Moving Across America
Dancers put blood, sweat, and tears into their work every day. Why not join together to show the greater public your passion? The 2012 National Dance Week, which aims to raise the profile of dance all over the country, kicks off April 20. This year, NDW is coordinating a national flash mob, slated for April 21. Visit www.nationaldanceweek.org to learn the routine from choreographer Geo Hubela of Icon Dance Complex in New Jersey. And check with your local chapter for free classes and events through April 29—like aerial dance lessons with Project Bandaloop at their Oakland studios for Bay Area Dance Week and the annual kickline in St. Louis.
Come fly with Project Bandaloop at Bay Area National Dance Week. Photo by Todd Laby, Courtesy Bandaloop.
Fame by Gaga
Since 2004, LeeSaar The Company, directed by Israeli-born Lee Sher and Saar Harari, has created daring, evocative choreography in NYC. Fame, a new piece premiering at Peak Performances at Montclair State University March 29–April 1, delves into the concept of celebrity. Dancing to pop music, six performers use masks and props to explore the vulnerability of the “superstar.” Trained in Ohad Naharin’s Gaga technique, the performers articulate each motion—a deep plié or the batting of an eyelash—with stunning commitment. They are unpredictable, melodramatic, and at times verging on the grotesque. Fame then travels to Austin’s Fusebox Festival, which runs April 25–May 6. www.leesaar.com.
Candice Schnurr in Fame. Photo by Mark Garvin, Courtesy LeeSaar.
A Big Bluegrass State Birthday
Louisville Ballet celebrates six decades of bringing dance to Kentucky this year. Bruce Simpson, whose tenure at the helm of the company reaches 10 years, has planned an eclectic gala program that shows off the company’s strengths. The dancers perform Balanchine’s glorious Theme and Variations and Val Caniparoli’s joyful Lambarena. Simpson has commissioned Adam Hougland, the company’s principal choreographer, to debut a new work. The dancers will also perform Sansei (2009), choreographed by ballet mistress Mikelle Bruzina. April 13–14. www.louisvilleballet.org
Christy Corbitt Miller and Robert Dunbar in Val Caniparoli’s Lambarena. Photo by Dave Howard, Courtesy LB.
Every year, international dance companies flood into Houston for the global mix that is the Dance Salad Festival. The menu includes contemporary ballet fare from Dresden Semperoper Ballett, the Stuttgart Ballet, and Royal Swedish Ballet. Gabrielle Lamb performs a solo from Warriors by Pontus Lidberg (see “Choreography for the Camera,”), while the rhythmns of Brazil’s Quasar Companhia de Dança add a kick. But all eyes will be on English National Ballet’s Yonah Acosta (2012 “25 to Watch”), performing Petit’s fatalistic Le Jeune Homme et la Mort with Jia Zhang.
April 5–7. www.dancesalad.org.
Quasar Companhia de Dança in Henrique Rodovalho’s So Close. Photo by Lu Barcelos, Courtesy Dance Salad.
One with Nature
Rain or shine, come to experience the minimalist beauty of Merián Soto’s Branch Dances. With a performance given in the same site each season of the year, the cycles are designed for audiences to drink in their surroundings—and see how the elements shape the meditative improvisation of the performers. Soto, who has used branch work in her site-specific and stage performances since 2005, has two ongoing series at Wave Hill in Bronx, NY, and at Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Valley Park (where this year’s winter performance, on Jan. 15, clocked in at 23 degrees). See www.branchdances.blogspot.com for spring dates.
The performers braved a snowstorm at Wave Hill last October. Photo by Maria Sassetti, Courtesy Soto.
The Youth America Grand Prix finals and gala evenings are moving over to the Koch Theater at Lincoln Center this year. Out of the 60 dancers who will advance to the final round on April 26 (from 5,000 who compete internationally and 300 invited to NYC), a lucky few will be chosen as “Stars of Tomorrow.” They will share the program at the following night’s gala with international superstars like Herman Cornejo, Yuan Yuan Tan, Tamara Rojo, and Sergei Polunin (who won the Grand Prix in 2006). Those luminaries will return with other principals from companies like the Kirov (Maryinsky), the Stuttgart, and New York City Ballet for the “Legends in Dance” evening on April 28, honoring Natalia Makarova. In addition to performances of the roles she made legendary, which she will introduce, audiences will be treated to archival footage of Natalia herself. www.yagp.org.
Makarova in La Sylphide with ABT (1971). Photo by Dina Makaroff.
