Story ballets that debut during American Ballet Theatre's spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House are always the subject of much curiosity—and, sometimes, much debate. Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre was no different. The ballet follows the eponymous heroine of Charlotte Brönte's novel as she grows from a willful orphan to a self-possessed governess, charting her romance with the haughty Mr. Rochester and the social forces that threaten to tear them apart.
While the ballet was warmly received in the UK when Northern Ballet premiered it in 2016, its reception from New York City–based critics has been far less welcoming. A group of editors from Dance Magazine and two of our sister publications, Dance Spirit and Pointe, sat down to discuss our own reactions.
After the horrific March 15 terrorist attacks at two New Zealand mosques, the music and arts community sprang into action to plan a way to help victims and their families. A series of resulting concerts, titled "You Are Us/Aroha Nui," will take place in New Zealand (April 13 and 17), Jersey City, New Jersey (April 17) and Los Angeles (April 18). Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Our People, Our City Fund, which was established by the Christchurch Foundation to aid those affected by the attacks.
Each month at Dance Magazine, we zero in on budding talent in our "On the Rise" department. Our writers across the country and beyond are continually on the lookout for the dancers and choreographers who are bound to be majors names in the years to come.
With 2018 coming to a close, what better time to check in with some of our former "On the Rise" artists? We hate to say we told you so, but these dancers—like Michelle Dorrance and Sara Mearns—have since hit it big.
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.
When conveying a story onstage, certain roles come more easily than others. Some dancers naturally possess the regality of the Lilac Fairy, others the attack of Kitri. Some take on the naïve Aurora with ease, but have trouble with Myrtha's complexity. Tackling a role that's outside your character wheelhouse can be tricky—especially since ballet's princesses, creatures and sylphs can be hard to relate to.
But luckily, just like your technique, you can strengthen your acting chops. American Ballet Theatre's go-to acting coach Byam Stevens, who's worked with everyone from Kevin McKenzie to Isabella Boylston, shares how he helps dancers connect with a character.
When it comes to ballerinas at American Ballet Theatre, Ratmansky has naturally given juicy roles to his fellow Russians. But he has also given first cast to two scintillating women who just performed the leads in his latest ballet for ABT, Souvenir d'un lieu cher. Although he choreographed it for Dutch National Ballet in 2012, this mysterious little quartet to haunting music by Tchaikovsky found a new life at the Met last week.
Sarah Lane and Alban Lendorf in Souvenir, PC Gene Schiavone
Both Stella Abrera and Sarah Lane (who just got promoted to principal) are exquisite classical stylists with a particular poignancy
around the head/neck/shoulder area. But they also have very different personalities—and Ratmansky uses their differences in Souvenir.
American Ballet Theatre just announced its much-anticipated promotions, and artistic director Kevin McKenzie couldn't have picked more deserving dancers. Soloists Sarah Lane, Christine Shevchenko and Devon Teuscher have been promoted to principal, and Calvin Royal III has been promoted to soloist.
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The New York City premiere of Alexei Ratmansky's sugary sweet story ballet, Whipped Cream, made for one of the most exciting spring galas at American Ballet Theatre yet. While we're usually in awe of the gowns the dancers sport on the red carpet beforehand, this time around, it was all about Whipped Cream's colorful and over-the-top costumes by Mark Ryden—and, okay, a few major dress moments, too. Ahead, check out what went on behind-the-scenes.
Many dancers today are no longer content just being artists. More and more are flexing their entrepreneurial skills, starting their own businesses while still dancing full-time.
The latest dancer-run enterprise comes from group of American Ballet Theatre dancers. Current soloists Sarah Lane and Craig Salstein along with former members Luis Ribagorda and Eric Tamm are launching a new site this week called Ballet Mentor, an online mentorship service for dancers.
"The idea came from me growing up as the only male dancer in a small town, not having ballet parents who danced, and having a lot of questions," says Tamm. "Ballet Mentor is trying to fill that void by offering guidance from working professionals."
Sarah Lane teaching at Kansas City Ballet School, via kcballet.org
Lane (who is married to Ribagorda) adds that whenever she guest teaches, she's constantly asked for advice. She wanted a forum to share her experiences. "For me, the process of joining a company, auditioning, those years of doing competitions really took a toll," she says. "There's so much I struggled with. I want to alleviate some of that stress for young dancers."
