What's next for the dance world? Our annual list of the dancers, choreographers and companies that are on the verge of skyrocketing has a pretty excellent track record of answering that question.
Here they are: the 25 up-and-coming artists we believe represent the future of our field.
Raise your hand if you've received bad advice from well-meaning friends or family (or strangers, tbh) who don't know anything about what it really takes to be a dancer.
*everyone raises hands*
Sometimes it's even dance insiders whose advice can send you down the wrong path. We've been asking pros about the worst advice they've ever received in our "Spotlight" Q&A series, and rounded up some of the best answers:
Considering the demands of a career in dance, it isn't surprising that many professionals find romance in the rehearsal studio. With taxing schedules, perfectionist tendencies and quirky habits, it can be challenging to find true love outside of the art form. We spoke with three non-dancer spouses to hear what it's like sharing their life with professionals from ballet to Broadway.
When news reached the Limón Dance Company that Colin Connor was replacing longtime director Carla Maxwell in 2016, the tight-knit group experienced a range of emotions. "Everyone agreed that fresh energy would be a benefit to the company," says veteran dancer Logan Kruger. But the excitement lasted only until the fear sunk in—there would be changes, and some of them might even include saying good-bye.
It's understandable to experience feelings of shock, fear and even abandonment if your director leaves. It's not just that you'll have a new boss—a shift at the top can have a domino effect on casting, programming, rehearsal structure and branding. Here's how to forge a relationship with your new director and take advantage of the opportunities that come from having fresh eyes on your dancing.
We might have gotten a little bit carried away with this year's "Season Preview"—but with the 2018–19 season packing so many buzzy shows, how could we not? Here are over two dozen tours, premieres and revivals that have us drooling.
We love learning new things about our favorite dancers through our "Spotlight" Q&A series (like Sterling Baca's obsession with spiders!). One of the questions we always ask is: What's the biggest misconception about dancers?
After a while, we began to sense a pattern in the responses. Here's how five dancers answered the question (warning: this may make you hungry!):
The way you start your morning can set the tone for the rest of the day. Establishing a productive and mindful morning routine can leave you feeling relaxed, grounded, and ready to take on the day ahead, no matter how busy.
We asked five professional dancers to share what they like to do each morning to prepare themselves for the happiest and healthiest day possible.
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During Kathryn Manger's very first Nutcracker season with Pennsylvania Ballet in 2015, an injury and a hunch prompted artistic director Angel Corella to cast her in the role of Sugarplum Fairy. She learned it overnight. "That's all quite rare for an apprentice," says assistant artistic director Samantha Dunster, who has known the dancer since her student days in Connecticut. Now a fastidious member of the corps de ballet, Manger has performed principal roles in Cinderella and Don Quixote, connecting deeply with her partner as well as the audience.
Pennsylvania Ballet apprentice Sydney Dolan is having a Nutcracker season she'll never forget.
Artistic director Angel Corella knew he'd found something special when Dolan attended his school's week-long Company Experience summer workshop in 2016. Within days, he offered her a company contract— without realizing that she was only 15 at the time.
She joined anyway. Now 16, she debuted as the Dewdrop Fairy in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker this weekend. We went backstage to find out how she handled the pressures of tackling a principal role while still just a teenage apprentice.
Lillian DiPiazza knows how to prioritize. This May, she graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in urban studies, having squeezed in coursework while dancing full-time as a celebrated principal at Pennsylvania Ballet. But even when college and her career compounded to make her busiest, she still took time to take care of her body by cross-training.
How does she do it?
In January of 2016, we put a promising American Ballet Theatre corps de ballet dancer named Sterling Baca on our cover as a "25 to Watch." Soon after, he shocked us by announcing he'd be leaving ABT to join Pennsylvania Ballet as a principal.
Since then, Baca's thrived at PAB, becoming one of their most talked about dancers and a face of Angel Corella's new vision for the company. We caught up with him for our "In the Spotlight" series, and he revealed a hobby that made our skin crawl. (No offense, Sterling!)
You know Philadanco and Pennsylvania Ballet. But other than those staples, you may not think of Philadelphia as a huge dance hub. We're here to prove that Philly is filled with underrated dance talent—and these six companies are just the start.
