Robbie Fairchild in a still from In This Life, directed by Bat-Sheva Guez. Photo courtesy Michelle Tabnick PR
Back when Robbie Fairchild graced the cover of the May 2018 issue of Dance Magazine, he mentioned an idea for a short dance film he was toying around with. That idea has now come to fruition: In This Life, starring Fairchild and directed by dance filmmaker Bat-Sheva Guez, is being screened at this year's Dance on Camera Festival.
While the film itself covers heavy material—specifically, how we deal with grief and loss—the making of it was anything but: "It was really weird to have so much fun filming a piece about grief!" Fairchild laughs. We caught up with him, Guez and Christopher Wheeldon (one of In This Life's five choreographers) to find out what went into creating the 11-minute short film.
The 2016 Broadway revival of CATS. Photo by Matthew Murphy
If the news about the upcoming CATS movie has your head spinning, we're right there with you. It seems like every week we have a bit more to share about the new film adaptation, which is set to release in December 2019. So, in order to keep it all straight, we present you with our master list of everything we know—our version of "The Naming of Cats," if you will. We'll add updates as they emerge.
Catch Robert Fairchild (center) in An American in Paris on PBS. Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy Boneau/Bryan-Brown
What if we told you we could magically transport you to Broadway four times this month? For $0. Wanna go? Great.
Just tune in to PBS the next four Friday nights at 9 pm Eastern (check your local listings), because the network's "Great Performances" programming is tipping its hat to theater gems old and new. The following day, each show will be available for streaming here and through PBS apps. Here's what's on tap:
Mia J. Chong found her place in ODC/Dance through understudying. PC Andrew Weeks Photography, Courtesy ODC/Dance
You might feel like the second choice when you look at the casting sheet, but understudies are necessary, valued team members who are regularly called off the bench to perform—even with very little prep time. "It is like the ultimate trust exercise with your director," says Mia J. Chong, who understudied many roles in ODC/Dance's The Velveteen Rabbit as an apprentice before becoming a company dancer this year. "Often, you do a lot of the homework on your own to make sure you can produce a quality performance, even if you don't have the chance to demonstrate it right away."
Here's what to expect when you're learning from the back of the room and—when you're needed—how to step into the part with confidence.
Robert Fairchild is jumping into the next phase of his career feet-first. Photo by Jayme Thornton
In his final bow at New York City Ballet, during what should have been a heroic conclusion to a celebrated ballet career, Robert Fairchild slipped and fell. His reaction? To lie down flat on his back like he meant to do it. Then start cracking up at himself.
"He's such a ham," says his sister Megan Fairchild, with a laugh. "He's really good at selling whatever his body is doing that day. He'll turn a moment that I would totally go home and cry about into something where the audience is like, 'That's the most amazing thing ever!' "
For An American in Paris, Robert Fairchild had to master the art of singing and dancing simulltaneously. PC Angela Sterling, Courtesy Boneau/Bryan-Brown
At the end of Act I in Broadway's Mean Girls, the entire ensemble performs high-energy choreography while belting what Kamille Upshaw says is "a million notes at once." Though Upshaw is a Juilliard-trained dancer who made her Broadway debut in Hamilton, nothing, she says, could prepare her for this moment. "Singing while dancing is just hard," Upshaw says. "It takes patience, focus and compromise."
Peter Boal coaching PNB dancers in Opus 19/The Dreamer. Photo by Lindsay Thomas, courtesy PNB
In a windowless subterranean studio under the New York State Theater, I pulled back an imaginary arrow and let it fly.
"Good!" said ballet master Tommy Abbott. "I think you're ready. Tomorrow you rehearse with Mr. Robbins."
I was slated to play Cupid in Jerome Robbins' compilation of fairy tales called Mother Goose. It was a role given to the tiniest boy who could follow directions at the School of American Ballet. In 1976, that was me.
The following day, I reported to a much larger windowless studio on the fifth floor known as the main hall. The room was bristling with excitement and nervousness. About half of the dancers from New York City Ballet were on hand, plus a coterie of bustling ballet masters and Mr. Robbins. Tommy tucked me and two other boys in a corner. My first rehearsal with the legendary choreographer was underway.
Happy New Year! Whether or not resolutions are your thing, I always find that a bit of wisdom from the people I admire is a great way to start the year. Here are some favorite nuggets from eight dancers, choreographers and directors who have appeared in our pages over the last year.
Robert Fairchild in Justin Peck's In Creases. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB
At 30, he's too young to be having a midlife crisis. But between June and October, former New York City Ballet principal Robert Fairchild bid farewell to the home he'd made with Tiler Peck since their 2014 marriage and to their joint artistic home as well, embarking on his next chapter as a solo act. The week before his final performances at NYCB, he was contemplating his next moves: another outing with Christopher Wheeldon in the November New York City Center production of Brigadoon; and an off-Broadway debut, choreographing on himself and starring in an Ensemble for the Romantic Century production, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The show, which opens this month at the Pershing Square Signature Center, is a typical Ensemble amalgam—excerpts from the novel and Shelley's other writings merged with music and art.
So what did you know about Frankenstein and Mary Shelley?
I've seen Young Frankenstein—the movie and Susan Stroman's show. But I don't think that's anything to do with what we are trying to accomplish. The theme is that everybody has bits of Frankenstein in them—the fear that if people saw all of you, they wouldn't accept certain aspects. The monster has a really beautiful heart and just wants to be accepted and loved, but his outward appearance is what people see. It's a really touching, thought-provoking story. I'm excited to show how his experiences being rejected make him bitter, so the inside of him gets as ugly as the outside, through choreography.
One of my favorite parts of working with Wendy Perron over the past 12 years has been listening to her talk about dance. More than anyone I know, Wendy can explain a piece of choreography or a dancer's approach in the most visceral, compelling way. She doesn't even always use words—sometimes she turns to sounds or body language to fully describe something she loves.
