New York City Ballet sure knows how to finish a production with a bang. Just as the company's whirlwind two weeks of The Sleeping Beauty came to an end, ballet master in chief Peter Martins announced the promotion of eight dancers: Sara Adams, Harrison Ball, Emilie Gerrity, Joseph Gordon, Unity Phelan, Troy Schumacher and Indiana Woodward were all promoted to soloist, and Russell Janzen was promoted to principal!
It's no surprise—NYCB's roster is bursting with talent and personality, and all these dancers have stood out in one way or another over the years (and shoutout to Woodward's shining face in our "Shades of Spring" fashion feature!). Congratulations to everyone on their well-deserved promotions!
Russell Janzen and Sterling Hyltin in Balanchine's Duo Concertant (photo by Paul Kolnik)
It seems like just yesterday that we were wringing our hands over the Ziegler sisters' imminent departure from "Dance Moms." We wondered if they were giving up on dance. We wondered if they would pursue singing, acting and modeling full-time, instead.
Then, Capezio dropped this new video. First, we saw the stylish duds and we were interested. Then, we saw that New York City Ballet corps member and BalletCollective director Troy Schumacher choreographed the video, and we were very interested. THEN, we saw Maddie Ziegler's baby blues and we knew it would be good. It's kind of a weird ballet class, where everyone has their hair down during barre (because, fashion). But it's also kind of great to see triple-threat Maddie busting a move without layers of spooky drama (cc. every Sia video).
Props to each and every dancer in the video! And props to Capezio for crediting them all at the end.
Lately, New York City Ballet corps member and choreographer, Troy Schumacher, has been busy making one amazing thing after the next. His second world premiere for NYCB, Common Ground, was a huge hit. So it's no surprise the teaser for the his latest work, "Invisible Divide," for his company BalletCollective is equally as enjoyable.
Members of BalletCollective in All That We See. (Photo Matthew Murphy)
The video, which features music by Ellis Ludwig-Leone of the band San Fermin, was shot while the company was in residence in Telluride, CO, this past summer. (Fun fact: Ludwig-Leone also composed the score for Common Ground, as well as multiple other BalletCollective pieces. It's another indie-music/choreographer combo made in heaven!) Even better, BalletCollective is made up of some of NYCB's brightest: Harrison Coll, Lauren King, Claire Kretzschmar, Ashley Laracey, Meagan Mann, David Prottas and Taylor Stanley. Yeah, let that list sink in for a minute. #StarPower.
Mann in the moment. (Still from "Invisible Divide")
Invisible Divide premieres November 4 and 5 at NYU's Skirball Center. In the meantime, the teaser vid will have to do—we know we'll be watching on repeat. Check it out below!
Over the course of "city.ballet.," we've seen all the insanely hard work that goes into a professional ballet career. But in the final episode of the series' second season, we get a look at the end product: the performance. Those few minutes onstage, the New York City Ballet dancers make clear, more than justify the countless hours they spend in the studio. Here are five things we learned from the ep.
NYCB dancers backstage before a performance (still from "city.ballet.")
1. Choreographers have control over every aspect of their ballets—until they don't. The minute their work hits the stage, it's totally out of their hands (and feet), which is a disorienting feeling. "At this point, I'm still thinking, 'How can this piece be better?' " says choreographer and NYCB corps member Troy Schumacher just before the debut of his ballet Clearing Dawn. "But now I don't have any part in it. I have to just sit back and enjoy all that the dancers are giving to the piece."
2. In fact, once any ballet is onstage, the only thing to do is relax and be in the moment. "Sometimes you don't know what's going to happen out there," says principal Maria Kowroski—especially the first time you perform a ballet. "But that's the time to trust your partner, to just look at him and think, 'Oh, I'm so happy I'm dancing with you!' It's that freedom and abandonment that make it special."
