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- 10/11/17--08:08: _What Wendy's Watchi...
- 10/11/17--09:50: _Should Dance Studen...
- 10/11/17--10:42: _The Gender Equality...
- 10/11/17--13:28: _Meet the Ballerina ...
- 10/12/17--05:55: _Five Former Atlanta...
- 10/12/17--11:33: _Danskin Just Launch...
- 10/13/17--06:50: _In The Studio: Gall...
- 10/13/17--09:27: _Six Ways to Get Bet...
- 10/13/17--10:14: _Mary Cochran, Paul ...
- 10/13/17--12:01: _Watch: Ann Reinking...
- 10/13/17--12:17: _Touring Seville's F...
- 10/16/17--06:55: _We Are So Here for ...
- 10/16/17--08:04: _Can We Stop Calling...
- 10/16/17--11:13: _G-Chat Recap: Edito...
- 10/16/17--13:16: _SPAC Just Cut NYCB'...
- 10/16/17--15:28: _Inside Katrina Lenk...
- 10/17/17--07:09: _Spotlight: Leta Bia...
- 10/17/17--08:42: _Why Are Dancers Mor...
- 10/17/17--10:03: _Akram Khan Brings U...
- 10/18/17--06:25: _How to Become Any C...
- 10/11/17--09:50: Should Dance Students Get to Choose Their Own Variations?
- 10/11/17--10:42: The Gender Equality Debate Continues: Ratmansky Responds
- 10/13/17--06:50: In The Studio: Gallim Dance Prepares For the Met
- 10/13/17--09:27: Six Ways to Get Better at Getting Rejected
- 10/13/17--12:01: Watch: Ann Reinking on Insecurity, Joy & The Power of Dance
- 10/13/17--12:17: Touring Seville's Flamenco Museum with Cristina Hoyos
- 10/16/17--06:55: We Are So Here for This Gender-Bent Bayadère
- 10/16/17--08:04: Can We Stop Calling Choreographers "Emerging" Already?
- 10/16/17--11:13: G-Chat Recap: Editors Discuss 2017 Fall For Dance
- 10/16/17--13:16: SPAC Just Cut NYCB's 2018 Summer Season in Half
- 10/16/17--15:28: Inside Katrina Lenk's Latest Broadway Gig: The Band's Visit
- 10/17/17--07:09: Spotlight: Leta Biasucci Has Had Enough of Your Hair Advice
- 10/17/17--08:42: Why Are Dancers More Flexible on Some Days Than Others?
- 10/17/17--10:03: Akram Khan Brings Untold Legends to the States
I was knocked out by three things this fall season at New York City Ballet.
First: Tiler Peck's debut in Swan Lake. Her expressiveness as an impulsive, trapped creature and her dazzling technique combined to create a onstage grandeur. She gave us an Odette of great depth, and an Odile of sharp drama and crazy good fouettés. This was a world-class performance by one of our recent Dance Magazine Awardees.
Second: Gianna Reisen's new work, Composer's Holiday, signaled to all present that a choreographer is born. At 18, this young American apprentice with Dresden Semperoper Ballett, came home to NYC to make a fresh, witty ballet that showed an original way of breaking up space. Reisen just graduated from the School of American Ballet, so the corps dancers she worked with were mostly her former classmates. She was obviously completely at home while making this scintillating work.
Third: Principal Lauren Lovette, in her second ballet for the company, included a dramatic male-male duet. This isn't just incidental, but a main part of Not Our Fate. Danced by the wondrous principal Taylor Stanley and corps dancer Preston Chamblee, this duet looks to me like they are falling in love. I don't have to tell you that seeing two men in a romantic duet is a rarity on the ballet stage.
A triple bravo for an exciting season at NYCB!
Do students get a say in choosing their competition variations? It depends on the coach's philosophy:
Always: Stephanie and Bo Spassoff of The Rock School
Stephanie Spassoff, PC Catherine Park
"We ask dancers to look at different variations and let us know what they feel they can handle," says Stephanie. "The coach and student then assess the feasibility together," says Bo. "We believe we get the best out of our dancers when they are part of a process that's collaborative and congenial."
Sometimes: Ilka Doubek of Litchfield Dance Arts Academy
Litchfield Dance Arts Academy, PC Jacqueline Pettie
Doubek allows dancers to weigh in, but ultimately it's up to the coach. "Often I find when kids come to you and say they want to do a specific variation, you may have to water it down or simply say it's unrealistic," says Doubek. "For someone tall with long legs, I like to give them something to show off those lines, but a perky soubrette personality is well matched for something like Coppélia or Flames of Paris ."
Never: Claudio Muñoz of Houston Ballet II
Claudio Muñoz, PC Jaime Lagdameo
"The student never chooses the variation. You need them to trust you to do it," says Claudio Muñoz. "The proper material for competition has to reflect ability and taste. So, it's up to the coach to look at the dancer in front of him and assess."
Last week we wrote about how choreographer Alexei Ratmansky set off a Facebook firestorm with a post proclaiming that "there is no such thing as equality in ballet" when it comes to gender roles. Coming from one of today's foremost choreographer s in ballet, his words unsurprisingly drew hundreds of heated reactions.
And maybe that was part of the point.
The New York Times posted a fantastic story by Gia Kourlas last night about how New York City Ballet's current season features two ballets with significant same-sex duets: Lauren Lovette's Not Our Fate and Justin Peck's The Times Are Racing, which is the first in the company's history with gender-neutral casting.
For her piece, Kourlas asked Ratmansky about his Facebook post, giving him a chance to explain his reasoning and what he meant. She writes:
Mr. Ratmansky, whose work richly engages tradition, wrote in an email that he didn't mean to offend or impose a ban. "But there are gender roles in traditional ballet," he said. "In other words, men and women are of equal value but have different tasks."
