Would you like to absolutely drown in beauty today? Yes? Of course you would. And we've got just the video for you: "Now More Than Ever," created by Ezra Hurwitz for the Ballet Across America festival, which is currently underway in D.C. The four-minute fantasia features American Ballet Theatre stars Isabella Boylston, Stella Abrera, James Whiteside, Marcelo Gomes and Calvin Royall III performing ravishing bits of choreography in, on and around the historic Kennedy Center.
There are gauzy, gorgeous ballgowns. There are beautifully unexpected uses of the KenCen's opulent spaces. There are worshipful shots of these extraordinary dancers doing extraordinary things.
It's irresistible. Just luxuriate in it. And D.C.-area friends, be sure not to miss the Ballet Across America programs, which are curated by two complete unknowns named Misty Copeland and Justin Peck.
One is American Ballet Theatre's first African American female principal; the other is the United States' first African American president. Obviously, Misty Copeland and Barack Obama are incredible role models. But it turns out these two leaders have even more in common than you might think. (And no, we're not just talking about the fact that Obama also has pretty impressive dance skills...although, fair point.)
Recently, Time magazine—which named Copeland and Obama two of its Most Influential People in 2015—had the pair sit down for a candid interview with reporter Maya Rhodan. As Rhodan pointed out, both were born into multiracial families, both were raised by single mothers and both have risen to the top of their respective fields. And that was the jumping-off point for a convo that ranged from how race has affected their careers to body issues in the ballet world to basketball star Steph Curry.
It wasn't all super-serious! (screenshot from Time.com)
Unsurprisingly, the eternally poised Copeland held her own with the leader of the free world—and Obama, eloquent as usual, showed off a pretty decent knowledge of the ballet scene, too. (He's probably picked up a few pointers from Copeland since appointing her to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition back in 2014.) Here are a couple of dance-related highlights from their discussion:
Barack Obama: "You know, as the father of two daughters, one of the things I’m always looking for are strong women who are out there who are breaking barriers and doing great stuff. And Misty’s a great example of that. Somebody who has entered a field that’s very competitive, where the assumptions are that she may not belong. And through sheer force of will and determination and incredible talent and hard work she was able to arrive at the pinnacle of her field."
Misty Copeland: "I think that having a platform and having a voice to be seen by people beyond the classical ballet world has really been my power...It’s allowed me to say, it’s okay to have a healthy athletic body. We are fully capable of doing everything that the person who doesn’t have an extremely athletic body, that is more thin. We’re fully capable of doing exactly the same thing....And it’s I think forcing a lot of these top tier companies to address the lack of diversity and diversifying the bodies that we’re seeing in classical ballet."
Watch the whole interview here:
How do you sum up an evening that includes performances of stage-shaking passion; heartfelt speeches that make you laugh and then make you ugly cry; and an inescapable sense of beautiful, joyful, warm-and-fuzzy #dancerlove?
You can do it the way legendary Merce Cunnigham dancer Valda Setterfield did it last night: By declaring that there's nothing better than being in a room full of dancers, whom she called the world's bravest, most generous souls. (Not too shabby.) Or you can do it in six words: Welcome to the Dance Magazine Awards.
Last night's ceremony marked the DM Awards' 61st anniversary, and this year's crop of honorees included luminaries from all corners of the dance world. None other than Mikhail Baryshnikov graced the stage to present the evening's first award to Karen Kain, one of the National Ballet of Canada's loveliest ballerinas and now its artistic director. Kain was one of the first people Baryshnikov met after he defected from Russia, and the two have kept up a beautiful friendship for decades—though Baryshnikov lamented in his speech that he was too short to ever dance with her. (That honor went, instead, to slouches like Rudolf Nureyev.)
Baryshnikov and Kain: BFFLs.
Also representing #teamballet was honoree Marcelo Gomes, the gorgeous American Ballet Theatre principal and choreographer who charms the heck out of both audiences and his adoring ballerinas. We were treated to a pas de deux from Gomes' recent premiere for ABT, AfterEffect—lushly danced by Cassandra Trenary and Thomas Forster—that put Gomes' deep understanding of the intricacies of partnering on display. And recently retired ABT star Julie Kent made a sweetly teary speech in which she noted that even babies "immediately feel safe in Marcelo's arms, just as I do." D'awwwwww.
Kent in her safe place
Setterfield (wearing the world's most amazing plaid pantsuit ensemble) paid tribute to David Vaughan, a dancer who basically invented the job of "dance archivist" and has served in that role for Merce Cunningham's company since 1976. Now 91, Vaughan shows zero signs of slowing down: In his lovely acceptance speech, he talked about the fact that his old friend, dance artist Pepper Fajans, had convinced him to return to the stage next month. May we all be that awesome in our tenth decade.
