Choreographer's Collage: Al Blackstone
Al Blackstone is one of the fastest-rising choreographers in the industry, creating one successful piece after another. After making his Broadway debut as a dancer in Wicked, Blackstone won the 2011 Capezio A.C.E. Award for Choreographic Excellence, which gave him the opportunity to direct and choreograph a full-length production, Happy We'll Be. For the last three years, he's worked as Sonya Tayeh's associate choreographer, and his work, which often has a musical-theater slant, has also been featured on “So You Think You Can Dance." DS caught up with Blackstone to see what inspires his thoughtful and dynamic choreography.
“Jason Parsons made me want to become a dancer. I left high school in New Jersey early on Tuesdays and Thursdays to go to NYC and take his class at Broadway Dance Center."
Blackstone with Jason Parsons (courtesy Al Blackstone)
“Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake changed my life. I saw it three times. It made me want to be a choreographer, and showed me what was possible in storytelling without dialogue."
Mathew Bourne's "Swan Lake," performed by New Adventurers (Bill Cooper, courtesy Raw PR)
“Just before the A.C.E. Awards, I was performing in Wicked on Broadway. The girls in the dressing room were always talking about online dating—it was starting to get really big around then. My work is usually derived from things happening in my personal life. So when I was creating my A.C.E. Awards piece, I was inspired by the dressing room conversations—and by the fact that I'd just fallen in love."
Ryan Kelly (courtesy Al Blackstone)
“My full-length piece, Happy We'll Be, explores the highs and lows of our universal search for happiness. I used music and dance from lots of different genres, and the stories that unfolded reflected the joy of connection to the world and to each other."
“I knew early on that I wanted the venue for Happy We'll Be to be the Roseland Ballroom in NYC, and was ecstatic when it was presented to me as an option. It has a certain rawness and history—there are ghosts within that space. My parents used to go there all the time. My dad was a ballroom dancer, and I grew up listening to stories about his times at Roseland."
Blackstone's parents at the Roseland Ballroom (courtesy Al
“When creating Happy We'll Be, I had a giant queue of songs I wanted to use during the production. 'Hyperballad' by Björk was one of them. To me, it represented a return to my contemporary roots. And I was set on ending with Louis Armstrong's rendition of 'La Vie en Rose.' I'd also wanted to use 'Chicago' by Sufjan Stevens, but had to cut it because it just didn't fit."
Matthew Murphy (courtesy Al Blackstone)
“'SYTYCD' was a crash course in trusting my instincts. The routines I created for Season 12 were exercises in making quick decisions. Nine times out of 10, your gut is right. For Jaja and Ricky's routine to 'Let's Face the Music and Dance' by Nat King Cole, I knew I wanted Jaja's character to be bold and feminine. She's an amazing actress, so she played the feisty wife of a smooth-talking mobster perfectly."
Jaja and Ricky performing their routine (Mike Yarish/FOX, courtesy Fox)
“I'm really inspired by filmmakers Woody Allen and Wes Anderson, especially Anderson's Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. Allen's Everyone Says I Love You and Mighty Aphrodite feature choreography by Graciela Daniele—she uses humor in a way that's really stayed with me."
Woody Allen (Thinkstock)
Misty Copeland. Her name is synonymous with exquisite artistry and outspoken advocacy. And her visibility has made a huge impact on the ballet world. Ballet's relationship with race has always been strained at best, hostile at worst. But Copeland's persistent message and star quality have finally forced the ballet industry to start talking about racial diversity, inclusivity, and representation. "The rarity of seeing ourselves represented is sad," Copeland says. "The more we see every hue and body shape represented on the stage, the more possibilities young dancers feel they have for themselves."
"Whole, low-fat, or skim?" The question of which milk to drink has gotten a little more complicated lately, with a wide variety of nondairy milks popping up in grocery stores. To find out which ones are worth your milk money, we had registered dietitian Monika Saigal answer some FAQs.
Yesterday, the dance community was heartbroken to learn that Jaime Guttenberg and Cara Loughran, both 14-year-old dancers, were among the 17 people killed on Valentine's Day in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.
American Ballet Theatre principal Sarah Lane charms audiences with her bright energy and crisp technique. The San Francisco, CA, native first started dancing at age 4 at a local community center, and at age 7 started training in Memphis, TN, at the Classical Ballet Memphis. Her family later moved to Rochester, NY, where she continued studying at the Draper Center for Dance Education. In 2002, she was a YoungArts Foundation winner in dance, allowing her to become a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts. She joined American Ballet Theatre as an apprentice in 2003, was made a soloist in 2007, and was promoted to principal last fall. Recently, she originated the role of Princess Praline in Alexei Ratmansky's Whipped Cream. Catch her later this spring during ABT's Metropolitan Opera season. —Courtney Bowers
You and I both know that dancing is the best thing since chocolate chip cookies! But its always nice when dance gets the recognition it deserves from non–dance-world peeps. That's why we did our own happy dance when we saw Shape magazine's article on how dancing can actually make you a better athlete.
When Ruby Castro became a Top 10 finalist on "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 13, she was a fresh, feisty new face to most at-home viewers. But in the dance world—particularly on the ballroom circuit—Ruby was already a household name. Miami-based Ruby grew up as a belle of the ballroom: Her parents, Manny and Lory Castro, are veritable superstars of the scene. They're the owners of Dance Town, an ultra-competitive studio in Doral, FL, and raised Ruby to follow in their furiously fast footsteps. Before she graced the "SYT" stage, Ruby had already been named a U.S. Junior Champion in Latin Ballroom, and competed on "America's Got Talent"—twice!
So, we know she's talented, we know she's versatile, we know she's stunning, and we know she can dance. But here's what you may not know about Ruby.
You know that thing when you're onstage at a competition and you catch your teacher unconsciously marking through every step of the choreography in the wings, just willing you and the rest of the group to dance perfectly?
Yeah—that happens in ice dancing, too. Case in point: the scene at the Olympic rink yesterday, as Canadian ice-dancing legends Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir skated their way to their third Olympic gold.
Obviously, their performance was all kinds of epic. But the off-ice "performance" given by their coach, Marie-France Dubreuil, was EVERYTHING.
Photo by Travis Kelley, courtesy Kathryn Morgan
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured!
I want to dance in a ballet company, but I'm insecure about my body. I'm not skinny, and I don't think I ever will be, because that's just not the way I'm built. Please be honest with me: If I don't have the traditional ballet body, do I have a future in professional ballet?