3. Schumacher's playful choreography for Clearing Dawn is so winning. "Have a good day at dance school," he jokes to principal Andrew Veyette just before the curtain goes up, referring to the piece's school-uniform-esque costumes. And those costumes match the ballet's youthful spirit perfectly. "It feels like playing a game onstage—like a game of tag," says soloist Georgina Pazcoguin.
4. Before a show, some NYCBers lick for luck...? Yes, we all know about "merde," but apparently a few of the older company dancers have a tradition of touching each other with licked fingers before a performance. Uh, we need to hear the story behind that.
5. Performing is basically the best rush ever. Well, you probably already knew that, but still! The episode closes with the dancers' tributes to the joy of being onstage, and it's the perfect ending to the season—because that rush is the whole reason these artists do what they do. As Kowroski says: "When you're really in the moment onstage, when you feel all the blood rushing in your legs and your feet and your arms—it's something so pure and raw. You're just living."
Click the image below to watch the full episode!
It's pretty darn hard to make it as a choreographer. It's even harder to do so while you're dancing full-time. In the second episode of "city.ballet." Season 2, we meet Troy Schumacher, a member of New York City Ballet's corps, and follow him as he creates his first work for NYCB. Here are five things we learned from this particularly fascinating ep.
Schumacher at work in the studio ("city.ballet." still courtesy New York City Ballet)
1) If you want to choreograph a great dance, choose a piece of music you're obsessed with. Schumacher's ballet is set to "Clearing, Dawn, Dance," by Judd Greenstein—which he's been listening to for three years. And I thought I couldn't get "Shake It Off" out of my head.
2) Casting a ballet at NYCB is like being a kid in a candy store. Or, to use Schumacher's better food-related simile: "It's like going to a buffet when you're really hungry. Everyone is excellent!" And Schumacher knows all of these dancers super well—he's in the studio with them every day, after all—which makes the decision process even harder.
Schumacher rehearsing his chosen ones (Paul Kolnik, courtesy NYCB)
3) Ballet dancers call aerobically intense ballets "puffy." As in, you'll be huffing and puffing. Cute!
4) Choreographers' notes are so cool. We get a peek at Schumacher's notebook (5:17), and while I'm not exactly sure how his system works, his elaborate doodlings are a little language all their own.
5) Georgina Pazcoguin is hilarious. The costumes for Schumacher's ballet, dreamed up by designer Thom Browne, are basically school uniforms, complete with pleated miniskirts for the ladies. Soloist Pazcoguin's reaction? "Ooh, Sister Marie Clarence is giving detention for this!" Hee hee.
Click the image below to watch the full episode!
For the past few years, New York City Ballet galas have been alllll about fashion, showcasing not only dance premieres but also custom-made costumes by some of the world's top designers. Last night's fall gala was no exception: We got three premieres (by Troy Schumacher, Liam Scarlett and Justin Peck) and four sets of new designer costumes (by Carolina Herrera, Thom Browne, Sarah Burton and Mary Katrantzou).
We also got the one and only SJP in this AMAZING gown by Katrantzou—let us take a moment to soak in its gorgeousness:
Photo Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
These galas raise interesting questions about the relationship between dance and dance costuming. While costumes can make or break a ballet (more on that in our November costume issue!), normally, the choreography comes first, and the clothing later on. At these galas, though, it seems like the costumes are frequently the starting point, with choreographers shaping their visions around the designers'. And I think sometimes that can make things trickier than usual.
