Ballet stars are diving into creative projects on the side.
Ashley Bouder and Amar Ramasar before an Ashley Bouder Project performance. Photo by Dan Freeman, Courtesty Freeman.
Although he was hard at work this spring creating a new piece for Boston Ballet and performing with the company, principal dancer Jeffrey Cirio somehow made time for even more dance. This summer, his new choreographic side project, Cirio Collective, will premiere in Massachusetts. With help from his sister and fellow principal Lia Cirio, he has been working on videos for the new website, talking to costume designers and searching for music.
Cirio is among a pack of entrepreneurial ballet dancers looking to branch out at the peak of their careers. Troy Schumacher’s BalletCollective, Daniil Simkin’s INTENSIO, Daniel Ulbricht’s Stars of American Ballet and Ashley Bouder’s Ashley Bouder Project are other budding examples. And though dancers forming pickup companies isn’t exactly a new notion, past iterations have mostly been summer layoff projects that combined well-known repertoire and big international stages. These talents represent a new breed of do-it-all artists who prize small-scale projects and artistic collaboration. And the DIY culture of the digital age makes it easier than ever for star dancers to give voice to their artistic visions and connect with curious fans.
Bouder, who doesn’t choreograph but directs Ashley Boulder Project, felt an urgency to experiment before it was too late. “I am over 30 and I don’t know when my technical ability will drop out,” she says. “There are a lot of things I want to do before that happens.” A large part of her vision is connecting with audiences in areas where dance is underserved, like the rural Midwest, with discussions and workshops. Currently, she’s fundraising for a dance film, and is focused on showcasing female choreographers, most recently Andrea Schermoly and Adriana Pierce.
For Cirio, forming his own troupe has allowed him to experiment with his choreography in a small, intimate setting. Though he’s thankful for his opportunities to make dances for Boston Ballet, he had a desire to create without the pressures of the big stage. “It’s not about trying to please a director or the artistic staff,” says Cirio, who hopes to expand the troupe’s vision to include other choreographers and non-dance artists. “It is just about us getting in the studio and sharing our ideas.”
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.