Having a casual chat with her can be like getting a master class in the most interesting dance going on right now. And as Dance Magazine's editor at large, she sees a lot. She's one of the most well-connected people I know in the dance world, so more often than not she's got juicy insights, strong opinions and fascinating background info.
We decided to share this with you by filming a short video clip each week, capturing Wendy talking about the dance events she's most looking forward to in our new series, "What Wendy's Watching." Or, as she puts it: "Just wind me up and make me talk dance."
Bebe Neuwirth and Chita Rivera, PC Christopher Duggan
Broadway's top stars are coming together for the inaugural year of the Chita Rivera Awards on September 11. The host of the evening will be the fabulous Bebe Neuwirth, and Tommy Tune will receive a lifetime achievement award. Director Diane Paulus will be honored, and Robert Fairchild will perform.
In its previous incarnation as the Astaire Awards, the event has celebrated dozens of outstanding dancers and choreographers in Broadway musicals. Last year, because it was such a fertile season for musicals, the Awards honored three choreographers: Andy Blankenbuehler, Savion Glover and Sergio Trujillo. What will happen this year? (Being a member of the Awards committee, I'm sworn to secrecy.) Click here to see a complete list of nominees.
Josh Groban and the cast of Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. PC Chad Batka, courtesy of Matt Ross PR
I first got hooked on Broadway musicals as a preteen at Gypsy, with its tapping moppets, gyrating burlesque queens and Tulsa, the dancing heartthrob. I've been going ever since, but Dance Magazine has been at it even longer.
The 1926-27 Broadway season was just ending when DM began publication, and of its 200-plus shows, dozens were new musicals. One, a Ziegfeld revue called No Foolin', listed more than 80 performers. Such huge ensembles of dancers and singers were common, whether in revues, operettas or musical comedies.
And why not? The '20s were roaring, and Broadway was flush. But that wasn't the only difference between then and now. Dance in the theater was only tangentially related to a show's content. It was window dressing—however extravagant, it remained mere entertainment.
If you imagine the notes on a sheet of music, they fly up and down across the bars. In a sense, that is the physical effect that music has on me. It makes me feel weightless, and I've always been obsessed with the idea of flight. Having the chance to defy the laws of nature is one of the things that makes dancing so exciting and fulfilling for me.
I don't think my dancing could exist without music. Even when I am performing in silence, I am dancing to music in my head. The famous Balanchine quote, “See the music, hear the dance," has always inspired me.
In my performances on Broadway in An American in Paris, I found the primary way to keep the dancing fresh and new after some 300 shows was to think about becoming one of the instruments in the orchestra. One night I heard the drums at the beginning of my pas de deux with Lise, and I was shocked I had never heard them before. So I danced to the drums that night, and it gave me such a different musicality, still well within the boundaries of the choreography.
Music continuously encourages me. But the people who have inspired me most have been dancers, starting with my older sister, fellow New York City Ballet principal Megan Fairchild. When we were kids she would come home from her dance classes and teach me the routines. I may not have always gotten the choreography right, but I loved the way it made me feel.
I was instantly hooked. Megan was and still is an incredible role model, along with countless other dancers who I've admired throughout my career. They made a boy growing up in Salt Lake City, Utah, feel like he could “dream the dream," no matter who was judging him.
Now, I dance for the sheer joy of bringing happiness to others. It's a true privilege to take an audience away from their daily lives for an evening. The connection that happens between an audience and a performer is an incredibly rich experience. It's an unspoken dialogue that changes every night. That makes every show a rare and special moment. I will forever be grateful to dance in my life. And if I can help others believe in themselves and dream that dream too, then all the better.
This summer's Vail International Dance Festival features the biggest stars in dance.
Lil Buck and Tiler Peck at Vail 2013. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy Vail.
Since Damian Woetzel took over Colorado’s Vail International Dance Festival in 2007, audiences have come to expect novelty: diverse styles of dance, collaborations between of-the-moment stars and re-envisioned classic works with unusual casting. The 2014 festival, which takes place from July 27–August 9, is even more high-profile than previous years. It will showcase some of dance’s most in-demand artists, including New York City Ballet’s Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild, Charles “Lil Buck” Riley and American Ballet Theatre’s Herman Cornejo, Vail’s artist in residence this year. “The idea of collaboration is central. What happens when two worlds collide?” says Woetzel. “The works themselves are brought alive in new ways by having new people dance them. It’s a unique experience for the artists and the audience.”
Woetzel’s approach is one of many reasons why performers look forward to spending a portion of their off season, up to two weeks, in Vail, year after year. “It’s like an exchange program,” says Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Carla Körbes, who will dance at the festival this year for her seventh time, in a work by Brian Brooks. “You learn about other companies in a more in-depth way, and they learn about you.”
This summer, as usual, the dancers will take on unconventional repertoire: Peck, Fairchild and Cornejo will perform a new version of Martha Graham’s Letter to the World (1940), with the Martha Graham Dance Company. Cornejo will also make his “Rubies” debut alongside Peck in the ballet’s leading roles, with Pennsylvania Ballet dancing the corps. Other highlights include the Royal Ballet’s Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Lauren Cuthbertson and Matthew Golding; crewmates Lil Buck and Ron “Prime Tyme” Myles; and a TV evening with “Dancing with the Stars” pro Anna Trebunskaya and “So You Think You Can Dance” alums Alex Wong, Amy Yakima and Du-Shaunt “Fik-Shun” Stegall. In choosing the pieces for each evening, Woetzel says, “it’s a real matter of stretching the work and highlighting how dancers in the 21st century adapt to different challenges. We’re showing the range of what dance can be today.”