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The Trocks in Swan Lake. Photo by Sascha Vaughn, Courtesy Les Ballets Trockadero.
En Travesti, A Treat
Sometimes it’s hard to know whether to laugh or marvel at the Trocks. So why not do both? Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo bourrée into Philly’s Annenberg Center Dec. 13–15, then post up to NYC’s Joyce Theater Dec. 18–Jan. 6. Among the company’s various interpretations of the classical canon, Ida Nevasayneva’s Dying Swan still stands alone as the ultimate send-up of an aging diva. www.trockadero.org.
While the Kennedy Center has been overflowing with great dance for over 40 years, it has yet to host a full-length tap concert in its main theaters—until now. On Dec. 7, the Chicago Human Rhythm Project presents JUBA! Masters of Tap and Percussive Dance in the Eisenhower Theater. Stars include 2012 Dance Magazine Award recipient Dianne “Lady Di” Walker (see “Awards”), Derick K. Grant, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, and Michelle Dorrance, as well as CHRP’s BAM! Ensemble, D.C.’s Step Afrika!, and Rasta Thomas’ TAP STARS. Members of youth tap companies from across the country will also get their chance to sound off. www.kennedy-center.org.
Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards. Photo by Eduardo Patino, Courtesy CHRP.
A Constant Flame
For 25 years, Prometheus Dance has been performing its theatrical, highly physical works that address hard-hitting issues—refugee displacement, oppressed women, and those afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome, among others. Co-directors Diane Arvanites and Tommy Neblett have made the company a resolute presence in Cambridge, MA, through its performances and educational programs—as well as its Elders Ensemble of dancers 60–85 years old. On Dec. 15, the company throws itself a birthday party/gala at the Multicultural Arts Center. Visit www.prometheusdance.org to view the company’s virtual retrospective, with images, videos, and interviews commemorating its quarter-century milestone.
Jennifer Kelble in Arvanites and Neblett’s Desiderare. Photo by Donny Zaltzberg, Courtesy Prometheus.
About Comedy, By Camille
White Bird, celebrating its 15th anniversary as the Pacific Northwest’s leading dance-only presenter, has several big-name choreographers coming through Portland, OR, this season. But they’ve also saved room for smaller groups that pack a big punch, like Camille A. Brown & Dancers, which performs her latest work, Mr. TOL E. RAncE, Dec. 6–8. In its West Coast debut, the company tackles the history of African-American comedic performance—both the humor and underlying darkness—with Brown’s characteristic theatricality. www.whitebird.org.
Camille A. Brown. Photo by Matthew Karas, Courtesy White Bird.
No Rest for Bourne
It’s been 25 years since Matthew Bourne made his first piece for his company, now known as New Adventures. His latest work, Sleeping Beauty, the pièce de résistance of NA’s 25th-anniversary season, runs Dec. 4–Jan. 26 at Sadler’s Wells, and will tour internationally next year. Like his most famous work, the homoerotic Swan Lake (also set to Tchaikovsky), this Beauty is a modern-day production, as Aurora awakes from her century-long slumber to the present. www.sadlerswells.com.
Keith Brazil and Matthew Bourne in Bourne’s Spitfire, his first hit, in 1988. Photo by Chris Nash, Courtesy Sadler’s Wells.
A party scene gone awry in Texas Ballet Theatre’s Nutty Nutcracker. Photo by Ellen Appel, Courtesy TBT.
You can’t turn right in December without running into a Nutcracker—also known as the bread and butter of companies around the country. After weeks of glittering snowflakes, some troupes switch it up with a “Nutty Nutcracker”—a one (or few)-night-only pop-culture parody that leaves some choreography intact and basically follows the story, but with unexpected cameos. On Dec. 21, the dancers of Texas Ballet Theater will take a break from Nutcracker as usual (which they will have been performing since Nov. 23), for their Nutty Nutcracker. Last year’s production (put together in a mere week) reportedly featured then-newlyweds Prince William and Kate Middleton, characters from The Wizard of Oz, and (obviously) Black Swan’s Black Swan. Expect more of the same this year. www.texasballettheater.org.
