In The Studio
Martha Graham Dance Company in rehearsal for a new work by Bobbi Jene Smith and Maxine Doyle. PC Kelsey Grills.

In a sun-soaked studio in Manhattan, members of the Martha Graham Dance Company (all women) lie on the floor with their feet and heads hovering off the ground. Choreographer Bobbi Jene Smith encourages the dancers to be unapologetic about being looked at as their bodies begin to tremble with exhaustion and they move into a new formation.

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Dance in Pop Culture
Jennifer Garner "helps" Stella Abrera warm up. Still via Instagram.

Jennifer Garner wants the world to know that she takes game day seriously—and she's not talking about football. For ballet dancers during December, there's obviously only one type of "game day." Nutcracker, of course.

Garner is a highly documented ballet lover, and, this time, she went the extra mile to show her dedication. Thankfully, she was on hand as American Ballet Theatre warmed up for its current Nutcracker run at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California.

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"Go Figure" is a dance anthem shot all across India. With music by SHIVA featuring Kira, the video supports children in need of food, shelter, healthcare, and education. Proceeds go towards building communities and empowering the dreams of these children.

Director/Videographer: Montana Monardes

Producer: Chris Lane

Choreography: Montana Monardes, Kira Stevens, Erin Musselman

Don't forget to enter your video for a chance to win our December contest!

Viral Videos
Screenshot via YouTube

As all bunheads know, there's so much more to dancing on pointe than sewing and bourées. In this new video, The Australian Ballet lays it all out for us, from A-Z. Or rather from "Arch" to "Zzzzzz's." Using a super fast-paced style, this four-and-a-half minute long video skips back and forth between ultra-sleek minimalism and sepia-toned nostalgia. Both educational and insider-y (see "cashews" at 0:54), this video includes some gorgeous shots (Apollo-inspired arabesques at 2:00) interspersed with quirky humor (note adorable pointe shoe bed at 3:53).

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Site Network
Screenshot via YouTube

As all bunheads know, there's so much more to dancing on pointe than sewing and bourées. In this new video, The Australian Ballet lays it all out for us, from A-Z. Or rather from "Arch" to "Zzzzzz's." Using a super fast-paced style, this four-and-a-half minute long video skips back and forth between ultra-sleek minimalism and sepia-toned nostalgia. Both educational and insider-y (see "cashews" at 0:54), this video includes some gorgeous shots (Apollo-inspired arabesques at 2:00) interspersed with quirky humor (note adorable pointe shoe bed at 3:53).

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Playlists
Bobbi Jene Smith, photographed by Jayme Thornton

At our cover shoot for the November issue, Bobbi Jene Smith curated one of the best lineups of YouTube music videos that I've heard in a long time. From Bob Dylan to Tom Waits, they felt like such perfect choices for her earthy, visceral movement and soulful approach to dance.

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Rant & Rave
Many of the dancers of 10000 Gestures weren't wearing much clothing when they started climbing on audience members. Photo by Ursula Kaufmann via nyuskirball.org

Some of my favorite experiences as both an audience member and a dancer have involved audience participation. Artists who cleverly use participatory moments can make bold statements about the boundaries between performer and spectator, onstage and off. And the challenge to be more than a passive viewer can redefine an audience's relationship to what they're watching. But all the experiences I've loved have had something in common: They've given audiences a choice.

A few weeks back, I had a starkly different experience—one that has caused me to think deeply about how consent should play into audience-performer relationships.

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Dancers Trending
Rehearsal for Brandenburg Concertos. Photo by Anne Van Aerschot, Courtesy Resnicow and Associates

What do Johann Sebastian Bach and Leonard Bernstein have in common? Not much, save perhaps an enthusiasm for counterpoint and a propensity for pushing the envelope. That, and they've both attracted the interest of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, the Belgian choreographer who has always thought of music as her primary partner.

Next week, New York audiences will experience her latest work to Bach, The Six Brandenburg Concertos, at the expansive Park Avenue Armory, featuring a multi-generational cast of 16 dancers plus baroque music ensemble B'Rock.

But next year will bring a far more unexpected project for de Keersmaeker: The Broadway revival of West Side Story, which she will be choreographing alongside Ivo van Hove as director. What sold the contemporary giant on taking on a show so far outside her typical oeuvre? The music, of course.

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Dance History
Taylor with PTAMD dancers Annmaria Mazzini and Michael Trusnovec. Photo by Richard Calmes

A person's walk is like a fingerprint, according to four Paul Taylor dancers who are stepping on without their beloved choreographer. Taylor died August 29, passing the legacy of Paul Taylor American Modern Dance to Michael Novak, the second artistic director in the company's history.

