Here at DS, we're big believers in our Sunday #MomentofZen. It's important to take a day to recharge and prep for the week ahead, especially when it comes to setting goals. Which is why we thought it was the perfect time to introduce our Sunday Spotlight Roundup. Maybe you've been wanting to master a new leap in jazz class, or prep your pointe shoes differently—no matter the goal, we've got you covered with these in-depth, how-to articles, covering everything from convention tips to Balanchine technique.
New York City Ballet in George Balanchine's Serenade (by Paul Kolnik)
For the bunheads:
Did you start at a new studio that teaches Balanchine technique? Our "Dancing Balanchine" spotlight focuses on all the beautiful intricacies of his style and choreography.
Have your pointe shoes been dying faster than usual? "Shank Strategies" offers tons of super helpful advice on how to customize your shoes.
Are you constantly wondering when you'll be getting that first pair of pointe shoes? "Am I Ready for Pointe?" helps you determine if your strength and technique are solid enough.
For the competition and convention regulars:
Not feeling too hot about your competition routine? We broke down all the problems you
Olga Pericet in Pisadas (photo by Javier Fergo, courtesy Jerez Festival)
might have with your new piece (and the solutions).
Only dance on marley at home? Sometimes the floors at conventions can prove to be the biggest challenge. We rounded up the best tips on how to deal.
For dancers wanting to try a new style:
We explain how to execute a perfect Switch Firebird jazz leap.
Curious about finger-tutting in the hip hop scene? We asked the pros to walk us through a sequence.
Looking to spice up your dancing? Learn all about the passionate, musical world of Flamenco.
Looking for some dance inspiration? Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is beaming no fewer than FOUR works, including the beloved classic Revelations, to a movie theater near you this Thursday, October 22!
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Linda Celeste Sims in Wayne McGregor's Chroma. Photo by Paul Kolnik
In addition to Revelations, theatergoers and dance lovers alike will also get the chance to view Chroma by Wayne McGregor, Grace by Ronald K. Brown and Takeademe by Robert Battle, AAADT's artistic director.
This screening is part of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ exciting new cinema series, Lincoln Center at the Movies: Great American Dance, which also includes performances from San Francisco Ballet, Ballet Hispanico and New York City Ballet. Check out the news section of our November issue for more info.
To purchase tickets, visit fathomevents.com or participating theater box offices.
If you've already gotten your hands on DS's October issue (and if you haven't, click here!), you've seen our "Choreographer's Collage" with Justin Peck. The 25-year-old is pretty busy these days: Not only is he one of the ballet world's most talked about up-and-coming choreographers, he's also a corps dancer with New York City Ballet.
As Peck's collage reveals, his ballets are inspired by anything from the George Balanchine classics he's danced to restaurant meals. Sounds fascinating, right? Which is why I kind of can't wait to see his new work for NYCB, Year of the Rabbit, when it premieres this Friday. The piece is set to music by indie star Sufjan Stevens, who worked with Peck and conductor Michael Atkinson to translate what was originally a lot of beepy electronica into a score for a string orchestra. (Check out the three of them talking about the process in this recording of their Guggenheim "Works & Process" presentation—it's pretty nifty!)
Can't make it to NYC for the premiere? Well, here's a little taste of Year of the Rabbit: a promo video featuring NYCB dancers Janie Taylor and Craig Hall doing some beautiful things on the beach. Enjoy!
Glamorous Titania in George Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The imperious principal woman in Balanchine's Agon. These are the types of juicy, career-making roles veteran dancers aspire to—but a 19-year-old in New York City Ballet's corps has already put her distinctive stamp on both of them.
Meet Miriam Miller. Though the luxuriously leggy, quietly magnetic dancer only became a full NYCB company member this past January, she's already set the ballet world buzzing with her authoritative portrayals of those two principal parts. One night, she's earning ovations at center stage; the next, she's hanging out in the corps' back row. It's a fairy-tale story, the kind that, if her life were a movie, would end with Miller as the company's Next Big Thing. But this is the real world, and while Miller may be on the path to stardom, she isn't racing down it. Instead, she's steadily and thoughtfully exploring the many facets of her artistry—trying, like most teenagers, to figure out exactly who she is
The Indiana University dance community, and the ballet world in general, is mourning the loss of legendary ballerina Violette Verdy. Verdy, one of the 20th century's ballet icons and a member of IU's faculty since 1996, passed away yesterday at the age of 82.
Verdy's extraordinary career included 20 years as a New York City Ballet principal (after being invited to join the company by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein), performances of over 100 ballets and stints as artistic director of Paris Opera Ballet and Boston Ballet.
Violette Verdy performed with over 50 companies in her lifetime. (via Indiana University)
She performed on the major stages of the world including Palais Garnier, La Scala, Bolshoi Theatre, Mariinsky Theatre, Metropolitan Opera and the White House (by invitation of President Gerald Ford). She also worked with over 50 different choreographers and had some of ballet's most iconic pieces created especially for her: Roland Petit's Le Loup, Jerome Robbins' Dances at a Gathering and Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, Jewels, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and more.
