Last year, American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston decided to bring world-renowned ballet to her hometown of Sun Valley, ID. The first three-day Ballet Sun Valley festival featured stars including Maria Kochetkova and Misty Copeland, performing solos, pas de deux, and a world premiere by Gemma Bond. Audiences raved so much that the festival will continue this year, July 17 and 18. The talent list has expanded: There'll be 25 dancers from companies including the Paris Opéra Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, and New York City Ballet, and the festival will again offer a day of free dance classes for local students. Dance Spirit caught up with Boylston to get all the details—and to find out what starting a ballet festival is really like.
The world isn't always a welcoming place for LGBTQIA+ people. But for those figuring out their sexuality, dance can provide welcome opportunities for expression. We talked to five star dancers about their experiences coming out and growing up, and how dance helped them live their full truth.
Q: "Why do you want to dance?"
A: "Why do you want to LIVE?"
Ahhh, so iconic! If you know those lines (slash, embody them on a daily basis), you're already a fan of the 1948 film The Red Shoes. The second line, as spoken by Red Shoes heroine Victoria Page, just perfectly captures the kind of crazy, all-consuming love so many of us feel for this incredible art form.
The Red Shoes turns 70 (!) this year. And Harper's Bazaar decided to celebrate that birthday in an oh-so-glamorous fashion: They decked out three of today's most beautiful ballerinas—American Ballet Theatre's Misty Copeland and Isabella Boylston and New York City Ballet's Tiler Peck—in gorgeous couture inspired by the film. (Obviously, Louboutins were involved.)
In case you haven't heard (but you have): American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland is one of most famous, and most respected, ballerinas in the world. She's also one of the only black women currently performing Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, which means her (inevitably sold-out) performances of the role come with an extra degree of both celebration and scrutiny.
Since she first started dancing the part in 2015, Copeland has struggled with its infamously difficult sequence of 32 fouettés. She's not the first ballerina to do so; the legendary Maya Plisetskaya, for example, opted to skip them completely, subbing a glittering string of piqué and chaîné turns instead (you can see them here, at 8:13). But Copeland's Swan Lake "fouetté fails," some of which have been posted to YouTube, have attracted plenty of jeers on social media. And today, Copeland herself responded to the criticism.
Happy World Theatre (or Theater) Day, everybody! Did you know that this fantastic little holiday has been celebrated every March 27th for the past 56 (!) years?
In honor of WTD 2018, we thought we'd highlight eye-opening behind-the-scenes glimpses at three of the dance world's most beautiful theaters: NYC's Metropolitan Opera House, Paris' Palais Garnier, and St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre.
American Ballet Theatre principal Sarah Lane charms audiences with her bright energy and crisp technique. The San Francisco, CA, native first started dancing at age 4 at a local community center, and at age 7 started training in Memphis, TN, at the Classical Ballet Memphis. Her family later moved to Rochester, NY, where she continued studying at the Draper Center for Dance Education. In 2002, she was a YoungArts Foundation winner in dance, allowing her to become a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts. She joined American Ballet Theatre as an apprentice in 2003, was made a soloist in 2007, and was promoted to principal last fall. Recently, she originated the role of Princess Praline in Alexei Ratmansky's Whipped Cream. Catch her later this spring during ABT's Metropolitan Opera season. —Courtney Bowers
As a student at Houston Ballet's Ben Stevenson Academy, American Ballet Theatre corps member Erica Lall saw iconic former Houston Ballet principal Lauren Anderson on a regular basis. "I think I assumed her position as an African-American principal dancer was a one-time thing," Lall says. "Lauren became a principal in 1990. Why aren't there dozens of brown swan queens now?" In 2013, when Lall came to NYC for the ABT summer intensive, she registered for two weeks at Dance Theatre of Harlem. "I wanted to experience ballet in an environment where I could feel comfortable and proud of my brown skin," she says. "But I didn't have to wait, because I found acceptance at ABT right away."
