The Dream Team: Paul McCartney, Stella McCartney and Peter Martins join forces to create a new piece for New York City Ballet
With four world premieres on the lineup, the 2011-2012 season at New York City Ballet is sure to be exciting. But the company’s most anticipated new work, Ocean’s Kingdom, comes from a trio of creative masters: It features choreography by NYCB ballet master in chief Peter Martins, a score by former Beatles front man Paul McCartney and red carpet–worthy costumes by fashion designer (and Sir Paul’s daughter) Stella McCartney.
The piece tells a Little Mermaid-esque story, with NYCB principals Sara Mearns, Amar Ramasar and Robert Fairchild dancing the leads. Also debuting in Ocean’s Kingdom is senior corps de ballet member Georgina Pazcoguin, who chatted with DS about her role as Scala in the groundbreaking premiere.
Dance Spirit: How did you find out you’d be dancing a lead role in Ocean’s Kingdom?
Georgina Pazcoguin: Ballet mistress Rosemary Dunleavy pulled me aside one day. She said, “You’re going to be one of the leads in the new Peter ballet.” I was like, “Excuse me?” She said, “You’re going to be Scala,” and I said, “What is Scala?” My first rehearsal was the next day! As it turns out, Scala is the disillusioned leader of the ballet’s handmaidens. She’s a servant with a chip on her shoulder. It’s a feisty, dramatic character!
DS: What do you think is most exciting about this piece?
GP: Knowing that Paul McCartney is composing a score for a ballet—specifically for us—is amazing. How could you not love Paul McCartney? And for Stella to be doing the costumes, making it a family affair, is wonderful. I’ve especially enjoyed working closely with Peter. It’s been a great chance for me to show him what I can do.
DS: Are you nervous about your debut?
GP: I’m sure nerves will come up, especially pertaining to the costumes. There’s talk of a big cape I’ll be dancing with, and some wings. I’m also nervous about dancing next to Sara Mearns, who is one of the top NYCB dancers—that’s a big pressure. But I’m up for the challenge and am enjoying defining my character. It will all come together by opening night.
DS: Why should people see Ocean’s Kingdom?
GP: First and foremost, see it for the dancers. NYCB has a brand-new generation of dancers rising through the ranks. The company is transforming. Then come for Stella’s amazing costumes. Her ideas are incredible, and she wants every look to be like a runway look. Peter’s choreography is going to be great and the score is breathtaking. It’s a dream team.
Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
The dancers who take our breath away are the risk-takers, the ones who appear completely fearless onstage. "When you see somebody trying to travel more, go farther, push the limits of their physical abilities, that's always going to be inspiring," says Ballet BC dancer Alexis Fletcher.
But dance training can feel like it's in conflict with that idea. We spend thousands of hours in the studio trying to do steps perfectly, and that pursuit of perfection can make us anxious about taking risks. What if we fail? What if we fall?
Luckily, fearlessness is a mental skill that you can work on, just as you work on your technique. Here's how you can learn to push yourself past your limits.
When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.
In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.
The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."
Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.
Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.
She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.
There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.