Landing your first professional dance gig is a dream come true—and a huge learning opportunity. We talked to four young dancers about what they've learned from their first jobs, and how those lessons have strengthened their careers.
Sure, we all know you can score some sweet deals on fashion or electronics on Cyber Monday. But did you know that dance companies offer discounts on tickets, too?! This little discovery made my post-vacay Monday MUCH happier. These reduced-price tickets to some of the season's best performances are perfect for holiday gifting (or for treating yourself, let’s be real), so don't miss this one-day-only opportunity.
Boston Ballet's The Nutcracker, one of the shows offering Cyber Monday discounts (photo by Gene Schiavone)
Pop in the discount code Desire38 here for 38 percent off on Friday or Saturday performances of the Season 38 Winter Series.
Catch the company's production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker for 30 percent off with the promo code GIFTS15 at this site, or get discounted tix to other season shows, like A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
50 percent off select performances of Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker? Yes, pleaseeeee. Just head here and use the code CYBERMONDAY.
The Music Center L.A.
Use the discount code CYBER here and receive a whopping 25 percent off select seats at shows including The Nutcracker, Don Quixote, Beauty & the Beast and Uncorked.
This has already been a huge news week for the ballet world, and it just got even huger:
After 20 years in NYC, Complexions Contemporary Ballet—that extraordinary company pretty much every dancer we talk to dreams of joining—is making a big move. As of spring 2016, the troupe will call Atlanta home, according to a report in ARTSAtl.
The stunning dancers of Complexions (photos by Jae Man Joo)
The decision took a lot of dance fans by surprise, but it also makes good sense. Yes, NYC is the dance capital of the country, but that means it's crawling with dance companies, who compete for audiences and funding. Dwight Rhoden told ARTSAtl that he and his Complexions co-director Desmond Richardson were looking for a "less saturated" dance community, and Atlanta fits that bill. Pretty much anywhere on the planet is less expensive than NYC, too; in Atlanta, the company will be able to afford its own studio space for classes and rehearsals, a major plus. And Rhoden and Richardson have made diversity a central part of Complexions' mission from the beginning, something Atlanta's multicultural (and increasingly artsy) population will definitely appreciate.
Complexions will perform in Atlanta this October before launching its first official ATL season in the spring. But never fear, NYC fans: The company will continue to mount its annual two-week season at the Big Apple's Joyce Theater. It'll still offer its popular NYC intensives, too, and there are plans to start up similar programs in Atlanta and Los Angeles.
It's an exciting time for the company—we're eager to see how it grows and changes in its new home!
A show of hands: Who would absolutely freak out if they were offered an apprenticeship with Complexions Contemporary Ballet? How about a full-time position with the Joffrey Ballet Concert Group? If you're anything like us, just the thought of performing with these coveted companies has your heart beating like crazy. So take a moment—breathe—and let us tell you about an exciting new opportunity.
Are you up to the challenge? (Photo by Bround Creative, courtesy DanceOn)
DanceOn, the dance entertainment network that brought us the YouTube series "Dance School Diaries," launched a new contest today, along with the Joffrey Ballet School and Complexions, called Rise to the Challenge. The contest tests a dancer's ability to replicate a short phrase choreographed by Complexions' Desmond Richardson and JBS's Davis Robertson. Here's how it works:
- YouTube videos of the eight challenge movements will be released in two chunks. The first four videos went live TODAY (November 12).
- To enter, go the contest website and watch the four clips. (Bonus: This group of videos are demonstrated by gorgeous Complexions dancers. #Swoon)
- Find one you think you can replicate? Film yourself doing the movement and post it to YouTube with #RiseToJBSChallenge before the first half of the contest closes on November 26.
- DanceOn and JBS will choose one winner for each video.
- Look out for DanceOn's announcement of the first four winners on December 1 on the contest website.
If your not feelin' any of the first four movement challenges, don't fret. Another four videos will launch on December 3 and run until December 17, with the final four winners announced on December 22.
CEO of DanceOn Amanda Taylor let DS in on pro tip for contestants: "Even though we're asking you to recreate a phrase, we want to see originality. Think about things like music choice, emotional connection, costume—make creative choices to stand out."
OK now for the part you've been waiting for: the prizes. Each of the eight winners will receive a two-week scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet School Summer Intensive!