Like individual snowflakes, every Nutcracker production is unique. Here are three more done with a twist:
The Jewish Nutcracker in San Francisco, which tells the story of Hanukkah and incorporates world dance styles into its production. Dec. 18–23. www.jewishnutcracker.com.
Of Mice & Music: A Jazz Nutcracker in Austin, presented by the hard-hitting tappers of Tapestry Dance Company. Dec. 6–16. www.tapestry.org.
Boston’s Urban Nutcracker adds Duke Ellington to the Tchaikovsky score, along with hip-hop, ballroom, and Bollywood. Dec. 8–23. www.urbannutcrackerboston.com.
Rebecca Warthen was on a year-long assignment with the Peace Corps in Dominica last fall when a storm started brewing. A former dancer with North Carolina Dance Theatre (now Charlotte Ballet) and Columbia City Ballet, she'd been sent to the Caribbean island nation to teach ballet at the Dominica Institute of the Arts and in outreach classes at public schools.
But nine and a half months into her assignment, a tropical storm grew into what would become Hurricane Maria—the worst national disaster in Dominica's history.
On the occasion of its 70th anniversary, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba tours the U.S. this spring with the resolute Cuban prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso a the helm. Named a National Hero of Labor in Cuba, Alonso, 97, has weathered strained international relations and devastating fiscal challenges to have BNC emerge as a world-class dance company. Her dancers are some of ballet's best. On offer this time are Alonso's Giselle and Don Quixote. The profoundly Cuban company performs in Chicago May 18–20, Tampa May 23, Washington, D.C., May 29–June 3 and Saratoga, New York June 6–8.
Ever wonder why some dancers' port de bras appears to be disconnected from their body? It typically comes down to how they stabilize their shoulder blades, says Marimba Gold-Watts, Pilates instructor to dancers like Robert Fairchild.
"Dancers often hear the cue to pull down on their latissimus,"—the biggest muscle in the back—"which doesn't allow the shoulder blades to lie flat," she says. "It makes the bottom tips of the shoulder blades wing, or flare out, off the rib cage."
Sidra Bell is one of those choreographers whose movement dancers are drawn to. Exploring the juxtaposition of fierce athleticism and pure honesty in something as simple as stillness, her work brings her dancers to the depths of their abilities and the audience to the edge of their seats.
A few weeks ago, American Ballet Theatre announced the A.B.T. Women's Movement, a new program that will support three women choreographers per season, one of whom will make work on the main company.
"The ABT Women's Movement takes inspiration from the groundbreaking female choreographers who have left a lasting impact on ABT's legacy, including Agnes de Mille and Twyla Tharp," said artistic director Kevin McKenzie in a press release.
Hypothetically, this is a great idea. We're all for more ballet commissions for women. But the way ABT has promoted the initiative is problematic.
Some dancers move to New York City with their sights set on a dream job: that one choreographer or company they have to dance for. But when Maggie Cloud graduated from Florida State University in 2010, she envisioned herself on a less straightforward path.
"I always had in mind that I would be dancing for different people," she says. "I knew I had some kind of range that I wanted to tap into."
New York City Ballet is celebrating the Jerome Robbins Centennial with twenty (20!) ballets. The great American choreographer died in 1998, so very few of today's dancers have actually worked with him. There are plenty of stories about how demanding (at times brutally so) he could be in rehearsal. But Peter Boal has written about Robbins in a more balanced, loving way. In this post he writes about how Robbins' crystal clear imagery helped him approach a role with clarity and purpose.
Who says you need fancy equipment to make a festival-worthy dance film? Right now, two New York City–based dance film festivals are calling for aspiring filmmakers to show their stuff—and you don't need anything more cumbersome than a smartphone to get in on the action.
Here's everything you need to know about how to submit:
When Lisset Santander bourréed onstage as Myrtha in BalletMet's Giselle this past February, her consummate portrayal of the Queen of the Wilis was marked by steely grace and litheness. The former Cuban National Ballet dancer had defected to the U.S. at 21, and after two years with the Ohio company, she's now closer to the dance career she says she always wanted: one of limitless possibilities.