Spotlight

This Beyoncé Choreographer Has the Most Relatable Cross-Training Routine

James Alsop has choreographed for stars from Beyoncé to Janelle Monae. Photo via Facebook

Even if you haven't heard her name, you've almost certainly seen the work of commercial choreographer James Alsop. Though she's made award-winning dances for Beyoncé ("Run the World," anyone?) and worked with stars like Lady GaGa and Janelle Monae, Alsop's most recent project may be her most powerful: A moving music video for Everytown for Gun Safety, directed by Ezra Hurwitz and featuring students from the National Dance Institute.

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We caught up with Alsop for our "Spotlight" series:


What do you think is the most common misconception about dancers?

That we are not athletes. I think because there is this beauty, grace and poise that comes along with dance, some people still try to discount the fact that we train ruthlessly. It would be great to see the art of dance respected equally.

What other career would you like to try?

Acting. I can't see myself doing something unrelated to performance. Performing is too deep in my blood.

What's the most-played song on your phone?

"Made For Now" by Janet Jackson

What was the last dance performance you saw?

A hip-hop competition in Boston called Bring Da Hype. It was so edgy and all the dancers were so raw and hungry. My love for dance was reinvigorated by the youth of it.

Do you have a pre-performance ritual?

Close my eyes and whisper the most intimate prayer.

Where can you be found two hours after a performance ends?

Trying to find music to keep dancing. The high from being on stage is still so strong that I have to keep it going.

What's your favorite book?

Terry McMillan's A Day Late and A Dollar Short. I have probably read it 6000 times.

Who is the person you most want to dance with—living or dead?

Janet Jackson, Debbie Allen and Bob Fosse.

What app do you spend the most time on?


Much like the rest of the world, I unfortunately spend the most time on Instagram. It's literally tantalizing. I'm addicted.

What's the first item on your bucket list?

To buy something major or pay a huge bill off for my parents. I owe them everything.

What's your go-to cross-training routine?

I am the absolute worst and have never cross-trained in my entire life. I have never even had a gym membership. So my routine is trying my hardest to avoid the Taco Bell drive-thru!

If you could relive one performance, what would it be?

The 2011 Billboard Music Awards performance of "Run The World" by Beyoncé. It was the first time I got to work on an awards show as a choreographer and I learned so much by being a part of such a huge performance.

What's the worst advice you've ever received?

I don't think I have ever received any bad advice. I can't remember a time when someone tried to help and it not be for my benefit.

In Memoriam
Alicia Alonso with Igor Youskevitch. Sedge Leblang, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"

At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.

Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.

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Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Left: Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston Ballet's Dance Lab; Courtesy Harlequin. Right: The Dance Lab pre-Harvey; Nic Lehoux, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.

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News
Rauf "RubberlLegz" Yasit and Parvaneh Scharafali. Photo by Mohamed Sadek, courtesy The Shed

William Forsythe is bringing his multi-faceted genius to New York City in stripped down form. His "Quiet Evening of Dance," a mix of new and recycled work now at The Shed until October 25, is co-commissioned with Sadler's Wells in London (and a slew of European presenters).

As always, Forsythe's choreography is a layered experience, both kinetic and intellectual. This North American premiere prompted many thoughts, which I whittled down to seven.

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Courtesy NBC

"Law & Order: SVU" has dominated the crime show genre for 21 seasons with its famous "ripped from the headlines" strategy of taking plot inspiration from real-life crimes.

So viewers would be forgiven for assuming that the new storyline following the son of Mariska Hargitay's character into dance class originated in the news cycle. After all, the mainstream media widely covered the reaction to Lara Spencer's faux pas on "Good Morning America" in August, when she made fun of Prince George for taking ballet class.

But it turns out, the storyline was actually the idea of the 9-year-old actor, Ryan Buggle, who plays Hargitay's son. And he came up with it before Spencer ever giggled at the word ballet.

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