"Human movement never lies," says Novak, who sometimes slipped into present tense when describing his mentor. "For auditions, Paul makes dancers walk across the floor in rhythm. The first time I auditioned, I didn't get the job. I was terrified, but now that I'm on the other side of the audition process, 'the walk' is telling."

"When you're doing the walk, it's nerve-racking and hard to know the value," explains Eran Bugge, who recently celebrated her 13th anniversary with the company. "Now I know that it's totally revealing. You can see a person's control to be human and dancerly at the same time. Sometimes you can see weird coordinations, but Paul liked that."

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Health & Body

Sore arches may be one of the peskiest pain spots dancers deal with. This small area on the bottom of your feet may seem minor, but it actually does a lot of work: Your arches are what allow your feet to support the weight of your entire body.

While any sharp, unbearable pain should always be checked out by a doctor, a dull ache after a particularly long rehearsal can usually be alleviated by giving your feet the extra care they need. Here, two podiatrists weigh in on what causes arch pain and how you can manage it.

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Popular

Looking for your next audition shoe? Shot at and in collaboration with Broadway Dance Center, Só Dança has launched a new collection of shoes working with some pretty famous faces of the musical theater world! Offered in two different styles and either 2.5" or 3" heels, top industry professionals are loving how versatile and supportive these shoes are! Pro tip: The heel is centered under the body so you can feel confident and stable!

Dancers Trending
PC Lydia Daniller, Courtesy Dorsey

I love being transgender. It's an important part of the story of why I choreograph. Although I loved dance from a very young age, I grew up never seeing a single person like me in dance. So how could I imagine a future for myself there?

The enormous barriers I had to overcome weren't internal: I didn't struggle with feelings of dysphoria, and I wasn't locked down by shame.

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What Wendy's Watching
Oltremare, PC Paul Kolnik

Fourteen dancers troop in, all with suitcases as though just getting off the boat. They seem tired and anxious; they don't know what to expect in this new country.

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Dancers Trending
Nisian Hughes

"Women are often presented as soft, fragile little creatures in ballet," says Léonore Baulac. "We're not." The Paris Opéra Ballet's newest female étoile is discussing her unease at some of the 19th-century narratives she portrays. "It was real acting," she says with a laugh of La Sylphide. "James kills her by taking away her wings, yet she tells him not to worry and goes to die elsewhere onstage!"

Sitting in the canteen of the Palais Garnier, Baulac embodies some of ballet's contradictions in the 21st century. With her fair curls and dainty features, she could easily pass for a little girl's fantasy princess. As Juliet, she exuded a girlish ardor that felt entirely natural; her reservations notwithstanding, her Sylphide was committed and carefully Romantic in style.

Yet the 27-year-old is no ingénue. At Garnier that day, her sweater reads "I can't believe I still have to protest this s**t," a feminist slogan; last winter, Baulac proudly wore it over a Kitri tutu on Instagram. And her repertoire is as thoroughly modern as she is offstage. A versatile performer even by Parisian standards, she is equally at home in Nutcracker as she is in the works of Pina Bausch and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.

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Dancers Trending
Quinn Wharton

Who are you when you no longer do what you've been doing for years?

It is the big question facing anyone who retires. For top ballet dancers, however, the situation is more extreme. They start young, grow up in a rarified atmosphere, mostly see only each other, and become more and more removed from ordinary life. So what is it like to give this all up?

I asked seven former principal dancers from different generations at San Francisco Ballet, including myself, about this challenge.

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Dancers Trending

When we heard rumors earlier this summer that World Ballet Day LIVE might get cancelled this year, we thought our hearts might break.

But we needn't have worried! The happy news came out yesterday that our favorite day of the year is back: World Ballet Day LIVE 2017 is officially scheduled for October 5. Clear your calendar for a serious bunhead binge of live behind-the-scenes footage from the Australian Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, Royal Ballet, National Ballet of Canada and San Francisco Ballet—plus special video broadcasts from other top companies.

The news got the Dance Magazine staff all nostalgic. We started reminiscing about our favorite highlights from past World Ballet Day LIVE events. Our top picks?

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Popular
PC Matthew Murphy

It's no secret that Broadway dancers need to be incredibly versatile. In addition to having singing and acting chops, they need to be well-versed in a wide range of dance styles.

