Alexandra Wells can always tell when a dancer hasn't read her summer intensive information packet. Sometimes, says Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's director of artist training, there's a quick fix for the lack of preparation. "You can go and buy a long-sleeve shirt after you burn your shoulder really badly in that first floorwork class," she says. But not bringing enough of your special-order pointe shoes? "That's really dire."
Between reading the fine print, shopping for necessities and ramping up physically, getting ready for a summer intensive takes more than just dancing a lot. We broke down a step-by-step timeline:
At some point in your career, you've probably used an ice pack or heating pad to alleviate post-rehearsal aches and pains. But some popular new therapies take these temperature-based recovery practices to extremes.
Could cranking up the intensity equal better results?
"I'm going to walk through; it's going to be so awkward," says BalletX artistic and executive director Christine Cox, addressing 119 auditionees and acknowledging the ever-intimidating clipboard she holds. The room bursts into laughter, and smiles linger as pliés begin. Cox may have broken the tension, but stakes are high when contracts are up for grabs. At the BalletX company audition in New York City last April, Cox and associate artistic director Tara Keating were looking for one female dancer to fill a summer contract and one or two males to start year-round in the fall. "The core foundation of the company is ballet," Cox says, "but the X is everything. The X is a dancer who can experiment, explore, express themselves." And that's who they're looking for among these hopefuls.
While Ashley Murphy-Wilson was growing up, her grandmother, Ella Bowers, owned a restaurant in their hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, and taught The Washington Ballet dancer how to cook. "She's still teaching me!" Murphy-Wilson says with a laugh. Big family meals were Southern soul food and pure decadence: fried chicken, fried fish, collard greens, sweet potato pies and all kinds of cakes and casseroles.
A list of Clara alumnae from Radio City's Christmas Spectacular reads like a star-studded, international gala program: Tiler Peck and Brittany Pollack of New York City Ballet (and Broadway), Meaghan Grace Hinkis of The Royal Ballet, Whitney Jensen of Norwegian National Ballet and more. Madison Square Garden's casting requirements for the role are simple: The dancer should be 4' 10" and under, appear to be 14 years old or younger and have strong ballet technique and pointework.
The unspoken requisite? They need abundant tenacity at a very young age.
Without reference to a place or founder, the name United Ballet Theatre evokes a utopian vision for a ballet troupe. In his new Orlando-based company—which has a light launch and a debut performance this month—artistic director Joseph Gatti hopes to create a healthy work environment and offer prestigious programming. But can a brand-new company predicated on its "preserving the artist" tagline grow and thrive past a single summer?
Mia Michaels was 90% done writing her autobiography when something changed.
She had plenty of material to fill the pages, from racking up three Emmy Awards on So You Think You Can Dance, to choreographing her first Broadway musical Finding Neverland, to collaborating with Prince, to revamping New York's famous Radio City Rockettes.
But then she stopped. "There was so much material. I had almost the entire life autobiography done, and then I was like, no. I want to inspire the world," she says, laughing warmly. The resulting book, out today, is called A Unicorn in a World of Donkeys: A Guide to Life for all the Exceptional, Excellent Misfits Out There.
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Contrary to what her last name might suggest, Ballet West corps member Jordan Fry prefers baking as a cooking method. Her specialty? Picture-perfect cakes with flavors like banana-bourbon-butterscotch with caramel filling and toasted marshmallow frosting.
The self-professed sweets lover began her early culinary education through high school classes and YouTube videos. After a brief stint interning at a wedding cake shop in Salt Lake City, Fry started her own business, Ballerina Baker, in 2017.
"I'm going to end up in Timbuktu," jokes Bailey Anne Vincent about navigating New York City's bus system. The Washington-DC–based dancer, choreographer and director (of her multi-genre, body-positive Company360) instead opted for an Uber to meet her collaborator, BalletNext artistic director Michele Wiles, and me at a diner in midtown Manhattan.
In lamenting the buses' challenges, Vincent's complaint isn't with their routes. Though you might never know it from conversing with her or watching her dance, she's mostly deaf. She began losing her hearing in her teens due to a medical condition called atypical cystic fibrosis—a complicated diagnosis that impacts a number of her organs. But this hasn't stopped Vincent from dancing. She trained at Rockbridge Ballet in Virginia before college and later danced with a small company in the DC-metro area. Now 31, Vincent has hardly slowed down.
Muriel Maffre is no less elegant up close in pedestrian clothing than she was onstage in glittering tutus. Since retiring from San Francisco Ballet, where she danced as a principal from 1990 to 2007, Maffre has been deeply involved in the Bay Area arts community. She has taught and worked at Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Stanford University, Richmond Arts Center and, most recently, the Museum of Performance + Design, where she served as executive director.
Earlier this month, Maffre returned to LINES as its CEO. A week after starting her new position, we caught up with her to talk about life after ballet, her foray into the museum world and her excitement to helm an organization she loves.