From left: Tara Keating, Christine Cox and dancers Francesca Forcella and Andrea Yorita evaluate BalletX hopefuls. Photo by Quinn Wharton.
"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.
Juliet Doherty looking out from the Radio City Music Hall stage
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.
Marcelo Gomes is creating a new work for United Ballet Theatre's debut. Photo by Michelle Revels, Courtesy Gatti
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?