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Why I Dance
Evan McKie trained at The National Ballet School of Canada, The Kirov Academy, and the John Cranko Schule in Stuttgart, Germany. At 25, he is a soloist in the Stuttgart Ballet, where he has danced since 2002. Known for his passionate lyricism in both classical and contemporary roles, he danced his first Prince Siegfried last year, and recently earned critical acclaim for his debut as Lenski in Cranko’s Onegin. He has originated roles for many choreographers including Wayne McGregor, Marco Goecke, and Nicolo Fonte.
Why do we do what we do? This question is usually coupled with, “What made you want to start?” I have been asked these questions a lot, especially as a guy growing up in tights. And yet the “why” is still hard to explain. Words just don’t flow freely from within me the way dance does. Perhaps this is a good thing because it helps me convey the answer better: I dance because the feeling I get when I do it is practically impossible to describe! But I can try . . . .
As a kid who was constantly in action, the possibility of a life filled with dancing appealed to me from the get-go. I was very involved in swimming and other after-school sports. But pretty soon my “after-school” time was spent working out at various dance studios around Toronto. This was after I had the revelation that dancing around the house to the beats and melodies of Sesame Street gave me a new level of personal satisfaction. I knew then as I know now that the root of why I dance is an innate love for two simple things: movement and music. The two Ms that, when combined, are my buzz of choice.
I learned that my version of moving to music was a way of interpreting stuff. Dancing became quite cathartic. As a 10-year-old I couldn’t describe this but I understood what it felt like. I began to work with great teachers in Toronto, Washington, DC, and Stuttgart on developing professional ballet technique. I also started to notice a new spiritual impact from dance. I had grown apart from childhood friends with different interests, but when I did come in contact with them, most displayed a tedium and a longing to find something significantly stimulating in life. Naturally, dancers may feel “lost” at times too, but dancing provides a spiritual rhythm that helps put life’s ups and downs into perspective and can even be a guide. After finding this rhythm, my new theory was put to the test. A boating accident left me with a severely torn knee ligament and what doctors described as “no hopes of dancing ballet.” I freaked out. But no matter how depressed I became, the rhythm never left my system. Regaining some strength in the following month, I let this simple but powerful rhythm steer my life. I came across a doctor who revealed that I might get back onstage if I found other muscles to take over where the torn ligament left off. He looked skeptical as he discussed how much mind power a feat like this would take. After weeks of frustrating work and invaluable help from Paris Opéra Ballet’s Gilbert Mayer and Stuttgart’s Pyotr Pestov (two of the worlds top boys’ teachers), I was finally ready to reconfirm my future in dance.
Life in dance has led me to marvel at the capability of the human brain as well. Recently I had a chat with a friend of mine, the utterly brilliant choreographer Wayne McGregor, about how dance affects the brain and vise-versa. He takes the issue 10 times farther in his recent work Entity, which I found awe-inspiring to watch and ridiculously thought-provoking. It’s engrossing to witness the brain being exercised through choreographic challenges. At the Kirov Academy I watched in amazement as students who once could barely stand on one leg suddenly completed full variations with ease and near-perfect line.
Whether I am satisfying a primitive instinct to move to music, discovering parts of my soul, or developing parts of my brain, I am thankful that dance affords me the chance to do it all at once. I still cannot define why I dance, though. It’s sacred. Some Eastern cultures believe that there are things in life that are not meant to be described in language but must be experienced to be understood. For me, dance is one of those personal things, and I love every minute of it.
It can be hard to focus when Alice Sheppard dances.
Her recent sold-out run of DESCENT at New York Live Arts, for instance, offered a constellation of stimulation. Onstage was a large architectural ramp with an assortment of peaks and planes. There was an intricate lighting and projection design. There was a musical score that unfolded like an epic poem. There was a live score too: the sounds of Sheppard and fellow dancer Laurel Lawson's bodies interacting with the surfaces beneath them.
And there were wheelchairs. But if you think the wheelchairs are the center of this work, you're missing something vital about what Sheppard creates.
So far, the fervor to create diversity in ballet has primarily focused on dancers. Less attention has been paid to the work that they'll encounter once they arrive.
Yet the cultivation of ballet choreographers of color (specifically black choreographers) through traditional pathways of choreographic training grounds remains virtually impossible. No matter how you slice it, we end up at the basic issues that plague the pipeline to the stage: access and privilege.
"I'm sorry, but I just can't possibly give you the amount of money you're asking for."
My heart sinks at my director's final response to my salary proposal. She insists it's not me or my work, there is just no money in the budget. My disappointment grows when handed the calendar for Grand Rapids Ballet's next season with five fewer weeks of work.
"It just...always looks better in my head."
While that might not be something any of us would want to hear from a choreographer, it's a brilliant introduction to "Off Kilter" and the odd, insecure character at its center, Milton Frank. The ballet mockumentary (think "The Office" or "Parks and Recreation," but with pointe shoes) follows Frank (dancer-turned-filmmaker Alejandro Alvarez Cadilla) as he comes back to the studio to try his hand at choreographing for the first time since a plagiarism scandal derailed his fledgling career back in the '90s.