Living the #dancerlife is no easy feat. Between daily technique classes, late night rehearsals and numerous side gigs to get the bills paid, dancers often don't prioritize self care. It may seem like the least important item on your never-ending to-do list, but it's vital to make time for your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Ignoring basic needs can ultimately damage your technique and performance. We could all use some tips from these 10 professional dancers who know how to practice self love.
While still in the corps of New York City Ballet, Jason Fowler was drawn to the role of répétiteur. "Ballet mistress Rosemary Dunleavy was my rock in the company," he says. Fowler loved the process: learning steps quickly and absorbing the choreographer's intentions. He knew early on he wanted to nurture dancers through the rehearsal period one day. So it comes as little surprise that 20 years later, Fowler is a primary stager of Christopher Wheeldon's ballets around the globe.
Fowler first met Wheeldon as a student at the School of American Ballet in 1993, where he danced in the workshop performance of Wheeldon's Danses Bohemiennes. He was promoted to NYCB soloist in 2006, and performed with Wheeldon's company, Morphoses, on the side. Wheeldon first asked him to teach and rehearse one of his ballets, There Where She Loved, on a Morphoses tour to Vail International Dance Festival in 2008.
This weekend, Ballet West is launching the first-ever National Choreographic Festival, bringing together companies from across the country to perform world premieres and recently acquired rep.
Can't make it to Salt Lake City? Don't fret. We're hooking you up with a livestream, where you can watch dancers from Ballet West, Sarasota Ballet and Pennsylvania Ballet take company class taught by Sarasota director Iain Webb.
A breath of fresh choreographic air is coming to Salt Lake City. Ballet West artistic director Adam Sklute has invited companies from across the country to join Ballet West for the first annual National Choreographic Festival, May 19–20 and 26–27. Over the course of two weekends and two different programs, premieres and recently acquired repertory will be performed in the new, state-of-the-art Eccles Theater.
Artistic directors reveal how they decide who gets the top promotion.
Isabella Boylston was promoted to principal at ABT in 2014. Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT
There is one question at the ballet that might provoke more curiosity than any other: Who will be promoted to the rank of principal dancer? The answer is at times gratifying, and, at others, totally baffling. One dancer may rise quickly, while another waits 10 years for their big break. We spoke to four major artistic directors to take the mystery out of what they look for when it’s time to make the big promotion.
We’ve started a five-year partnership with William Forsythe, so I’m very deliberately shaping the company right now. I need everybody to be somebody he is going to work well with. It’s not easy to ask the same people to do Sleeping Beauty and Forsythe. But that’s when we’re relevant. That’s a ballet company of the future.
I’m definitely not old-school, where you have to sit in the corps for eight years. I just promoted Seo Hye Han [who joined the corps in 2012] to principal because I saw how well she danced the whole season, whether it was Balanchine, The Nutcracker or Odette/Odile. A good job is one thing, but this art form is about brilliance. I want to be excited.
Miami City Ballet
Going from soloist to principal is about imagination, the ability to take a role and make it your own. You’re responding to the music and the steps; you’re able to dig deep, like an actor, and you’re comfortable with bringing that out.
PC Daniel Azoulay, Courtesy MCB
Mr. B used to say that dancers are like a garden of flowers. I find that some bloom right away and then die; some bloom late and stay for a long time. You can have a really talented dancer hurt themselves, and physically or emotionally they’re never quite the same. Or you give them bigger parts and they can’t deal. But by the time they get to principal level, they should understand how to work well. The 30-year-old is going to be a lot more conscious of that than the 17-year-old.
I do think about looks. You need a leggy Swan Lake, “Diamonds” pas de deux, adagio dancer. You also need someone with the speed, accuracy and technical brilliance for Kitri or Square Dance. You look for those types, but you don’t always get them.
Photo courtesy Ballet West
I think the biggest thing is, Can this person lead an entire show? Can they own the entire stage? And can they do it consistently and in many different roles? Some people, like Beckanne Sisk and Chase O’Connell, walk fresh out of school and have it. Most people grow into it.
When I arrived, Emily Adams was very quiet, and seemed to cling to the back of the studio. Over the years she started moving forward, not aggressively, but just owning her technique. Each assignment she was given she gave 1,000 percent of herself. All of a sudden everybody started noticing her. Audience members were asking me when I hired her.
