Dance News

As far as musical theater news is concerned, this week has been liiiiiiiiit. On Tuesday, we reported that Carousel is coming back to Broadway next year in a production featuring several New York City Ballet favorites. Now there's word that two more of our ballet/Broadway baes are at the helm of a new City Center Encores! production of the classic Brigadoon.

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Plus, the gala dinner setup was gorgeous! (photo via NYCB)

For ballet nerds like me, there are few things more exciting than watching young dancers develop into beautiful, authoritative artists. Last night, New York City Ballet's spring gala opened with a work that let some of my favorite rising stars prove just how much they've grown up.

That'd be Christopher Wheeldon's Soirée Musicale, an alternately elegant and playful little ballet that gives nearly every cast member a moment in the spotlight. And what a cast it was!

We got Brittany Pollack, Lauren Lovette, Taylor Stanley and Chase Finlay, recently-promoted dancers I've followed since their apprenticeships. And then there were the newbies I've just begun to pick out of the corps: Sara Adams, Harrison Ball, Indiana Woodward and Peter Walker.  Nearly all of them are under the age of 25—many have only been in the company for a year or two—but they danced with the confidence of seasoned pros. A special highlight came toward the end: a poignant, romantic pas de deux for Lauren and Chase that signaled what might be the beginning of a beautiful partnership.

The gala was packed with many other fun treats too, of course. There was a second premiere by Wheeldon, a pas de deux in homage to Jerome Robbins' West Side Story danced by the sublime Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild. There was the exhilarating nonstop acceleration of the final section of Robbins' Glass Pieces, featuring what seemed like the entire company. Queen Latifah stopped by to serenade Sterling Hyltin and Amar Ramasar as they glided through Balanchine's "The Man I Love" pas de deux from Who Cares?. And Ashley Bouder and Andrew Veyette had a jaw-dropping "anything you can do, I can do better" competition in the cheeky Stars and Stripes pas de deux.

But it was those young, newly-minted stars that stuck with me as I left Lincoln Center last night. In a gala that was all about high-wattage brilliance, they shone brightest.

Dance News

We've been talking a lot about Christopher Wheeldon's An American in Paris, and for good reason—the show's 14 Tony nominations might have something to do with it, as well as Wheeldon's genius choreography.

Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope of An American in Paris performing on "Live! With Kelly and Michael." (Screenshot via YouTube)

Obviously with all the buzz around An American in Paris, we want to relive the magic again and again, but only short clips are available online. Luckily though, the stars of the show, New York City Ballet's Robert Fairchild and the Royal Ballet's Leanne Cope, were guests on "Live! With Kelly and Michael" this past Friday. The duo performed a lovely bit of choreography, and it was amazing to see how both dancers' ballet backgrounds translated into the world of musical theater. They performed a very Wheeldon pas de deux: Cope's legs-for-days extended in high développés as Fairchild whisked her around the stage. We were even treated to Fairchild's singing voice, and it didn't disappoint. While the clip isn't front row on Broadway, it'll certainly do! Watch the entire segment below:

Dance News

Pop quiz! Who's getting really excited for this Sunday's Tony Awards?

a) The Broadway community.

b) Your grandma.

c) Anybody who loves dance.

d) ME ME OMG ME.

e) All of the above.

The correct answer, of course, is E. But let's put special emphasis on C here for a minute, shall we? Because the official lineup of Tony Award performers was recently announced, and holy LaDucas is it ever jam-packed with dance.

Oh yeah. There's gonna be a LOT of this. (Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope in An American in Paris; photo Sara Krulwich/New York Times)

First of all, there'll just be more performers on stage, period, than at any previous Tony Awards. And since this was a particularly glorious year for dance on Broadway, a lot of them are going to be world-class dancers.

Top highlights include:

-the American in Paris mashup of "An American in Paris (pas de deux)," "'S Wonderful" and "I Got Rhythm," featuring Tony nominees Leanne Cope and Robert Fairchild doing fellow nominee Christopher Wheeldon's choreo;

-On the Town's medley of "Lucky to Be Me," "New York, New York" and "Times Square Ballet," with choreography by Josh Bergasse performed by Tony nom Tony Yazbeck and the stellar ensemble (hi Ricky Ubeda!);

-"Stronger" from Finding Neverland, featuring Mr. Schue Matthew Morrison and Kelsey Grammer doing Mia Michaels' oh-so-Mia choreography.

In case you're wondering what Mia choreo on Broadway looks like, here's a sneak preview. (The cast of Finding Neverland; photo Sara Krulwich/New York Times)

Also, Kirstin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming—whom I'd like to present with a pre-Tonys award for Broadway People I'd Like to Be Best Friends With (prize is a selfie with yours truly; COME FIND ME TO CLAIM IT!)—will be hosting. So, that'll be great, obviously.

Click here for the full list of performances, and be sure to catch all the musical theater action this Sunday at 8 pm ET on CBS.

Dance News

The Tonys are coming, the Tonys are coming! It's like musical theater Christmas!

The 2015 Tony Award nominations were announced this morning by the ever-glamorous Broadway (and TV and movie) star Mary Louise Parker and Bruce Willis (whom you know as "Dancing with the Stars" front-runner Rumer Willis' dad). And guys, there are so many amazing things to report. Because, well, ballet.

Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope in Christopher Wheeldon's An American in Paris (Photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy Boneau/Bryan-Brown)

New York City Ballet principal Robert Fairchild and Royal Ballet first artist Leanne Cope received Tony nominations for their lead performances in An American in Paris. Christopher Wheeldon—ballet choreographer extraordinaire—earned TWO nominations for the show, for both best direction and best choreography of a musical.

Joshua Bergasse also earned a nom for his choreography of On the Town. Remember when he taught us 16 counts of the number "New York, New York"? You might want to revisit that combo before June 7—if the cast performs it at the awards ceremony, you can dance along with them in front of your TV. (Y'all know I certainly will be.)

Joshua Bergasse (front) rehearsing the cast of On the Town (Photo by Jenny Anderson, courtesy Matt Ross Public Relations)

Other choreographers nominated include Casey Nicholaw (Something Rotten!), Christopher Gattelli (The King and I) and Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett for Frantic Assembly (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time).

Chita Rivera—as in West Side Story, Fosse and OVERALL BROADWAY LEGEND CHITA RIVERA—received a nomination as best female lead performer in a musical for her role in The Visit. She plays an aging bajillionaire who returns to her small hometown to seek revenge on a former boyfriend—and the town itself. And while she doesn't do a whole lotta dancing in the show, I think we can expect a pretty stellar performance at the Awards. After all, it's her 10th Tony nomination, so...go big or go fun home, amirite?

All in all, An American in Paris racked up 12 Tony nominations—the most this year, tied with Fun Home. Get the full list of nominees here, and start placing your bets now! Who do you think should win for best choreography? Was anyone (or any show) snubbed? Let us know what you think in the comments!

Dancer to Dancer

She may be a Brit, but when she’s onstage as Lise in An American in Paris, Leanne Cope is the image of Parisian chic. Cope, who will make her Broadway debut in the role this month, is a first artist with The Royal Ballet. But it wasn’t simply her flawless technique that caught An American in Paris director Christopher Wheeldon’s fancy. Cope took voice lessons as a kid, and after joining The Royal in 2003, she quickly became known for her theatricality in ballets such as Liam Scarlett’s Hansel and Gretel and Sweet Violets. Want to get to know the real-life Lise? Read on for The Dirt. —JD

Leanne Cope with New York City Ballet principal Robert Fairchild in An American in Paris (photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy An American in Paris

What did you want to be as a kid?

A florist, a nurse or Julie Andrews

What dancer would you drop everything to see?

Sylvie Guillem

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?

Reality TV

Who’s your dance crush?

Other than my husband, Paul Kay, I would have to say Baryshnikov

Do you have any pre-performance rituals?

I like having a scented candle in my dressing room while I put on my makeup.

Who is your role model?

My mum

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Fear has two meanings: Forget everything and run, or face everything and rise.

Dance News

Each year around this time, the ballet companies of the world begin revealing the programming for their upcoming seasons. And every time a season-announcement press release lands in my inbox, I squeal like a kid on Christmas morning—because they're all full of delicious ballet goodies. Premieres! Revivals! Old favorites! YUM, YUM AND YUM.

New York City Ballet announced its 2015–2016 season yesterday—and it's scrumptious, you guys. There are 58 ballets on the lineup, featuring music by 47 composers. There are no fewer than seven (!) world premieres, including two from golden boy Justin Peck, one from up-and-comer Myles Thatcher and one from established genius Christopher Wheeldon. Balanchine's gorgeous Jewels is coming back, along with 27 other Balanchine ballets. The scale of it all is just so huge! AHHHHHHH.

Abi Stafford and Jared Angle in "Emeralds" from Jewels *swoon* (photo by Paul Kolnik)

What am I most excited about? Well, I'm a Peck obsessive, so obviously his two premieres are at the top of my list. But get this: His new work for the spring season will actually be a story ballet, based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale The Most Incredible Thing. Just when I thought I'd nailed Peck down as a thoroughly modern guy, he goes and creates a narrative work! Love it. Also, three of the premieres will be created by people who've never choreographed for NYCB before: Thatcher, Canadian artist Robert Binet and the British-based Kim Brandstrup. I'm curious to see what their chemistry with the company will be like.

You can read about the full season lineup here. In the meantime, get excited for the company's nearer-at-hand spring season, which kicks off April 28. So much balletttttttttt!

Dance News

The musical theater gods have showered us with love—or, rather, with two behind-the-scenes videos from Christopher Wheeldon's new An American in Paris! And their timing is perfect: The show opens tonight in The City of Lights.

I prefer the video with Wheeldon (the show's director) and Craig Lucas (the show's writer) talking about the production—because in addition to highlighting Wheeldon's delightful British accent, it also gives us a peek at the choreography. I mean, who doesn't love watching dancers (like the show's star, and New York City Ballet principal Robert Fairchild) in rehearsal? Plus, Wheeldon discusses remaking the classic movie, and the challenges that come with both leaving the original behind and maintaining the integrity of the story and score. Check it out:

The second video is all photos, taken by dancer-turned-photographer Matt Trent. They're lovely, and set to Gershwin 's timeless score (naturally):

An American in Paris runs at the Théâtre du Châtelet through January 4. And luckily for Americans not in Paris, the musical is slated to open on Broadway this April. Get tickets here.

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