Today in "How has this not already happened?" news: Benjamin Millepied—former New York City Ballet principal, former artistic director of the Paris Opéra Ballet, founder/director of L.A. Dance Project, and Mr. Natalie Portman—is going to direct and choreograph a big-screen film, Carmen.
The year 2011 was filled with show-stopping onstage moments and exciting offstage drama. Whether you were captivated by New York City Ballet star Sara Mearns’ 32 fouettés in Swan Lake or danced along in your seat as Sutton Foster led the Broadway cast of Anything Goes through a series of time steps, there’s no doubt you were entertained. Here are the people who kept us on the edge of our seats in 2011.
Sarah Lane. Photo by Gene Schiavone.
When Natalie Portman won the Best Actress Academy Award for her role as a twisted-but-talented ballerina in Black Swan, she neglected to thank her dance double, American Ballet Theatre’s Sarah Lane, in her acceptance speech. Later, Lane stood up to the movie industry by demanding credit for her work.
- New York City Ballet principal Jenifer Ringer danced the Sugar Plum Fairy role in the company’s Nutcracker, last year, and while most gave her a standing ovation, New York Times dance critic Alastair Macaulay remarked in his review that it looked as though she’d “eaten one sugar plum too many.” Ringer quickly became a role model for women everywhere when she went on “Oprah” this February to discuss the critique and proclaim that she thinks her body is just fine. So do we, Jenifer. Rock on!
- As if Alexei Ratmansky wasn’t already the busiest man in ballet, he just extended his contract as American Ballet Theatre’s resident choreographer through 2023.
- Company tours are a lot of work. This year Ballet Nacional de Cuba embarked on its first U.S. tour in five years, hitting four cities along the way.
- American Ballet Theatre principal (and star!) David Hallberg became the first American dancer to enlist permanently with Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet.
The Broadway production of Wonderland. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Everyone wanted to go down the rabbit hole: Productions of Alice in Wonderland popped up everywhere, from ballet stages (The Royal Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada and Royal Winnipeg Ballet all showed versions) to Broadway (Wonderland was short-lived, but the choreography by Marguerite Derricks was quirky and fun).
- Apparently Harry Potter can sing and dance—or at least his real-life alter-ego can. Daniel Radcliffe drew massive crowds and rave reviews when he starred in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. No magic wand needed.
The Book of Mormon. Photo by Joan Marcus.
The Book of Mormon was easily the most controversial debut on Broadway this year. The show, penned by “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone with Avenue Q co-writer Robert Lopez and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, may have offended some audiences, but it impressed the Tony Award voters and took home nine honors, including Best Musical.
On the Comp Scene
- Joe Lanteri, executive director of New York City Dance Alliance, changed 44 young dancers’ lives this summer when he presented $2.8 million in college scholarships. Go get those diplomas!
- Selecting the DS Cover Model Search finalists is never easy, but this year there were three dancers who stood out: Kaitlynn Edgar, Maddie Swenson and Zoey Anderson. All three hail from the competition circuit, and all three were wildly impressive.
- Melanie Moore won the title of America’s Favorite Dancer on “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 8 and landed on the cover of DS!
- When Beyoncé revealed her baby bump at the MTV Video Music Awards, she proved she runs the world—and so do her choreographers, Frank Gatson, Sheryl Murakami and Jeffrey Page. The trio won the VMA for Best Choreography for Beyoncé’s “Run the World” video.
- When Laurieann Gibson wasn’t throwing together award-winning choreography for Lady Gaga, she was starring on her own TV shows on E! and BET. We’re not necessarily on board with her screaming fits and harsh treatment of her dancers, but we do respect her moves.
Amanda and D'Angelo on "Live to Dance." Photo by Monty Brinton.
Paula Abdul’s “Live to Dance” wasn’t a hit, but it introduced us to D’Angelo Castro and Amanda Carbajales, who became the show’s champions. These tiny dancers won us over with their personalities and technique.
- Lil’ Buck may have been the coolest guy to get us talking this year. He starred in Janelle Monae’s “Tightrope” video and helped make jookin’ mainstream. His “Swan” performance alongside Yo Yo Ma? Breathtaking.
On the Big Screen
Natalie Portman accepts her Oscar for Best Actress. Photo by A.M.P.A.S.
She may not have done all the dancing as Nina, but Natalie Portman’s Black Swan performance was definitely Oscar-worthy. Plus, she met Benjamin Millepied, her boyfriend-turned-fiancé and father to her child, Aleph, on set.
- While no one can truly replace Kevin Bacon, Kenny Wormald proved that he’s a stud with smooth moves in this year’s remake of Footloose. Plus, his onscreen chemistry with costar Julianne Hough made us want to drag our own boyfriends to dance class.
- In First Position, audiences get a glimpse at the behind-the-scenes action at the Youth America Grand Prix finals in NYC. The documentary and its stars—Michaela DePrince, Joan Sebastian Zamora, Miko and Jules Fogarty, Aran Bell and Rebecca Houseknecht—received rave reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival.
In Modern Dance
- Bill T. Jones + Dance Theater Workshop = New York Live Arts. We love a good collaboration.
- When Judith Jamison retired as artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Robert Battle was handed the reins to the prestigious modern company. We can’t wait to see what he does with the group in 2012.
As you probably guessed immediately after hearing his amazing last name, Benjamin Millepied (seriously—could there be a better name for a dancer?) is a Frenchman, born in Bordeaux. But since he's spent most of his career in the States, dancing at New York City Ballet and choreographing all over, it was a shock to the ballet world when he was named the next director of dance at Paris Opéra Ballet this morning.
Millepied, who most people know as the choreographer of Black Swan, will take over POB in September 2014. That means he'll be leaving his experimental L.A. Dance Project, founded just last year, and moving to Paris—with, yes, his wife Natalie Portman and their son Aleph.
Here's the other interesting thing about this unexpected transition: While Millepied has focused on choreography in recent years, he's apparently not planning to do so at POB. Instead, he told the New York Times, he wants to beef up the company's contemporary repertoire, particularly works with commissioned scores. He also wants to promote in-house choreographers.
What will a traditional classical company run by a rule-breaking contemporary choreographer look like? And what will Natalie Portman look like in berets? We'll find out next fall!
OK, OK, I know: I talked about ballet galas yesterday too. Sorry! I have a one-track mind these days.
I promise I'll keep this one short: Just check out Guest of a Guest's slideshows documenting the amazing (and occasionally crazypants) fashion from both the New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre gala red carpets. Models and actresses—and, of course, dancers—in their fancy finest!