A chance to dance for Desmond Richardson? Yes, please. (Photo by Bround Creative, courtesy DanceOn)
But it doesn't end there folks. Remember how I was blabbing on about how exciting it would be to dance with Complexions or the Joffrey Concert Group? Well here's the kicker: Desmond Richardson will choose one grand prize winner (from the eight winners) to compete at the first ever Élite Dance Tournament in L.A., hosted by JBS and Complexions. The grand prize includes round trip airfare, four master classes and a chance to meet guest judge (you may have heard of him) Nigel Lythgoe.
One of the Élite Dance Tournament finalists will receive a Complexions apprenticeship, while another will receive a full-time paid position with the Joffrey Concert Group. But there are TONS of other prices to be earned, as well. According to artistic director of JBS Christopher D'Addario, there are over $100,000 worth of scholarships (including college scholarships) available! Check out the Élite Dance Tournament website for more info.
Phew. I think that pretty much sums it up! I'm exhausted just talking about all these incredible opportunities. So go ahead, pick your video, polish your moves, grab your camera (read: iPhone) and prepare to #RisetoJBSChallenge.
(photo by Kristen Sawatzky)
At last year's Capezio A.C.E. (Award for Choreographic Excellence) Awards in NYC, Lindsay Nelko tied for third place, winning $3,000 to produce her own show in conjunction with Capezio and Break the Floor Productions. Next week, we'll see the fruits of that partnership: Nelko will present the world premiere of her evening-length work, Awakening, at Ailey's Citigroup Theater on August 6 and 7.
Nelko, who has choreographed for "The X Factor" and "So You Think You Can Dance," has made some top-notch connections over the course of her career, so it's unsurprising that the cast of Awakening is pretty spectacular. Of the 24 dancers, eight are appearing courtesy of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, four are current or former members of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, and others have performed with San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet and the Bad Boys of Dance. It's a seriously out-of-this-world roster.
Dance Spirit caught up with Nelko to learn more about Awakening.
How would you describe the show?
Awakening is loosely based on my life, and on the moments of realization—or awakening—in certain feelings or events. There are 18 small narratives woven together that depict those feelings, including sadness, anxiety, joy, friendship and young love. There's also the theme of awakening in terms of sleep. The show moves between reality, the dream state and hypnagogia, which is the state between wakefulness and sleep.
(L to R) Mark Caserta and Casey McIntyre appearing courtesy of Complexions Contemporary Ballet in Lindsay Nelko's Awakening
(photo by Matthew Murphy)
That seems pretty deep.
It is! I've been inspired by my life's journey. I feel like artistic work frequently stems from our selves. It’s been like therapy to have my own show. I've been able to dive deeper, bring those experiences to life through incredible dancers and share it all with a wider audience.
Jeffrey Sousa and Ashley Fitzgerald in Awakening
(photo by Matthew Murphy)
How has Awakening evolved over time?
Well, the process really started in May 2013, when I created and workshopped Awakening for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. (Then I presented an excerpt at the A.C.E. Awards.) At that time, however, not all of the pieces were finalized, and I've since added a few more to the work. And while my first cast was amazing, I've been blessed to have an incredibly diverse cast this time around. There will be 18 classical and contemporary ballet dancers, in addition to modern, jazz and musical theater dancers. It's going to be an interesting mix, but also a truer representation of my work.
Can't wait for August 6? Watch a clip of Awakening from last year's ACE Awards below, and click here for more information.
Back in October, we told you about all the gloriousness that is Enemy Within—you know, the United Artists Initiative dance film featuring New York City Ballet's Tiler Peck, Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Samantha Figgins, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Matthew Rushing, and Dragon House Crew Member Marquese "Nonstop" Scott? Yeah...it's kind of a big deal.
At the time, the film was still in the fundraising stage. But now we're delighted to announce: Enemy Within is available for download on iTunes! And you guys, it's everything we've hoped for, and more. These four powerhouses—each from a distinct movement background—come together seamlessly, blending their superhuman abilities to communicate something very human: insecurity. Best of all? The film totally relies on dance to tell the story. The dancing isn't an accessory—it's everything.
For example, Matthew Rushing dramatizes the insecurities surrounding love:
And Tiler Peck juxtaposes her effortless technique with raw emotion to demonstrate insecurities of appearances and beauty:
Now, before you rush off to download your digital copy, check out a few beind-the-scenes interviews: Find out what it was like for a ballerina and a contemporary dancer to learn and rehearse a pas de deux, and hear from Rushing and Peck about why dancers, in particular, struggle with insecurities.