He continued: "Being passionate about ballet traditions, its present and future, I wanted to continue discussing gender roles in ballet, but hesitate now. There are so many things one could discuss around this topic. I agree that the rules are there to be broken, that's how art evolves. And I myself have enjoyed playing with these conventions. But I personally choose to work within a tradition because I find it too beautiful and historically important to be lost."
It's unfortunate that Ratmansky's now hesitant to continue discussing the topic. Whether you agree with his post or not, it (re)ignited a conversation that should definitely be had. As much as the ballet world needs to keep pushing the envelope and reflecting the contemporary world, it also needs healthy debate.
As Ratmansky himself writes in response to one of the many comment threads on his post: "I am definitely learning a lot from the comments." So could we all, if we're brave enough to keep the conversation going.
At 5' 10.5", Sara Michelle Murawski stands taller than most people, let alone most ballerinas. As a student, Murawski was always told her height was a positive thing, and that elongated lines are what ballet is all about. But in the professional world in the U.S., she encountered a totally different mentality. Her story went viral last December, when she was fired from Pennsylvania Ballet for being "too tall." After a devastating few months, Murawski was the first principal signed to the new American National Ballet, a Charleston, SC, company whose mission is to celebrate dancer diversity. Here, she tells her story. —Courtney Bowers
Growing Up Tall
Even as a young ballet student, I was already quite lanky—all legs and limbs, and no torso. When I was 15 (and already 5' 9") I discovered The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia, PA. Training there was probably one of the most influential parts of my life, because they embrace the beauty of all dancers. My teachers taught me that being tall was a good thing, and I started to accept my height.Murawski with dancer David Marks (photo by Sloviter, courtesy Murawski)
Building a Career
At 17 years old, I started in the corps de ballet at Dresden Semperoper Ballett in Germany. I already knew that
I should probably be dancing in Europe—European companies tend to be more open-minded about height. I didn't even audition in the U.S. At the time, Dresden had some very tall dancers in the company—some of them even taller than me! Later, I went to dance with Slovak National Ballet, where I was able to perform principal roles in full-length ballets with a principal male dancer who was about 6' 5".
Heading Back Stateside
While I was at Slovak National Ballet, Ángel Corella, the artistic director of Pennsylvania Ballet, reached out and offered me a principal contract with his company. I was elated because I grew up in Philadelphia at The Rock, so it was like home to me. I was very grateful and humbled.
I started my first season in August 2016, and everything seemed great. I was getting positive attention for roles not even meant to be danced by tall girls. When I danced the Sugarplum Fairy in The Nutcracker , I had so many moms with children at the school come up to me and say things like, "You're breaking the mold!" It wasn't just about me—it was about future generations, too.Murawski as the Fairy Godmother in Pennsylvania Ballet's "Cinderella" (photo by Alexander Izilaev, courtesy Murawski)
I found out my contract wasn't going to be renewed that December, right before my last performance of The Nutcracker . I was devastated. It was incredibly hard to go onstage right after being told that—I was crying my makeup off in the wings. I felt lost, scared, alone, and unwanted. Even though it was difficult, I finished out the whole season, which ended this past May.
Some social media posts and an article about my firing went viral, and the public outcry saved me. I even had some big dance names write to me personally. It was the thing that made me believe in humanity and dance again. So many dancers in this country share and understand my frustrations.
Breaking the Mold
During one of my lowest days, American National Ballet sent me the kindest, most supportive message on Instagram. ANB is a new company in Charleston, SC, whose mission is to highlight diversity and to give dancers who may be different a chance to shine.
I visited Charleston a few weeks after talking to them on the phone and fell in love with the city, and with what ANB is doing. It's all long overdue. I was the first principal dancer to sign on, and I'll also serve as the visionary assistant to the artistic director.
I'm so excited to be working with ANB. People want this kind of change in the dance world. At ANB they're after real artists. And they're going to get better dancers that way. To all the tall, hopeful dancers out there: Please carry your height with pride and joy.
This story originally appeared on dancespirit.com .
This past spring, Atlanta gave birth to a brand-new dance company: Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre. Embracing a do-it-yourself spirit in a city fond of entrepreneurship, its five founding members created Terminus following last year's leadership change at their former home, Atlanta Ballet.
When John McFall announced that he would retire from Atlanta Ballet at the end of the 2015–16 season, after 21 years, a search for the next artistic director began. The search committee included prominent dancers Tara Lee, Christian Clark, Heath Gill and Rachel Van Buskirk. On the short list was John Welker, McFall's protégé and a veteran company member. Welker had founded and spent several years producing Wabi Sabi, Atlanta Ballet's summer company, and the four dancers felt that he would be the ideal choice. When the board named Gennadi Nedvigin the new artistic director instead, Welker chose to retire and focus on finishing his degree at Kennesaw State University while the other four began to mull over a plan B. "We felt a drastic pivot in process and culture," says Welker. "We were also all at a point in our careers where we were recognizing time was short. So we asked ourselves, 'What do we want? How do we make this a positive thing?' "
As a result, Lee, Clark and Van Buskirk chose to leave Atlanta Ballet at the close of the 2016–17 season to start Terminus with Gill and Welker. (Gill was let go.) The small, collaborative troupe has already secured some funding from a private donor and homes at both the Westside Cultural Arts Center (in town) and the Serenbe Institute (south of Atlanta). "All these past relationships started lining up," says Welker, who is the de facto leader. "The work, in a sense, was already done, and so it became a matter of timing."
With a goal of thriving year-round and building up a brand-new audience, TMBT will debut an evening-length work this month at the Westside Cultural Arts Center, choreographed by Lee and Gill. After this inaugural performance, they will perform outdoors at Serenbe in November. The group is looking to perform in venues beyond the traditional proscenium stage. "There are whole generations of people who did not grow up going to the theater, so how do you reach out to this audience?" asks Welker. "There is a whole world of possibility that is untapped, that should have life and will make our art more relevant." And while Atlanta Ballet's repertoire appears to be skewing more classical, Terminus has a mission of bridging the divide between classical ballet and the more conceptual modern dance scene in Atlanta.
