What to Watch: Inside the Life of an ABT Studio Company Dancer
ABT Studio Company dancers Joseph Markey and Chloe Misseldine in the latest episode of "No Days Off." Screenshot via YouTube.
If you've ever wondered what it's like to be a member of American Ballet Theatre's Studio Company, you're in luck. The latest episode of "No Days Off," a documentary web series profiling young and inspiring athletes, spotlights 17-year-old Joseph Markey, a first-year Studio Company member. The doc not only underscores the physical aspects of Markey's training, but also the artistic refinements he must make on his road to becoming a professional dancer.
Twice a week, Markey starts his day with an intense strength and conditioning class. Supplementing his ballet training with aerobic and agility exercises (think jumping rope, line drills and rope ladders)helps him build the core strength necessary for a full day of dancing. After technique class, we see him rehearsing with famous ABT luminaries like Ethan Stiefel, Sascha Radetsky and Gillian Murphy. They provide not only thoughtful coaching, but a huge dose of inspiration. "Just being around them every day, I feel, has helped me improve," Markey says in the episode.
He's also getting the chance to refine his partnering skills as he and fellow dancer Chloe Misseldine rehearse Don Quixote. "Joseph is already is on top of things," says Radetsky, the Studio Company's artistic director, in the video. "He has an innate sense of partnering: where the ballerina needs to be, where her weight is, coordination." That said, Markey, who is nursing a strained bicep, must also learn how to work smart so that he doesn't aggravate his injury.
"No Days Off," produced by Whistle Sports, does a great job of educating general audiences about these young artist-athletes' grueling regime. As Radetsky puts it: "These dancers are ballet's versions of Olympians, our art form's top prospects—each of them hoping to be drafted into the major leagues at American Ballet Theatre."
The cast of Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise in rehearsal. Photo by Stephanie Berger, Courtesy The Shed
Akram Khan loves to dive into genres he is unfamiliar with. While his own movement vocabulary is a hybrid of kathak and contemporary dance, he has choreographed a new Giselle for English National Ballet, collaborated with flamenco artist Israel Galván and made a dance theater duet with film star Juliette Binoche. Now, in between touring Xenos, his final full-length solo, and several other projects, he's found time to tackle kung fu. Khan is part of the collaborative team behind Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise, a blockbuster musical based on themes of migration and the fight for survival, running June 22–July 27. Directed by Chen Shi-Zheng and featuring a score that remixes songs by Sia, it's part of the inaugural season of The Shed, a new venue in New York City.