Double the Diva
MONTE CARLO What do you get when you combine the sublime dramatics of Diana Vishneva and the stylish eloquence of Bernice Coppieters? Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Switch, which comes to the Salle Garnier in Monte Carlo Dec. 18–19. Maillot chose a cinematic score by Danny Elfman for the work, which features longtime Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo dancer Gaëtan Morlotti alongside Maillot’s two muses. Switch is paired on the program with Carolyn Carlson’s solo for Vishneva, Woman in a Room, part of Vishneva’s “On the Edge” evening, which premiered last month at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Southern California. www.balletsdemontecarlo.com.
Coppieters, Vishneva, and Maillot. Photo by Alice Blangero, Courtesy Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo.
Danzón in DC
WASHINGTON, DC This month, Ballet Hispanico visits the Kennedy Center for the first time under director Eduardo Vilaro. The soulful Jardí Tancat, Nacho Duato’s first choreographic work, joins the spirited duet Sortijas (Rings) by fellow Spaniard Cayetano Soto, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s vivacious all-male Sombrerísimo, and Vilaro’s own Danzón, made extraordinary by the infectious onstage musical performance of jazz saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera. Dec. 5–6, with masterclass led by BH company members on Dec. 4. www.kennedy-center.org.
Ballet Hispanico in Nacho Duato's Jardi Tancat. Photo by Paula Lobo, Courtesy Michelle Tabnick.
From Screen to Stage
PHILADELPHIA The wizards of BodyVox bring The Cutting Room, an homage to films of all persuasions, to the Annenberg Center in Philly. Under co-directors Ashley Roland and Jamey Hampton, who count MOMIX and Pilobolus among their credits, the Portland-based company is known for its theatricality and eye-catching physicality. The Cutting Room incorporates video clips to explore motion pictures, from documentary to romantic comedy to sci-fi. Dec. 12–14. www.danceaffiliates.org.
BodyVox in The Cutting Room. Photo by David Krebs, Courtesy BodyVox.
Moseying Along Moses’ Paths
NEW YORK CITY Leave it to Reggie Wilson to dig up rousing vocal music from the depths of black culture for his dances. The sound score for his new Moses(es), presented by Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival, combines hip-hop, house, and traditional music from Egypt, Senegal, and Zanzibar. This full-length piece draws from another American who researched her roots: Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston. The nine dancers of Wilson’s Fist & Heel Performance Group will explore responses to questions inspired by various versions of the Moses narrative: How do we lead and why do we follow? Dec. 4–7, BAM Harvey Theater. www.bam.org.
Reggie Wilson's Moses(es). Photo by Julia Cervantes, Courtesy BAM.
CHICAGO Alejandro Cerrudo’s evening-length One Thousand Pieces for the dancers of both Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Hubbard Street 2 returns to the Harris Theater Dec. 12–15. Described as a “rarely pausing onslaught of silky, gorgeous, often classically pure dance, dotted with bits of its choreographer’s persona” by Sid Smith of the Chicago Tribune, the piece, which premiered last year, draws inspiration from Marc Chagall’s blue-tinged America Windows and its Philip Glass score. (See “DM Awards,” p. 36). www.hubbardstreetdance.com.
Jessica Tong and Jesse Bechard in One Thousand Pieces. Photo by Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy HSDC.
Mad for MADboots
NEW YORK CITY After meeting in Sidra Bell’s contemporary dance company, Jonathan Campbell and Austin Diaz joined forces in 2011, creating compelling male-centered work for their NYC–based troupe MADboots dance co. The two have a knack for unison, and though Campbell comes by way of Juilliard and Diaz from NYU’s Tisch School, it’s like they were cut from the same postmodern cloth—gesturing, slicing, and rolling through space as one. This month MADboots will present two works for the 92nd St. Y’s Dig Dance series: their 2013 piece, blue, a work for three men with bouquets of brightly colored flowers inspired by Picasso’s Blue Period, along with a premiere, ACADEMY, a dance for five men set to an eclectic music and sound score. Dec. 7–8. www.madbootsdance.com or www.92y.org.
