July 27, 2010




New York City Ballet principal dancer Albert Evans retired from the stage on June 20 after 22 years of dancing with the company. With so few dancers of color rising to principal positions in ballet companies, Evans served as an inspiration for dancers of all races to follow in his footsteps. Evans was known for his wonderful movement quality, elegant and feline. He was first noticed by William Forsythe, who chose him for a lead role in his ballet Behind the China Dogs, when Evans was still a student (on full scholarship) at SAB. In the same season, Eliot Feldselected Evans for a solo in his ballet The Unanswered Question.


Evans became the heir apparent for many of the roles created by former NYCB star Arthur Mitchell, such as the pas de deux in Agon and Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Peter Martins capitalized on Evans’ musicality and speed in ballets such as Ash, Ecstatic Orange and Fearful Symmetries.


The Atlanta-born dancer has also choreographed several ballets, among them Haiku to music by John Cage for the Diamond Project.


He was also celebrated for his partnering skills, working with ballerinas like Wendy Whelan in ballets by Christopher Wheeldon and other prominent choreographers. In the book Round About the Ballet, Evans said, “I would say that my greatest strength is that connection I have with a partner onstage—that connection we’re trying to convey to the audience. When two dancers can give something to an audience, bring them into their performance—as opposed to presenting it, have them become a part of it. It becomes a pas de trois as opposed to just a pas de deux.” —Joseph Carman


Julie Tice
possesses an uncanny blend of steely strength and dazzling radiance. Both qualities have been essential to her many performances of Esplanade, perhaps Paul Taylor’s most cherished piece, as she delicately tiptoes across various parts of Michael Trusnovec’s body or dive-bombs through the audacious falls and vaulting leaps.


Tice’s compact stature has guaranteed her a fair share of being hoisted overhead by the men of the Paul Taylor Dance Company. But her tensile power has propelled her mercilessly through memorable turns in athletic dances like Last Look. She exudes an irresistible openness, and her lighter side is on view in works such as Also Playing, in which she wears pointe shoes and hams it up.


Tice earned a dance degree from the University of Michigan, then moved to New York, where she promptly received a scholarship with Taylor 2. A year later, she was invited to join the main company. “Paul has given me the opportunity to explore so many sides of myself artistically. Some of my favorite roles include Esplanade, Syzygy, and Speaking in Tongues,” she notes. The dizzying pace and movement patterns in Syzygy display Tice’s knack for precision, speed, and eloquence. And there is an unshakably optimistic air about her that has elicited innocence or purity in many an otherwise dark scenario, like Banquet of Vultures.


At 35, she retires this month after 10 years with the troupe. She plans to teach dance and Pilates. What will she miss most about the company? “Being in the room when Paul’s creating a piece; it’s one of my favorite parts of the job. But my second most favorite is just dancing onstage with my friends.” She adds, “I can only hope that I have moved people emotionally throughout my years with the company, and that they have gone on this journey with me!” —Susan Yung


Orion Duckstein
, with his striking bearing, played the serene shaman figure in Byzantium, as well as the snooty rogue in Offenbach Overtures. Who else could balance suavity and slapstick so expertly? We’ll find out when Duckstein, now 40, retires this month, after 11 years with the Paul Taylor Dance Company.


Duckstein was pursuing acting at the University of Connecticut when he discovered dance. After moving to New York, he studied dance voraciously before working with choreographers such as Margie Gillis. Airs was the first Taylor piece he saw; it was part of his audition for Taylor 2 in 1995, and retains special meaning for him. He also has performed the diabolically difficult Aureole solo that Taylor created for himself. “It’s like giving away a trusted piece of clothing to wear,” he says of the role.


Other demanding works have included the high-adrenaline Arden Court and the bestial, tuxedoed quartet in Cloven Kingdom. His favorite? “The role of Man of the Cloth in Speaking in Tongues. For me, that brought everything together—my acting background, movement. It was such a dramatic and physical challenge,” he says. He has also excelled in humorous roles, including dances such as Changes and Also Playing.


He has two children with wife and Taylor alumna Heather Berest of Berest Dance Studio in Port Washington, NY, where Duckstein will help run the business and teach. He will miss the hard work and touring with the company. And of course he’ll miss working with Taylor. “He’s brilliant at coming up with variation after variation on a theme, and tricking your eye. I’m honored to have been a part of it for so long.” —Susan Yung



Pictured: Albert Evans in Balanchine’s
The Four Temperaments. Photo by Paul Kolnik, © The Balanchine Trust, Courtesy NYCB.