As the group coalesces, Welker expects it will remain a company of five core dancers, performing in-house choreography. But there are plans for growth—including expanding the number of dancers and repertoire as their budget grows. Given how auspicious and surprising their start has been, audiences should prepare to expect the unexpected.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, Danskin has created its first capsule collection that lets you add a pop of pink to your dance wardrobe while giving back to a good cause. With brand ambassador Jenna Dewan Tatum serving as the face of the campaign, the collection is available throughout the month of October. And, regardless of sales, Danskin has pledged to donate $10,000 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) .
Whether you're in need of a new sports bra and leggings combo for class or you want to upgrade you outerwear with an on-trend bomber jacket, Danskin's BCRF collection has you covered (plus there's a lot of pink involved!).
"I'm really excited that Danskin is contributing to breast cancer research," Dewan Tatum said in a press statement. "I have worn their product as a dancer since I was a little girl. Partnering with them while also having the opportunity to give back to a cause that touches so many people—whether it's friends or loved ones—is just incredible."
Check out the full collection below, and visit Danskin for more information on how BCRF is helping to end breast cancer.
With artistic director Andrea Miller as the Metropolitan Museum of Art's artist in residence this year, Gallim Dance will be debuting a new site-specific work exploring the museum's iconic Temple of Dendur October 28-29. We sat down with Miller to get a deeper look into her creative process and the challenges she's faced creating this piece.
What struck you the most about the Temple of Dendur?
I was really affected when I walked into the space where the temple is. It's impressive to see the way that they've placed this 2000-year-old temple so beautifully in a home in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. But it's also striking to understand that instead of a backdrop of the Nile, it's Central Park. So I felt like I became really sensitive that the temple had to go through a transition from being a temple in its home in front of the Nile to becoming an artifact in New York.
This work is extremely physical. What about the temple drove you to create a more abstract piece?
I don't want to be too heavy-handed in a narrative because I think what's really happening is this invisible momentum—something we can't even recognize or understand that's happening to us, or that maybe happened to the temple. As powerful as it is and as loud as it is. I'm trying to keep it more abstract so that it is more felt than told.
How much do you rely on your dancers input when it comes to the creative process?
It's very collaborative. We really depend on each other. We have complimentary roles and I'm most excited when I'm collaborating with my dancers and when we're speaking together about it and they're responding with movement to the ideas that I'm bringing to them. They also tell me from the inside what's working, what's missing.
Allison Beler has auditioned for the Radio City Rockettes more than a dozen times. In 2014, she made it all the way through the final round. "I was waiting on a phone call for a job," she says. The call didn't come.
Rejection is inevitable in dance. But it still hurts. Beler, 31, says she's toughened as she's gotten older, but she still calls her mom and cries as soon as she steps onto the street after being cut.
Your ability to recover from rejection may strengthen with experience, but according to Joel Minden, a clinical psychologist and former ballroom dancer who works with dancers in Chico, California, it's also a skill that can be cultivated.
Avoid "The Three P's"
Photo by Quinn Wharton
Pay attention to how you explain a rejection to yourself, Minden says. Watch out for what psychologists call "the three P's": Does it feel personal, permanent or pervasive? "Personal would be, 'I just don't have what it takes to dance at a high level,' " he says, "rather than externalizing the reason and saying, 'The people who rejected me are looking for something else.' " Thinking the situation is permanent means telling yourself you'll never be good enough. And pervasive means thinking it's not an isolated setback but an issue that extends to other areas of dance.
Pay attention to your reasoning, especially if after you land a role you're likely to say you got lucky, rather than acknowledging you're a good dancer who worked hard. The idea that every failure is personal and every success is thanks to external factors isn't just unproductive, it's highly unlikely to be true.
Look at the Evidence
An LA Dance Project audition. Photo by Kyle Froman
If you're telling yourself you didn't make the cut because you're a lousy dancer, look at the data, Minden suggests. What evidence is there that you're a bad dancer? What about evidence that you're a good dancer? Consider the feedback you get from teachers or directors, and whether you're working to constantly improve.
If you're devastated after being rejected—or if your fear of rejection threatens to derail an audition before it begins—remind yourself there's a world outside of this experience. Amanda Lenox, a counselor who works with dancers in New York, suggests asking yourself questions like: What's for dinner? What are you going to wear tomorrow? "Take your mind outside of what's happening in the present," Lenox says. The idea isn't to hide from your feelings—it's to get a little distance until you're ready to address them.
Find Positivity and Productivity
A cattle call for the national tour of A Chorus Line. Photo by Rachel Papo
After a tough audition, Beler sometimes takes herself out to lunch as a treat. Other times, she heads straight to class. "I want to remind myself I belong in this world," she says. "After a two-hour ballet class, I feel like a million bucks. I know I worked on my technique and bettering myself today."
Doing something to make you feel happy or accomplished—or both—can help shake off the funk of rejection. That could mean using your frustration to fuel your dancing, but if you're not ready to take class right away, don't force it. "If you beat yourself up, it's going to prolong the process of healing," Lenox says. "Choose an activity that will make you feel good."
Fake It Till You Feel it
Auditioning for Brian Brooks. Photo by Jim Lafferty
In dark moments, you may feel like you don't want to dance anymore. Even if that's true, you don't want to make a heat-of-the-moment decision. Remember that emotions are temporary, and that you don't have to let them dictate your behavior. Instead, think about your values, Minden says. If you still love dancing and you know that this latest rejection is just a setback along the way to something you want, you can choose to keep dancing, even if you are upset: "I don't feel like doing it right now, but I'm going to keep at it." Let your thoughts and emotions be authentic—if you're bummed out, let yourself feel bummed out. But you can behave however you want, and that may change how you feel.