Knowing all this is one thing. But seeing it in action is another. BroadwayBox.com's Dancing Through My Resume series asks Broadway dancers to give a visual demonstration of their career, performing segments from all the shows they've been in. The result is a fast-paced tour of some of the best dancing on Broadway, past and present. Their newest video features Paloma Garcia-Lee, who's currently dancing Joshua Bergasse's choreography in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:

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Dancers Trending

The mythical faun, half human, half goat, has inspired many dance works. In Nijinsky's 1912 Afternoon of a Faun, he created a role for himself with the vulnerability of a human and the sensual power of an animal. His love object, a beautiful siren, was unattainable, so he pleasured himself with her scarf, causing a sensation in Paris.

Jerome Tisserand of Pacific Northwest Ballet in Robbins' Afternoon of a Faun, photo @Angela Sterling

Jerome Robbins created his faun in 1953 to the same Debussy music, but his character was part human, part dancer. The narcissism of looking in the mirror fostered a languid kind of self love. When he wakes up to the beautiful female dancer in the room, they are both so self-involved that the attraction doesn't go beyond one still-born kiss.

Mark Dendy portrayed a homoerotic duet with his "Afternoon of the Faunes" (part of his Dream Analysis) in 1996. He and Larry Keigwin sprinted faun-like, side by side, mostly in place. This new interpretation of the animal/human in love was quirky and touching.

Gregg Mozgala, with Lucie Baker (seated) in Rogoff's Diagnosis of a Faun, from the film Enter the Faun.

Tonight on "America Reframed" on PBS we will see yet another rendition of the faun. Choreographer/healer Tamar Rogoff's protagonist is sensual, virile, charming—and has cerebral palsy. In a way it's a perfect metaphor for the faun never fitting in. The lead performer is the charismatic, distinctive Gregg Mozgala, a professional actor. This amazing documentary, Enter the Faun, tracks Rogoff's approach to rehearsals with a differently-abled Faun, interspersed with clips of his performance in her 2009 Diagnosis of a Faun. Rogoff had an intuition that she could do what no doctor could—change the way he walks. In the film, she trains Mozgala in her "body scripting" technique, which involves hands-on manipulations and vigorous, sustained shaking. Mozgala is a changed man after their work together—but not without a sense of loss for his old, familiar, lop-sided walk.

When I previewed this film for Dance on Camera last year, I called Rogoff a miracle worker. If you watch the film on "America Reframed" tonight, you'll see why. You'll also see how humor can bubble up from a challenging situation.

Here's the trailer.

The 68-minute film airs tonight at 8pm EST. To check local listings in your area, click here.

For more info and for streaming after March 28, click here.

Dancers Trending
PC Richard Hubert Smith

As more and more stars from movies and television get their kicks doing Broadway musicals, more and more choreographers have to find steps for them to dance.

Sometimes it's not hard: Denis Jones discovered that Tony Danza had trained in tap when they worked on Honeymoon in Vegas; Spencer Liff had spent years choreographing for Neil Patrick Harris on TV when they both landed in the Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Sometimes, it's not easy: Sam Pinkleton worked privately with Josh Groban, the self-proclaimed "world's worst dancer," before starting rehearsals for the wonderfully dance-heavy Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812.

PC Richard Hubert Smith

But talk to Stephen Mear about choreographing for Glenn Close in the revival of Sunset Boulevard, running through May 28 at the Palace Theatre, and you get descriptions that are simply starstruck. She's "amazing," "wonderful," "sensational," "brilliant."

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Rant & Rave
Many productions feature the traditional Act II dances that have been challenged as negative stereotypes. We asked three directors their opinions.

Ronald Alexander

Program director of the professional training programs at Steps on Broadway and the director of Harlem School of the Arts Prep Program.

The whole ballet tradition is inherently racist, so the traditional productions of Nutcracker can also be seen as racist. In many versions of Nutcracker, one sees overt racial stereotypes. In the second-act divertissements, many of the dances or variations are borderline caricatures, if not downright demeaning. For example, the way in which Asians have been portrayed in the Chinese variation—with heads bobbing up and down, index fingers protruding, and happy smirks of joy plastered on the dancers' faces—is insulting and embarrassing.

But recently, some versions have attempted to portray a more positive image. The San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker has a Chinese divertissement that represents a dragon from Chinatown, which is culturally specific but more importantly, not demeaning. It is not a difficult thing to do but requires a revisionist attitude toward these dances. The same kind of change could be made to the Arabian dance: In many productions, the female dancer is a seductress with navel exposed as she is lifted to and fro from one male partner to another. What does this say to young children watching and dancing in The Nutcracker? I am sure the people of Arab countries do not like to see their women presented in such a manner.

