If there's one thing that has the ability to make dance cooler than it already is, it's technology. Case in point: The Chemical Brothers' newest music video for their track, "Wide Open (feat. Beck)," choreographed by Wayne McGregor. This collaboration of artists is awesome to begin with, and as soon as the video starts, it's obvious that they didn't hold back with this project.
Are those leggings? Tights? A computer glitch?!?
The dancer, Sonoya Mizuno (who graduated from the Royal Ballet School and has appeared in tons of dance-themed commercials and campaigns), sails around the concrete floor, effortlessly executing McGregor's moves, when about 40 seconds in, our collective minds were blown here at DS. Watch the video below to find out why!
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!
Last night, basically the entire dance world got gussied up and headed to NYC's Ailey Citigroup Theater for the 60th (!) Dance Magazine Awards. How did the DMAs celebrate the big 6-0? By honoring no fewer than SIX incredible artists: Brenda Bufalino, Tony Waag, Larissa Saveliev, Wayne McGregor, Luigi and Misty Copeland. Here are the top highlights from a night that was basically all highlights.
1. We got to see three of the six awardees perform. Tap icons Bufalino and Waag did a little soft-shoeing (and, in Waag's case, singing!) alongside dancers Felipe Galganni and Lynn Schwab in an excerpt from All Blues/Tacit/Latin, a piece originally made for the American Tap Dance Orchestra. And the one and only Copeland took our breath away in Toccare, a ridiculously sexy ballet choreographed by fellow American Ballet Theatre dancer Marcelo Gomes. Odds are, even if you haven't seen the piece live, you know it through incredible photos like this one:
Holy legs, Misty. (photo by Liza Voll)
2. There was a world premiere. Gomes was basically an honorary awardee last night. We saw not only his Toccare, but also a brand-new Gomes ballet, La Mort d'Ophélie, starring ABTers Sarah Lane and Sterling Baca. Made in tribute to Saveliev, it was gently, dreamily melancholy.
3. We were reminded, yet again, of why we're obsessed with Wayne McGregor. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Akua Noni Parker and Jeroboam Bozeman blazed through an excerpt from McGregor's electric Chroma. (You can watch The Royal Ballet perform the same excerpt here—and believe me, you should.) There really is nothing like his wiggly, wacky, wild choreography. Though McGregor couldn't be there in person to accept his award, his beamed-in acceptance speech—an eloquent tribute to all of his collaborators, and a call for support of young artists—showed off the powerful mind behind the magic.
McGregor rehearsing Chroma at Ailey (photo Andrea Mohin/New York Times)
4. The whole audience did Luigi's classic warmup. The man himself is recovering from surgery and was unable to make the ceremony, sadly. But protégé Francis Roach, accepting on Luigi's behalf, got the dancer-filled crowd on their feet to do the first few familiar steps of the Luigi warmup—the perfect tribute to the jazz legend.
Luigi in his prime, behind the Falcon Studios in Hollywood (photo by Edith Jane)
5. Raven Wilkinson made everyone cry. The wonderful Wilkinson, who presented Copeland's award, was the only African-American dancer to perform with the Ballets Russes, and has become a mentor to Copeland. She quoted Eleanor Roosevelt—"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams"—and praised not only the beauty of Copeland's exquisite dancing, but also the beauty of her dream of a colorblind ballet world.
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.
Move over "So You Think You Can Dance" (but not too far, because we still love you). The UK has a new dance reality show and it sounds awesome.
The BBC's Young Dancer 2015 premiered this fall, and there are a few things that set this competition apart. Entrance was open to anyone who could submit a video of themselves dancing, and contestants compete in four separate categories—hip hop, contemporary, ballet or South Asian—to showcase their mastery, rather than their versatility. The show also acknowledges the difference between codified styles like ballet—where contestants will perform well-known variations—and hip hop—where contestants have the opportunity to create their own dances.
English National Ballet artistic director and ballerina Tamara Rojo will be a judge on Young Dancer 2015. (Photo by Getty Images)
In another cool twist, the competition's only open to dancers who've never danced professionally before, which will give a ton of undiscovered talent a chance to shine! Dancers will work one-on-one with emerging choreographers to create solos in their own styles. And with a finale in May of 2015 judged by stars like Tamara Rojo, Matthew Bourne and Wayne McGregor, count us in as very intrigued!
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:
You probably heard a lot about the U.K.'s Big Dance project last year, when celebrations of dance were held all over the country as part of the Cultural Olympiad leading up to the Olympics. (Remember the London flash mob choreographed by Wayne McGregor?)
Well, a friend of Big Dance has just announced a new world record for "most choreographers to a single dance piece": 152.
How the heck did that happen, you ask? Thanks to choreographer/dancer Tim Casson's project "The Dance We Made," created with the help of a micro-grant from Big Dance.
During many of the Big Dance events last summer, Casson went around asking people to contribute a step or two to a new piece, and filmed the entire process. Against what seem like considerable odds (you'd think 152 choreographers would be too many cooks in the kitchen, right?), the resulting dance is kind of beautiful. But the best part is watching Casson getting all of these everyday people to show off their best moves, or even just talk about images or ideas that might inspire a bit of dancing. And the world record, which was officially announced today, is icing on the cake.
You can see all of the various videos Casson made during the process here, check out the trailer below to get an overall feel for the project, or scroll to the bottom to watch the finished piece. Congratulations, Tim!
Today the BBC is airing an interview with choreographer extraordinaire Wayne McGregor, who talks about how John Travolta's smooth moves first got him interested in dance. "I grew up in the '70s, John Travolta time—Grease, Saturday Night Fever, those were the movies in the cinema, and those were the kinds of dances I wanted to do," he says.
And you know what? Weird as Travolta initially sounds as an idol for the guy who's now resident choreographer at the Royal Ballet, I totally see it. McGregor's dances today have the same noodly fluidity that Travolta shows off on Saturday Night Fever's technicolor disco floor. Check it out—here's Travolta circa 1977:
...and here's McGregor's Chroma, performed by the Royal Ballet in 2009:
Am I nuts? Or do you see the similarities too?
Anyway, McGregor's interview got me thinking about what first inspired me to dance. Beyond a general love of tutus and all things pink—which, let's be honest, was definitely a part of ballet's allure for 3-year-old me—it was Gelsey Kirkland's performance in Mikhail Baryshnikov's Nutcracker that really got me hooked. PBS used to broadcast the production every Christmas, and I watched my parent's taped-from-TV VHS of it over and over. Kirkland's Clara is so impossibly light and delicate, the epitome of feminine elegance. (And that sparkly dress she wears in the second act—heavennn!) I fell pretty hard for her, and for ballet.
I never even came close to her ideal in my own dancing, but it also never left the back of my mind. First dance loves—just like first real-life loves, they make pretty strong impressions on us.
Who first inspired you to dance?