Love the Process
The Rockettes. Photo by Rachel Papo
Remind yourself that dance is a journey. Work on a process-oriented outlook: "I'll just keep at it and try to make little improvements every day." Minden says, "Get feedback. Figure out what's going to help you take that next step."
Beler says she won't stop auditioning until she has to. "It's that fire within me that says I'm going to keep striving for this dream until it's physically impossible or until I get a piece of feedback that tells me, 'It's time. You need to be done with this,' " she says. "Dancing like a Rockette and seeing myself looking like a Rockette keep me going back."
Mary Cochran, longtime Paul Taylor dancer and beloved teacher, passed away this week in her 50s.
Cochran began her professional dance career with Alwin Nikolais in 1981, and several years later joined the Taylor Company. There, she originated countless memorable roles such as the "Rum and Coca-Cola" woman in Company B and the Daughter in Speaking in Tongues .
In 1995, she appeared on our October cover as the senior member of the Taylor troupe, and writer Susan Reiter described her as "a quintessential Taylor dancer, a complete individual, most completely herself when she is in motion."
In 1996, Cochran left the Taylor Company and went on to teach at Mills College, eventually becoming the chair of the Barnard College dance department from 2003-2013. Having studied under Mary at Barnard, I will always remember her as a powerful advocate for her students, a nurturing force and an impossibly quick wit.
Our deepest condolences to her friends and family.
"It's hard not to get too hurt in this profession."
Ann Reinking got real earlier this month at New York City Dance Alliance Foundation's Bright Lights Shining Stars gala. She was being honored as a 2017 NYCDA Foundation Ambassador for the Arts, and her speech was so moving that we had to share the entire thing with you.
Our favorite part?
"It is as Bob [Fosse] said: Our profession is as important as saving a human life. Because for two hours we get the privilege of taking someone's mind off their problems, of making them laugh, making them cry, if that's what the story is about. But to flush their emotion through their own inner spirit so that they can go out and face the world again and solve yet another problem."
Ballet master Antonio Castilla took me by the hand 18 years ago at the Prix de Lausanne to see the Carlos Saura film
Bodas de Sangre
). He insisted that mastering flamenco energy is a ballet essential. The late Cuban dance pedagogue Fernando Alonso made a similar observation as, seated in a corrida, we watched a flamenco dancer open for a bullfight! He cited the famous flamenco artist Antonia Mercé ("La Argentina"): "She could stand perfectly still and generate the most amazing energy!"
Those memories were on my mind as I entered Cristina Hoyos's flamenco museum in Seville last month. Hoyos is a legendary flamenco dancer who performed opposite Antonio Gades in Saura's famous trilogy: Blood Wedding , Carmen and El Amor Brujo .
The Museo del Baile Flamenco sits at the end of a cul-de-sac near a book museum, a dance club, a patch of cafés and an Andalusian cathedral. Wall-sized screens stream dance works. Text in several languages explains the origins of basic styles. Lit niches display costumes, including the simple white dress Hoyos wore in Blood Wedding . A ground-floor black box theater, like the artists it showcases, exudes that storied energy even when dark. A male dancer rehearses a solo in a glassed-in studio.
Hoyos, now in her 80s, says she wanted to show flamenco in a unique setting, where people could tour the museum and see a show. "Flamenco is Seville's patrimony, but costly to maintain." Audience visits defray the cost. "I give ensemble classes. We offer programs and talks based on the boutique's books."
As we chat, Hoyos emphasizes that flamenco dancers must be as musical as those accompanying them. "Early on, they distinguish good from bad music and whether the musician or singer brings sufficient force, feeling and clarity. A good ear is fundamental!"
Costumes on display at the Flamenco Museum
"Flamenco is a passionate art, danced with the heart and gut." The public doesn't need to know flamenco to be in touch with their emotions, she says. "If you don't know how to dance, but know how to feel, you'll appreciate flamenco."
She sees a changing landscape for her beloved art form today. "Anarchic younger dancers go against the dignifying tradition of the great artists of my epoch," she says. "Costumes pander, are not the fine ones we wore. Those things didn't make me happy. Thrilling were artists who invited deep and serious expectations, elevated audiences to give focused attention. I see more speed nowadays, playing to the audience. In my time the woman was more feminine, more sensual, made more use of her body, especially the shoulders. They're more restrained now, 'equal' to men, fusing other styles, other music. Often, with more confusion than fusion. What they do poorly will disappear. What's important is that that the roots and sense of flamenco are always present." About that there is no confusion.
La Bayadère can be something of a contentious ballet, with its outdated cultural sensibilities filtered through the aesthetics of Imperial Russian ballet. But what if a production not only acknowledged the strange dualities present in the work, but used them to reinvent it? Shobana Jeyasingh's Bayadère: The Ninth Life recasts the eponymous temple dancer as a contemporary Indian man who is swept into a Shade-like vision of the past to embody the alluring woman. The gender-bending of the role highlights the ways in which Indian dancers were viewed as both fantastically desirable and unapproachably alien by European men in the 19th century, a point brought home by the inclusion in the sound score of Théophile Gautier's written account of his first encounters with devadasis , the inspiration for the ballet's original scenario. Oct. 16–17. sadlerswells.com .
"Do away with it."
"How about just plain old 'artist' or 'choreographer'?"
These are a few of the comments that popped up when, on a recent morning, I posted a query on Facebook fielding thoughts about the term "emerging"—as in "emerging choreographer." I can't remember when I first sensed disgruntlement toward the E-word. But in speaking with dancers and choreographers over the years, I've noticed that more often than not it elicits an eye roll, head shake, groan, sigh or shrug of "whatever that means."
