Dancer to Dancer
The multitalented Merritt Moore (photo by James Glader, courtesy Moore)

For the past decade, Merritt Moore has been living a double life as both a professional ballerina and a quantum physicist. While dancing with Zurich Ballet and Boston Ballet, she received her undergrad degree from Harvard in physics, and she's currently pursuing a PhD in quantum physics at Oxford while performing with English National Ballet and London Contemporary Ballet.

Now, Moore is hoping to add another ball to her juggling act: becoming an astronaut. She's one of 12 contestants competing on the BBC reality show " Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes?" For six weeks, Moore and her competitors face a series of demanding physical and psychological challenges to see if they're astronaut material. (Show mentor Chris Hadfield, former Commander of the International Space Station, will recommend the winner to space agencies recruiting for astronauts.) Even in a cast of extremely accomplished people—the contestants include a military pilot, a surgeon, and a dentist who has summited Mount EverestMoore's unusual combination of skills stands out.

We leveled with the renaissance woman about how she's managed to pursue all her different passions.

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Dance News

Attention #dancenerdz! You know Wayne McGregor? The uber-cool British contemporary ballet choreographer whose movement turns dancers into gumby superheroes? And maybe you've heard of Virgina Woolf, the British modernist writer who basically defined the genre and helped change the course of writing in the English language? Try to imagine those two towering artistic forces combined and you'll get McGregor's first-ever full-length ballet, Woolf Works, which is set to premiere at The Royal Ballet tomorrow!

Though McGregor's work is decidedly contemporary and Woolf's writing is at the heart of modernism (remember, in art history "contemporary" and "modern" don't mean the same thing), the choreographer isn't one to shy away from stylistic challenges. McGregor is following in the grand tradition of ballets inspired by literature, but he's also putting his own spin on it.

By choosing Woolf's writing, which often purposefully lacks a narrative arc, he set himself a clear goal: How do you make a full-length ballet that doesn't necessarily tell a story from beginning to end? How do you keep the audience interested? Even though Woolf Works is based on three of Woolf's novels (Orlando, Mrs. Dalloway and The Waves), it won't be a story ballet.

Nicol Edmonds and Olivia Cowley rehearsing Woolf Works, photo by Holly-Marie Cato

It's a lot to try and understand, but fortunately the dream team over at The Royal Ballet put together a nifty package of videos and photos to help you get a feel for McGregor's ambitious project. You can get a quick background on Virginia Woolf, learn about how McGregor is using each novel to inspire its own act in the ballet and watch rehearsal videos featuring McGregor working with Royal Ballet principals. Enjoy, and let's hope this becomes part of the Royal Ballet in Cinema repertoire for 2016!

Dance News

Raise your hand if it's your dream to have a private tour of your favorite opera house. Right, so everyone.

(Photo by @whatalexloves, via Instagram)

Thanks to Instagram, we can come pretty close. Following the success of the #emptymet campaign on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Instagram account, the Royal Opera House revealed its behind-the-scenes operations to a lucky group of London Instagrammers. The hashtag? #EmptyROH.

(Photo by @geerhee, via Instagram)

The ’grammers were treated to a morning tour of the opera house, capturing images of the dancers in company class and the costume shops before the daily hustle began.

There's something so special about the quiet stillness captured in these images—especially since we know how much work and effort is about to take place. Here's one ’grammer's take on photographing the Royal Ballet dancers: "It was a very intense moment, and it actually gave me chills."

We couldn't agree more. And remember, you can spend even more time behind the scenes with the Royal Ballet on October 1—#WorldBalletDay!

Dance News

Today, members of the Royal Ballet are performing an amazing mixed program during Deloitte Ignite, which is a month-long contemporary arts festival at the Royal Opera House in Lo—wait, what? You're saying you can't make it to England on such short notice? Well, do I have news for you.

Today's Royal Ballet performance will be live-streamed at 6:50 pm London time (that's 1:50 pm if you live on the East Coast). And there's a lot to watch. The program, Sampling the Myth, will include excerpts from Apollo, The Firebird, The Dying Swan, Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake and Wayne McGregor's Raven Girl. And as if that weren't enough, there will be a premiere by choreographer Aakash Odedra and three dance films with choreography by Robert Binet, Charlotte Edmonds and Kim Brandstrup.

