The groundwork for Erin Carpenter's company, Nude Barre, began when she was a teenager. At 16, she earned a spot in the residency program at The Kennedy Center in partnership with Dance Theatre of Harlem. "We were required to wear nude—as in, our actual skin tone—tights and shoes," she remembers. Carpenter brought her "sun tan" tights and a pair of pink ballet shoes with her, because that was all she could find. But she wasn't allowed in class because her dancewear didn't match her skin. "I was so embarrassed," she says. "I looked unprepared. I just didn't have the right nudes." Her teacher explained that the dancers dyed their tights and pancaked their shoes.
New York City Ballet soloist and resident choreographer Justin Peck is never not busy: This year alone, he's created works for San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet and NYCB. But Peck's latest ballet for his home company, The Most Incredible Thing, is his biggest production yet. Based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, it features 50 dancers; a score by Bryce Dessner, of the band The National; and costumes and sets by popular artist Marcel Dzama. Dance Spirit caught up with NYCB corps de ballet member Gretchen Smith, a Most Incredible Thing cast member, to get the scoop on Peck's new work. —Olivia Manno
Peridance Contemporary Dance Company members (photo by Karli Cadel)
Being the savvy dancers that you all are, you already know it’s a good idea to scope out hot, interesting choreographers, to discover who and what you really like—and what you like…less. Being informed about what’s happening in the dance world will help you choose which auditions to go to and who to take classes from once you’re on your own as a professional.
One of the best ways to see several different companies at once is to attend a showcase. This weekend, Peridance Contemporary Dance Company is sharing a program with three other NYC dance companies: SynthesisDANCE, Mettin Movement and :pushing progress. These companies are small but mighty—they regularly perform world premieres in some of NYC's coolest venues.
PCDC company member Eoghan Dillon (photo by Dekel Hamatian)
“Our group of dancers are all stand-outs, but during rehearsal we were pushed to our limits—both artistically and physically,” says full-time Peridance company member Eoghan Dillon. “I feel really connected to this work, and I’m itching to get out and perform it.”
If you're itching to see it, click here to buy tickets.
Whether he's onstage with Shaping Sound—the company he helped co-found with Travis Wall, Nick Lazzarini and Kyle Robinson—or performing with artists like P!nk, Janet Jackson, Lady Gaga or Usher, contemporary dancer Teddy Forance never delivers anything less than jaw-dropping performances. His technique is flawless and he leaves everything he has on the stage, every single time. The Easthampton, MA, native grew up dancing at the Hackworth School of Performing Arts, which was founded by his great-grandfather and has been owned by his family for more than 80 years. At 17, Forance toured Greece as a dancer with pop star Anna Vissi. He later assisted on Céline Dion's Taking Chances world tour and was a lead dancer in Cirque du Soleil's Delirium. He's performed on and choreographed for “So You Think You Can Dance" and “Dancing with the Stars," and starred in the Step Up Revolution film. Currently, he choreographs for Shaping Sound and is on faculty with JUMP Dance Convention.
High school senior Savannah Gaillard has been attending the New York University Future Dancers and Dancemakers workshop at Tisch School of the Arts for the past three years. The uber-focused and dedicated teen chronicled the final three weekends of the 2016 program: Every Saturday, from February through April, she and her mom, Nancy, took the train from their home in Haymarket, VA, to NYC so Savannah could experience life as a BFA dance major at Tisch.
It's a question every serious dance student has to ask as she approaches high school graduation: What's next? College, or a company gig? A full-time dance career, or…something else? You can't take this big decision lightly. But how can you know if you're ready to go pro after high school? What about at age 22, with four years of college dance classes under your belt?
Herman Cornejo and Fang-Yi Sheu (photo by Erin Baiano, courtesy New York City Center)
This year marks the Limón Dance Company’s 70th anniversary season, and what better way to celebrate the iconic modern choreographer than with a big party? October 13–25, dance companies from around the globe—including The Royal Danish Ballet and the Bavarian State Ballet—will perform some of Limón’s seminal work at The Joyce Theater. Nine student-dance companies will also take the festival stage, including dancers from Southern Methodist University, who’ll perform Limón’s There Is a Time. “It really speaks to the importance of the work when it’s experienced on this level, with so many professional companies,” says Patty Harrington Delaney, SMU’s chair of dance. Will students get to mingle with company members? Longtime Limón Dance Company dancer Ryoko Kudo is hopeful for those kinds of interactions: “It would be wonderful if this opened more doors to collaboration and if we could continue to work together,” she says.