On its surface, "emerging" may seem like an unobjectionable adjective describing someone new to making work, a word connoting promise, potential, discovery. Like many writers, presenters and others in the dance field, I've been known to use it as shorthand for "young" or "just starting out" or—
Well, that's part of the problem. What exactly does "emerging" mean? And how about its similarly contested cousins, "mid-career" and "established"? What determines whether a choreographer is emerging or has emerged: age, experience, number of dances created, institutional criteria? Does an artist ever stop emerging? In what cases, if any, is "emerging" useful or beneficial? Should we do as the choreographer Alexandra Beller suggested and do away with it altogether?
One irksome aspect of "emerging" is that it tends to be foisted upon artists—for programming or fundraising or journalistic purposes—rather than chosen. As Beller notes, it "takes away autonomy from artists defining themselves and their process and their intentions for their own future." The notion of a professional ladder ascending from "emerging" to "mid-career" to "established" assumes a linear path that few dancemakers actually follow, maintaining, as the choreographer Jeanine Durning puts it, "a myth of upward mobility in a field that has none."
Moriah Evans' Social Dance 9-12: Encounter"at Danspace Project. Photo by Ian Douglas
"Emerging" as a modifier for "choreographer" is a relatively modern phenomenon. Judy Hussie-Taylor, the executive director of Danspace Project, estimates that it came into use in the 1980s. "I believe that at that time funders were supporting only well-known or established dance companies," she says, explaining that presenters began to advocate on behalf of lesser-known work. "I think the case was made, and certain funders now adhere to it as a value—a way to say, 'We're not just going to fund Paul Taylor or Martha Graham.' "
Supporting artists early in their careers is essential and should, of course, continue. But according to Lucy Sexton, the executive director of the Bessie Awards, some artists feel that opportunities have skewed too heavily in that direction.
"It's a completely laudable impulse," she says, "but what's happened more recently is people saying, 'Well, how about the person who's been doing good work for 20 years and still doesn't have major support?' " Championing so-called mid-career artists "might not be as sexy as supporting a young artist who's gonna turn into Mark Morris," she says, "but it's worthwhile, and we need it for a healthy dance ecosystem."
If institutions and granting organizations decide who's "emerging," how do they define the term? The Minnesota-based Jerome Foundation, one of the country's chief funders of "early career/emerging" artists (its own phrasing), includes the following criteria in its eligibility requirements: "Artists who are in the early stages of their creative development" and "artists, collectives or ensembles who have yet to be substantially celebrated within their field, the media, funding circles or the public at large." (It's hard not to wonder: What constitutes "substantially celebrated"?)
A more flexible approach can be found at the Bessies, which have granted awards for Outstanding Emerging Choreographer since 2011. Here the task of defining "emerging" falls to subcommittees focused on specific sectors of the field.
"It's a malleable term," says Sexton. "It can mean different things when you're looking at different parts of the field and different types of work happening in different circumstances." The award has honored artists as disparate as the ballet choreographer Jessica Lang, deemed "emerging" in 2014 for her newly founded troupe—though she had been making dances since 1999 for companies including the Joffrey Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet—and the younger, more elusive flex dancer Storyboard P.
Cultural factors can also shape how "emerging" is defined. Phil Chan, an advisor to the Asian American Arts Alliance, was a member of the review panel for the alliance's Jadin Wong Award for Emerging Asian American Choreographer. He said that the award's funder initially placed an age limit on "emerging" (30 and under) but that this proved to be "an arbitrary definition" given the applicant pool.
"We've found that it's harder for Asian Americans, especially among recent immigrant families, to pursue a creative career," Chan says. As a result, "it's not unusual for dancers of immigrant families to discover dance later"—and thus to "emerge" at a more advanced age. Through discussions with the funder, Chan and his colleagues were able to expand the award's parameters.
Never Not Emerging
No matter how broadly or specifically defined, "emerging," like most labels, still has a way of both hemming in and excluding. This past July at a Bessies press conference, the performer, writer, curator and dancemaker Will Rawls accepted the 2017 award for Outstanding Emerging Choreographer. I was delighted to see him earning recognition but also puzzled by his nomination in the first place. Having followed his work at least since 2009, at multiple well-known theaters and museums around New York City, I sort of thought he had already "emerged."
Did he think so too? "I'm super-honored to be recognized for the work that I'm doing," he told me, adding that the citation for the award "was very sensitive about acknowledging both my choreography and my curatorial and writing work." But he also notes the complexities and limitations of being anointed "emerging."
"I think often the term makes people see the work through the lens of something that's not fully cooked," he says. "It can be a little bit juvenilizing. And I think artists who are really established also want to feel the freedom to present ideas that are newer"—the freedom to not arrive at a fixed style.
For the choreographer Elena Rose Light, "emerging" is vexing for similar reasons, perpetuating what she calls "ageism in both directions."
"The stagnation that's implied by 'established' and the generative, lively movement implied by 'emerging' creates a binary that I'm uninterested in," she says.
Choreographer Elena Rose Light. Photo by Em Watson, courtesy Light
As the choreographer Jodi Melnick puts it, citing her work with endlessly curious legends like Sara Rudner and the late Trisha Brown, "When are an artist's ideas not emerging? When is an artist not discovering the newness even in the sameness of their work?"
Hussie-Taylor says that while she understands the resistance to "emerging"—who wants to be labeled?—the term remains useful in garnering support for "early work or new work or innovative work or work that doesn't neatly fit into an established dance company model."
" 'Emerging' for me isn't a way of writing someone off," she says. "It's a way of continuing to advocate for them and saying, 'Yes, this person has had a 13-year career, but she's still working on becoming known.' "
As for the future of "emerging," I think it might be here to stay, entrenched as it is in systems of funding and presenting dance. But that doesn't mean we can't keep searching for ways around it—and not just through easy alternatives like "rising" or "early-career," but through language that describes rather than quantifies, that doesn't fall back on the convenience of a category.