Verdy in "Emeralds" from George Balanchine's Jewels in 1967 (photo by Martha Swope, via Indiana University)
"She lit our world, as she did the world of ballet, moving with such joy and imagination, teaching with such passion and living a life in such an engaged way," says Gwyn Richards, the dean of IU's Jacobs School of Music.
Verdy with George Balanchine and Edward Villella at a Pulcinella rehearsal in 1972. (via Indiana University)
She will be deeply missed.
Today, let's take a moment to reflect on the legacy of George Balanchine, the father of American ballet.
He was an innovator, who took his Russian training and tweaked it to match the frenetic pace of his adopted home. Now, Balanchine dancers are known for their speed, precision and musicality. He was an entrepreneur, who created his own ballet education program and founded his own company. We still look to the School of American Ballet and New York City Ballet to preserve his legacy. He was a visionary, whose first ballet created in America (Serenade, in 1934!) looks as fresh today as it did 82 years ago.
Now, not only is his work exported to companies around the globe, but several other American companies are noted for their relationship to his training and choreography, including Pacific Northwest Ballet, Miami City Ballet and Pennsylvania Ballet. Balanchine really is everywhere.
Bolshoi Ballet principal Olga Smirnova in George Balanchine's "Diamonds" from Jewels (photo by Elena Fetisova)
His legacy isn't without controversy, though, and many people think Balanchine's preference for waif-like ballerinas helped normalize extremely thin bodies in the ballet world. Others don't like his style at all, and consider Balanchine technique to be too affected.
Fortunately, his body of work is so large and varied—and is now danced by so many companies—we can look at it and make decisions about its merit for ourselves. But there's no denying the lasting impact of his work. Who do you think will be the choreographers we still remember in another one hundred years?
Happy National Dance Day, fellow dancers! We asked you the other day how you'd be celebrating our favorite holiday, and while it seems like a lot of you will be taking classes, performing and dancing anywhere and everywhere you can, we're here to suggest an alternative: Ballet binge-watching marathon, anyone?
Nothing's more frustrating than searching for a ballet on YouTube only to find a bunch of short clips. Well, we've done the hard work for you! Behold, our National Dance Day YouTube roundup of the best ballets presented in their entirety. Excuse us while we sit in a dark room with a bowl of popcorn for the next 8 hours:
1. Paris Opéra Ballet performing Jerome Robbins' Dances at a Gathering
This beautiful, light and energetic piece by Robbins is set to a gorgeous Chopin piano score. The stunning étoiles of the Paris Opéra Ballet effortlessly dance their way through this technically demanding choreography—and they do it with grace, musicality and presence.
2. Paris Opéra Ballet performing George Balanchine's Agon
Another stunning display of artistry from POB. This Balanchine classic is widely considered to be one of ballet's most timeless, masterful works.
3. The former Kirov Ballet performing Swan Lake
Yulia Makhalina absolutely shines as Odette/Odile in this Kirov Ballet production of Tchaikovsky's classic Swan Lake.
4. Svetlana Zakharova and Roberto Bolle in Giselle
Superhuman Zakharova and her drool-worthy feet are picture-perfect in the Bolshoi's version of Giselle. Throw Roberto Bolle and his star quality into the mix and you've got an hour and a half of ballet brilliance.
5. George Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux
The sublime Darcey Bussell and Zoltán Solymosi dance Balanchine's 8-minute piece, filled with excitement, fish-dives and fouettés.
I used to be one of those crazy people who danced in 500 performances of The Nutcracker every year. Now I'm an even crazier person who goes to watch 500 performances of The Nutcracker every year. And as someone who's seen all kinds of versions from all kinds of angles, I can tell you that few Nutcrackers compare to the marvelous confection George Balanchine choreographed for New York City Ballet in 1954.
NYCB in the snow scene from Balanchine's Nutcracker (photo by Paul Kolnik)
Odds are you know the Balanchine Nut pretty well, thanks to the 1993 film version starring one Macaulay Culkin. But do you know the history of the production?
Turns out, it's totally fascinating. Dance writer Laura Jacobs recently penned a wonderful story for Vanity Fair about how this Nutcracker came to be, and it's full of gems. Did you know that there's a trap under the Koch Theater stage constructed specifically for the giant tree? That Balanchine lifted the Candy Cane divertissement straight out of the Mariinsky Ballet Nutcracker he performed in as a young dancer? That the cape the Grandmother wears today is from the original 1954 production? That before the Arabian dance became an awesomely slinky solo for a woman, it starred a man with a hookah and four little girls dressed as parrots (!!!)?
There's a heck of a lot more where that came from: Read the whole story here. And once visions of sugar plums are dancing in your heads, watch the Sugar Plum pas de deux from the film version, starring Darci Kistler and Damian Woetzel, below.
Happy Nutcracker, everybody!