Hey, want to take a quick trip to Paris for the weekend? No, we're serious. There's this brief but beautiful ballet flick called Until Midnight, it stars Brittany Cavaco (a freelance ballerina currently guesting with English National Ballet) and former Paris Opéra Ballet principal Sébastien Thill, and it's everything your lackluster weekend needs.
The answer to Canton, MI, native Precious Adams' ballet dreams lay abroad. Adams studied at the National Ballet School of Canada (relatively near her home in Michigan), and eventually her desire to seek out the best possible training led her even further afield, to the Monte Carlo Ballet's Princess Grace Academy, and the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.
When Adams went to Saint Petersburg, Russia, to dance at the 2007 Dance Open master classes, the experience was a little bit of a shock. Despite seeing few other dancers of color throughout her training, in Russia, Adams felt like her race was really visible. "It was the first time I felt like, 'Oh, I'm black and maybe that might not be a good thing in this profession,' " she says. "Despite that realization, I was even more determined to pursue my dreams."
Adams won the Prix de Lausanne in 2014, and an offer from English National Ballet followed. Her ultra-refined classical technique has helped her dance everything from La Sylphide to William Forsythe's In the middle, somewhat elevated to Pina Bausch's Rite of Spring. And, thanks in part to Copeland, Adams believes that assumptions about black women and black dancers are starting to change. "After all," she says, "when people are excluded, talent is wasted."
Happy merry everything, everyone! Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, you'll LIVE for this:
The English National Ballet has constructed a pointe shoe Christmas tree. It is made out of 540 pointe shoes. And it is even more delightful than you'd imagine.
Move over, Sergei Polunin*: There's a new ballet heartthrob in town.
Well, not "new," exactly: The fabulously talented Isaac Hernández has been a lead principal with the English National Ballet since 2015, and previously danced with Dutch National Ballet and San Francisco Ballet. (He's also part of a distinguished dance family: You met his brother, SFB corps member Esteban, in our March issue roundup of up-and-coming danseurs.)
But a dreamy new video by filmmaker Ezra Hurwitz—"Despertares" [Wake Up], featuring Hernández dancing in studios and on rooftops all over NYC—makes a strong case for this beautiful dancer becoming your next ballet crush:
Usually, when we see ballerinas out in the mainstream world—in commercials, on TV shows, in movies—they're portrayed as either delicate little flowers or twisted, tortured souls.
Rarely, though, does the average person see ballet dancers for what they really are: totally hardcore.
My new favorite exception to that rule comes courtesy Lexus, whose TV spot "Poise" for the Lexus IS features the awesome Tamara Rojo.
Talk about a hardcore ballerina: In addition to being a superstar performer, Rojo is also artistic director of the English National Ballet. (You know. NBD.) And the ad shows her in all her kick-butt glory, zooming in on her powerful legs and feet as she bourrées at lightning speed and whips off quadruple fouettés.
The tagline? "A stronger body for greater control." Couldn't have said it better myself.
The sad thing is that this ad was produced by Lexus UK, so we won't see it over here in the States. The happy thing is that it's on YouTube, so you can watch it obsessively whenever you feel like it. And believe me, you'll feel like it.
Here's the ad...
...and here's a bonus clip featuring an interview with Rojo and more footage of her amazing dancing:
(For those of you now also obsessed with the song that plays during the ad—so, all of you—here it is!)
Sometimes, as a dance fan, you wish you could be everywhere at once. There's all kinds of amazing dance stuff happening in NYC this month (American Ballet Theatre! New York City Ballet! Gallim Dance! KEIGWIN + COMPANY!)—so as a New Yorker, I'm a pretty lucky girl. And yet I'm pining for a show that's now touring the UK: "Against Time," a collaboration between the hip hop group Flawless and English National Ballet.
An unlikely pairing? Well, sure. But how could a combination of street dance, acrobatics and ballet not add up to a great time? Choreographed by ENB soloist Jenna Lee and Flawless' Marion "Swoosh" Wallen, the work tells the story of an evil watchmaker who plans to stop time—and, in turn, dancing—forever. Sounds like good, kooky fun to me. And just look at the promotional pictures below. Adorable!
