Dance Theatre of Harlem's annual New York City Center run kicks off next month. But rather than putting out a standard-issue promotional video for the season, the company produced a beautiful short film, "High Above," showing art's unique ability to lift us up.

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The annual Fire Island Dance Festival took place in New York last week and raised a record-breaking amount for its worthy cause: Dancers Responding to AIDS. This year also featured five new world-premiere works and more than 30 professional dancers.

Highlights included ballerina Wendy Whelan in choreographer Brian Brooks' piece First Fall, a MADBOOTS Dance piece in response to the Orlando tragedy titled For Us and the first U.S. performance of Cuba's Ballet Contemporáneo de Camagüey. Dance Theatre of Harlem also debuted Equilibrium (BROTHERHOOD) by Darrell Grand Moultrie and Dorrance Dance performed a jaw-dropping tap piece.

Wendy Whelan and Brian Brooks perform First Fall. (Photo by Daniel Roberts via Facebook, Dancers Responding to AIDS)

The fest's iconic stage, overlooking the water, makes for a pretty stunning venue. And thankfully, for those that missed out, some of the dances have made their way to YouTube. Check out the highlights video first, then scroll down for a full-length performance of Al Blackstone's upbeat "Gay Paree" (a re-imagined piece from his recent hit Freddie Falls in Love) and appearances by Dance Theatre of Harlem, MADBOOTS Dance and Gallim Dance.

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Photographer Aaron Pegg is already Insta-famous as @underground_nyc, where he snaps artsy photos of people throughout the NYC subway system. Over the weekend, he revealed that ballerinas are his favorite photography subjects.

The New York Post interviewed Pegg and rounded up some of his best ballet pics—and we are drooling over the gorgeous poses and stunning lines. And it doesn’t hurt that his #flawless subjects frequently include Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Alison Stroming, Ingrid Silva and Nayara Lopes, American Ballet Theatre’s Elina Miettinen and Boston Ballet soloist Rachele Buriassi.

Of his dance subway shots Pegg says to the New York Post, “It’s such a great contrast between two art forms—the gritty subway with the elegance of ballet. I love working with ballerinas because they’re perfectionists. They make you want to be a perfectionist as well.”

Scroll through our favorites below for some serious #MondayMotivation and check out the original Post piece here.

Dance Theatre of Harlem's Nayara Lopes, Alison Stroming and Ingrid Silva. (screenshot via @underground_nyc)

Dancer Olivia L. Burgess (screenshot via underground_nyc)

Dancer Ingrid Silva at Central Park (screenshot via @underground_nyc)

Boston Ballet soloist Rachele Buriassi (screenshot via @underground_nyc)

Dancer Kelly Kakaley (screenshot via @underground_nyc)

American Ballet Theatre dancer Elina Miettinen (screenshot via @underground_nyc)

Dancer Alison Stroming (screenshot via @underground_nyc)

Dancer Brittany Cavaco (screenshot via @underground_nyc)

Dancer Rachele Buriassi (screenshot via @underground_nyc)

Dancer Ingrid Silva (screenshot via @underground_nyc)

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One of the best parts about being a dancer is getting to see the world. And whether you're prepping for a Nationals competition weekend, a weeklong summer intensive or a six-month international tour, one thing is clear: Dancers pack a lot of stuff. (I mean, lbh, you'll always need that fifth pair of pointe shoes—oh, and definitely a dozen pairs tights, just in case.)

Stroming with her Tumi gear—a Tegra-Lite case and Sinclair purse (via Tumi.com)

Well, the folks behind the luxury suitcase brand Tumi might have had that in mind when they chose Dance Theatre of Harlem's Alison Stroming to rep their newest luggage line, Tegra-Lite. Stroming has been named a Tumi Global Citizen, joining nine other international travelers who rely on Tumi's products to get their jobs done.

Even if you aren't in the market for new travel gear, check out Stroming's ad campaign. It's 100 percent the most beautiful ad for luggage you've ever seen:

Every year, Career Transition for Dancers—that fantastic organization that helps pro dancers figure out their post-dance lives—puts on a wonderfully over-the-top, star-studded gala. Attending it has become one of my favorite DS editor perks, because it's always so darn joyful—it's all about dancers celebrating dancers. Last night's gala show was a smorgasbord of awesome performances and touching tributes. Here are my top five highlights:

5. A ton of people did a delightfully schmancy take on the Shim Sham. To kick (or tap, rather) off last night's festivities, the American Tap Dance Foundation gathered a stageful of tappers, young and old, to perform a dressed-up version of the classic routine. It was really moving, actually—a tradition being passed from one generation to the next, right before our eyes.

4. The Dance Theatre of Harlem dancers proved they could get down—in pointe shoes. The company's gorgeous classical dancers got in touch with their funkier sides in an excerpt from Robert Garland's Return, set to the music of James Brown. The only thing better than beautiful ballet technique is beautiful ballet technique mixed with the Mashed Potato.

3. There was a Rockette alumni kickline, and it was glorious. 14 lovely former Rockettes reunited to accompany Broadway legend Karen Ziemba's performance of "I Wanna Be a Rockette." (The group included our friend Amanda Kloots-Larsen.) Naturally, it was leg heaven. Once a Rockette, always a Rockette!

2. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Kirven Douthit-Boyd showed off his insane body control. He performed Takademe, choreographed by Robert Battle—a tour-de-force solo that's basically a visual illustration of its intricate, spoken-word Indian Kathak score, matching every single syllable with a gesture. And, um, there are a LOT of syllables. Douthit-Boyd had the audience erupting in spontaneous cheers throughout his performance—he was that unbelievable.

Douthit-Boyd in Takademe (photo by Paul Kolnik)

1. Angela Lansbury received the Rolex Dance Award, and we all decided to be Angela Lansbury when we grow up. Mrs. Potts is, unsurprisingly, the class act to end all class acts. Though she isn't really known for her dance skills per se, her acceptance speech was a lovely, heartfelt tribute to dancers and former dancers. And then she gave us some Fosse kick action on her way offstage, and our hearts melted into happy little puddles. (Also, fellow theater legend James Earl Jones presented her award, which, THAT VOICE.)

OK. Deep breaths, guys. By now we're guessing a lot of you have seen the video for Free People's new collection of dancewear—and a lot of you are angry about it. In case it hasn't popped up in your Twitter feed yet, voila:

There's been an outpouring of snarky commentary about this online. Because despite her lovely face and body, that model is clearly not a high-caliber ballet dancer—a fact immediately apparent to anyone with serious training. You want to yank those pointe shoes off her feet before she breaks her poor, sickled ankles.

Here's the good news: The clothes themselves? A lot of them are great! I mean, I want this, and this, and I could definitely use a pair of these. It's not the product that's the problem. (Well, maybe these are a little strange...but the idea is interesting.)

So somebody over at Free People understands dancers. The question is: Why didn't they follow through? Why create a line of clothes dancers might actually love—and then advertise it with a model guaranteed to set dancers' teeth on edge?

What a missed opportunity, especially because the remedy is so simple. The world is crawling with gorgeous, talented dancers who would hit this kind of job out of the park. It seems like Free People had a very specific "look" in mind—a beautiful woman who breaks the "only white girls do ballet" stereotype—and just off the top of my head, I can think of many phenomenal dancers who fit that look perfectly. What about the extraordinary members of Dance Theatre of Harlem, or Complexions Contemporary Ballet, or Alonzo King LINES Ballet? What about someone like Michaela DePrince, who has not only a great body, but also a powerful story to tell?

I'm curious to hear how you all feel about this. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

In Alvin Ailey's Pas de Duke (photo by Siggul/Visual Arts Masters)

Alvin Ailey’s Antonio Douthit-Boyd is the epitome of power and grace in perfect harmony. Yet it’s his passion that captivates audiences. He honors his craft as a gift that was given to him when he needed it most.

Douthit-Boyd grew up in St. Louis, MO, where his family suffered financial strains. He spent part of his childhood at St. Louis Transitional Hope House, a place where homeless families retreat to rebuild their lives. One day, he followed the sound of drums to a dance class. This chance occurrence set off a series of events that landed him a scholarship at the Center of Creative Arts. He continued training at several respected schools and joined Dance Theatre of Harlem in 1999. In 2004, Douthit-Boyd joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, where he continues to dance today. See him onstage during the company’s 2013 season, which runs through January 5 at New York City Center. —Maggie McNamara

 

Dear Antonio,

Thank you for being fearless by jumping into dance class that day and changing the path of your future. Even when your friends said dance wasn’t for boys, you insisted on staying. Thanks for being a dreamer.

Always remember the feeling in your gut after first witnessing Alvin Ailey’s Revelations, a work filled with inspiring motion and emotion. Hold on to the excitement you felt when you ran home to rave to your mom about this amazing company of all kinds of people, who move in a superhuman way. When you demonstrated the moves you saw, your mom disapproved. Thanks for not being discouraged. Instead, you went to your room, looked out your window and made a wish on the brightest star in the sky. Your prayer was to be a dancer and to see your name in lights, shining like those very stars. Thank you for having faith.

Douthit-Boyd as a teen (photo courtesy Antonio Douthit-Boyd)

Your prayer will be answered. Your passion will lead you on a journey of discovery. You’ll travel with one of the world’s most beloved dance companies—Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater—and have unexpected adventures, like walking the Great Wall of China, floating in the Dead Sea and meeting the President. You will have the opportunity to inspire others, as you were inspired, and your image on Ailey’s poster will be encouraging for other young men who question whether they should dance.

Maybe your friends and your mother would have been encouraging if they were aware of the possibilities. Even when no one understood, you listened to your heart. Be thankful for all the people who have been a part of your journey. Whether good or bad, all those experiences will be used to mold you into the strongest dancer and person you can be.

Most of all, thank you for dancing (and smiling)!

Antonio

Not Michaela's book. (Photo of Michaela by Yaniv Schulman.)

People just can't stop telling ballerina Michaela DePrince's incredible story. And now the world will get to hear it in her own words: Random House Children's Books has acquired the 18-year-old dancer's memoir.

Michaela, who grew up an orphan in war-ravaged Sierra Leone before being adopted by an American couple, will write the book with her adoptive mother, Elaine DePrince. She'll discuss not only her amazing survival story, but also her path to the world of professional ballet. (She danced with Dance Theatre of Harlem last season, and recently joined Dutch National Ballet's junior company.) Look for the book in the fall of 2014.

Survivor, dancer, writer—what can't this girl do?

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