Get more info: joyce.org
Choreography Gone Couture
New York City Ballet’s 2015 fall season (September 22–October 18) features world premieres by choreographers Robert Binet, Kim Brandstrup, Justin Peck (his ninth for the company!), Troy Schumacher and Myles Thatcher. And for the fourth year in a row, NYCB’s fall season is celebrating the dance–fashion connection. Six internationally acclaimed designers—including Zuhair Murad and, for Oscar de la Renta, Peter Copping—will create couture costumes, to be unveiled at the NYCB gala on September 30 at Lincoln Center.
Get more info: nycballet.com
Six Tappers at Sea...on Broadway
If you’ve never heard of the musical Dames at Sea, you’re not alone. Those who have only know it as the off-Broadway show that put Bernadette Peters on the map in 1968. But this month, Dames at Sea finally gets its Broadway debut, with Randy Skinner at the helm as both director and choreographer.
Dames at Sea follows a day in the life of a girl from Utah who arrives in NYC with big Broadway dreams. Sound familiar? “The show pays homage to three old movie-musicals, including 42nd Street,” Skinner explains. (He earned a Tony nomination for choreographing 42nd Street’s 2001 Broadway revival.) Like 42nd Street, Dames at Sea is loaded with dance numbers, but it’s surprisingly low on cast members. “There are only six performers,” Skinner says. “We expanded a lot of the musical arrangements to add more dancing, so I had to find performers who could sing, act and really dance. They go from tap to ballroom to jazz. And there’s no chorus to back them up!”
Get more info: damesatseabroadway.com
A NYC Tradition
Now in its 12th year, New York City Center’s Fall for Dance Festival kicks off September 30. Twenty companies (and many freelance artists) will be featured in five carefully curated programs—and each ticket costs just $15. Highlights include a brand-new work by Michelle Dorrance and the NYC premiere of former Martha Graham Dance Company principal Fang-Yi Sheu’s piece for herself and American Ballet Theatre principal Herman Cornejo.
Get more info: nycitycenter.org
Fall for Dance—one of the best offerings during NYC's packed fall season—has ended until next year. The whirlwind festival presents some of the world's best companies, first during two free evenings at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, and then through a series of $15 performances at New York City Center. It's no surprise that tickets disappear like whoa. (And it makes us super happy to know that New Yorkers anxiously wait for their chance to go see some seriously good dancing.)
Black Grace (photo by Duncan Cole)
Here at DS, we love Fall for Dance because it gives us a chance to see some of our favorite American companies, along with international groups that don't come through very often. There are also always a few gems that we didn't already know about, but that completely blow us away. Read on for my top five pieces from Fall for Dance, 2014.
Black Grace is New Zealand's leading contemporary dance company. Their work pulls from traditional Samoan dance and storytelling, as well as contemporary movement. The two pieces they performed—Minoi and Pati Pati—showcased the company's powerful athleticism, perfect unison and mesmerizing cannon, along with some beautiful singing and chanting.
Sébastien Ramirez and Honji Wang (photo by Nika Kramer)
After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I was left wondering who the heck Sébastien Ramirez and Honji Wang are. It turns out they're a collaborative duo from Europe, under the name Wang Ramirez. Wang is a contemporary dancer with strong ballet and hip- hop training, while Ramirez is an award-winning b-boy. Their piece, AP15, was AMAZING, and pretty much defined fluidity and precision.
Cleo Person and Dean Biosca in Torrent (photo by Rosalie O'Connor)
The Brian Brooks Moving Company performed Torrent—commissioned by Julliard in 2013—with members of Julliard Dance. The performers poured on and off of the stage, assembling and reassembling to form groups and lines. Given the title, I was expecting something dark. Instead the piece was non-stop, joyous dancing. The best part? I couldn't tell the difference between the company members and the Julliard students.
Catarina Carvalho and Alexander Whitley (photo by Ravi Deepres)
I'm not going to lie, I was very excited to see Wayne McGregor | Random Dance live—and McGregor's ferocious choreography and brilliant lighting for Far did not disappoint. I was especially impressed with the men. Besides having bodies cut from stone, they were also super flexible and expressive.
Aakash Odedra (photo by Jeff Camden)
Lastly, Aakash Odedra performed Nritta, a classical Kathak variation. Odedra also choreographs contemporary work, and often draws on his training in classical Indian dance. His performance was so fast and precise he seemed slightly otherworldly—but completely amazing.