Bradley Shelver's Future as a Solo Artist
My first solo tour in Italy (in November) was very exhausting, yet incredibly rewarding. I spent a total of three weeks there. Before the tour, I went to Amsterdam, where I had the opportunity to watch Jirí Kylián reconstruct one of his only evening-length works, called One of a Kind. In 2002, he had planned to teach me Blackbird, one of his solos, though at the time, neither of us had room in our schedules to get into the studio together. Instead, I learned it by watching a video. I was asked to perform this solo at a gala held in Teatro Comunale Francesco Cilea in Reggio Calabria in the south of Italy, though I couldn’t, because this time, I didn’t have time to rehearse it.
Instead, I chose to dance an 11-minute solo by Elisa Monte and David Brown, titled Run to the Rock, set to music by Nina Simone. The gala featured classical soloists like Giuseppe Picone of Italy, Joel Carreño and Viengsay Valdés of Cuba, Anna Tsygankova of the Bolshoi Ballet, Alicia Amatriain and Jason Reilly of the Stuttgart Ballet and Ivan Putrov of the Royal Ballet in London. I was the only representative of contemporary dance. The program consisted of works by Itzik Galili, William Forsythe, Marius Petipa and Agrippina Vaganova, so it was certainly a mixed bill. Our first press conference was just as eclectic, with reporters from across Europe. The performance was a tremendous success, and I appreciated the praise I received for being the only contemporary dancer.
Though many of the other performers had danced together before, this gala was my first time onstage with any of them. After years of being in the biz, it still amazes me that dancers, no matter where they are from or what language they speak, can connect and form a bond that feels like family even if it only lasts for the performance.
The next day, I traveled to Rome for my day off before flying to Naples to teach master classes at the Labart Conservatory and the Patty Schisa School. My classes were filled, sometimes with almost 70 dancers. Even though I had taught at the Labart Conservatory before, so students knew what to expect, I was still surprised at how many of them had heard of me. I must admit it was flattering when they surrounded me and asked for pictures and autographs. I have never before experienced such an overwhelming response. I’ve decided to start planning another tour for the summer of 2006.
The life of a dancer is truly an adventure. The solo artist’s world is filled with excitement and glamour, yet also requires dedication, sacrifice and overcoming stress and other obstacles, such as endless touring, muscle pains, physiological effects of injuries, trying to run your life from the road and balancing relationships with your friends and family whom you don’t get to see very often. I think the strength we have is our love for the adventure, the joy of bringing the language of dance to so many people, regardless of color, creed or political convictions. I would not trade my life in dance for anything. I feel that my happiness comes from the joy and fulfillment of my audiences—that is why I breathe; that is why I dance.
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.