A Star-Studded Evening at NYCB
In nearly every one of my blogs, I write about how great it is to work at Dance Spirit. Last night, as I lingered outside NYC's always-breathtaking Lincoln Center with my eyes glued to the star-studded red carpet, I found myself (yet again) thinking that I have the best job in the world. The celebration: New York City Ballet's spring gala, which included two world premiere ballets by Benjamin Millepied and Alexei Ratmansky. The evening kicked off NYCB's Architecture of Dance festival that will be going on all season. Take note, people: There are some must-sees coming from the company, so get your tickets now!
The first part of my night was, of course, spent standing by that illustrious fountain in the middle of Lincoln Center and watching the glitterati parade into the David H. Koch Theater. There were dancers galore (those not performing that night) all decked out, and they looked amazing. My favorites: Maria Kowroski in a stunningly bedazzled gown, Tiler Peck in a short, bright green frock and Joaquin de Luz, looking dashing in a perfectly fitted tux. Sarah Jessica Parker posed on the red carpet with NYCB's Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins, and Darci Kistler, while Mikhail Baryshnikov strolled through the lobby. Natalie Portman, who is dating Benjamin Millepied, was there as well, in a shiny red ensemble, looking dainty and darling, as always. Not bad for a Thursday night at the ballet!
Onto the show... In a great opening video presentation by Kristin Sloan, the audience was introduced to Santiago Calatrava, the brilliant architect who designed the sets for NYCB this season. His designs ("scenography," as he calls them) will appear in five pieces throughout the season, including those by Melissa Barak, Mauro Bigonzetti, Peter Martins, Millepied and Christopher Wheeldon. It was incredible to see the way architecture and dance can come together to form visual artistry. After a lovely (and truly appreciative) speech by Mr. Martins, including a toast to Mr. Calatrava and his wife, the evening got underway.
First up was the world premiere of Benjamin Millepied's Why am I not where you are. I was thrilled to see Kathryn Morgan, a DS favorite, taking the place of leading lady Janie Taylor for the evening. When we first wrote about Morgan, she was quickly rising through the corps at NYCB. Now, as a soloist, she's getting tons of opportunities to shine, including debuting in Millepied's piece last night. Also taking center stage in the piece: Sara Mearns, Sean Suozzi and Amar Ramasar. When the curtain rose, revealing a giant arch-like set by Calatrava, the audience gasped. But for me, that was the most exciting part of the ballet—the set. The dancing didn't do it for me. The costumes (bright, shiny and a bit too circus-like for my taste) were distracting, and the choreography seemed too quick for the dancers to keep up with. Even Mearns, who is always so beautifully poised and controlled, didn't totally seem in her element throughout the work. I did adore Sean Suozzi the whole time. He's a firecracker of a dancer and I look forward to seeing more from him this season.
What I loved about the evening: Alexei Ratmansky's world premiere of Namouna, A Grand Divertissement. And I think it's quite safe to say the whole audience loved it as well. The piece began with an energetic (though never over-the-top) female corps parading onto the stage in lovely, pale yellow dresses and black wigs (they looked sort of like shower caps—silly at first, but they grew on me). One thing I found particularly impressive about Ratmansky's work was his staging and formations. The lines were always perfect (Great for me, I've got a touch of OCD when it comes to that stuff!) and he really knows how to utilize a big floor.
The leads in Ratmansky's piece were Wendy Whelan (regal, amazing, always breathtaking to watch), Robert Fairchild (arguably the most gorgeous male dancer of our time), Jenifer Ringer (hilariously adorable as a flirty sparkplug), Sara Mearns (much more in her element this time around), Daniel Ulbricht (in his typical jester-like, trick-filled role) and the dancing duo of Megan Fairchild and Abi Stafford who, for me, were the highlight of the piece. Ms. Fairchild and Stafford not only look remarkably alike, but they also dance so well together. Their whimsical, bouncy, playful jaunts onstage with Daniel Ulbricht had the audience in a fit of giggles. A true testament to the genius that is Alexei Ratmansky: He had the crowd laughing, gasping and smiling over and over throughout the hour-long piece.
All in all, it was a fantastic evening with New York City Ballet. I'm so excited for the spring season. Hope to see you there!
Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.
When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.
In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.
The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."
Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.
Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.
She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.
There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.
We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)
So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.