Fall For Dance is always a huge talkabout here in the Dance Media offices. So after all the programs were performed this year, a few of the editors from Dance Magazine , Pointe and Dance Teacher got together on Google Hangouts this morning to share our thoughts. Here are excerpts from our convo:
Jennifer Stahl, Dance Magazine : So, Fall For Dance 2017—biggest surprises?
Madeline Schrock, Dance Magazine : I'm not sure if it was a surprise, but the energy in the house during Michelle Dorrance's Myelination was infectious. I loved seeing an audience get so excited about dance. Not being able to wait until a section was over to erupt into applause or holler.
Jennifer Stahl: That was like the French hip hop group Cie Art Move Concept. The audience kept hootin and hollerin!
Betsy Farber, Dance Teacher : I always like how diverse and unique the Fall for Dance performances are and it was extra refreshing to see performances like the Cie Art Move Concept in the lineup.
Amy Brandt, Pointe : I didn't really know what to expect from Cie Art Move Concept, but I was really moved. The dances were exciting, of course, but I also thought the piece was very beautiful—I wanted to cheer but I also wanted people to be quiet, to listen to the story.
Lauren Wingenroth, Dance Magazine : Fall for Dance audiences are always super vocal! It's not hard to tell what resonates with them. And what doesn't...
Madeline Schrock: Ha ha. That's so true
Jennifer Stahl: Any obvious duds this year?
Lauren Wingenroth: It was well-danced, but I was disappointed that Polyphonia replaced the Schumacher premiere.
Jennifer Stahl: Yeah, I feel so bad for Troy that they decided to pull his piece
Lauren Wingenroth: I was curious about that—and there was already a Wheeldon on another program AND Polyphonia at NYCB the same week.
Miami City Ballet in Polyphonia, via miamicityballet.org
Jennifer Stahl: Did anyone see both? I didn't feel like Pennsylvania Ballet quite did Wheeldon's Rush justice—the corps especially didn't look comfortable moving at that speed
Amy Brandt: I agree, Jenny. The company seemed to lack cohesion in the Wheeldon piece. But Alexandra Hughes really stood out to me.
Jennifer Stahl: I loved Ana Calderon, too. How about Sara Mearns' piece with Honji Wang?
Madeline Schrock: It was disappointing. I went with Courtney [a DM assistant editor] and she mentioned that, in theory, the concept was okay, but the execution of it was something entirely different.
Jennifer Stahl: If only they hadn't brought out a ballet barre... Or done something more interesting with it
Madeline Schrock: I'm all for cross-genre collaborations, and I think there's a lot dancers can learn from each other. But this felt too cliché.
Jennifer Stahl: It made me wonder if the choreographers had seen other collaborations like this, like Tiler Peck and Bill Irwin last year
Madeline Schrock: Which, even that felt unfinished to me. But at least it was entertaining and emphasized each dancer's prowess in a fun way.
Lauren Wingenroth: Was anyone else wistful for Dorrance's original Myelination from 2 (3?) years ago? I missed the simplicity of it—I loved this one but it seemed to be trying to do just a little too much.
Jennifer Stahl: Well, she is a "genius" now...that's gotta be a lotta pressure to be creative
Lauren Wingenroth: True!
Madeline Schrock: I appreciated that she dared to go in different directions, even if some sections felt more "successful" than others.
Jennifer Stahl: For me, with all the collaborations and fancy things Fall For Dance offers, my favorite piece was probably the simplest: Petronio dancer Nicholas Sciscione in Steve Paxton's solo Excerpt from Goldberg Variations. He's such a compelling performer
Amy Brandt: He looked fantastic in that!
Betsy Farber: I LOVED Excerpt from Goldberg Variations too
Lauren Wingenroth: My fave was simple too: Trisha Brown's You can see us
Madeline Schrock: I loved that duet too. It reminded me of how good that type of movement can feel on your body.
Lauren Wingenroth: It had such a quiet beauty, and the two dancers moved so similarly that you could almost believe they were a mirror—and yet they both brought their own flair to it too.
Madeline Schrock: There was something so calming and trancelike about it.
Lauren Wingenroth: Exactly.
Madeline Schrock: And their timing!
Lauren Wingenroth: Yeah it was so nuanced.
Cecily Campbell and Jaime Scott in Trisha Brown's You Can See Us. Photo by Stephanie Berger
Amy Brandt: It was fun to see the Trocks in the mix, too.
Jennifer Stahl: What'd they perform?
Amy Brandt: Paquita
Jennifer Stahl: Fun!
Amy Brandt: With all the talk on gender and ballet these last few weeks, it was kind of ironic to see the Trocks on the same program as Ratmansky!
Lauren Wingenroth: Ha.
Jennifer Stahl: Ha! Good point. How was that Ratmansky piece for ABT?
Amy Brandt: It felt a bit too sentimental for my taste, and I couldn't quite follow the story.
Lauren Wingenroth: What about Kyle Abraham's new piece?
Jennifer Stahl: I enjoyed it! I don't think it's one of his greatest hits, but I loved the music—and the energy of his dancers. I could watch Tamisha Guy for hours and not get bored
Kyle Abraham's Drive. Photo via Twitter
Madeline Schrock: The audio at the end of Kyle's piece, that was Obama's voice backwards, right?
Jennifer Stahl : Oh, I didn't catch that! What was he saying?
Madeline Schrock: I was pretty sure it was him. You couldn't make out the words but I recognized the voice.
Jennifer Stahl: Interesting. The ending actually kind of felt a little unresolved to me, with the solo dancer onstage. It was kind of that awkward moment where the audience isn't sure whether to clap or not
Madeline Schrock: I will say that at least it didn't go on for too long...which I felt like some of the FFD pieces did
Jennifer Stahl: True. I loved Gauthier Dance's piece by Andonis Foniadakis for like the first 10 minutes, then it just kept going on...