The four founders—all friends who've collaborated on various projects in the past, including short dance films and Salstein's Intermezzo Dance Company—decided to create a platform where anyone could connect with a professional dancer. They enlisted 10 of their colleagues to become mentors: The current lineup includes ABT principals like Gillian Murphy and Cory Stearns, plus Houston Ballet's Yuriko Kajiya and Jared Matthews.
"It's a baby right now," says Tamm. "We're just launching the mentor part of it, offering one-on-one attention from artists looking to give back and who have a lot to say. But once it takes off, we want to this to be a larger online community." Lane hopes it will eventually offer online ballet classes and nutrition advice, for example.
For now, she's juggling a busy schedule of performing, touring and teaching, so she only imagines being able to take on about 10 mentees herself. But she's willing to make time for the project because its mission is something that's close to her heart. "Ballet is incredibly taxing physically, emotionally, psychologically. There are a lot of things young dancers have to figure out for themselves," she says. "I want to create a resource to help them learn what it takes to perform at the top."
Sarah Lane and Herman Cornejo in Ratmansky's The Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor.
Every time I step into the Metropolitan Opera House, I have this wild daydream about how great it would be to run past security and snoop around backstage.
Well, lucky me—and you! The Wall Street Journal's new virtual reality series is taking readers on a visual journey backstage at the Met. American Ballet Theatre soloist Sarah Lane, who played Aurora in Alexei Ratmansky's The Sleeping Beauty, is your guide. There's footage of her in the studio, onstage, in the dressing room and in the wings.
The best part? It's in 3D, filmed with a 360-degree camera, which gives you that fly-on-the-wall feeling. On your computer, you can click and drag to watch Lane perform a manege around you, and take a look at her dressing room. But if you want to feel super stealth, I suggest getting out your smartphone or tablet—all you have to do is tilt your screen to explore.
Choreographer Paul Taylor may never have imagined any life other than dance. But he didn’t foresee his company celebrating its 60th anniversary. “I didn’t think about it,” he tells writer Joseph Carman in “Taylor Made.” “I live from day to day. I didn’t care about the future. You hope for the best.” Yet it’s clear that Taylor can’t help but see dance everywhere around him: in the insects he played with as a kid, in the gestures of someone’s conversation, in the windows of a New York apartment building. On the cusp of his company’s diamond anniversary, both Taylor and his star performer Michael Trusnovec sat down with Dance Magazine to candidly discuss the company and its future. Taylor may be 84 this year, but, as Carman notes, “he hasn’t lost his prickliness, drive or sardonic sense of humor.”
His success shows just how far a passion for movement can take you. Check out our annual auditions guide to search for the jobs and training opportunities that inspire you. And you’ll find tips on audition outfits, etiquette advice and a few surprising strategies that can make the difference between booking a Broadway gig and getting a polite “Thank you for coming.” Our education editor Jenny Dalzell also goes behind the scenes at a tryout for up-and-coming contemporary ballet troupe Whim W’Him, with an insider’s perspective straight from artistic director Olivier Wevers.
Whether or not you nail the next callback, it helps to remember what you’re doing it all for. As American Ballet Theatre soloist Sarah Lane writes in this month’s Why I Dance, “What dancers experience goes beyond what words can express. To put it feebly, it is the ability to set your soul free in a moment that can’t be captured or replicated. It’s being real and vulnerable enough to share who you are as a human being. It’s believing that imperfection can still create something beautiful.”
Editor in Chief
Dancing with authority and poise, American Ballet Theatre soloist Sarah Lane has made her mark in roles that range from Aurora to Vera in Ashton's A Month in the Country. She began ballet classes as a child in Memphis, and continued her studies with Timothy Draper at the Draper Center for Dance Education when her family moved to Rochester, New York. She joined ABT as an apprentice in 2003, and became a soloist in 2007. Her technical mastery has also brought her acclaim in contemporary works by Tharp, Morris, Elo and others. During ABT's upcoming spring season at New York's Lincoln Center, she will dance leads in Coppélia and Theme and Variations.