Case in point: Corps dancer Schumacher's premiere, Clearing Dawn. Schumacher has his own company, BalletCollective, which has been getting kind of fantastic reviews, so I was excited to see this piece, his first for NYCB. And the opening moment didn't disappoint: The five dancers shuffled onstage in hugely oversized overcoats—which, in a beautifully surreal twist, rose from their shoulders and ascended to the rafters, where they hovered for the rest of the ballet. Their disappearance revealed Browne's schoolgirl-chic costumes—classically Browne-esque shrunken jackets and pleated skirts and knee shorts—and the contrast was kind of delightful: Immediately, we saw the dancers as children, free from the weight of adult responsibilities...or, you know, something along those lines. The problem was that the schoolkids theme seemed to bog Schumacher down. While there were some spectacular daredevil passages for Ashley Bouder (goodness, that girl is ALWAYS on fire) and Andrew Veyette, things got real literal, real quick: We saw playground fights and anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better showdowns straight out of Matilda. I think Schumacher has a good choreographic mind—it just might be the kind of mind that works better when left to its own devices. (I can't wait to see what he's cooking up for his own company, which has a performance in NYC at the end of October.)
Claire Kretzschmar in costume for Clearing Dawn (photo Erin Baiano/style.com)
Liam Scarlett's Funérailles—a pas de deux for my favorite ballet couple, Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild—also took a lot of cues from its Burton costumes. But Scarlett was able to mesh the choreography and the design in a way that allowed both to shine. Maybe that's because Burton gave him truly gorgeous costumes to work with: a strapless brocaded ballgown with a huge ombré skirt for Peck, and a matching coat for Fairchild. Immediately things felt very bodice-rippy, very Interview with the Vampire, and Scarlett crafted a dark, seductive pas de deux that amplified the gothic mood. Unsurprisingly, Peck and Fairchild danced the heck out of it, and their natural chemistry made the whole thing delicious.
Tiler Peck in costume for Funérailles (photo Erin Baiano/style.com)
Justin Peck hasn't made a bad ballet yet—and that's saying a lot of a 27-year-old who's choreographed more than 20 ballets. This is a guy who's established a distinct choreographic language, but that language seems to take on a different accent in each piece. We've seen him as a playful experimenter in Year of the Rabbit, a dry analytic in In Creases, an epic poet in the 40-minute Everywhere We Go. Last night's premiere, Belles-Lettres, showed him as a swooning romantic—who knew? Katrantzou's appliquéd costumes made the women into 1920s nymphs and the men into harlequins, and Peck responded with a parade of pas de deux that swung from soft and tender to violently passionate. Anthony Huxley, the only man not coupled up, became a kind of court jester, or maybe a narrator—a vaguely tragic outsider, in any case, wishing for a love of his own. And framing all that romance was Peck's signature geometry—abstract daisy chains and kaleidoscopic patterns that lent a bit of coolness to a piece that could easily have overheated. It was an enchanting ending to a mixed-bag of a night.
Lauren Lovette in costume for Belles-Letres (photo Erin Baiano/style.com)
Successful or not, partnerships between choreographers and fashion designers are always fascinating to see in action—and NYCB's on-it media department made a lovely video documenting the collaborative process for this gala. Take a look!
Let's just say it: Objectively speaking, dancer feet, particularly ballet dancer feet, can be really, really gross. Bruised toenails, blisters, callouses, bunions—they're not the most attractive things in the world.
But "ugly" feet are also a dancer's badge of honor. First, they're visual testimony to the hours of grueling work we all put in to make what happens onstage look effortless. And second, many of those "deformities" are actually protective armor. How could any ballet dancer survive a 12-hour day in pointe shoes without her trusty callouses?
New York City Ballet dancer Troy Schumacher talked to Claudia La Rocco about dancer feet over at The Performance Club's website yesterday. Here's the link to the post, which includes some of Schumacher's up-close-and-personal foot photos.
"There’s definitely a huge amount of pain that goes into ballet dancing," he says. "I really want to hide people’s pain a little bit less...and try to make these dancers a little bit more human, even though ballet makes you able to hold yourself in ways that are almost super human."
Foot worship—as long as the feet are in pointe shoes—is pretty much universal among ballet dancers. But I like Schumacher's idea of celebrating what's going on beneath that pretty pink satin. Why shouldn't we be proud of the bleeding, blistered, calloused feet that allow us to create magic onstage?