I think when it takes a long time, it’s easier for the person to appreciate where they are in the work. You should always be asking, What is my next step? Whether that’s a new ballet or your 400th Sugar Plum, you can never go on automatic, and the most successful dancers recognize that. I need people who aren’t afraid to work hard and be vulnerable.
PC Jim Lafferty
It sounds cheesy, but it’s like Spider-Man: With great talent comes great responsibility. It’s not just the capacity to turn and jump, but the way you turn, the way you jump. It’s about work ethic, how fast you learn, how musical you are, how open you are to new things, how willing you are to let people see who you are in a very raw way.
I want people who can transform onstage. For instance, new principal Lillian DiPiazza is a very sweet girl, but when she did Siren in Prodigal Son she came out as a femme fatale—she was such a force.
I was made a principal at 19, but I don’t know if I was completely mature. You have to be careful as an artistic director. If you promote someone too soon and they don’t have a strong sense of who they are, their accomplishments can go to their head. If someone waits too long, they lose hope, and they lose that spark.
At the end of the day we’re doing this for the audience, so yes, there’s an element of star power. What you cast, who you cast—it’s with the audience in mind. But you also have to guide them to new things, whether that’s ballets or dancers.
Kristin Schwab is a writer in New York City.
Photo by Jim Lafferty
Angel Corella is making major moves at Pennsylvania Ballet: The Philadelphia Inquirer reported last night that of the company's 43 dancers, 12 did not have their contracts renewed for next season, and five have decided to leave.
It's no surprise that Corella is making some changes to the roster (this is the first season he's allowed to do so under union rules). He's moving the company away from its Balanchine roots to more contemporary rep and classical full-lengths. And his casting first-year apprentices as Kitri and Basilio in Don Quixote last month made it clear he was ready to shake things up.
But I don't think anyone outside the company expected the turnover to be quite this large.
Among the dancers let go were longtime principals Francis Veyette and Brooke Moore. Principal Lauren Fadeley (Veyette's wife) chose to leave to become a soloist at Miami City Ballet. Soloist Evelyn Kocak was also let go, and told the Philadelphia Inquirer she plans to pursue freelance work in New York City.
Taking the place of the former principals are current soloists Lillian DiPiazza, Mayara Pineiro and Oksana Maslova, who will be promoted next season. (Pineiro and Maslova were both Corella hires last season.) American Ballet Theatre corps member Sterling Baca will join as a principal, while his girlfriend Nayara Lopes of Dance Theatre of Harlem has been hired as part of the corps. (The pair was featured on our January 2016 "25 to Watch" cover.) American Sara Michelle Murawski will also join as a principal after dancing at the Slovak National Ballet and Dayesi Torriente from Ballet Nacional de Cuba will join as a soloist.
It can't be an easy time for any of the dancers there right now. A colleague forwarded me this blog post from Darius Barnes, a former New York City Ballet dancer who was among 11 corps members laid off during the recession in 2009. He definitely relates to the Pennsylvania Ballet dancers' predicament: He writes about the anger, confusion and embarrassment that comes with this kind of very public regime change, and the difficulty of not knowing where your career goes from here. Dancers have so few years to dance, and contracts are never easy to come by. Losing a dance job isn't just about losing your paycheck—it often means you'll have to move to an entirely new city, and say goodbye to daily contact with friends who feel as close as family.
But what I love about Barnes' post is how he reframes the situation: He reminds the dancers they have been freed from a situation that was no longer a fit for them artistically, a place where they were no longer appreciated. In his case, he went on to dance with Suzanne Farrell and DTH, then was a lead in Broadway's Memphis, which led to several other Broadway roles. There's always a new opportunity waiting for you out there—even if it might not be the one you initially hoped for.
Caribou in Carolina
Helen Simoneau Danse. Photo by Charles Zovko, courtesy In The Lights PR.
NC tour A Canadian who lives in North Carolina, choreographer-on-the-rise Helen Simoneau is using her newest evening-length work, Caribou, to take a closer look at heritage, assimilation and identity. She studies these ideas through the iconic caribou—an enormously antlered animal beloved by our friends to the north. It seems like a good match: Simoneau’s work is both athletic and smooth, much like those graceful beasts. March 3–5, Hanesbrands Theatre, Winston-Salem; March 6, Charlotte Ballet; March 19, Charlotte Dance Festival. helensimoneau.com.
