The brilliant, critically acclaimed Moonlight is a piece of virtuosic filmmaking (hence its eight Oscar nominations)—and now it's inspired a work of dance virtuosity.
Moonlight x Ailey, a collaboration between Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater artistic director Robert Battle and composer Nicholas Britell, who created the score for the feature film, is two minutes of pure, powerful dance drama. It distills the movie's plot into a trio for Ailey's Jamar Roberts and Ailey School students Christopher Taylor and Jeremy T. Villas, who perform Battle's fluid choreography while bathed in blue light.
It's raw and beautiful and absolutely compelling. Watch:
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.
In a company of formidable soloists, who also work together as a flawless group, Jacquelin Harris manages to pull focus. Even though she's a younger and newer member of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Harris blends in when she needs to, and stands out when it's called for, like a seasoned pro.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Jacquelin Harris (photo by Andrew Eccles)
She took a moment from her busy schedule to talk to Dance Spirit about artistic director Robert Battle's upcoming premiere for the company—his first since he's been in charge.
Dance Spirit: So, you're in the first cast of Mr. Battle's Awakening! What has that process been like?
Jacquelin Harris: It's been amazing. Mr. Battle is a genius with the counts. It'll be a six, then a four, then a ten, but with his direction it all comes together in the music (composed by John Mackey).
DS: What has been your favorite moment?
JH: Hearing the music for the first time. It sounds like an orchestra, and Mr. Battle was at the front of the room saying "You, here! You, there!" He was painting beautiful pictures with our bodies while his rehearsal director was frantically writing everything down!
DS: What's it like to have something created on you?
JH: Since we're a rep company, we do a lot of different things and need to be able to switch gears in our head. But it's so nice to have the work made on you because then you can receive personal feedback. Mr. Battle tends to get really excited and jump right into creating. He wants specific things but he still tells us to look like ourselves.
DS: What is your role in Awakening?
JH: There's a lot of group work in the dance that invokes community, finding a leader without being disruptive and being unique while also being cohesive. My character tends to be alone a lot. I'm not the soloist, but Mr. Battle will ask me to fall or crawl—for just one second I have to branch out and do my own thing. But people pick me back up again. I haven't decided yet if I'm the weakest link or the strongest link!
I think the role makes sense for me. I'm a newer member of the company, so I'm inexperienced in the dance world we live in and I look for a lot of guidance. But at the same time I don't consider myself to be someone who tries to stand alone outside of the pack. I'm into my community.
Want a chance to see Jacqueline perform Awakening? Enter here for a chance to win two tickets to opening night!
It's natural to feel a little anxious about the future. You never know where life will take you; and for you graduating—or even rising—seniors, those feelings can get pretty overwhelming right around now.
But you're not alone. Even the pros have been in your place.
This spring, George Mason University hosted the American College Dance Festival Association's Mid-Atlantic regional conference. In addition to the many master classes, rehearsals, and performances of the weekend, the highlight was the "Life in Dance" panel, where students heard from a number of dance luminaries—including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's artistic director Robert Battle, choreographer Kyle Abraham, and renowned dance critic Deborah Jowitt.
"As a student trying to make it in a highly competitive field, I'm worried about my future," said sophomore dance major Meredith Hermann. "But it was so inspiring to hear them say that when they were in our positions, they didn't know what was ahead of them either. They couldn't imagine it."
To help you get through these nerve-wracking times, Dance Spirit got the pros' five most inspiring quotes:
Robert Battle with members of AAADT.
Photo by Andrew Eccles
"One of the most important virtues you'll need is courage. And no matter where your journey takes you, bring that courage with you. Be open to adventure and don't be afraid of the dark." —Robert Battle
"You have to find your sense of humor. You have to find your tenacity. And remember that even on the worst days, it will get better." —Ashley Wheater, artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet
"Life takes you on its journey, and as long you have an idea of what interests you and what you love, you will be OK. You will make the right choices. Luck is a big part of it—but self determination is an even bigger part."
—Elisa Monte, director of Elisa Monte Dance
Elizabeth Parkinson and Keith Roberts in Twyla Tharp's Movin' Out. Photo by Richard Termine/CTFD
"Always have the spirit of, 'Let me see what this is.' Or, 'Could I be a part of it?' The key is staying open to new things."
—Elizabeth Parkinson, co-director of FineLine Theatre Arts
"I made my way from a girl to the dancer I am now through a series of accidents, coincidences, and surprises. You can't count on anything. I had a life I never could have anticipated, but it worked out alright—and I hope yours will too." —Deborah Jowitt
Interested in attending ACDFA's National College Dance Festival? It's June 4–7, 2014 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Click here for more info and a schedule of events.
(Quotes compiled by GMU junior dance major Nicole Montano.)
I will never stop wanting to hear about even the littlest, most mundane details of dancers' lives. I mean, let's be honest: We all have our stalker-y tendencies. But while my friends get their celebrity dirt from Us and People, I read dance companies' Facebook pages and scour dancers' Instagram feeds. They're my celebrities, and I want to know everything about them.
I love the New York Times' "Sunday Routine" column—which walks us through a Sunday in some cool person's life—because it totally encourages that kind of curiosity-driven obsessing. And when the column features a dance-world hotshot? That's doubly fun. (Mark Morris' contribution is still one of my favorite things ever.)
Yesterday, we heard about Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater director Robert Battle's Sunday. It sounds totally delightful—coffee in a Lotus garden, hanging out with the littlest students at Ailey, eating eggplant parms, watching the Food Network. Take a look. (And New Yorkers—there's still time to catch AAADT at New York City Center!)