We saw a vividly drawn excerpt from honoree Jawole Willa Jo Zollar's Walking with 'Trane—a musing on John Coltrane's legacy—performed by Zollar's company, Urban Bush Women, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Zollar spoke movingly about the fact that reaching a "point of stability" in one's career was actually a bad sign: On a heart monitor, ups and downs indicate a pulse, while death is a stable flatline. She urged everyone to embrace life's natural rises and falls—though now, she added, whenever she's feeling low, she can look at her Dance Magazine Award and say, "Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, you are a bada**." FACT.
The highlight of highlights for me, though, was watching flamenco virtuosa Soledad Barrio blaze through Solea, accompanied by three masterful musicians (and the "Olés!" of the appreciative crowd). Tattooing the stage with her heels, slicing the air with her arms, searing our souls with the depth of her passion, Barrio illustrated exactly what the DM Awards are all about (Charlie Brown): honoring the most extraordinary of extraordinary dance artists, the people whose brilliance is life-enhancing and life-affirming and, sometimes, life-changing.
Check out video highlights from the awards here:
You've probably noticed that we DS editors love all things ballet, fashion and festive. So it's probably no surprise that American Ballet Theatre dancers + Club Monaco + pretty clothes is a winning combo in our books. Five corps de ballet dancers from ABT (Scout Forsythe, Claire Davison, Calvin Royal III, Gemma Bond and Cameron McCune) were the focus of the clothing company's Winter 2015 holiday party campaign, and the resulting images are full of whimsy, fringe, silk and sparkles. The dancers also shared why and what they love about ABT. Check out our favorite images below, and be sure to take a look at the entire campaign here!
(All photos via Club Monaco)
American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland is a trailblazer who is changing the game of classical ballet. And now the amazing 32-year-old is sharing her life story with the whole world in a new documentary, out this week: A Ballerina’s Tale.
Directed by Nelson George, the film gives viewers an inside look at the ups and downs Copeland faced on the path to becoming ABT's first black female principal. Confronted with challenges ranging from body shaming to injury, Copeland fought her way to the top ranks of classical ballet by believing in herself and taking chances.
The documentary hits theaters this Wednesday, October 14. And Copeland and George will be hosting a series of Q&As starting on October 14 at the IFC Center and Lincoln Center in New York. To purchase tickets for the Q&As, click here; for a list of theaters playing the film, visit aballerinastale.com.
American Ballet Theatre's latest production of The Sleeping Beauty premiered last night at the Segerstrom Center in California. And you know what that means: The company's dancers are currently flooding Instagram and Twitter with tantalizing behind-the-scenes photos and videos. Which is the best.
World Premiere Day! All very best to dear colleagues/friends @ABTBallet. t my prince @marcelogomes47 #Sleepingbeauty pic.twitter.com/0KmOSiTRvr
— Diana Vishneva (@dianavishneva) March 3, 2015
This new Beauty is especially interesting because it's actually...old. Choreographer Alexei Ratmansky reconstructed it from dance notation recorded more than 100 years ago, making it about as close to the original Petipa choreography as you can get. And though ballet companies around the world have been performing Beauties "after Petipa" for generations, this super-authentic production looks remarkably different from the SB ballet nerds know and love. Legs and lifts are lower; the overall feel is more genteel.
For example—to get reeeeal nerdy for a minute—look at 1:47–2:07 in this video of Marianela Nuñez and Thiago Soares dancing the Act III pas de deux with The Royal Ballet. Legs galore! But in the ABT production, as this clip from principal Isabella Boylston's Insta shows us, that moment has a totally different feel:
So elegant and refined, right? It's almost disorienting for those of us accustomed to the "higher is better" school of thought.
The new Beauty's costumes also have a vintage-y feel. They're inspired by the designs of Leon Bakst, the artist who famously costumed many productions for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in the early 20th century. Tutus are longer, headpieces are more extreme, colors are brighter and bolder:
One down & costumes ready! Excited to dance Sapphire tonight, come see us #SleepingBeauty @ABTBallet @SegerstromArts pic.twitter.com/eF4wegAjxv
— Paulina Waski (@PaulinaWaski) March 4, 2015
If you're lucky enough to be in the L.A. area, you can catch ABT's Beauty now through March 8; East Coast peeps, you'll have to wait until the company performs it at Lincoln Center in a few months. In the meantime, let's all of us bask in the glory of this SB Insta post by principal Gillian Murphy, which wins everything:
A photo posted by Gillian Murphy (@gillianemurphy) on