Passing the Torch
Elisa Monte Dance turns 35 this year. Photo by Darial Sneed, courtesy In the Lights PR.
New York City and Lake Placid, NY What happens to a dance company’s identity when its sole choreographer steps down? Elisa Monte Dance’s 35th anniversary at City College Center for the Arts, March 2–5, will be both a tribute to Elisa Monte’s leadership and a preview of what’s to come. She’ll premiere one final work before handing the reins at season’s end to current associate artistic director and former EMD dancer Tiffany Rea-Fisher, who has also created a piece for the program. Monte’s Pangaea studies issues that impact the planet; Rea-Fisher’s Newton’s Cradle examines the known and unknown consequences of one’s actions. EMD will also take select works to Lake Placid Center for the Arts for a residency, March 14–18, and a performance on the 18th.
Taylor’s iconic Esplanade. Photo by Paul B. Goode, Courtesy PTAMD
Paul Taylor’s American Gumbo
New York City Going backward and forward at the same time, Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance promises to educate as well as to entertain. Taylor’s dancers will perform Martha Graham’s Diversion of Angels (which Taylor himself performed during his time with the Graham company), and Dayton Contemporary Dance Company will dance Donald McKayle’s poignant classic Rainbow ’Round My Shoulder. Taylor has commissioned new works by postmodernists Doug Elkins and Larry Keigwin. And, of course, the season will also include a hefty dose of 16 dances by Taylor himself. March 16–April 3, David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. davidhkochtheater.com.
Arian Molina Soca and Mayara Pineiro in Don Quixote. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy PAB.
A Taste of Spain
Philadelphia Now into his second year as artistic director of Pennsylvania Ballet, Angel Corella is mounting a Don Quixote that reminds him of home—Spain, that is. He wants to capture the feeling of the lively town squares he knew as a child. The costume and set designs aim for authentic Spanish flavor, and the choreography includes elements of flamenco. Olé! March 3–13, Academy of Music. paballet.org.
Morgan in Mobile Ballet’s Swan Lake. Photo by Jeff Kennedy, Courtesy Morgan.
A Ballerina Bounces Back
Washington, DC Since leaving New York City Ballet in 2012, Kathryn Morgan has become an internet force—her loyal followers count on her upbeat and honest advice about navigating the bunhead life. So, naturally, when it was time to announce her two-night performance at the Kennedy Center, she took to YouTube. Presented by Ballet in the City and sponsored by Bloch Inc., the program will be devoted to her life and career, with Donald Garverick’s The Red Shoes as the headlining piece. March 29–30. balletinthecity.org.
The past two weeks have been a magical time on the internet, with dance taking center stage. These three viral moments garnered millions of collective views and brought ballet, tap and hip hop to many a smartphone screen.
1. Pennsylvania Ballet tackles a rude football fan. No one needs to tell us that ballet is a fierce art. But, unfortunately, that's not always clear to the general public. When a Philadelphia Eagles fan commented online that the team had "played like they were wearing tutus!!!" Pennsylvania Ballet posted a brazen response on its Facebook page. They cited the dancers' grueling Nutcracker run, which didn't include any injury timeouts and in some cases, not even a "second string." They concluded that "no, the Eagles have not played like they were wearing tutus. If they had...we'd all be looking forward to the playoffs." Burn.
Not only did this social media comeback bring ballet to a broader audience, but it's also a savvy PR move for Pennsylvania Ballet.
2. Tap dance takes on the movies. I'll fully admit that I'm a bit of a Star Wars nerd, so when I saw this tap medley set to gems from the saga's score, I geeked out. In honor of the newest installment, The Force Awakens, Sarah Reich teamed up with popular cover band Postmodern Jukebox to make this fun jazzy video. Even if you're not a Star Wars fan, it's a total treat. Bonus points for Reich's gold sequined jumpsuit.
3. One teacher's surprisingly good dance moves. Last but not least, this educator earned major extra credit by joining his students in this video. Ron Clark, a co-founder and math teacher at the Atlanta middle school Ron Clark Academy, got down to "Bet You Can't Do It Like Me" and then posted it on his Facebook. According to Clark's bio on the school's website, he has been named Disney's American Teacher of the Year. Perhaps this goes to show that a curriculum that makes time for dancing isn't a bad thing.
Happy dancing in 2016!
