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The Russians Are Coming
The Lincoln Center Festival always includes a spectacular, if brief, display of international dance. This July, two programs involving the Bolshoi Ballet arrive at the Koch Theater.
The first one brings together three superb ballet companies to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Balanchine's Jewels. Paris Opera Ballet will do "Emeralds," the serene opening section, to the music of French composer Gabriel Fauré. The Bolshoi Ballet and New York City Ballet will alternate in "Rubies" (Stravinsky) and "Diamonds" (Tchaikovsky). It makes sense that the Bolshoi and NYCB will switch off in these two sections because the Russians and Americans both know how to devour space and move fast. It could be pretty exciting.
Paris Opera Ballet's Laëtitia Pujol and Karl Paquette in "Emeralds," photo by Sébastien Mathé´
The three-day event (July 20–23) will be a celebration of Balanchine's landmark work as well as a tribute to international cooperation. This Jewels will be an opportunity to compare the styles of three great companies.
NYCB's Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz in "Rubies," photo by Paul Kolnik
We are looking forward to see new stars like Olga Smirnova, who graced our cover in June 2014 and Ekaterina Krysanova, a 2010 "25 to Watch." (I wish Nina Kaptsova were coming. She was nominated for a Benois de la danse and has been heralded as the best of the Bolshoi.)
The Bolshoi's Alyona Kovalyova and Jacopo Tissi in "Diamonds," photo by Damir Yusupov
The second Bolshoi bill is The Taming of the Shrew, created by French choreographer Jean-Christopher Maillot for the Bolshoi in 2014. The press release calls this a modernization of the Shakespeare plot, with Katherine and Petruchio equally out of control. Will this version be more palatable to those of us who find ballet's gender portrayals hopelessly stereotyped? We shall see.
Of course there's always the possibility of the Bolshoi presenting godawful choreography. In 2014 the festival brought Grigorovich's 1968 Spartacus, a warhorse from Soviet times. The only way I could respond to it was to give it the Fortunately, Unfortunately treatment.
Ekaterina Krysanova and Vladislav Lantratov in Taming of the Shrew, photo by Mikhail Logvinov/Bolshoi Theatre
But you can't lose with Jewels. Each section shines and shimmers in its own way, celebrating the pure response of dance to beautiful music with no need of narrative.
The single non-Russian offering in the festival provides a tie-in with Paris Opera Ballet: Choreographer/filmmaker Saburo Teshigawara brings the French company's former étoile and current director Aurélie Dupont as a guest star in his new Sleeping Water. Although she is now leading POB, her extracurricular activities include dancing in contemporary works, as when she teamed up with Diana Vishneva in a duet by Ohad Naharin last fall.
Note: Lincoln Center Festival artistic director Nigel Redden will be stepping down after this year. Let's hope that incoming director will have an equal commitment to dance.
It can be hard to focus when Alice Sheppard dances.
Her recent sold-out run of DESCENT at New York Live Arts, for instance, offered a constellation of stimulation. Onstage was a large architectural ramp with an assortment of peaks and planes. There was an intricate lighting and projection design. There was a musical score that unfolded like an epic poem. There was a live score too: the sounds of Sheppard and fellow dancer Laurel Lawson's bodies interacting with the surfaces beneath them.
And there were wheelchairs. But if you think the wheelchairs are the center of this work, you're missing something vital about what Sheppard creates.
What is the right flooring system for us?
So many choices, companies, claims, endorsements, and recommendations to consider. The more you look, the more confusing it gets. Here is what you need to do. Here is what you need to know to get the flooring system suited to your needs.
"I'm sorry, but I just can't possibly give you the amount of money you're asking for."
My heart sinks at my director's final response to my salary proposal. She insists it's not me or my work, there is just no money in the budget. My disappointment grows when handed the calendar for Grand Rapids Ballet's next season with five fewer weeks of work.
"It just...always looks better in my head."
While that might not be something any of us would want to hear from a choreographer, it's a brilliant introduction to "Off Kilter" and the odd, insecure character at its center, Milton Frank. The ballet mockumentary (think "The Office" or "Parks and Recreation," but with pointe shoes) follows Frank (dancer-turned-filmmaker Alejandro Alvarez Cadilla) as he comes back to the studio to try his hand at choreographing for the first time since a plagiarism scandal derailed his fledgling career back in the '90s.
We've been pretty excited about the series for a while, and now the wait is finally over. The first episode of the show, "The Denial," went live earlier today, and it's every bit as awkward, hilarious and relatable as we hoped.