The men of MADboots. Photo by Nir Ariel, Courtesy MADboots.
Downtown Dance Sampler
NEW YORK CITY Every year Movement Research, that fortress of experimental dance and performance, holds a fall festival. Curated by Adrienne Truscott and Jibz Cameron, this edition is hosted by the Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church. It includes masters of improvisation like Ishmael Houston-Jones, Greg Zuccolo, and members of a younger generation. For instance, Nikki Zialcita has worked with “25 to Watch” choreographer Faye Driscoll, and Sophia Cleary has worked with the brazen Ann Liv Young. Expect a range from serene to boisterous. Dec. 5–7 at Danspace Project. www.movementresearch.org or www.danspaceproject.org.
Adrienne Truscott. Photo by Ian Douglas, Courtesy Movement Research
Tolerance and Tragicomedy
NEW YORK CITY With its talkback format, Camille A. Brown’s latest work, Mr. TOL E. RAncE, is meant to engender conversation around race and humor. Through Brown’s vibrant choreography, the evocative piece, which Camille A. Brown & Dancers perform at the Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts in Brooklyn, Dec. 6–7, explores the historical roots of minstrelsy and its present-day forms. (Paging Miley Cyrus.) See www.camilleabrown.org to participate in the dialogue online.
Waldean Nelson in Mr. TOL E. RAncE. Photo by Paula Court, Courtesy Camille A. Brown
What’s Left Behind
MIAMI In Jonah Bokaer’s latest work, Occupant, premiering at Art Basel Miami on Dec. 6, dancers manipulate chalk plaster sculptures by visual artist Daniel Arsham, Bokaer’s frequent collaborator (who also worked with Merce Cunningham, Bokaer’s former boss). The work removes divisions between process and product—traces of the objects will transform the black-papered floor of the Carnival Studio Theater into a drawing. www.arshtcenter.org.
Jonah Bokaer. Photo courtesy Ellen Jacobs.
From the angles of your feet to the size of your head, it can sometimes seem like there is no part of a dancer's body that is not under scrutiny. It's easy to get obsessed when you are constantly in front of a mirror, trying to fit a mold.
Yet the traditional ideals seem to be exploding every day. "The days of carbon-copy dancers are over," says BalletX dancer Caili Quan. "Only when you're confident in your own body can you start truly working with what you have."
While the striving may never end, there can be unexpected benefits to what you may think of as your "imperfections."
It's the second week of Miami City Ballet School's Choreographic Intensive, and the students stand in a light-drenched studio watching as choreographer Durante Verzola sets a pas de trois. "Don't be afraid to look at the ceiling—look that high," Verzola shows one student as she holds an arabesque. "That gives so much more dimension to your dancing." Other students try the same movement from the sidelines.
When Arantxa Ochoa took over as MCB School's director of faculty and curriculum two years ago, she decided to add a second part to the summer intensive: five weeks focused on technique would be followed by a new two-week choreography session. The technique intensive is not a requirement, but students audition for both at the same time and many attend the two back-to-back.
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."
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.
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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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."
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."
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.)
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Just before retiring in 2015, Sylvie Guillem appeared on "HARDtalk with Zeinab Badawi," the BBC's hard-hitting interview program. Badawi told Guillem,
"Clement Crisp of the Financial Times, 14 years ago, described your dancing as vulgar."
"Yeah, well, he said that. But at the same time, when they asked Margot Fonteyn what she thought about lifting the leg like this she said, 'Well, if I could have done it, I would have done it.' "
They were discussing Guillem's signature stroke—her 180-degree leg extension à la seconde. Ballet legs had often flashed about in the higher zones between 135 and 160 degrees before. But it wasn't until the virtuoso French ballerina regularly
extended her leg beside her ear with immaculate poise in the 1980s that leg extensions for ballet dancers in classical roles reached their zenith. Traditionalists like Clement Crisp were not taken with it.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.