But wait—there's more! We're giving away 10 digital copies of Enemy Within. Click here for a chance to win. Happy watching!
OK. Deep breaths, guys. By now we're guessing a lot of you have seen the video for Free People's new collection of dancewear—and a lot of you are angry about it. In case it hasn't popped up in your Twitter feed yet, voila:
There's been an outpouring of snarky commentary about this online. Because despite her lovely face and body, that model is clearly not a high-caliber ballet dancer—a fact immediately apparent to anyone with serious training. You want to yank those pointe shoes off her feet before she breaks her poor, sickled ankles.
Here's the good news: The clothes themselves? A lot of them are great! I mean, I want this, and this, and I could definitely use a pair of these. It's not the product that's the problem. (Well, maybe these are a little strange...but the idea is interesting.)
So somebody over at Free People understands dancers. The question is: Why didn't they follow through? Why create a line of clothes dancers might actually love—and then advertise it with a model guaranteed to set dancers' teeth on edge?
What a missed opportunity, especially because the remedy is so simple. The world is crawling with gorgeous, talented dancers who would hit this kind of job out of the park. It seems like Free People had a very specific "look" in mind—a beautiful woman who breaks the "only white girls do ballet" stereotype—and just off the top of my head, I can think of many phenomenal dancers who fit that look perfectly. What about the extraordinary members of Dance Theatre of Harlem, or Complexions Contemporary Ballet, or Alonzo King LINES Ballet? What about someone like Michaela DePrince, who has not only a great body, but also a powerful story to tell?
I'm curious to hear how you all feel about this. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Photography by Erin Baiano
New Complexions Contemporary Ballet dancer Samantha Figgins is a showstopper. During the company’s recent Joyce season in NYC, she wowed critics and audiences alike with her impeccable technique, emotional intensity and ability to layer a hip-hop sensibility on top of classical training. She bopped through Camille A. Brown’s hip-hop piece Memories with boundless energy and joy. In company co-founder Dwight Rhoden’s The Curve, Samantha’s movement filled every musical phrase to the brim. Throughout the performances, her face was a palette of emotion—but whenever she broke into her huge smile, her love of dancing was undeniable. Personality plus crazy skills? Check!
Rhoden says he just had to have Samantha’s style and passion in his company. “When I first saw Samantha in a master class, I thought, ‘Wow.’ She has a majesty and elegance about her that doesn’t take away from her being able to interpret grounded movement,” he says.
Now, the 23-year-old Washington, D.C., native is enjoying being a standout in a company of stars. So how’d she get so cool and talented? DS sat Samantha down to find out.
The Take-Charge Twins
Samantha and her “built-in best friend,” identical twin sister Jenelle, jumped into ballet classes at age 5, following their older sister Dionne’s lead. Though she enjoyed it, Samantha admits she wasn’t thrilled by the discipline. So she didn’t mind when they left classical dance behind three years later and started to run track and perform with their school’s dance team instead.
But by the time they were 13, the girls were back on the ballet path, auditioning for the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, a performing arts high school. “Though we hadn’t had formal classes for a few years, dance was still there for me,” Samantha says. “Watching my sister Dionne travel the world as a soloist with Dance Theatre of Harlem had shown me that I wanted to be a dancer. I knew Ellington would be the place to start honing my craft because it’s focused on shaping potential, not teaching kids who are already formed artists.”
At Ellington, Samantha developed a serious work ethic and fell further in love with the art and athleticism of classical ballet. Later in high school, she discovered modern dance. “I wanted to do them together even though I hadn’t quite seen it done yet,” she says. “When we choreographed on our own, I explored combining the two.”
And despite the inevitable comparisons and occasional friendly competition, Samantha says having her twin there to encourage and bolster her was invaluable. “Sometimes it would get tense at home, because as twins we’re constantly compared to each other,” she says. “But we would be upset for five minutes and then realize how much we appreciated each other. If she got a role, I’d learn it as an understudy and vice versa. It was a challenge sometimes, but it made our relationship stronger. She’s fierce.”
When college choices were on the table, Samantha looked for universities that would fulfill both her academic and artistic ambitions. SUNY Purchase fit the bill.
College turned out to be a time for Samantha to expand her artistry. “I had always thought I wanted to go off and dance hard all the time,” she says, with her trademark giggle. “But at Purchase I was able to bounce ideas off people and figure out who I was as an artist. I learned I don’t just want to be a dancer. I want to make a statement, have a process, use ideas and feelings.”