When most people think of dance students, they imagine lithe children and teenagers waltzing around classrooms with their legs lifted to their ears. It doesn't often cross our minds that dance training can involve an older woman trying to build strength in her body to ward off balance issues, or a middle-aged man who didn't have the confidence to take a dance class as a boy for fear of bullying.
Anybody can begin to learn dance at any age. But it takes a particular type of teacher to share our art form with dancers who have few prospects beyond fun and fitness a few nights a week.
Travis Wall draws inspiration from dancers Tate McCrae, Timmy Blankenship and more.
One often-overlooked relationship that exists in dance is the relationship between choreographer and muse. Recently two-time Emmy Award Winner Travis Wall opened up about his experience working with dancers he considers to be his muses.
"My muses in choreography have evolved over the years," says Wall. "When I'm creating on Shaping Sound, our company members, my friends, are my muses. But at this current stage of my career, I'm definitely inspired by new, fresh talent."
Wall adds, "I'm so inspired by this new generation of dancers. Their teachers have done such incredible jobs, and I've seen these kids grown up. For many of them, I've had a hand in their exposure to choreography."
New York City–based dancers know Gibney. It's a performance venue, a dance company, a rehearsal space, an internship possibility—a Rubik's Cube of resources bundled into two sites at 280 and 890 Broadway. And in March of this year, Gibney (having officially dropped "Dance" from its name) announced a major expansion of its space and programming; it now operates a total of 52,000 square feet, 23 studios and five performance spaces across the two locations.
Six of those studios and one performance space are brand-new at the 280 Broadway location, along with several programs. EMERGE will commission new works by emerging choreographic voices for the resident Gibney Dance Company each year; Making Space+ is an extension of Gibney's Making Space commissioning and presenting program, focused on early-career artists. For the next three years, the Joyce Theater Foundation's artist residency programs will be run out of one of the new Gibney studios, helping to fill the gap left by the closing of the Joyce's DANY Studios in 2016.
Dancers crossing over into the fitness realm may be increasingly popular, but it was never part of French-born Julie Granger's plan. Though Granger grew up a serious ballet student, taking yoga classes on the side eventually led to a whole new career. Creating her own rules along the way, Granger shares how combining the skills she learned in ballet with certifications in yoga, barre and personal training allowed her to become her own boss (and a rising fitness influencer).
José Greco popularized Spanish dance in 1950s and '60s America through his work onstage and on screen. Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater's American Spanish Dance & Music Festival is honoring the icon in recognition of what would have been his 100th birthday. As part of the tribute, Greco's three dancing children are reuniting to perform together for the first time since their father's death in 2000. Also on the program is the premiere of contemporary flamenco choreographer Carlos Rodriguez's Mar de Fuego (Sea of Fire). June 15–17, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. ensembleespanol.org.
Dance Theatre of Harlem dancers Christopher McDaniel and Crystal Serrano were working on Nacho Duato's Coming Together in rehearsal when McDaniel's foot hit a slippery spot on the marley. As they attempted a swinging lift, both dancers went tumbling, injuring Serrano as they fell. She ended up being out for a week with a badly bruised knee.
"I immediately felt, This is my fault," says McDaniel. "I broke my friend."
What's on the minds of college students today?
I recently had the honor of adjudicating at the American College Dance Association's National College Dance Festival, along with choreographer Dana Tai Soon Burgess and former National Endowment for the Arts dance specialist Douglas C. Sonntag. We chose three winners—one for Outstanding Choreography and two for Outstanding Performance—from 30 pieces representing schools throughout the country. It was a great opportunity to see what college dance students are up to—from the issues they care about to the kinds movement they're interested in exploring.
Here were the biggest trends and takeaways:
It's summer festival season! If you're feeling overwhelmed by the dizzying array of offerings, never fear: We've combed through the usual suspects to highlight the shows we most want to catch.
Subscription box services have quickly gained a dedicated following among the fashion and fitness set. And while we'd never say no to a box with new jewelry or workout wear to try, we've been waiting for the subscription model to make its way to the dance world.
Enter barre + bag, a new service that sends a curated set of items to your door each season. Created by Faye Morrow Bell and her daughter Tyler, a student in the pre-professional ballet program at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, this just-launched service offers dance, lifestyle and wellness finds in four themed bags each year: Spring Performance, Summer Study, Back-to-Studio and Nutcracker. Since all the products are specifically made for dancers, everything barre + bag sends you is something you'll actually use, (Plus, it all comes in a bag instead of a box—because what dancer can ever have enough bags?).
barre + bag's Summer Collection