Lall, who counts her colleague Copeland as a role model, is proud to be the first recipient of the Josephine Premice Fales/ABT Project Plié award, which allowed her to pursue training at ABT. "The award is one of my greatest inspirations to work relentlessly," she says. But, she adds, "the last thing I want to hear is that my talent was secondary to the need to add color." Those who've seen her ebullient, expressive dancing onstage with the company know she needn't worry.
New York City Ballet corps member Rachel Hutsell was practically destined to join the company: "When I was about two years old, my grandmother gave me a video of New York City Ballet performing George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, and I watched it every single night for two years!" she says. "That was what first sparked my love of dance." Now, her preternaturally assured dancing makes her a natural fit for her dream company.
Hutsell—who hails from Houston, TX, and trained at Allegro West Academy of Dance until she enrolled at the School of American Ballet—initially had more anxiety about making it in NYC than about her racial identity. "In my apprentice year, I was asked to be part of a New York Times piece on diverse dancers. I kind of woke up and realized, 'Oh, that's right. I'm black. And I'm part of this conversation.' " She's disappointed that that conversation has taken so long to happen. "We want to see beauty and diversity come together in unity, because that's what America is," she says. "Misty has gone out there and said, 'I'm diverse, I'm beautiful, and I'm going to succeed.' And that's an important example for all of us."
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Dance runs in India Bradley's family: Her mother is a dance teacher and a former member of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Unsurprisingly, Bradley ended up in dance classes at a young age, studying a little bit of everything but falling hardest for ballet. After training at Dance Theatre of Harlem and the School of American Ballet, Bradley earned her apprenticeship with New York City Ballet last year. Tall and impossibly long-limbed, she's brought a compelling mix of energy and delicacy to a slew of corps roles, as well as some featured parts in The Nutcracker. "I love the fast pace of the company," she says. "You have to keep up. You see how focused everyone is, and you want to work that hard, too."
Bradley grew up idolizing NYCB principals like Wendy Whelan and Tiler Peck, and aspires to join their ranks. "There's a lot of discussion at the moment about the fact that there has never been an African-American female soloist or principal in the company," she says. "I would love to be the first black female to get to that point. I don't necessarily want it for me; it's more just that it needs to happen. It's not about my success. It's bigger than that."
Misty Copeland. Her name is synonymous with exquisite artistry and outspoken advocacy. And her visibility has made a huge impact on the ballet world. Ballet's relationship with race has always been strained at best, hostile at worst. But Copeland's persistent message and star quality have finally forced the ballet industry to start talking about racial diversity, inclusivity, and representation. "The rarity of seeing ourselves represented is sad," Copeland says. "The more we see every hue and body shape represented on the stage, the more possibilities young dancers feel they have for themselves."
What word would you use to describe American Ballet Theatre principal/fashion icon James Whiteside's sense of style? Epic? Fabulous? How about...stellar?
Our favorite danseur has teamed up with NYC-based sneaker brand KOIO for "Starstruck," a new video that has a sneaker-clad Whiteside showing off his beautiful technique in a place "where the earth and the stars connect." Also featuring tattoo artist JonBoy and pro surfer Quincy Davis, and directed by Tyler Greco, it's a gorgeous intergalactic fantasy.
For an aspiring ballerina, there's no more exciting place to be than the ABT Studio Company, the pre-professional arm of American Ballet Theatre. The NYC-based troupe of 16- to 20-year-old dancers trains hard and performs harder, putting on multiple shows over the course of each season. We followed ensemble member Léa Fleytoux, a gifted 18-year-old from Paris, France, on a performance day to get an inside look at what it's like to live the Studio Company life.
Matthew Bourne's dramatic ballet The Red Shoes, which earned rave reviews in England last year, is heading stateside this month. Based on the Academy Award–winning 1948 movie of the same name, the show follows the passionate aspiring ballerina Victoria Page as she tries to dance her way to the top, but ultimately must choose between her love of dance and the love of her life. Joining Bourne's company, New Adventures, as guest artists are New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns, who will perform the role of Victoria for select performances at New York City Center; and American Ballet Theatre principal Marcelo Gomes, who will tour with the company, dancing the role of Julian Craster in select cities. DS chatted with Mearns to see what the rehearsal process has been like, and how it's been different from preparing for a typical NYCB season.