Jennifer Stahl: Speaking of things just going on... any last thoughts before we wrap up?
Lauren Wingenroth: This was fun!
Betsy Farber: Makes me wish I would have gone more than one night!
Jennifer Stahl: There are so many great performances going on in NYC this time of year—but Fall For Dance always remains a must-do. Even if you can't make it to all the shows.
What'd you think of the shows? Share your thoughts with us on our Facebook page.
There's something special about seeing New York City Ballet dance at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Maybe it's the history: George Balanchine helped design the theater, and NYCB has called SPAC, which opened in 1966, its summer home for over 50 years. But over the weekend, SPAC announced that NYCB's 2018 residence will be shortened, according to Albany's Times Union .
While this past summer saw a successful two-week residency, in 2018 NYCB will only perform for one week at their summer home in upstate New York.
The Times Union quoted NYCB's ballet master in chief Peter Martins as saying he is "deeply saddened by the decision." SPAC president and CEO Elizabeth Sobol explained that the two-week season is not financially sustainable for the center at this time, adding, "I am hopeful that with renewed emphasis on fund-raising, audience development and ticket sales, we will be able to return to the extended NYCB season in the future."
The SPAC amphitheater during a NYCB performance. Photo by stockstudiosphotography.com
It is not the first time that the annual SPAC season has been shortened in recent years; in 2013, NYCB only gave five performances, though in that case it was due to the financial burden placed on the company, not the presenter, that led to the reduction. Here's hoping that Saratoga audiences will be back to their usual dose of NYCB magic in 2019.
When Katrina Lenk says her feet never touched the ground in her Broadway debut, as a replacement in Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, she's not telling you how deliriously happy she was—though she was.
Lenk is being literal: Playing Arachne, the show's magical spider-woman, she was suspended in a gigantic web throughout. Her ability to fly and enjoy it—crucial to landing the role—was honed with a summer job "swimming" over the heads of the audience at Universal Studios. "You just never know where random experiences are gonna take you," she says.
Her resumé provides a good example: her ability to play the violin and dance at the same time was on view in Once; in Indecent , she fiddled (again), performed David Dorfman's vivid choreography and spoke and sang in Yiddish.
She adds Hebrew and a heavy Israeli accent to her lexicon in her latest show, The Band's Visit , which starts previews at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre this month. And, instead of dancing on air, this time she will dance sitting down. "She's a Renaissance woman," says Patrick McCollum, the show's choreographer.
The Band's Visit. Photo by Ahron R. Foster
Lenk is Dina, the seemingly hard-boiled Israeli who welcomes seven stranded Egyptian musicians to her hole-in-the-wall desert cafe. She created the role off-Broadway last December, winning the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical in the process.
The show, which was named Best Musical by the New York Drama Critics' Circle, uses a refreshingly casual style to tell interlocking stories as its mismatched misfits connect. The approach accurately represents the laconic 2007 Israeli movie on which the show was based.
Lenk "loved, loved, loved" the film, she says, but her first thought was "How is this gonna be a musical?" Music, and its power to communicate across cultures, is at its heart, but the movie seemed too full "of silence and awkwardness" to translate well to the stage. "Somehow," she says, "David Yazbek [the composer] and Itamar Moses [the book writer] made that work."
The challenge for McCollum was to make numbers move without resorting to what Lenk calls "the thing that happens in musicals—suddenly we're singing and dancing!" David Cromer, the director, wanted the show firmly grounded in everyday reality.
To that end, the Israelis speak Hebrew amongst themselves, the musicians stick to Arabic, and when the members of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra must communicate with the locals, or vice versa, they use English.
In one of the show's most magical numbers, Dina and the bandleader, played by Tony Shalhoub, sit opposite each other in a restaurant. She tells him how her lonely girlhood was perfumed by two of Egypt's most celebrated cultural exports, the singer Umm Kulthum and the movie star Omar Sharif.
Katrina Lenk and Tony Shalhoub. Photo by Ahron R. Foster
As staged for the Atlantic Theater Company premiere, Lenk sang Yazbek's sinuous, Middle Eastern melody while curving her arms and curling her long fingers, tracing lacy, arabesque patterns in the air. Tossing back her head and shoulders, her torso ecstatically arched, she expressed Dina's complete surrender to an intoxicating memory without ever getting up from her chair.
In the run-up to starting rehearsals for the Broadway production of The Band's Visit , Lenk and McCollum were planning to spend some time together doing Gaga technique. Choreographing on Lenk, McCollum says, "is a dream—she's so cool and relaxed."
And Lenk returns the compliment. She's quick to credit collaboration for the show's success, citing the Israeli Americans and Arab Americans in the cast, and even getting in a plug for the Moroccan-born Egyptian-dialect coach. "There was a lot of sharing," the Midwest native says, "and the movement came out of all of that."
Leta Biasucci is one of those dancers whose presence seems to attract the audience's eye with magnetic force. The Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist's seemingly impossible buoyancy and fiery spark have carved her out a place in a wide spectrum of roles, uninhibited by her small stature and natural inclination towards the soubrette.
We caught up with her for our "Spotlight" series:
What do you think is the most common misconception about dancers?
This notion that dancers eat, breathe and sleep dance. Dance can be all-consuming, but so are a lot of other careers. There is such an inspiring, wide range of interests among my peers.
What other career would you like to try?
I think about life after dance quite a bit, but I am not entirely sure what it holds. For the past six years, I have been chipping away at my bachelor's degree from Seattle University, and I am excited to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel!
What was the last dance performance you saw?
Last week I saw Seattle's own Whim W'Him. It was an awesome show!
What's the most-played song on your phone?