Here's a little taste of the magic that's to come. First, a short promo video for the event:

Now for something a little more meaty. Check out this video of Sarah Lamb and Eric Underwood rehearsing Raven Girl with Wayne McGregor:

And here's Odedra in rehearsal with dancers for his new work, Unearthed, based on the Greek myth of Prometheus:

Sampling the Myth will be streamed live on the Royal Ballet's YouTube channel, or on the Royal Opera House's website. Happy Saturday!

Dance News

meeeeeow

Cats fanatics, book those plane tickets now. Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1981 dance musical masterpiece is returning to London this December, and news has dropped that at least one cat is getting a makeover: Rum Tug Tugger—the rock ‘n’ roll bad boy of Jellicle cats—is going to rap.

Why, you ask? Lloyd Webber has apparently decided that American poet T.S. Elliot, who penned the poems on which Cats is based, was perhaps the inventor of rap (ehh, we'll go with it). And, naturally, Rum Tum Tugger would be the kitty to get the upgrade. No word yet if Cats choreographer Gillian Lynne is going to follow suit and put in some hip-hop moves—but here's hoping she asks Tabitha and Napoleon for some input. Can you imagine the puss-ibilities?

To jog your "memmmorieeees…" (pun totally intended) of Tugger's number, here is the original:

And because I can't watch anything Cats-related without wanting more (seriously, it's like cat-nip to me), here's the big "Jellicle Ball" dance scene:

Dance News

Shopaholics, consider yourselves warned. What we're about to show you may be too much for you to handle.

Just last week, NOWNESS (an online platform that posts daily content about some aspect of luxury lifestyle—art, fashion, travel, food, design, etc.) posted a video short entitled Mine All Mine, with choreography by Italian Paolo Mangiola. The video features five stunning contemporary dancers from Sadler's Wells Theatre in London, England, modeling pieces by top fashion designers like Louis Vuitton, La Perla, Kenzo, Bottega Veneta, Haider Ackermann, Rick Owens and Maison Martin Margiela. In the video, the dancers move in and out of the clothing, seamlessly swapping items as they dance throughout the space.

But here's the dangerous part: This video is an interactive, "shoppable" video. Basically, this means that you can click on the clothes you like as the dancers move in them. Then, when you're done watching the video, you can go back and review the items you selected. AND BUY THEM.

If you dare to watch the interactive version of the video, click here. But if you don't trust yourself, here's a "safe" version of the video, where you can just enjoy the stunning visuals of dance and high fashion without the shopping temptation:

 

Dance News

If you're anything like me, you dread the thirty-two fouetté turns (or worse, the turns from fifth) that ballet teachers just love to throw in after grande allegro. I’m just not a turner...never have been, probably never will be. But last Friday, researchers at Imperial College London made an announcement that made me want to thank my ballet teachers.

According to their study, ballerinas’ brains are wired a little differently (like we didn’t already know that!). But more specifically, they found that three years of ballet training helps the brain suppress the sensation of dizziness.

You know, I may not be a good turner, but now that I think about it, I don’t really get dizzy that often. I can go on a tilt-a-whirl five times in a row without feeling a thing (although, I wouldn’t really recommend that...).

Check out this video from BBC to get a quick rundown on how they conducted the study. It’s pretty cool to hear scientists talk about “the spotting method”—dancers are so smart! Also about a third of the video is devoted to showing a ballerina at the Royal Opera House performing perfect fouetté turns en pointe. Bonus!

If you're familiar with choreographer Elizabeth Streb—and you should be, because she's awesome—you know that she's all about extremes. (Her company is called STREB EXTREME ACTION, after all.) A risk-taker who's always thinking outside the (theater) box, she's no stranger to daredevil stunts that involve trampolines and bungee cords.

Yesterday, as part of the London 2012 festival leading up to the Summer Olympics, Streb and her dancers "ambushed" London in a performance called Surprises: Streb. They appeared as if out of nowhere at landmark locations all over the city: the Millennium Bridge, the London Eye, the National Theatre. And they didn't just use these beautiful sites as backdrops. In true Streb fashion, they danced on them—that is, when they weren't launching themselves off of them.

This is one of those events that's better described in pictures than in words, so check out the gallery of jaw-dropping photos below. It looks like it was a crazy—and crazily beautiful—performance.

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