Passport to Dance
What better way than through the universal language of dance to provide cultural exchange? The second season of DanceMotion USA has expanded to four companies who will travel to 15 countries as goodwill ambassadors. The Brooklyn Academy of Music, in partnership with the State Department, produces the monthlong tours, which send Rennie Harris Puremovement’s hip hop to the countries surrounding the Gaza Strip, Seán Curran’s blend of modern and Irish dance to Central Asia, Los Angeles’ Jazz Tap Ensemble’s musical theater bent to southeast and central Africa, and Trey McIntyre Project’s spirited contemporary style to China and southeast Asia. The tours, which are staggered, kick off March 9 to May 5. www.dancemotionusa.com.
Hannibal of Rennie Harris Puremovement. Photo by Brian Mengini, Courtesy Dancemotion USA.
Contributing writers: Stacey Menchel Kussell, Kina Poon
Last night, longtime theater legends (including Chita Rivera herself!) as well as rising stars gathered to celebrate one of Broadway's danciest events: the third annual Chita Rivera Awards.
The evening paid tribute to this season's dancer standouts, fabulous ensembles, and jaw-dropping choreography—on- and off-Broadway and on film.
As usual, several of our faves made it into the mix. (With such a fabulous talent pool of nominees to choose from, we're glad that ties were allowed.) Here are the highlights from the winner's list:
The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.
When you're a foreign dancer, gaining legal rights to work in the U.S. is a challenging process. It's especially difficult if you're petitioning to work as a freelance dancer without an agent or company sponsorship.
The process requires professional muscle along with plenty of resources and heart. "There's a real misnomer that it's super easy," says Neena Dutta, immigration attorney and president of Dutta Law Firm. "People need to educate themselves and talk to a professional."
Here are four things every foreign dancer who wants to work in the U.S. needs to know to build a freelance dance career here.
What does it take to "make it" in dance? It's no secret that turning this passion into a profession can be a struggle. In such a competitive field, talent alone isn't enough to get you where you want to be.
So what kinds of steps can you take to become successful? Dance Magazine spoke to 33 people from all corners of the industry to get their advice on the lessons that could help us all, no matter where we are in our careers.
It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.
Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
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On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.
Memorial Day is notoriously one of Chicago's bloodiest weekends. Last year, 36 people were shot and seven died that weekend. In 2017 and 2016, the number of shootings was even higher.
When Garley "GiGi Tonyé" Briggs, a dance teacher and Chicago native, started noticing this pattern, she was preparing her second annual Memorial Day workshop for local youth.
The event's original aim was simple: "I wanted the youth of Chicago to have somewhere they could come and learn from different dancers and be off the streets on the South Side on this hot holiday," she says.
A recent trip I took to Nashville coincided with the NFL draft. As we drove into town, my Uber driver was a fount of information on the subject.
I learned that there are 32 NFL teams and that the draft takes place over seven rounds. That the team that did the poorest during the previous season gets first pick. That during an earlier event called the scouting combine, the teams assess college football players and figure out who they want.
There is also the veteran combine for "free agents"—players who have been released from their contracts or whose contracts have expired. They might be very good players, but their team needs younger members or ones with a certain skill set. All year round, experienced NFL scouts scan games across the country, checking out players and feeding that information back to the teams. Players' agents keep their eyes on opportunities for their clients which might be more rewarding.
While I sat in the traffic of 600,000 NFL fans I got thinking, is there something ballet could learn from football? Could a draft system improve young dancers' prospects and overall company caliber and contentment?
Despite what you might think, there's no reason for dancers to be afraid of bread.
"It's looked at as this evil food," says New York State–certified dietitian and former dancer Tiffany Mendell. But the truth is, unless you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, bread can be a healthy source of carbohydrates—our body's preferred fuel—plus fiber and vitamins.
The key is choosing your loaf wisely.
It can be hard to imagine life without—or just after—dance. Perhaps that's why we find it so fascinating to hear what our favorite dancers think they'd be doing if they weren't performing for a living.
We've been asking stars about the alternate career they'd like to try in our "Spotlight" Q&A series, and their answers—from the unexpected to the predictable—do not disappoint:
"New York City Ballet star appears in a Keanu Reeves action movie" is not a sentence we ever thought we'd write. But moviegoers seeing John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum will be treated to two scenes featuring soloist Unity Phelan dancing choreography by colleague Tiler Peck. The guns-blazing popcorn flick cast Phelan as a ballerina who also happens to be training to become an elite assassin. Opens in theaters May 17.
The Brooklyn-based choreographer Gillian Walsh is both obsessed with and deeply conflicted about dance. With her latest work, Fame Notions, May 17–19 at Performance Space New York, she seeks to understand what she calls the "fundamentally pessimistic or alienating pursuit" of being a dancer. Noting that the piece is "quiet and introverted," like much of her other work, she sees Fame Notions as one step in a larger project examining why dancers dance.
What does Mikhail Baryshnikov have to say to dancers starting their careers today? On Friday, he gave the keynote speech during the graduation ceremony for the inaugural class of the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance.
The heart of his message: Be generous.