Bradley Shelver on Working with Lar Lubovitch
Collaborating with a choreographer on a new work can be one of the most exciting and fulfilling times in a dancer’s career. I spent almost five weeks in the studio with Lar Lubovitch, who was commissioned by The Limón Company to create a new piece for our 2006-2007 touring season. The working title for the piece is Recordare, which means “remember” in Spanish. It’s inspired by the Mexican El Día de los Muertos, or The Day of the Dead, a holiday that celebrates the lives of those who have died. The work’s theatricality was challenging for the company, as we were asked to be as creative in our character development as we were in our technical and artistic interpretations. The piece is inspired by images on trinket boxes; I play a drunk Mexican cowboy, a villager and a groomsman.
I love observing the creative process of others. It’s interesting to experience Lubovitch at work, because I admire his understanding of music, partnering and staging, and how he brings out the best in his dancers. He has incredible musicality, and I found myself dreaming of the music and its haunting phrasing. The work premiered on October 29 in Boston and was then shown at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
In the past few months, I’ve had many opportunities to push my creative boundaries. While working with Lubovitch, I was asked to guest with a new NYC-based company called The Francesca Harper Project. Harper, a former Frankfurt Ballet principal, is an exceptionally talented choreographer, singer, filmmaker and Broadway actress. My acting skills were again challenged when, for her gala performance, Harper asked me to develop a character, and then speak and define mannerisms.
Conveniently, the rehearsals for The Limón Company and the FH Project were both held at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s studios. After 3 hours spent with Lubovitch, I would run to the studio next door on my lunch break to rehearse with Francesca, then run back to continue rehearsals with Lubovitch.
Also during this time, two organizations commissioned me to choreograph. The first gig was for the 2005 Elan Awards honoring Susan Stroman (held October 10 in NYC), and the second was for contemporary ballet company Cedar Lake 2. I accepted both jobs and used any free time I had to choreograph. It can be difficult to find inspiration when I’m mentally and physically exhausted, so it helped to have a wonderful pool of dancers to set my choreography on.
Most companies use the summer to create, rehearse and establish programs for upcoming seasons. As dancers, we’re forced to deconstruct ourselves as we construct something else. When faced with a new choreographic challenge, you have to strip away what you already know (or think you know) and be prepared to accept new ideas. I always keep an open mind and a ready body so that I can establish my technical foundation and then layer on the artistic elements carefully. I’ve heard many artistic directors say that it takes between six months and a year before dancers grasp a work. With every choreographer, I just hope that I can do his or her work justice.
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.
The dancers who take our breath away are the risk-takers, the ones who appear completely fearless onstage. "When you see somebody trying to travel more, go farther, push the limits of their physical abilities, that's always going to be inspiring," says Ballet BC dancer Alexis Fletcher.
But dance training can feel like it's in conflict with that idea. We spend thousands of hours in the studio trying to do steps perfectly, and that pursuit of perfection can make us anxious about taking risks. What if we fail? What if we fall?
Luckily, fearlessness is a mental skill that you can work on, just as you work on your technique. Here's how you can learn to push yourself past your limits.
If you're in need of a piece that's both trendy and sophisticated, look no further than this Só Dança crop top. Featuring elegant long sleeves, a high neckline, and a delicate lace trim, it's both classic and contemporary—perfect for everything from that big audition to a long night in the studio. Enter below for your chance to win it!
Auditioning for summer intensives in person may be the ideal—but for Anna McDowell, a 16-year-old student at Juneau Dance Theatre in Juneau, AK, it's rarely possible. “Living in Alaska, it's difficult to travel to auditions," she says. “It gets way too expensive!" Instead, each year, with help from her teachers and a videographer, she puts together a well-crafted video and submits it to schools around the country. Last year, her high-quality video helped her earn acceptance to nearly every program she applied for. Most summer intensive programs, eager to attract students from far and wide, will accept video auditions from those who can't travel to take class. But major schools look at hundreds of submissions each year, which means video auditioners have just a few minutes—or even seconds—to make a great impression. If you're about to create an audition video, follow these tips from the professionals to put your best digital foot forward.
There are zillions of things to think about when choosing a summer program, but here's one you might not have considered: using an intensive as an opportunity to focus on a new style. Maybe you're a tap dancer who's ready to see where else your rhythm and quick feet can serve you, or a contemporary dancer curious about the more traditional roots of your genre. A summer program can be the perfect place to broaden your horizons, giving you the opportunity to make technical and artistic changes that stick throughout the year.
Happy birthday, George Balanchine! The great choreographer and founder of New York City Ballet would have been 114 years old today. Balanchine revolutionized ballet, especially American ballet—and he also had quite a way with words. To celebrate Mr. B's birthday, we rounded up some of our favorite iconic Balanchine quotes.
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.