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Top 5 Highlights of Dance Salad Festival
How do you create a "salad" of dance? By tossing together tastes of choreography from around the world. For the past 19 years, producer Nancy Henderek has traveled the globe to handpick artists to bring to Houston each Easter weekend for the annual Dance Salad Festival. The lineup is typically an eclectic mix of today's most exciting names in dance as well as up-and-comers the US has never seen before—and this year's performances didn't disappoint. Here were my favorite highlights:
1. Royal Danish Ballet's Ida Praetorius and Andreas Kass in Bournonville's Kermessen in Brugge. This sweet duet may have been out of character with the rest of the festival's contemporary fare, but it was delightful. Praetorius is a complete charmer onstage—and can knock out some fantastically sprightly Bournonville jumps.
2. Elephant in the Black Box in Jean-Phillippe Dury's CEL Black Days. This new Madrid company, led by former Paris Opera Ballet and Compania Nacional de Danza dancer Jean-Phillippe Dury, made its US debut here—and I hope we see more. Most entrancing in CEL was soloist Emma Tilson, a former University of North Carolina School of the Arts and Pacific Northwest Ballet School student. I'm not quite sure of the meaning behind her nude sports bra coming on and off throughout the piece. But, whether topless or not, in close-up projections or live, her full-bodied movement gave the piece a gorgeous gravity.
3. Norwegian National Ballet's Samantha Lynch in Daniel Proietto's Cygne. The crowd went wild for the homecoming of Lynch, a former Houston Ballet girl. The solo (well, duet, if you count the tiny boy child who comes out at the end to run around) is kooky and weird and incredibly compelling. The choreography deftly shifts from traditional ballet vocabulary to street dance shoulder distortions. It's what you might imagine Bjork would choreograph if she did a version of The Dying Swan. And apparently, this company has recently become obsessed with swans: This weekend, NNB premieres Alexander Ekman's A Swan Lake (which features an actual 16 square meter lake) and then does Petipa's version next month.
4. The Houston audiences. I love how much passion and excitement for dance there was in the house! Each night was practically full, and I even met a few die-hards who came back night after night to see multiple shows (the programs rotate a few pieces each night). The performances may have ran three hours long, but the energy never lagged.
5. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's Embrace (a "curated" version of M¡longa). Although we only got to see part of this work, the selection we were treated to was fascinating. Cherkaoui used 10 traditional tango dancers and two contemporary dancers to offer a fresh take on 100-year-old tango steps. Most intriguing were the sections where he retooled duets into trios—still maintaining tango's signature precision and lightning fast footwork, but taking it to a completely new place by adding in the unexpected element of a third party. I could have watched this all night.
Bonus: Karina González and Houston Ballet rehearsing Swan Lake. Okay, this wasn't part of Dance Salad. But right across the street at the Houston Ballet studios, I got to watch the corps work on their spacing, port de bras and line. Even though she wasn't the focus of the rehearsal, González was listening intently to the ballet master's corrections and practicing them herself. She was standing off to the side, working on the tilt of her head and pathway of her arms. It was incredible, and helped me understand how she's become such a beautiful dancer.
CEL Black Days photo by Ignacio de Urrutia. m¡longa photo by Diego Franssens. All images courtesy of Dance Salad Festival.
The revival of everything '90s has been in full-swing for a while now—we saw Destiny's Child reunite at Coachella, Britney Spears is headed back on tour, and the Spice Girls miiight be performing at the Royal wedding next month. But Hollywood saved the best '90s moment for last, bringing *NSYNC back together to receive their official star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 30.
Because we love a good dance #TBT, we're reliving five of the boys' best dance moments.
"I Want You Back"
The band's first single from their self-titled debut album in 1998, "I Want You Back," was the start of their takeover (and their choreographed dance moves).
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!
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.
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.' "
Gina Gibney runs two enormous dance spaces in New York City: Together they contain 23 studios, five performance spaces, a gallery, a conference room, a media lab and more. Gibney is now probably the largest dance center in the country. It's not surprising that Dance Magazine named Gina Gibney one of the most influential people in dance today.
One of the biggest myths about ballet dancers is that they don't eat. While we all know that, yes, there are those who do struggle with body image issues and eating disorders, most healthy dancers love food—and eat plenty of it to fuel their busy schedules.
Luckily for us, they're not afraid to show it:
What does a superstar like Carlos Acosta do after bidding farewell to his career in classical ballet? In Acosta's case, he returns to his native country, Cuba, to funnel his fame, connections and prodigious energies back into the dance scene that formed him. Because of its top-notch, state-supported training programs and popular embrace of the art of dance, Cuba is brimming with talented dancers. What it has been short on, until recently, are opportunities outside of the mainstream companies, as well as access to a more international repertoire. That is changing now, and, with the creation of Acosta Danza, launched in 2016, Acosta is determined to open the doors even wider to new ideas and audiences.
There's so much more to the dance world than making and performing dances. Arts administrators do everything from raising money to managing companies to building new audiences. With the growing number of arts administration programs in colleges, dancers have an opportunity to position themselves for a multifaceted career on- or offstage—and to bring their unique perspective as artists to administrative work.
While Solange was busy helping big sis Beyoncé give Coachella its best performances of all time, an equally compelling project was quietly circulating on Instagram:
New York City Ballet continues its first year without Peter Martins at the helm as our spring season opens tonight.
When he retired at the start of the new year, we plunged headfirst into unknown, murky waters. Who would the new director be? When would we know? Would we dancers get some say in the decision? Who would oversee the Balanchine ballets? Who would be in charge of casting? Would a new director bring along huge upheaval? Could some of us be out of a job?