We've been pretty excited about the series for a while, and now the wait is finally over. The first episode of the show, "The Denial," went live earlier today, and it's every bit as awkward, hilarious and relatable as we hoped.
Christopher Wheeldon is going to be giving Michael Jackson some new moves: The Royal Ballet artistic associate is bringing the King of Pop to Broadway.
The unlikely pairing was announced today by Jackson's estate. Wheeldon will serve as both director and choreographer for the new musical inspired by Michael Jackson's life, which is aiming for a 2020 Broadway opening. This will be Wheeldon's second time directing and choreographing, following 2015's Tony Award-winning An American in Paris.
Wheeldon is a surprising choice, to say the least. There are many top choreographers who worked with Jackson directly, like Wade Robson and Brian Friedman, who could have been tapped for the project. Or the production could have even hired someone who actually choreographed on Jackson when he was alive, like Buddha Stretch.
What is the right flooring system for us?
So many choices, companies, claims, endorsements, and recommendations to consider. The more you look, the more confusing it gets. Here is what you need to do. Here is what you need to know to get the flooring system suited to your needs.
Broadway musicals have been on my mind for more than half a century. I discovered them in grade school, not in a theater but electronically. On the radio, every weeknight an otherwise boring local station would play a cast album in its entirety; on television, periodically Ed Sullivan's Sunday night variety show would feature an excerpt from the latest hit—numbers from Bye Bye Birdie, West Side Story, Camelot, Flower Drum Song.
But theater lives in the here and now, and I was in middle school when I attended my first Broadway musical, Gypsy—based, of all things, on the early life of the famed burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee. I didn't know who Jerome Robbins was, but I recognized genius when I saw it—kids morphing into adults as a dance number progresses, hilarious stripping routines, a pas de deux giving concrete shape to the romantic yearnings of an ugly duckling. It proved the birth of a lifelong habit, indulged for the last 18 years in the pages of this magazine. But all long runs eventually end, and it's time to say good-bye to the "On Broadway" column. It's not the last of our Broadway coverage—there's too much great work being created and performed, and you can count on hearing from me in print and online.
Let's start with the obvious: Over the weekend, Beyoncé and Jay-Z released a joint album, Everything Is Love. Bey and Jay also dropped a video for the album's lead track, which they filmed inside the actual Louvre museum in Paris (as one does, when one is a member of the Carter family). And the vid features not only thought-provoking commentary on the Western art tradition, but also some really incredible dancing.
So, who choreographed this epic? And who are the dancers bringing it to life in those already-iconic bodystockings?
Travis Wall draws inspiration from dancers Tate McCrae, Timmy Blankenship and more.
One often-overlooked relationship that exists in dance is the relationship between choreographer and muse. Recently two-time Emmy Award Winner Travis Wall opened up about his experience working with dancers he considers to be his muses.
"My muses in choreography have evolved over the years," says Wall. "When I'm creating on Shaping Sound, our company members, my friends, are my muses. But at this current stage of my career, I'm definitely inspired by new, fresh talent."
Wall adds, "I'm so inspired by this new generation of dancers. Their teachers have done such incredible jobs, and I've seen these kids grown up. For many of them, I've had a hand in their exposure to choreography."
This week, New York City's Joyce Theater presents two companies addressing LGBTQ+ issues.
When most people think of dance students, they imagine lithe children and teenagers waltzing around classrooms with their legs lifted to their ears. It doesn't often cross our minds that dance training can involve an older woman trying to build strength in her body to ward off balance issues, or a middle-aged man who didn't have the confidence to take a dance class as a boy for fear of bullying.
Anybody can begin to learn dance at any age. But it takes a particular type of teacher to share our art form with dancers who have few prospects beyond fun and fitness a few nights a week.
New York City–based dancers know Gibney. It's a performance venue, a dance company, a rehearsal space, an internship possibility—a Rubik's Cube of resources bundled into two sites at 280 and 890 Broadway. And in March of this year, Gibney (having officially dropped "Dance" from its name) announced a major expansion of its space and programming; it now operates a total of 52,000 square feet, 23 studios and five performance spaces across the two locations.
Six of those studios and one performance space are brand-new at the 280 Broadway location, along with several programs. EMERGE will commission new works by emerging choreographic voices for the resident Gibney Dance Company each year; Making Space+ is an extension of Gibney's Making Space commissioning and presenting program, focused on early-career artists. For the next three years, the Joyce Theater Foundation's artist residency programs will be run out of one of the new Gibney studios, helping to fill the gap left by the closing of the Joyce's DANY Studios in 2016.
Dancers crossing over into the fitness realm may be increasingly popular, but it was never part of French-born Julie Granger's plan. Though Granger grew up a serious ballet student, taking yoga classes on the side eventually led to a whole new career. Creating her own rules along the way, Granger shares how combining the skills she learned in ballet with certifications in yoga, barre and personal training allowed her to become her own boss (and a rising fitness influencer).