American Ballet Theatre announced today that Brooklyn Mack, a former Washington Ballet star, will join the company as a guest for its spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House. Currently an in-demand international guest artist, Mack will dance in three performances of ABT's Le Corsaire this June.
Once every four years, some of the ballet world's best and brightest gather in Jackson, MS, to face off in the super-prestigious USA International Ballet Competition. The event's list of alums is kind of ridiculous: Boston Ballet's Misa Kuranaga and Jeffrey Cirio, The Royal Ballet's Sarah Lamb, American Ballet Theatre's Daniil Simkin and Sarah Lane, The Washington Ballet's Brooklyn Mack and Maki Onuki, Birmingham Royal Ballet's Alys Shee...and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
The 2014 USA IBC kicked off on Saturday, and this year's roster of competitors includes a lot of familiar names. In the senior women category, there's Joy Womack, the vibrant ballerina who became the first American to join the Bolshoi Ballet (though she left last fall after becoming frustrated with the company's politics—an unhappy ending to a fairy-tale story):
Joy Womack for Cloud and Victory (yup, she's a model, too!)
Among the junior women, there's the astonishingly self-possessed Gisele Bethea, who grabbed our attention last year when she took home the Youth Grand Prix Award at the Youth America Grand Prix:
Bethea at the 2012 World Ballet Competition USA (Siggul/Visual Arts Masters)
And the junior men group features First Position star Aran Bell, who may have been an adorable munchkin in the film but has since grown into a mature, sophisticated technician:
Aran Bell in class at the Carreño Dance Festival (Photo Rachel S. O'Hara/Sarasota Herald-Tribune)
Merde to all the competitors! Click here for the full list—and stay tuned for information about winners.
Misty Copeland, the first African American soloist at American Ballet Theatre in more than 20 years, has yet to appear as Odette/Odile on U.S. soil. That changes this month: On April 9 and 12, Copeland will take center stage in The Washington Ballet’s first-ever full-length production of Swan Lake.
Her Prince Siegfried will be TWB’s Brooklyn Mack—a rare partnership of two artists of color, performing classical roles historically portrayed by white dancers. Dance Spirit caught up with Copeland, Mack and TWB’s director, Septime Webre, to talk about the performances.
Misty Copeland and Brooklyn Mack in Swan Lake (photo by Theo Kossenas, courtesy The Washington Ballet)
“Swan Lake is regularly presented by some of the best companies in the world—I wanted to make our performance special. One of the last bastions of segregation in America is in ballet casting. I’m aware of the historical significance of Misty in the role, especially dancing with Brooklyn. My goal is to present artists who bring a new dimension to the ballet, and I hope that doing so will make audiences rethink what a ballerina and a prince should look like.” —Septime Webre
“I’m excited to give today’s youth a new image of who can be cast as the Swan Queen. I prefer dancing Odile—she’s not someone I naturally saw myself as. But that’s the beauty of acting in ballet. You get to become characters that aren’t innately part of you. I’m constantly switching partners at ABT, so dancing with Brooklyn isn’t too much of a departure from my norm. His power is effortless, and though he performs with a ton of masculinity, he’s also a really caring, nurturing and sensitive partner.” —Misty Copeland
“I’m honored and humbled to be a part of this. It’s always been part of my mission to inspire others, and I hope this performance reassures kids that they can do anything—we all can do anything, regardless of our color or our social status. Misty is a joy to work with. She’s super down-to-earth and she is, of course, tremendously talented. She’s technically inspiring, and we have great chemistry.” —Brooklyn Mack
Tomorrow night's the night: American Ballet Theatre soloist (and all-around ballet superstar) Misty Copeland will appear as Odette/Odile for the first time in the U.S., dancing with The Washington Ballet alongside the equally brilliant Brooklyn Mack.
Copeland and Mack as Odette and Prince Siegfried (Theo Kossenas, courtesy TWB)
Why is this especially exciting? (Aside from the fact that these are two amazing artists performing one of the world's most iconic ballets, which is thrilling in itself?) Because it is, unfortunately, incredibly rare for two dancers of color to play the leads in Swan Lake. It's an historic moment.
You can read Copeland, Mack and Washington Ballet artistic director Septime Webre's comments on the milestone performance in our April issue. And those of you itching to see the Copeland-Mack partnership in action are also in luck: Webre has posted a rehearsal clip to Facebook, and it's about as fantastic as you'd hope. Take a look—and get your Swan Lake tickets here.
Misty Copeland and Brooklyn Mack rehearsing Black Swan while the beautiful Evermay chamber orchestra plays on. Everyone is really dancing their best just now. I am super-proud of the whole company! We open Thursday night – exciting!
You may want to sit down for this: Misty Copeland will make her U.S. debut as Odette/Odile in the Washington Ballet's Swan Lake this April.
Alexandre Hammoudi and Misty Copeland in Swan Lake (photo by Darren Thomas)
Though she made her debut-debut in the role during American Ballet Theatre's Australian tour this past August, she'll finally be performing those most iconic of fouettés on her home turf. Fingers crossed that Copeland will eventually get the chance to perform Odette/Odile with ABT here in NYC, but she's doing it first with the Washington Ballet, and that's huge for both her and the company. She's been waiting for ABT to cast her in the role, and in the meantime, she took matters into her own hands. I believe that's known as "I will what I want."
Brooklyn Mack (photo via The Washington Post)
But wait, because it gets even more exciting. You may have heard of Brooklyn Mack— Washington Ballet's multi-competition winning dancer, and one of the ballet world's few African American men. He will partner Copeland in the role of Prince Siegfried, and together they will be one of the only African American couples to take on Swan Lake.
This is as epic as it is historic and we can't wait to see rehearsal photos—not to mention the performance itself!