It was also at Purchase that Samantha honed her exceptional performance quality. “I worked on being a chameleon, being able to adapt to the choreographer and add my perspective to his or her vision,” she says. “Dance is a human artform and I wanted that to stand out in my dancing—that there’s something to relate to beyond legs and lines. It’s not just about tricks. It’s about a story and the emotions behind the dance.”
Samantha adds that she also came into her own socially at Purchase, enjoying a “normal” college life, even though she stayed focused on dance. “The person you are outside of dance is the person you are as a dancer,” she says. “If you don’t know who you are and you’re not comfortable with yourself, you’ll have a hard time becoming different characters onstage.”
After graduation, Samantha weathered a few hard knocks, like getting cut from Broadway auditions and not making the Dance Theatre of Harlem main company (where Jenelle is currently a member). But her determination and belief in her abilities to “do it all” kept her driven. “I came to NYC and didn’t quite know what I was going to do,” she says. “But I networked, took classes and asked Dionne to help point me in the right direction.” (Dionne is a former Complexions company member herself and recommended Samantha to the Complexions founders.)
Partly following Dionne’s recommendation and partly obeying her own instinct, Samantha decided to take a Complexions master class at Steps on Broadway in June 2011. “Desmond [Richardson, one of the company’s co-founders] saw me in the master class and we exchanged information right there,” she says. “Later that week, he invited me to attend the summer intensive on scholarship, and I started that three weeks later.” Complexions was a fit for Samantha right away. “I saw that the company did what I was looking for,” she says. “The dancers perform every style.”
During the intensive, Samantha was offered an apprentice spot with the company and started learning the repertoire the final week. “She was cast in things immediately,” Rhoden says. “After she came to our summer course, I thought, ‘As soon as I have a slot for a woman, she’s in.’ My work fit her and I’m always looking for that inexplicable quality of being just right. I knew I wanted to find a place for her. Samantha is versatile, bubbly and animated, but also focused and professional.”
Later in 2011—much to her delight—Samantha was made a full Complexions company member. “The company’s work is that perfect mix of ballet and modern I’ve always dreamed of,” she says.
“Samantha’s only challenge might lie in the fact that she’s a perfectionist,” Rhoden says. “Sometimes you just have to let it go in the studio, and she’s learning to let the process be. But it’s a good problem—she wants results!”
Samantha eventually hopes to choreograph, dance backup for her favorite singer Rihanna and perform more commercial work (she has already danced in the movie Bolden!). Whatever she does, Samantha is set on being “the strongest artist I can be—in my own way.”
Birthday: August 31, 1989
Most-played artist on her iPod: Rihanna
Who would play her in a movie: Zoë Saldana
Favorite dancer of all time: Sylvie Guillem
Favorite Class: Andrea Long’s ballet class at Dance Theatre of Harlem
Something people don’t know about her: “I can sing jazz and soul music.”
Strangest thing in her dance bag: “I have a stamp that says ‘Every little thing counts.’ I put it on my hand to help me remember that sometimes.”
Dance crush: Danny Tidwell
Her idol: Michael Jackson
Performer she’d have loved to work with: Josephine Baker
Dance BFF: Jenelle Figgins
Dance mentor: Dionne Figgins
The best advice she’s ever received: “Trust your gut. Don’t be afraid of your instincts.”
Advice for DS readers: “Approach everything you do with positivity, love and faith.”
Complexions Contemporary Ballet: Daring to be Different
Interested in Samantha’s new home, Complexions Contemporary Ballet? Here’s the scoop on the daring troupe:
•Complexions was formed in 1994 by Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson to “create a forum where dancers could explore and be created on,” Rhoden says. “We wanted a place where the differences between dancers—backgrounds, training and outlook—could be celebrated and serve as contagious inspiration.” Diversity, versatility and energy are the troupe’s trademarks.
•The repertoire of Complexions is largely Rhoden’s work, which requires extreme athleticism. Pieces by William Forsythe, Camille A. Brown, Jodie Gates and Jae Man Joo are also performed.
•Rhoden says he looks for dancers who demonstrate impeccable ballet
technique, versatility, passion and a desire to explore.
•If you’re interested in being part of Complexions, make sure your ballet
technique is top-notch. Explore contemporary and jazz styles, too, and try to attend the company’s summer intensive before the annual audition, which
is usually held in late March or early April.