Vital Signs

A Homecoming (of Sorts) for Vilaro
Ballet Hispanico sets out on a nine-city tour, with an ambitious rep of old and new. After performances in Reading, PA; St. Louis, MO; Boston, MA; Harrisburg, PA; and Augusta, GA, the company touches down at Columbia College in Chicago. BH director Eduardo Vilaro definitely knows his way around the Windy City, having founded Luna Negra Dance Theater there in 1999 (Columbia College is also his alma mater). In Chicago, Ronald K. Brown’s Espiritu Vivo will make its world premiere. Brown has chosen the soulful songs of Peruvian singer Susana Baca for his exploration of African and Latino diasporas in the Caribbean and Latin America. Also on the program are Asuka, Vilaro’s first work for BH since he became director in 2009, and Andrea Miller’s gripping Naci. The company continues on to Birmingham, AL, and Amherst, MA, before its home season at the Joyce Theater next month.  www.ballethispanico.org.

 

Ballet Hispanico in Talley Beatty’s Tres Cantos. Photo by Eduardo Patino, Courtesy BH.

 

 

History Told in Tutus
In addition to performing great ballets, the National Ballet of Canada has mounted an ongoing celebration of its 60th anniversary in the form of The Tutu Project. To build a collection of 60 tutus, a gorgeous timeline of the company’s past, present, and future, NBC dug into its archives for some stunning designs—from the timeless Romantic tutu of Les Sylphides (NBC company premiere dates to 1951) to the sexy, modern tutu from Kudelka’s Firebird (2000), designed by Santo Loquasto. Joining the costumes are community-created designs, which NBC has timed to celebrations like Pride Toronto and Canada Day. The collection is on display throughout the season, and will move to the Design Exchange for the summer. NBC’s diamond-year season continues this month with Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée, Nureyev’s Sleeping Beauty, and Neumeier’s The Seagullwww.national.ballet.ca.

 

Tutus made at Family Day Fest in Downsview Park and Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa. Photo by Setareh Sarmadi, Courtesy NBC.

 

 

Tynek Travels Cross-Country
For its fourth installment, Hope Mohr Dance’s Bridge Project has chosen to bring Czech-born, NYC-based choreographer Dusan Tynek to the Bay Area for a shared program this month. Praised for his intelligent and inventive dancemaking, Tynek makes his West Coast debut. The formal rhythms of Base Pairs, set to a Cynthia Polutanovich text read by Lucinda Childs (both Tynek and Mohr danced for her), and cool restraint of Transparent Walls join a premiere by Mohr.  www.dusantynek.org and www.hopemohr.org.

 

Hope Mohr Dance’s Cameron Growden and Derek Harris. Photo by Margo Moritz, Courtesy HMD.

 

 

Preljocaj Takes a Bite

Blanche Neige, Angelin Preljocaj’s probing of the more sinister elements of the Grimm fairytale Snow White, embarks on a two-month U.S. tour. His simple, unembellished movement for his Aix-en-Provence–based company Ballet Preljocaj stands in contrast to the ballet’s outrageous costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier (is Snow White wearing a Grecian tunic, a diaper, or both?) Preljocaj, whose theatrical works are in the reps of the Paris Opéra Ballet, La Scala, and the Bolshoi—as well as New York City Ballet and Cedar Lake—has dreamed up a maniacal, sadomasochistic stepmother and dwarves who perform aerial dance, as well as sensual pas de deux for Snow White and her Prince. Blanche Neige comes to Davis, CA, March 17–18; Los Angeles, CA, March 23–25; and Washington, DC, March 30–April 1; continuing on to Chapel Hill, NC, Minneapolis, MN, and Ann Arbor, MI.  www.preljolcaj.org.

Virginie Caussin and Emma Gustafsson in Blanche Neige. Photo by Jean-Claude Carbonne, Courtesy Preljocaj.

 

 

Tulsa’s Ballets Russes Roots
Tulsa Ballet’s current director Marcello Angelini pays tribute to the company’s roots in “A Ballets Russes Evening.” Moscelyne Larkin and the late Roman Jasinski danced with several of the Ballets Russes companies before settling in Tulsa, OK, where they founded TB in 1956 (Dance Magazine honored them with a DM Award in 1988). The company dancers perform two works made for the Ballets Russes—Balanchine’s Apollo (a TB premiere) and Fokine’s Le Spectre de la Rose—in addition to 2011 “25 to Watch” Adam Hougland’s take on The Rite of Spring. March 30–April 1.  www.tulsaballet.org.

 

Roman Jasinski and Tania Stepanova in Afternoon of a Faun (1944). Photo from DM Archives.

