Ailey Does Kylián, I Die of Happiness
Last night, I was able to snag a ticket to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's "season preview" performance, a sampler of works from their upcoming New York City Center season. There was an excerpt from From Before, an earthy, polyrhythmic company premiere by legend Garth Fagan. There was the spankin' new Another Night by up-and-comer Kyle Abraham, set to Dizzy Gillespie's get-up-and-go jazz. Both pieces felt like classic AAADT fare: Vibrant, electric, seriously charismatic. Both, in other words, showed the audience a good time.
But when the company performed part of Jiří Kylián's Petite Mort, I almost lost my mind.
Are you already a Kylián fan? If not, it's time to get educated, and videos of Petite Mort are a fine place to start. (If you're a fan of "Breaking Pointe," it'll look familiar—the show included footage of Ballet West's recent performances of the piece.) Kylián, who was the director of Nederlands Dans Theater for decades, has a sleek, calligraphic style. He's especially gifted when it comes to partnering—his pas de deux are fantastically knotty and yet seamless strings of shapes. His path from point A to point B is never the obvious way, but eventually it feels like the only way.
Petite Mort is technically fiendish, and for that reason it's usually performed by top-notch ballet companies. Ailey dancers all have solid ballet training, but I wondered if this work might be a little out of their comfort zone.
How silly of me. The entire cast looked wonderful, with Jamar Roberts and Alicia Graf Mack shining especially bright. What a gorgeous, impossibly long-limbed, elegant dream team! Alicia used to be the star of Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Jamar has danced with Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Petite Mort showed off all their best classical qualities—those lines!—but they, and the rest of the Ailey cast, also brought a unique richness to the piece. These dancers weren't just taught how to move; they were born to move.
Ailey performs Petite Mort for the first time on December 7th. Get thee to New York City Center! (And for information about the rest of the season, click here.)
Much of Janelle Ginestra's career has been about helping others shine. She's dedicated herself to supporting and cheerleading her partner, WilldaBeast Adams; the emerging talents in their dance company, ImmaBEAST; and the countless dancers she inspires at master classes and conventions. Her YouTube channel has become a launching pad for young talents like "Fraternal Twins" Larsen Thompson and Taylor Hatala, thanks to viral videos featuring Ginestra's creative vision.
But Ginestra's a skyrocketing success in her own right—an in-demand choreographer, a social media influencer, and a dance entrepreneur, building a legacy one eight-count at a time. It's time for her turn in the spotlight. And she's more than ready. "I want to be a legend in whatever I do," she says. We'd argue that she already is.
For more on choosing whether to compete or not, click here.
I started dance classes at a young age. By the time I was 3, I was training at The Dance Club, and I grew up there. I started with the basics—ballet and jazz—and eventually added tap, tumbling, contemporary, and hip hop.
Early on, I did compete. I remember my first time: I did a trio at a small local competition, and it got first place. The trophy was as tall as I was, and I loved it. I attended conventions as a mini, and had the opportunity to take classes from Travis Wall, Sonya Tayeh, Andy Pellick, and Joey Dowling-Fakhrieh. There was so much variety—I was in awe.
For more on choosing whether to compete or not, click here.
My mom was a dancer growing up, and she went on to become a dance teacher, so I've really grown up in the studio. I started classes when I was 2, and by the time I was 9, I was training at The Dance Club and knew I wanted to dedicate all my time to dance.
Daphne Lee is a queen, and not just in the "OMG Girl Boss Alert" sense of the word. She's an actual queen—a beauty queen. Crowned Miss Black USA in August, she's been doing double duty as she continues to dance with the Memphis based dance company, Collage Dance Collective. Lee's new title has given her the means to encourage other black girls and boys to pursue their dreams, while also pursuing dreams of her own. The scholarship money awarded with the pageant title will assist her as she earns a Masters of Fine Arts degree at Hollins University.
When a choreographer finds a composer whose music truly inspires her, it can feel like a match made in dance heaven. Some choreographers work with the same composers so frequently that they become known for their partnerships. New York City Ballet soloist and resident choreographer Justin Peck, for example, has tapped composer Sufjan Stevens numerous times (last spring, the two premiered The Decalogue at NYCB, to rave reviews); L.A. Dance Project's Benjamin Millepied's working relationship with composer Nico Muhly has spanned a decade and two continents; and when tap dancer Michelle Dorrance premiered the first-ever Works & Process Rotunda Project, a site-specific work for New York City's Guggenheim Museum, last year, percussionist Nicholas Van Young was by her side as an equal partner. Successful collaborations require compatibility between artists, direct and honest communication, and flexible, open minds. But when the stars align, working with a composer can be extremely rewarding.
For ballerinas, it's the dream role to end all dream roles: Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, the type of part dancers spend years preparing for and whole careers perfecting. And it's a role that New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck never thought she'd dance. Though Peck is one of the world's preeminent ballerinas, her short stature made Odette/Odile, typically performed by longer, leggier dancers, seem (almost literally) out of reach.
Then—surprise!—her name popped up on the cast list for NYCB's fall season run of Swan Lake.