The School of Pennsylvania Ballet’s Company Experience gives aspiring professionals a taste of the ballet life.
Arantxa Ochoa coaches students with the intensity of a ballet mistress. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy PAB
A group of young women in colorful ballet skirts waits quietly for Arantxa Ochoa to start. The director of The School of Pennsylvania Ballet plunges in: “Juliet has a new dress on, and while she is dancing with Paris, she sees Romeo. When you look at him, all of a sudden you want to dance.” Ochoa moves from passé to a fourth position. Her eyebrows are raised gleefully as she continues to narrate both the story and the choreography. “The technique is nothing in this variation. It is all the feeling towards Romeo. Don’t think of it as a step; think always of what it means.”
The room full of advanced students is learning a slice of John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet from the former Pennsylvania Ballet principal. It is no accident that Ochoa has chosen this variation, with its focus on dramatic discovery, for The School of Pennsylvania Ballet’s Company Experience. After five weeks of the school’s more traditional summer program, this additional week is an option for select students, ages 16 to 22, to sample company life while honing the stage presence it takes to excel in a professional career.
Finding the Accents
“What is missing in most training is soul,” says Angel Corella, artistic director of PAB. “This week is about going beyond clean and correct to help them develop their artistry.” While the day begins with a technique class, given by either Ochoa, Corella or Pennsylvania Ballet II director and principal dancer Francis Veyette, the real goal is to simulate a corps dancer’s rehearsal day, learning new ballets and styles as quickly as possible. This particular day offers a mix of repertoire from Romeo and Juliet to Diana and Actaeon to Etudes to the contemporary work of resident choreographer Matthew Neenan.
Angel Corella's class focuses on energy and clarity. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy PAB.
While Corella’s class brims with technical tutorials—like keeping hips square during passé—the main focus is on energy and clarity. “I want to see the color of your personality,” he says during a waltz across the floor. “Choose a color and express it.” During a menage of sauts de chat, he calls on real-world inspiration: “There has to be an accent at the top, a high note, an Osipova explosion.” The combinations are deceptively simple and the students who strive to achieve what Corella wants may be rewarded by being asked to demonstrate. As the week goes on, some students may be chosen by Corella for a slot in the main or second companies, or receive an invitation from Ochoa to stay on year-round with the school.
Now going into its fourth year, the Company Experience takes about 50 students, who are divided into two levels. The students range from the pre-professional to the newly professional. Some, like 17-year-old Sophia Nelson, have already been chosen for Pennsylvania Ballet II. “I’m not obligated to do the intensive,” she says, “but I chose to in preparation for the season.”
A Working Day
Students get a crash course in corps life. “New company dancers are often surprised by the speed at which they are required to learn a new ballet,” explains Corella, “and directors are looking for dancers who can pick up steps quickly.” Many students, like Nelson, are drawn to the variations practice that the Company Experience offers. “There is a lot of stamina-building with all of the rehearsals,” says Nelson. “We learn how to be in the corps de ballet as well as how to be a featured dancer. It is good to feel what it will be like.”
In Corella’s Diana and Actaeon rehearsal, he begins, like Ochoa, with the story of the ballet. The group is divided into hunters and nymphs, splitting the studio evenly so that one group can review the steps while the other learns the next phrase. Using this kind of compressed process, typical of a company rehearsal, Corella makes it through the choreography of both variations in 25 minutes. “Guys first, girls judge,” he jokes as the first group of men prepares to run through the solo. Laughter relaxes the room even though Veyette is sitting in the front, taking notes. Corella maintains a playful and casual mood as the men stumble through their first attempts and the women nervously mark choreography on the side. “You have to give the impression of a beautiful summer day in the forest, not city sewage,” Corella coaches with a wink. The groups switch back and forth, and by the end of the hour, some students begin to show the personality that Corella has been asking for since class.
In the Juliet rehearsal with Ochoa that follows, Sophia Nelson works to get a better handle on her character interpretation. “No, Sophia, I saw a step but didn’t feel anything on that bourrée,” Ochoa calls out. “I want to see the difference between the ballerina and the student.” As the Juliets struggle to find a more natural coordination during tricky transition steps, Ochoa coaches each one with the intensity of a ballet mistress preparing a principal dancer. Finally she says with satisfaction, “There is no more Sophia, just Juliet now.”