New York Theatre Ballet's Nutcracker by Keith Michael

Courtesy NYTB

Several years ago, I was asked to choreograph a Chinese dance to be performed by a reputable ballet school in Connecticut. I again ran into the expectation of caricature. But I choreographed a dance that I felt was not as stereotypical as the previous version, downplaying the Chinese stereotypes and emphasizing substantial choreography and the beautiful Tchaikovsky score. It was well received but was eventually replaced with the original version that I thought was demeaning to Asians.

Examples of how nationalities can be portrayed without stereotyping include Donald Byrd's excellent 1996 Harlem Nutcracker. Set to David Berger's version of the Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn arrangement of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, the divertissements were drawn from the Harlem Renaissance, celebrating positive images of African Americans. Another is Keith Michael's one-hour Nutcracker set in Art Nouveau style circa 1907, performed by Diana Byer's New York Theatre Ballet. It features innovative choreography devoid of all caricatures and stereotypes.

I feel that more Nutcrackers venturing beyond demeaning stereotypes would invigorate and sustain this joyous holiday classic.

Stoner Winslett

Founding artistic director, Richmond Ballet

There's not one single thing about The Nutcracker that's racist. In terms of casting, we've always cast—this is the 30th season—completely color blind. Beautiful dancers are beautiful dancers.

Last year, with our two Claras and three Sugar Plums, we had a tremendously diverse cast. They each got the part because they were the best for the role. I love that the production looks the way our audience and our community look. And we get a lot of racial diversity through the children in our school.

Richmond Ballet added a dragon to the Chinese dance

Photo by Sarah Ferguson, Courtesy Richmond Ballet

I did our original Nutcracker in 1984, the first full-length performance ever of the professional company. After 19 years the sets and costumes were getting worn so I decided to redo it. I had noticed the children in the audience were so engaged in Act I, but the second act didn't keep the children's interest as much. I knew children love animals. I made Act II focus on the animals. For the mirlitons I made a shepherd and shepherdess and six little lambs. In Spanish we have two couples—the guys are toreadors with capes à la Don Q, the women running through, making horns like bulls. In the Russian, we decided to do a dancing bear with two side Russians.

For Chinese I decided I wanted a dragon; it's something sacred in the Chinese culture. I invited Michael Lowe—he's Chinese and an Oakland Ballet veteran—to choreograph it. When the dragon came, it had a little shade over its eyes. We had a dragon blessing to take the shade off the eyes. We tried to do all the respectful things.

Donald Byrd

Artistic director, Spectrum Dance Theater, Seattle

I don't find The Nutcracker racist. I think it's Eurocentric in terms of its perspective. You're being told a story—even when it's set in America—from the perspective of a traditional 19th-century European household. Anybody that was not European is presented as exotic—the notion of the Other. I would say it's exclusive rather than racist. It excludes the Other and reserves its experiences for a particular group: Anglo-Europeans. This group is mirrored back to itself onstage in The Nutcracker.

The Harlem Nutcracker that I created had its own form of exclusivity: It was directed at the African American family. The question I asked myself at the time was, How can I include the African American family into the Nutcracker experience? I wanted to make a Nutcracker that reinforces some values that are important to the African American family just as the traditional Nutcracker reinforces values important to Anglo-American families.

A chorus line of snowflakes in Donald Byrd's Harlem Nutcracker

Photo by Gabriel Bienczycki, Courtesy Byrd

As for representation of various racial/ethnic groups in the Nutcracker divertissements, like Spanish Hot Chocolate, Arabian Coffee, and Chinese Tea: At worst, they are insensitive, and at best, irrelevant or indifferent, especially when viewed through a 19th-century imperialist lens. How else should the representation be of a world that exemplifies the privilege of an imperializing Europe, other than indifference to the people and places that provided the commodities that supported their comfort?

Taking it a step further: Think of the Mouse King and his marauding horde as foreign, alien elements that sneak in under cover of night to infiltrate, undermine, and disrupt the order of “the house," i.e. country, kingdom, Europe. They are vanquished by the Nutcracker/Prince and Clara. In this context, the second act is a vision of European supremacy. The rest of the world and its people are there only to “sweeten" the lives of the dominant Europeans.

What do you think? Send your response to this question—and these points of view—to letters@dancemedia.com.

Portrait photos from top: Greg Rourt, Courtesy Alexander; Sarah Ferguson, Courtesy Richmond Ballet; Courtesy Brooklyn Academy of Music

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