 

 

The Changing LAB
When Colleen Neary and Thordal Christensen founded the Los Angeles Ballet in 2006, their Balanchine DNA was reflected in the rep. In 2010, LAB adapted to L.A.’s most active dance hub—the commercial scene—commissioning So You Think You Can Dance choreographers like Travis Wall and Sonya Tayeh (who is making another work for LAB in May). Last year, the company produced its first full-length ballet, Giselle, and continues this trajectory with Swan Lake, which premieres March 3. This version, by Neary and Christensen after Petipa and Ivanov, shows both confidence in the company’s dancers (a good sign, considering the bad local press highlighting high turnover at the start of the season) and a move to make the company a bigger player on the national scene. March 3–31.  www.losangelesballet.org.

 

LAB’s Allynne Noelle. Photo by Reed Hutchinson & Catherine Kanner, Courtesy LAB.

 

 

Streetcar in Steel City
As far as stories ripe for dramatic plucking go, it’s hard to beat Tennessee Williams’ seminal play A Streetcar Named Desire. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre gives John Neumeier’s version its U.S. premiere March 9–11. Made for the Stuttgart Ballet in 1983, with Marcia Haydée and Richard Cragun in the leads, Neumeier’s Streetcar uses his love of flashback to full effect. He makes Blanche DuBois’ backstory more explicit and dramatizes the darker aspects of the story, including suicide, physical abuse, and rape.  www.pbt.org.

 

Eva Trapp and Robert Moore. Photo by Duane Rieder, Courtesy PBT.

 

The Conversation
Dance Training
Instructor Judine Somerville leads a musical theater class. Photo by Rachel Papo

On a summer afternoon at The Ailey School's studios, a group of students go through a sequence of Horton exercises, radiating concentration and strength as they tilt to one side, arms outstretched and leg parallel to the ground. Later, in a studio down the hall, a theater dance class rehearses a lively medley of Broadway show tunes. With giant smiles and bouncy energy, students run through steps to "The Nicest Kids in Town" from Hairspray.

"You gotta really scream!" teacher Judine Somerville calls out as they mime their excitement. "This is live theater!" They segue into the audition number from A Chorus Line, "I Hope I Get It," their expressions becoming purposeful and slightly nervous. "Center stage is wherever I am," Somerville tells them when the music stops, making them repeat the words back to her. "Take that wherever you go."

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News
Brooklyn Studios for Dance founder Pepper Fajans illustrates the cold temperatures inside the studio. Screenshot via Vimeo.

Dance artists, as a rule, are a resilient bunch. But working in a studio in New York City without heat or electricity in the middle of winter? That's not just crazy; it's unhealthy, and too much to ask of anyone.

Unfortunately, Brooklyn Studios for Dance hasn't had heat since mid-November, making it impossible for classes or performances to take place in the community-oriented center.

So what's a studio to do? Throw a massive dance party, of course.

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News
The International Association of Blacks in Dance's annual audition for ballet dancers of color. Photo by E. Mesiyah McGinnis, Courtesy IABD

A newly launched initiative hopes to change the face of ballet, both onstage and behind the scenes. Called "The Equity Project: Increasing the Presence of Blacks in Ballet," the three-year initiative, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is a partnership between Dance Theatre of Harlem, the International Association of Blacks in Dance and Dance/USA.

"We've seen huge amounts of change in the years since 1969, when Dance Theatre of Harlem was founded," says Virginia Johnson, artistic director of DTH. "But change is happening much too slowly, and it will continue to be too slow until we come to a little bit more of an awareness of what the underlying issues are and what needs to be done to address them."

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Health & Body
Anika Huizinga via Unsplash

As winter sets in, your muscles may feel tighter than they did in warmer weather. You're not imagining it: Cold weather can cause muscles to lose heat and contract, resulting in a more limited range of motion and muscle soreness or stiffness.

But dancers need their muscles to be supple and fresh, no matter the weather outside. Here's how to maintain your mobility during the colder months so your dancing isn't affected:

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The Creative Process
Nashiville Ballet artistic director Paul Vasterling went through executive coaching to be come a better leader. Photo by Anthony Matula, Courtesy Nashville Ballet

From the outside, it seemed like the worst of New York City Ballet's problems were behind them last winter, when ballet master in chief Peter Martins retired amid accusations of abuse and sexual harassment, and an internal investigation did not substantiate those claims.

But further troubles were revealed in August when a scandal broke that led to dancer Chase Finlay's abrupt resignation and the firing of fellow principals Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro. All three were accused of "inappropriate communications" and violating "norms of conduct."

The artistic director sets the tone for a dance company and leads by example. But regardless of whether Martins, and George Balanchine before him, established a healthy organization, the issues at NYCB bespeak an industry-wide problem, says Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founding artistic director of Urban Bush Women. "From New York City Ballet to emerging artists, we've just done what's been handed down," she observes. "That has not necessarily led to great practices."

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Popular

If you've ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at Dance Magazine, now's your chance to find out. Dance Magazine is seeking an editorial intern who's equally passionate about dance and journalism.

