A Dream Come True at The Pillow
Last June, five exceptional young dancers from the New Orleans Ballet Association’s Center For Dance got the chance of a lifetime—to perform at the world-renowned Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, MA. And that’s not all! Their debut at The Pillow was the high point of a three-week, four-city tour that had them performing, taking classes, visiting universities and attending performances. They explored the many dance offerings in each place, while discovering what it’s really like to tour as a professional. Three NOBA instructors (who are also professional dancers) and two musicians also performed and traveled with the group.
“Dance is a source of refuge for these dancers,” says Suzanne Hirsch, director of education for the New Orleans Recreation Department and the New Orleans Ballet Association. “This experience created a sense of community among them”—no small feat considering that all five girls were displaced for about a year after Hurricane Katrina destroyed their homes in 2005.
Thanks to individuals and dance groups who reached out to NOBA after Katrina— and lots of hard work and fundraising on NOBA’s part—the five students were able to perform at the National Dance Education Organization conference in Mobile, AL, with MNR Dance Factory in L.A. and at The Pillow.
“So much of what’s in the news about New Orleans today is negative,” says Hirsch. “It’s about the crime that’s happening here. We wanted to show the world that there’s actually a lot of good in New Orleans as well. There is extraordinary talent in the arts and positive young people who are doing great things.”
Gavanne Jasmine Davis, Zuzanna Mrozek, Courtney Ross, Jonesha Spears and Jasmin Simmons (as well as their teachers, Meredith Early, Maritza Mercado-Narcisse and Lisa Keskitalo) exemplify all that is good about the Big Easy. They’re articulate, smart and talented, and served as wonderful ambassadors for their city while out on the road. They also continued to be the recipients of extraordinary kindness. One 13-year-old MNR Dance Factory student, Katie Meyers, even asked that her fellow dancers donate to NOBA in lieu of giving her gifts for her bat mitzvah.
For 15 years, the partnership between the New Orleans Recreation Department and NOBA has provided 6,000 kids ages 6-18 with year-round comprehensive dance programs for free. In addition, it provides employment, professional development and artistic experiences to local artists.
“Because of NOBA, I know what I want to do and what it will take me to get there,” says Davis. “I know that I have to put my best foot forward all the time to achieve my goals.”
Well, this brings class videos to a whole new level! Choreographer Phil Wright and dancer Ashley Liai have been together eight-plus years, but she was still in total shock when he proposed to her mid-dance at Millennium Dance Complex earlier this week. Why? Well, the whole thing was unbelievably perfect.
In the dance industry, dancers don't always have a say in what they wear on their bodies. This can get tricky if you're asked to wear something that compromises your own personal values. So what should you do if you find yourself in this sticky situation? We sat down for a Q&A with "Dancing with the Stars" alumn Ashly Costa to answer that very question. Here's what she had to say about the options dancers have surrounding questionable costumes.
The groundwork for Erin Carpenter's company, Nude Barre, began when she was a teenager. At 16, she earned a spot in the residency program at The Kennedy Center in partnership with Dance Theatre of Harlem. "We were required to wear nude—as in, our actual skin tone—tights and shoes," she remembers. Carpenter brought her "sun tan" tights and a pair of pink ballet shoes with her, because that was all she could find. But she wasn't allowed in class because her dancewear didn't match her skin. "I was so embarrassed," she says. "I looked unprepared. I just didn't have the right nudes." Her teacher explained that the dancers dyed their tights and pancaked their shoes.
There are dancers and then there are DANCERS! Whitney Jensen, soloist at Norwegian National Ballet, is the latter. The former Boston Ballet principal can do it all. From contemporary to the classics this prima has the technical talent most bunheads dream about. Need proof? Look no further.
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's dance inducing hit, "Despacito," is so catchy it should probably come with a disclaimer that warns people of an uncontrollable itch to tap your feet or bob your head. Some might even feel inclined to go all out and break it down. Niana Guerrero is a prime example of "Despacito's" uncanny ability to unleash the red dressed emoji dancer within. 💃🏽 💃🏽
Guys, we all knew this was coming—"World of Dance" was eventually going to eliminate someone. But man, is it brutal to watch these talented dancers give their all, only to be sent home. It's the name of the game, though, and after last night's episode, only two dancers per division remain. (At least Misty Copeland guest-judging was a silver lining!) Here's what went down last night: