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Why I Dance
With his elegant line and unaffected stage presence, Sascha Radetsky long held his own among American Ballet Theatre’s cadre of male stars. A soloist in the company since 2003, he stood out even in the most bravura passages, as well as for his courteous partnering, particularly when he danced with his wife, the heart-stoppingly beautiful Stella Abrera. Radetsky shone in roles like Benno in Swan Lake, but also displayed an effortless mastery in high-powered work like Twyla Tharp’s new Rabbit and Rogue. And among teenage girls, he retained his crush status long after the 2000 release of the cult ballet movie Center Stage. When he joined Dutch National Ballet last September, he left behind a host of disappointed critics and fans. Now a principal, he will have the opportunity to dance leads in classics like Giselle, as well as carve his mark on new work.
I didn’t burst from the womb straight into a pirouette, twirling my baby blanket like Espada’s cape. I didn’t forgo diapers for dance belts, and for a long time I preferred OshKosh to Capezio. No, I wasn’t born to dance. But I’ve devoted much of my life to dance, and it’s become my beautiful—and capricious—companion. Like the blissful trysts and bitter quarrels of a tempestuous love affair, my relationship with this art form has flickered and flared throughout the years. At times my eye has wandered, and I admit I’ve considered breaking it off with ballet. But I can’t do it; it’s got what I need. I can’t resist its immeasurable charms.
Being a dancer is a pretty nice gig. I’ve been able to travel the world (with per diem). I’ve dodged bats on a stage in Austin and mingled with the ghosts of gladiators on a Roman stage in Athens. I’ve performed for presidents and princesses, geishas and gangsters, in venues as varied as casinos, stadiums, and centuries-old opera houses. I’ve Nutcracker-ed my way through the heartland of America, from sea to shining sea and beyond, a gypsy-cavalier for hire. Have costume, will travel—to all the gritty and glamorous corners of the globe. Along the way, I’ve met some brilliant artists and inspiring human beings, such as my wife, Stella Abrera. We’ve been on a hundred honeymoons, Stella and I, and with luck dance will send us on a hundred more.
At its best, dance just feels good, for everyone involved. Granted, it’s no fun to sprain an ankle, bulge a disc, or pull a calf muscle—and it hurts still worse when career hopes collapse and dreams drift out of reach. But there are precious moments in the studio and onstage when the struggles prove worthwhile, and the frailties of body and spirit are forgiven, even forgotten. Because of the vicissitudes of this line of work, because of the injuries, arduous training, and vastly subjective aesthetics, even modest triumphs resonate deeply. And like other art forms, dance can potentially allay the anxieties, banalities, and sorrows that plague our daily lives, and can remap the frontiers of our abilities. It is a tonic administered in an exquisite challenge: How precisely can you execute those virtuosic steps, how deeply can you delve into that complex character, how tenderly can you attune to this breathtaking music—and to the needs of your partner? Are you wholly in the here and now, and willing to fuse your mind, muscles, and guts into a single leaping, turning, feeling, daring entity? Are you willing to strive for something special on that ephemeral stage, something magical and glorious, something possibly doomed to fail? If so, you—and your audience—will feel better than good. You’ll feel ardently alive.
Missteps or misfortune have sometimes subdued those feelings, but my appreciation for this craft and my core values are only the stronger. I’ve sowed oats in other fields of life, and I look forward to cultivating those interests. But for the moment ballet is what nourishes me, and its beauty and richness, power and freedom make for hearty fare. I can’t say it’s my destiny to dance, but it is my true pleasure, and I’m grateful for what I’ve been given: cherished memories, lifelong friends, the perfect challenge. It’s a good gig.
Photo: Angela Sterling, Courtesy Dutch National Ballet
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While Solange was busy helping big sis Beyoncé give Coachella its best performances of all time, an equally compelling project was quietly circulating on Instagram:
When I wrote about my struggle with depression, and eventual departure from dance because of it, I expected criticism. I was prepared to be challenged. But much to my relief, and horror, dancers from all over the world responded with support and stories of solidarity. The most critical response I saw was this one:
"Dance isn't for everyone."
This may as well be a mantra in the dance world. We have become entrenched in the Darwinian notion that the emotionally weak will be weeded out. There is no room for them anyway.
In his final bow at New York City Ballet, during what should have been a heroic conclusion to a celebrated ballet career, Robert Fairchild slipped and fell. His reaction? To lie down flat on his back like he meant to do it. Then start cracking up at himself.
"He's such a ham," says his sister Megan Fairchild, with a laugh. "He's really good at selling whatever his body is doing that day. He'll turn a moment that I would totally go home and cry about into something where the audience is like, 'That's the most amazing thing ever!' "
New York City Ballet continues its first year without Peter Martins at the helm as our spring season opens tonight.
When he retired at the start of the new year, we plunged headfirst into unknown, murky waters. Who would the new director be? When would we know? Would we dancers get some say in the decision? Who would oversee the Balanchine ballets? Who would be in charge of casting? Would a new director bring along huge upheaval? Could some of us be out of a job?
In the world of ballet, Arcadian Broad is a one-stop shop: He'll come up with a story, compose its music, choreograph the movement and dance it himself. But then Broad has always been a master of versatility. As a teenager he juggled school, dance and—after the departure of his father—financial responsibility. It was Broad's income from dancing that kept his family afloat. Fast-forward six years and things are far more stable. Broad now lives on his own in an apartment, but you can usually find him in the studio.
Bales of hay, black umbrellas, bicycles—this Midsummer Night's Dream would be unrecognizable to the Bard. Alexander Ekman's full-length, inspired by Scandinavian solstice traditions and set to music by Mikael Karlsson, is a madcap celebration of the longest day of the year, when the veil between our world and that of the supernatural is said to be at its thinnest. The Joffrey Ballet's performances mark the seductively surreal work's North American premiere. April 25–May 6. joffrey.org.
"There's an ancient energy in Fana's movement, a deep and trusted knowing," says Jeff, director of the Chicago-based Deeply Rooted Dance Theater. "Because I witnessed the raw humanity of his dancer's souls, I wanted my dancers to have that experience."
Growing up in a family-owned dance studio in Missouri had its perks for tap dancer Anthony Russo. But it also earned him constant taunting, especially in high school.
"There was a junior in my sophomore year health class who was absolutely relentless," he says. "I'd get tripped on my way to the front of the classroom and he'd say, 'Watch out, twinkle toes.' If I raised my hand and answered a question incorrectly, I'd hear a patronizing 'Nice one, Bojangles.' "
Choreographer Sergio Trujillo asked the women auditioning for ensemble roles in his newest musical to arrive in guys' clothing—"men's suits, or blazers and ties," he says. He wasn't being kinky or whimsical. The entire ensemble of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical is female, playing men and women interchangeably as they unfold the history of the chart-busting, Grammy-winning, indisputable Queen of Disco.