ABT II's Rising Stars
Last night I saw American Ballet Theatre's second company, ABT II, perform at The Joyce as part of the theater's 1.2.3. Festival. The dancers in the company have completed their training at ABT's feeder school, the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, and are in that in between phase: post-school, pre-company. But I think it's safe to say that a few of these second company members are going to be rock stars as they move forward in their ballet careers.
The first piece the company did last night was Interplay, choreographed by Jerome Robbins. The young dancers all embraced the flirty, carefree playfulness Robbins so often choreographs around. The standouts in this work — and throughout the night — were Brittany DeGrofft, Skylar Brandt and Irlan Silva. These are three dancers to keep your eyes on!
Throughout the evening's other pieces — Le Corsaire, Pavlovsk, Swan Lake and Ballo Per Sei — it became clear that ABT II's artistic director, Wes Chapman, really knows how to cast his dancers in fitting roles. Brittany, with her classic beauty (she reminded me of New York City Ballet's Kathryn Morgan), lovely extension and total control, was a total joy to watch. You never worried that she was going to fall out of a pirouette or slip on the stage. She displays exceptional confidence onstage, which is so refreshing to see in such a young dancer. I especially loved her in Pavlovsk, which was both romantic and heartbreaking.
Skylar was perhaps my favorite dancer of the whole night. We've featured her a whole bunch of times in DS, most recently in a fashion spread in the March 2008 issue (check it out — she's gorgeous). Skylar has the sweetest personality, and that comes through onstage. She's always beaming, but never over-the-top. She's also got killer technique. During the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux a Trois, she nailed those fouettes with speed and precision. It was so impressive, and the audience went crazy for her.
Irlan Silva was the man to watch last night. The other young men on stage were great, but Irlan stole the show. (Sorry, guys!) His turns were faster and more controlled, his jumps were higher and his flexibility was unmatched. And he's got stellar presence on top of it all. It's hard to imagine him transitioning into the corps at a company — he's like a young Marcelo Gomes in the making.
I can't wait to see what all of the ABT II company members do in the next few years. With training from some of the world's best ballet teachers (including our very own Editor in Chief, Kate Lydon!), it's safe to say they're all going to help shape the future of ballet.
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.