Through March 1, we are accepting applications for a summer intern to assist our staff onsite in New York City from June to August. The internship includes an hourly stipend and requires a minimum two-day-a-week commitment. (We do not provide assistance securing housing.)

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News
Credits with photos below.

For the past few months, the dance world has been holding its collective breath, waiting for New York City Ballet to announce who will take over the helm as artistic director.

Though former ballet master in chief Peter Martins retired over a year ago after accusations of sexual harassment and abuse (an internal investigation did not corroborate the accusations), the search for a new leader didn't begin until last May.

Nine months later, the new director's name could be released any day now. And we have some theories about who it might be:

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Irina Dvorovenko with Tony Yazbeck in The Beast in the Jungle. Photo by Carol Rosegg, Courtesy Sam Rudy Media Relations.

Some people take this profession as just a chapter of their life. They feel like dance is a job—a fun job, but a job. Other people live their life through dance. I never considered being a ballerina a profession. It's a lifestyle.

If I don't have a performance, I feel like a tiger trapped in a cage. I have so many emotions, I feel I need to give them to somebody, to exhaust myself—I need to cry or laugh, or else it's suffocating. Other people might scream or throw bottles into the wall. We dancers scream onstage through our movement. For me, it's like sweeping off the dust in my soul.

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Dance & Science
Amar Odeh/Unsplash

Back in 2011, Yale University's dean of science was thinking about refreshing the program's offerings for non-majors when he happened upon a Pilobolus performance. A light bulb went off: Dance is full of physics.

That realization led to what has become an eight-year collaboration between particle physicist Sarah Demers and former New York City Ballet dancer Emily Coates, both professors at Yale who were brought together to co-teach a course called The Physics of Dance. Their partnership has involved everything from directing a short film to presenting a TedX Talk and performing a piece that Coates created, commissioned by Danspace Project. This month, they're publishing a book about what they've discovered by dialoging across two seemingly disparate disciplines.

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Career Advice
Umi Akiyoshi Photography, Courtesy Sidra Bell Dance New York

Sebastian Abarbanell remembers being asked as an undergrad at Trinity Laban in London to perform wearing only a dance belt. "I said no," he says, "because I felt uncomfortable." Now a performer with Sidra Bell Dance New York, he's performed partially nude several times, without reservation. The difference? "It comes with more experience and maturing as a dancer," he says. "When you see a dancer living in their skin, you don't need to put anything else on them. When I said no in college, I wasn't in my skin yet."

Getting in your skin—and getting comfortable wearing only your skin onstage—requires a particular alchemy of vulnerability, agency, preparation and practice.

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Dancers Trending
Courtesy Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Royal Ballet announced today that international star Carlos Acosta will be taking over as director in January of 2020. Current BRB director David Bintley will be stepping down this summer, at the end of the company's 2019 season, after a 24-year tenure. "It is a tremendous honor and privilege to have been appointed to lead Birmingham Royal Ballet," Acosta said in a statement.

Since retiring from The Royal Ballet in 2015, Acosta has focused much of his attention on his native Cuba, where he's proven his directorial abilities at the helm of Acosta Danza, the contemporary company that he founded in 2016. In 2017 Acosta also opened his first Dance Academy through his foundation, which provides free training to students. We don't yet know how Acosta will balance his time between his projects in Cuba and his new role at BRB.

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Advice for Dancers
When you spend most of your day at the theater, it's challenging to find time to date. Photo by rawpixel/Unsplash.

My personal life has taken a nosedive since I broke up with my boyfriend. He's in the same show and is now dating one of my colleagues. It's heartbreaking to see them together, and I'm determined never to date a fellow dancer again. But it's challenging to find someone outside, as I practically live in the theater. Do you have any advice?

—Loveless, New York, NY

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Dancers Trending
Photos via Polunin's Instagram

If you follow Sergei Polunin on Instagram, you've probably noticed that lately something has been...off.

Though Polunin has long had a reputation for behaving inappropriately, in the last month his posts have been somewhat unhinged. In one, Polunin, who is Ukrainian, shows off his new tattoo of Vladimir Putin:

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25 to Watch
Photo credits, clockwise from bottom left: Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet; Jayme Thornton; Jochen Viehoff, Courtesy Stephanie Troyak; Karolina Kuras, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada; Natasha Razina, Courtesy State Academic Mariinsky Theatre; Kim Kenney, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet; Jim Lafferty; Arian Molina Soca, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet; Altin Kaftira, Courtesy Dutch National Ballet; Scott Shaw, Courtesy Shamar Wayne Watt

What's next for the dance world? Our annual list of the dancers, choreographers and companies that are on the verge of skyrocketing has a pretty excellent track record of answering that question.

Here they are: the 25 up-and-coming artists we believe represent the future of our field.

