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The Best of 2015
This year we gave our readers the power to weigh in on the most memorable dance moments of the year. You nominated performances you loved, voted on the top five and selected a diverse group of artists and productions that span the country. Here’s what you chose as your favorites.
Körbes takes her final bow at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy PNB.
Best Female Performance
In the sea of ballerina retirements this year, Carla Körbes’ farewell stood out to our readers as particularly bittersweet. She was effortlessly regal in Diamonds, and her port de bras exquisite and commanding in Jessica Lang’s The Calling. The end of Serenade, when Körbes was carried offstage by four men, seemed a fitting tribute to her stardom.
Best Male Performance
Fairchild and Leanne Cope in An American in Paris. Photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy AAIP.
“Triple threat” doesn’t do Robert Fairchild’s turn in An American in Paris justice. As the lovesick and exuberant Jerry Mulligan, Fairchild charmed our readers with wit reminiscent of Gene Kelly (the originator of the role in the 1951 film) and the crisp technique that makes him a New York City Ballet star.
Alonzo King’s Concerto for Two Violins. Photo by Quinn B. Wharton, courtesy LINES.
Alonzo King LINES Ballet revived King’s Concerto for Two Violins on tour this year, so readers all over the world could experience his reimagining of Bach’s classic score (used by Balanchine for Concerto Barocco), and the explosive physicality we’ve come to expect and love from LINES.
Best New Production
Fairchild and the cast of An American in Paris. Photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy AAIP.
Christopher Wheeldon’s An American in Paris opened on Broadway in April, marking the choreographer’s directorial debut and becoming the most talked about dance musical of the season. Based on the classic film and set to the dreamy songs of the Gershwins, the show stars New York City Ballet’s Robert Fairchild and The Royal Ballet’s Leanne Cope. Our readers love the sheer volume of dance in this show—even the set changes are intricately choreographed. And you can’t go wrong with a 16-minute dream ballet and a cast of dancers pulled from top companies around the country.
Cedar Lake dancers in Nelko’s Awakening. Photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Nelko.
Best Emerging Choreographer
It was the year of the viral dance music video, and Lindsay Nelko’s, set to Ellie Goulding’s cover of Active Child’s “Hanging On,” landed her on our readers’ map of choreographers to watch. Easily transitioning between concert and commercial, she has choreographed for several television shows, international ballet companies and her own full-length show last summer—her prize for achieving 2nd runner-up at the 2013 Capezio A.C.E. Awards.
DM Editor Favorites
Photo by Paul Kolnik
Editor in Chief
Justin Peck’s Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes
“He gave himself an almost impossible task to reimagine such an iconic piece of music—but he did it brilliantly. It felt completely fresh, without ignoring the historical associations we all have with the score.”
Vice President, Editorial
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s final performance
“Artistic director Alexandra Damiani came onstage to announce there would be a final surprise. The curtain rose on the full company in Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16—the segment where the dancers create a ripple effect of synchronized movements to traditional Israeli music, discarding their suits, shirts and fedoras. It was a memorable way to go out.”
Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy ABT
Julie Kent’s last performance of Manon
“She was breathtakingly spectacular in the bedroom scene. It was one of those rare moments when you’re overwhelmed with emotions, holding back tears but beaming a smile at the same time.”
“I love how it demonstrates an admiration for musical theater’s history and a vision for its future. It’s a smart, beautiful show, and it will make history.”
Ohad Naharin’s Sadeh21
“The best part was when the credits scrolled and the Batsheva dancers were happily diving off into the unknown.”
Photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy In the Lights
Camille A. Brown’s BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play
“It was so personal, yet she tapped into something deeply universal in her exploration of black girlhood. I love that the talkback was mandatory—she insisted on having the last word.”
"There's an ancient energy in Fana's movement, a deep and trusted knowing," says Jeff, director of the Chicago-based Deeply Rooted Dance Theater. "Because I witnessed the raw humanity of his dancer's souls, I wanted my dancers to have that experience."
Growing up in a family-owned dance studio in Missouri had its perks for tap dancer Anthony Russo. But it also earned him constant taunting, especially in high school.
"There was a junior in my sophomore year health class who was absolutely relentless," he says. "I'd get tripped on my way to the front of the classroom and he'd say, 'Watch out, twinkle toes.' If I raised my hand and answered a question incorrectly, I'd hear a patronizing 'Nice one, Bojangles.' "
When I wrote about my struggle with depression, and eventual departure from dance because of it, I expected criticism. I was prepared to be challenged. But much to my relief, and horror, dancers from all over the world responded with support and stories of solidarity. The most critical response I saw was this one:
"Dance isn't for everyone."
This may as well be a mantra in the dance world. We have become entrenched in the Darwinian notion that the emotionally weak will be weeded out. There is no room for them anyway.
Choreographer Sergio Trujillo asked the women auditioning for ensemble roles in his newest musical to arrive in guys' clothing—"men's suits, or blazers and ties," he says. He wasn't being kinky or whimsical. The entire ensemble of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical is female, playing men and women interchangeably as they unfold the history of the chart-busting, Grammy-winning, indisputable Queen of Disco.
Have a scroll through Agnes Muljadi's Instagram feed (@artsyagnes), and you'll notice that in between her ballet shots is a curated mix of lifestyle pics. So what exactly sets her apart from the other influencers you follow? Muljadi has made a conscious effort to only feature natural beauty products, sustainable fashion and vegan foods. With over 500k followers, her social strategy (and commitment to making ethical choices) is clearly a hit. Ahead, learn why Muljadi switched to a vegan lifestyle, and the surprising way it's helped her dance career.
He may not be a household name, but you probably know Brandon Stirling Baker's work. The 30-year-old has designed the lighting for most of Justin Peck's ballets—including Heatscape for Miami City Ballet, and the edgy The Times Are Racing for New York City Ballet—but also Jamar Roberts' new Members Don't Get Weary at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and a trio of Martha Graham duets for L.A. Dance Project.
He's been fascinated by lighting ever since he attended a public performing arts middle school in Sherman Oaks, California, where he had his first experiences lighting shows. He also has a background in music (he plays guitar and bass) and in drawing. Both, he says, are central to the way he approaches lighting dance.
Update: Due to an overwhelming response, the in-person audition has been moved to a larger location to accommodate more dancers. See details below.
For the first time in more than 10 years, Janet Jackson is holding an open audition for dancers.
Even better? You could land a spot in her #JTribe simply by posting a video on social media.
What does it take to become an international superstar? Carlos Acosta might have a few ideas.
At the Oxford Literary Festival earlier this month, the BBC sat down with Acosta to ask for his life lessons. His answers—which he says he will pass on to his kids one day—give incredible insight into how he's become such a beloved worldwide success.
The ballet world will converge on San Francisco this month for San Francisco Ballet's Unbound: A Festival of New Works, a 17-day event featuring 12 world premieres, a symposium, original dance films and pop-up events.
"Ballet is going through changes," says artistic director Helgi Tomasson. "I thought, What would it be like to bring all these choreographers together in one place? Would I discover some trends in movement, or in how they are thinking?"