I don't know that I have a most-played song on my phone, but Mariah Carey is a favorite in the soloist women's dressing room.
Do you have a pre-performance ritual?
For roles that are accompanied by nerves, I like to find time before a performance to spend visualizing the piece. I close my eyes and imagine how the 'perfect' performance would feel. I find this practice to be meditative and allows for me to feel more excited than nervous.
Not necessarily a ritual, but I have to double-check my performance shoe ribbons and re-sew ones that look like they might possibly come unsewn. Who wants to spend a show worrying about shoes falling off?
What's your favorite book?
I have a difficult time picking favorites of anything! Recently, I have loved All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin. I am in the middle of reading Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. She is a brilliant and hilarious Seattle author.
Where can you be found two hours after a performance ends?
On the couch in my sweats. I am a homebody and need that time to recharge.
Where did you last vacation?
Last spring, my fiancé and I went to Kauai. What a magical place!
What app do you spend the most time on?
Probably Instagram, but I am admittedly much more of a consumer than a contributor (also perhaps an addict?). Huffington Post is a close second.
What's the first item on your bucket list?
I guess it should be to make a bucket list…
What's your go-to crosstraining routine?
When my schedule is pretty busy, I stick to yoga and light free weights. When my schedule isn't too heavy, I, like any good Pacific Northwesterner, love to hike. But after a long week, miles of elevation sounds like the last thing that I want to do! There is really no substitute for dancing to get in dancing shape.
What's the worst advice you've ever received?
"You should straighten your hair more often."
If you could relive one performance, what would it be?
A few years ago, I would have had an easier time answering this question. There are always ballets that you feel like you could dance forever; some that are such tremendous gifts to dance, and that make you sad to see them go. With each passing season, however, I become increasingly aware of how fleeting this unique career is. I try to embrace the present because ultimately, I can't take any of it with me.
I've noticed that my flexibility, which is pretty good, varies throughout the company's season. Why does this happen, and what can I do about it?
—Jillian, Brooklyn, NY
Several factors affect flexibility. A busy dance season can lead to tighter muscles due to fatigue. In this case, restorative therapies like weekly massages, sufficient sleep and intermittent breaks during the day can help. Overstretching also causes stiffness by tearing muscle fibers. If you're less limber the day after some strenuous stretching, let your body recover by doing gentle stretches with a smaller range of motion. Finally, female hormones have a subtle effect on range of motion. Women often become more supple when estrogen peaks right before their period.
To stay flexible throughout the season, engage in a regular stretching routine: After you warm up and during your cool down, lengthen each muscle group for 20 seconds, while keeping the rest of your body stable. It's not about how hard you stretch but how often you do it that helps you stay limber.
Send your questions to Dr. Linda Hamilton at email@example.com.
Kidnapped and dishonored on the day of her wedding, Princess Amba swears vengeance on the man responsible and is reborn as the gender-shifting Shikhandi, granting her the opportunity to defeat him in battle. This is the legend behind Akram Khan's Until the Lions , his full-length work based on Karthika Naïr's poetic reinterpretation of the Mahabharata which approaches the epic from the perspective of its female characters. Performed in the round, the critically lauded work makes its U.S. debut in Los Angeles at The Music Center on Location, marking the only 2017 stateside performances of Khan. Oct. 18–21. musiccenter.org . The company also brings the piece to Stanford, Oct. 27–28, but Khan will not perform. live.standford.edu .
When conveying a story onstage, certain roles come more easily than others. Some dancers naturally possess the regality of the Lilac Fairy, others the attack of Kitri. Some take on the naïve Aurora with ease, but have trouble with Myrtha's complexity. Tackling a role that's outside your character wheelhouse can be tricky—especially since ballet's princesses, creatures and sylphs can be hard to relate to.
But luckily, just like your technique, you can strengthen your acting chops. American Ballet Theatre's go-to acting coach Byam Stevens, who's worked with everyone from Kevin McKenzie to Isabella Boylston, shares how he helps dancers connect with a character.
ABT's Sarah Lane as Aurora. PC Rosalie O'Connor
Know the difference between plot and story.
"I'll ask dancers, 'What's the story?' and they'll often say something like, 'Well, there's this prince and it's his 18th birthday…' " says Stevens. "That's not a story, that's a plot." The story is the relationship of the characters and their functions within the ballet. Read the libretto to learn the true character arc.
Embody your character through the steps.
Stevens says that many dancers focus on how a character's emotions might translate to facial expressions, but forget what they mean for the choreography. "Steps are the vocabulary, and they're neutral. You have to add the meaning," he says. A tendu is nothing but a tendu unless you connect it to what your character is experiencing.
Focus on actions, not emotions.
"Acting isn't about what you feel, it's about what you do . Verbs, not adjectives," says Stevens. Look for the actions: What are you doing to make him love you? What are you doing to make her go away? What are you doing to make him understand you?
Realize what your character isn't.
Yuan Yuan Tan as Giselle. PC Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB
"What your character is blind to tells you a lot about who you are and what you're doing," says Stevens. For instance, Giselle seems naïve. Why can't she see that Albrecht is deceiving her? Or is it that she chooses not to see it? Either version can feed into character development. Answering these questions in a way that feels true to you will help you develop a unique interpretation.
Lead with your impulse.
Dancers tend to react solely with the choreographed steps rather than expressing the impetus behind them, says Stevens. Terror might bubble up from your shoulders, grief from your gut, joy from your chest. However, part of acting is not knowing what's coming. You can't anticipate what's going to happen—you have to witness it and then react to it.
Visualize your performance.
Stevens encourages dancers to take a moment to themselves before taking the stage. Find a quiet room and visualize your way through the perfect performance. This won't just help you tackle the character, but also the ballet's trickiest steps. "You have to think of yourself as an actor, and the steps are your lines," he says.