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Rant & Rave
Photo Caleb Woods via Unsplash.com

Update: Additional perspectives have been added to this story as more responses have come in.

When news about the lawsuit against New York City Ballet and Chase Finlay emerged last week, plaintiff Alexandra Waterbury, a former School of American Ballet student, told The New York Times:

"Every time I see a little girl in a tutu or with her hair in a bun on her way to ballet class, all I can think is that she should run in the other direction," she said, "because no one will protect her, like no one protected me."

It was quite a statement, and it got us thinking. Of course, it's heartbreaking to imagine the experiences that Waterbury lists in the lawsuit, and it's easy to see why this would be her reaction.

But should aspiring ballet dancers really "run in the other direction"? Were her alleged experiences isolated incidences perpetuated by a tiny percentage of just one company—or are they indicative of major problems in today's ballet culture within and beyond NYCB's walls?

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News
Carol Channing in the original 1964 production of Hello, Dolly! Photo by Eileen Darby, Courtesy DM Archives.

The inimitable Carol Channing, best known for her role as the titular Hello, Dolly!, passed away today at 97.

Though she became a three-time Tony winner, Channing was born in Seattle, far from the Great White Way, in 1921. After growing up in San Francisco, she attended the famed Bennington College, studying dance and drama. She later told the university, "What Bennington allows you to do is develop the thing you're going to do anyway, over everybody's dead body." For Channing, that meant decades of fiery, comical performances, bursting with energy.

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News
It includes this familiar face! (Erin Baiano)

Something's coming, I don't know when
But it's soon...maybe tonight?

Those iconic lyrics have basically been our #mood ever since we first heard a remake of the West Side Story film, directed by Steven Spielberg and choreographed by Justin Peck, was in the works. THE CASTING. THE CASTING WAS COMING.

Well, last night—after an extensive search process that focused on finding the best actors within the Puerto Rican/Latinx community—the WSS team finally revealed who'll be playing Maria, Anita, Bernardo, and Chino (joining Ansel Elgort, who was cast as Tony last fall). And you guys: It is a truly epic group.

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Cover Story
Leta Biasucci's on and offstage charm has made her a company favorite. Photo by Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine.

Rehearsal is in full swing, and Leta Biasucci, Pacific Northwest Ballet's newest principal dancer, finds herself in unfamiliar territory. Biasucci is always game for a challenge, but choreographer Kyle Davis wants her to lift fellow dancer Clara Ruf Maldonado. Repeatedly. While she's known for her technical prowess, lifting another dancer off the floor is a bit daunting for Biasucci, who stands all of 5' 3". She eyes Maldonado skeptically, then breaks into a grin.

"It's absolutely given me a new appreciation for the partner standing behind me!" Biasucci says with a laugh.

Looking at Biasucci, 29, with her wide smile and eager curiosity, you think you see the quintessential extrovert. In reality, she's anything but. "I was an introverted kid," Biasucci says. "That's part of the reason I fell in love with dance—I didn't have to be talkative."

It's only one of the seeming contradictions in Biasucci's life: She's a short, muscular ballerina in a company known for its fleet of tall, long-legged women; she's also most comfortable with classical ballet, while taking on a growing repertoire of contemporary work.

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News
Aurelie Dupont explained she did not share Polunin's values. Photo via Instagram

Sergei Polunin, whose recent homophobic and sexist Instagram posts have sparked international outrage, will not be appearing with the Paris Opéra Ballet as previously announced.

POB artistic director Aurélie Dupont sent an internal email to company staff and dancers on Sunday, explaining that she did not share Polunin's values and that the Russian-based dancer would not be guesting with the company during the upcoming run of Rudolf Nureyev's Swan Lake in February.

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Dance Training
Balanchine technique will challenge your footwork and musicality. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy SAB

Before spending a summer at Los Angeles Ballet School, Lillian Glasscock had never learned a Balanchine variation. "The stylistic differences, like preparing for a pirouette with a straight back leg, were at first very challenging," says Glasscock, 17. "But it soon got easier."

Los Angeles Ballet company members were in class daily, motivating and inspiring her. Trying out a new style and expanding her repertoire gave Glasscock more strength, and a better understanding of the varied demands of ballet companies today. Months later, the Balanchine variations she learned are now personal favorites.

While the early years of training are typically spent diligently working through the syllabus of a single ballet technique, when you start to prepare for a professional career, versatility is key. There isn't just one correct version of each step. And as ballet companies continue to diversify their repertoires, directors need dancers who can move fluidly between an array of styles.

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News
Kristin Damrow and Company's Allegra Bautiste. Photo by RJ Muna, Courtesy John Hill PR

If one of your New Year's resolutions was "See more dance" (and really, shouldn't that be everyone's?), never fear. We picked five shows certain to get 2019 off to a brilliant start.

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