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Words of Wisdom From Our Fave Dance Artists to Start the New Year

Photo by Brooke Lark via Unsplash

Happy New Year! Whether or not resolutions are your thing, I always find that a bit of wisdom from the people I admire is a great way to start the year. Here are some favorite nuggets from eight dancers, choreographers and directors who have appeared in our pages over the last year.


Dancer Robert Fairchild on not being intimidated by stepping out of his comfort zone:

Fairchild in Justin Peck's In Creases. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy New York City Ballet

"I've always been of the mindset that you can't live in fear."


Choreographer Troy Schumacher on why he loves collaborating with artists who work in different mediums:

Schumacher in rehearsal. Photo by Kyle Froman for Pointe

"Every time I come out of one of these projects, we learn something that we wouldn't have learned just working on our own. You give feedback to other art forms and other forms give feedback to you."


Artistic director Paloma Herrera on stepping into a new job:

Herrera in the studio. Photo by La Nación/Maximilliano Armena, Courtesy La Nación

"I use the same formula that served me well during my entire career. It's simple: pure hard work, and a love for what we do."


Choreographer Gemma Bond on what drives her dancemaking:

Bond working with Cassandra Trenary. Photo by Kyle Froman for Pointe

"For me it's more about the intent behind the steps—Why are you running to the corner? What are you saying when you run to the corner? How fast are you running? I want the audience to get the feeling behind the steps without having to look at a synopsis."


Broadway luminary Donna McKechnie on why she's still dancing at 75:

McKechnie. Photo by Kurt Sneddon, Courtesy McKechnie

"I want to be a living example for people to keep dancing and moving. I take ballet class five times a week—if you don't, you lose it. I do the whole barre. If you do a ballet barre correctly, I can't think of anything harder."


Choreographer Andrea Kleine on allowing limitations feed your work:

Kleine's 2014 Screening Room... Photo by Brian Rogers, Courtesy Chocolate Factory Theater

"I'm more interested now in working with the limitations of a project, rather than fighting them. When I was younger, I would have a vision and just throw my credit card down and be like, "Let's make it happen!" and then spend the next two years paying off debt. I'm not interested in doing that anymore."


Choreographer and director John Neumeier on what makes a ballet meaningful:

Neumeier's costume rendering for his 2017 Orphée et Eurydice. Photo courtesy Lyric Opera of Chicago.

"Whether it's a story or a symphonic work, ballet is an art of the present tense. When the curtain goes up, we're interested in and moved by the people we see—not by their historical or literary sources."


Choreographer David Dorfman on why art matters:

Dorfman's first foray into choreographing for Broadway was for the play Indecent. Photo by Carol Rosegg, Courtesy Connecticut College

"How do you have hope for a future that's hopefully filled with love? Can we use love to drive something that we might have as much distrust in as politics? I think a lot of us are thinking that now. It's often theater that helps us see how we express humanity."

Broadway
The "Merde" bag. Courtesy Scenery

Jennifer Kahn knew the theater industry could do better. As a professional stage manager for 17 years she worked on regional, off-Broadway and Broadway shows. Nearly each time a show closed, something unsettling happened: "I would watch them throw away our shows. All of the beautiful artwork by my friends in the paint shop would go in the trash." The elaborate backdrops? Gone.

But she had an idea: What if the material used in the backdrops and legs could be upcycled into something new? And what if theater lovers could literally keep a piece of a beloved show?

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Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Left: Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston Ballet's Dance Lab; Courtesy Harlequin. Right: The Dance Lab pre-Harvey; Nic Lehoux, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.

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News
Photo by Gabriel Davalos, Courtesy Valdés

For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.

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Health & Body
Sara Mearns in the gym. Photo by Kyle Froman.

New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.

"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "

She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.

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