballet's moods.
The breadth of support the New York City dance community receives from The Harkness Foundation for Dance is staggering: over $30 million to more than 560 organizations, from creators and presenters to education and dance medicine programs. The Foundation recently pledged to give $1 million each to Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Joyce Theater, New York City Center, 92nd Street Y and NYU Langone Medical Center's Hospital for Joint Diseases over the next decade.
Best of all: The Foundation focuses exclusively on funding for dance.
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Former arts lobbyist Amy Fitterer is all about diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity—and making Dance/USA relevant for today's climate.
Since assuming leadership in 2011, Fitterer has worked to create programs that genuinely serve the needs of today's dance world. She's established the Institute for Leadership Training for emerging dance leaders, which has been enormously successful in empowering young dance makers and producers. Committed to ending racism, Dance/USA now offers ongoing racial equity training for its board, staff and the attendees at Dance/USA Annual Conferences. She's also responded to the enormous sector of the field that operates on a small budget with a Dance Business Bootcamp. She's retooled Dance/USA's re-granting program, Engaging Dance Audiences, to support a broader population and Dance/USA staff are available for house calls and will come to your community to ecosystem analysis research.
Under her leadership, Dance/USA genuinely serves the needs of today's dance world.
In the last five years, Alexei Ratmansky has made seventeen ballets for nine different companies in five countries. These include an abstract ballet set to Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, an interpretation of Plato's Symposium set to Leonard Bernstein, reconstructions of three Petipa ballets based early twentieth-century notations, a re-imagined Baiser de la Fée, and an exploration of Soviet themes set to Shostakovich. Not all have been successful (his version of The Tempest was a bit of a flop), but there's no question that he is the most prolific ballet choreographer, and possibly the most wide-ranging one, working today.
Ratmansky has made danced storytelling, and mime, feel vibrant again. He is as comfortable with farce and pastiche as he as he is with deep subjects, as conversant in irony as he is in sincerity. He has made us reconsider our assumptions about ballets we thought we knew, like Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. He has reinvigorated classical technique, pushing for a fuller and more articulate use of the body. Perhaps most remarkable of all has been his effect on dancers; he teases new qualities out of them them, making them more interesting, complex performers. As the Miami City Ballet dancer Renan Cerdero recently put it: "he changes people."
Through his work on shows like In the Heights, Bandstand and the game-changing Hamilton, Andy Blankenbuehler is pushing Broadway choreography into new territory. He continually reveals dance's ability to tell stories that matter to contemporary audiences, with movement that's meticulously detailed yet seamlessly integrated into the show's world. In his work, dance becomes not just important, but indispensable.
At Miami City Ballet, Lourdes Lopez has shown how to turn around a financially struggling company without losing that for which it's beloved. While building upon founder Edward Villella's Balanchine legacy, she's also embraced Miami's unique cultural identity, commissioning works like Justin Peck's Wynwood-inspired Heatscape and Miami-born artist Michele Oka Doner's underwater reimagining of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Lopez's vision has excited local audiences—increasing both donations and ticket sales—and the company's dancers.
More than just a company or a studio space, Gibney Dance provides a hub for New York City's dance artists, offering a wide array of resources:
• choreographic mentorship
• performance series
• space grants and rentals
• open classes and training programs
• financial and digital technology advice
• leadership seminars
• town-hall–style gatherings
That's not to mention the Gibney Dance Company, whose members, in addition to performing, are enabled to start their own social justice–oriented initiatives under the Gibney umbrella.
New director Pamela Tatge is making the most of Jacob's Pillow's vast resources. She's reenvisioned the dance mecca as a year-round institution, not only expanding the Creative Development Residencies but giving those residents 24-hour access, a generous stipend and funds to bring in an outside eye. Residency showings are open to students from nearby colleges, part of Tatge's ambitious new Jacob's Pillow Dance College Partnership Program, designed to bring more rigor into dance research, along with deeper artistic inquiry.
Judith Jamison was always going to be a tough act to follow. But in the six years since Robert Battle took the helm of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, he's launched a new era for the iconic troupe. Take last season: Battle revived Ailey's Masekela Langage, pushed the envelope with Kyle Abraham's new Untitled America and promoted one of the company's own voices with Hope Boykin's r-Evolution Dream—a combination of old, new and homegrown works tackling social issues with beauty and hope. Ailey hasn't lost sight of its storied past, and, under Battle's leadership, it's as relevant today as it ever has been.
If household-name status can be measured by Super Bowl cameos, Lil Buck has definitively earned the title. Along with high-profile ads for companies like Apple and Lexus, the Memphis jooker has also worked with concert dancers of all genres at the Vail Dance Festival, pushing the limits of where street forms can go.
When Masha posts on Instagram, people talk about it. And not just dance people—the San Francisco Ballet and American Ballet Theatre principal has more than 166,000 followers, drawn to her quirky content and statement-making style. She uses her broad reach to bring dance to a wider audience, both in her role as a globetrotting classical powerhouse and in collaborations with trendy artists like Blood Orange.
Patron saint of queer quirk and founder of Los Angeles studio The Sweat Spot, Ryan Heffington first made headlines three years ago as the choreographer of "Chandelier," a music video for Sia starring Maddie Ziegler with a combined view count of more than 1.5 billion. Last year, Heffington both broadened his range and reinforced his brand, contributing to the frankly sexual short film for "Worship" by U.K. pop trio Years & Years, collaborating with director Spike Jonze and dancer-actress Margaret Qualley on a cinematic short to launch KENZO's World perfume, and reuniting with Sia and Ziegler for "The Greatest" featuring Kendrick Lamar.
But the most effective vehicle for his idiosyncratic creative voice so far might be the polarizing Netflix series The OA. Heffington's compulsive tendencies to choreograph facial expressions and give discrete actions priority over cohesive phrasing are well-suited to screen actors without much dance experience. Whether the show's second season includes as much dance as its first remains to be seen; either way, chances are good that Heffington himself will remain busy.
As the face of brands like Dr. Pepper and Under Armour, Misty Copeland has shown the world what dancers already knew: Ballet is supremely athletic. And if anyone can bring more awareness to the art form's diversity problem, it's her. She's the ballerina of our generation.
When a dance company is in trouble, Michael M. Kaiser is the man to call. He's helped wipe out deficits at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre and the Royal Opera House, and now consults for organizations worldwide as chairman of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management. At a time when arts funding is threatened, Kaiser isn't afraid to make tough calls to ensure future success.
The International Association for Dance Medicine & Science offers cutting-edge research, education and training to enhance dancers' health on a global stage. An annual conference by medical and dance professionals from 35 countries covers the latest advances in this specialty. Attendance is diverse, as more dancers enter the field. Anyone can download resource papers on topics like proper stretching and dancer nutrition from iadms.org.
Got a problem? The Actors Fund can likely help. Many of the services it provides online or through its offices in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles are completely free:
• health insurance counseling
• primary and specialty medical care and referrals through the new Friedman Health Center for the Performing Arts in Times Square
• guidance overcoming injuries through The Dancers' Resource
• career counseling and scholarships through Career Transition For Dancers
• financial education, plus assistance for artists in crisis
• affordable housing options, including residences operated by The Actors Fund