Friends across the pond: Definitely check this one out. JEALOUS.
All photos by Laurent Liotardo. (Click to enlarge.)
There are zillions of makeup goodies out there, and just as many ways to wear them. Rather than spending the rest of your life trying to find that perfect black eyeliner pen, take a cue from these pros, who have streamlined their prep routines to get the job done night after night.
English National Ballet is doing something a little bit curious: The company is performing two versions of Giselle in one season. The second one is the romantic-tutu version we know and love. But the first one, premiering at the end of the month, is a contemporary take by choreographer Akram Khan. In his imagination, Giselle transforms into something pretty darn creepy—which makes sense. It's a ghost story, after all.
Step into the rehearsal studio through these amazingly thorough videos by English National Ballet.
Here, three company members go into detail about what it's like to work with Khan:
Here Khan and ENB artistic director Tamara Rojo talk about the need to revisit classic works:
And here's a semi-terrifying trailer that makes me want to hop on the first plane to the UK so I catch opening night:
Friends, it's finally here. English National Ballet's "She Said" program, which premieres April 13, features internationally recognized choreographers Aszure Barton, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Yabin Wang. All three women have a record of remarkable work and the three of them together on one program promises great things.
But I'm especially excited for Lopez Ochoa's piece, titled Broken Wings. It's a biographical ballet about the life of surrealist painter Frida Kahlo, who was an amazing, fascinating and extremely important artist in her own right. Her work is a little bit scary, and it looks like Lopez Ochoa is addressing that head-on.
Lopez Ochoa has been developing the work with theater director Nancy Meckler, and it sounds like they've come up with some inventive ways to portray the ballet's biographical elements. For example, when she was young, Kahlo was in a terrible bus accident which left her disabled and in chronic pain. But, bed-ridden during her recovery period, she started to investigate painting as a way to continue living her life. In the ballet, Kahlo's bed will transform into a box where she's restricted but can still move. Genius!
As for the artistic elements, it looks like Lopez Ochoa has been inspired by Kahlo's surrealism. These costume sketches, by designer Dieuweke van Reij, are reminiscent of Kahlo's unsettling self-portraits.
Sketch by Dieuweke van Reij
Check out the trailer below for a glimpse at Lopez Ochoa's choreography!
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Yes, we love dance for its glamour. We love the tutus and the tiaras, the sets, the pageantry. We love the stage versions of our favorite dancers, transformed by lights and makeup and the distance of the fourth wall.
But we're also all about the real people behind those stage personae—the sweaty, bruised, blistered, strong, brilliant artists who work themselves to the bone every day. They're even more impressive than their be-tutued counterparts. They're warriors, and their dancer bodies have the battle scars to prove it.
Photographer Rick Guest totally gets that. His latest series, "What Lies Beneath," features stripped-down images of fantastic dancers from The Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, the Richard Alston Dance Company and Wayne McGregor's Random Dance. (To name just a few: Sarah Lamb. Marianela Nuñez. Sergei Polunin.) Stark lighting and minimal makeup and costuming mean that we see their remarkable bodies for what they really are: monuments to the never-ending struggle for perfection.
(From left) Marianela Nuñez and Eric Underwood of The Royal Ballet (Rick Guest, via)
(From left) Edward Watson and Sarah Lamb of The Royal Ballet (Rick Guest, via)
Guest's images are on display from January 22-31 at London's Hospital Club Gallery. But those of us who don't live across the pond can also find them in book form, complete with a foreword from English National Ballet director and principal Tamara Rojo.
Are you just not feeling the holiday spirit this year? Is the Nutcracker inundation—you know, between actual Nut performances and the ceaseless stream of Tchaikovsky playing in every mall in the world—making you feeling a little, well, Grinchy? (THOSE DARN WHOS AND THEIR NOISE, NOISE, NOISE, NOISE.)
Let English National Ballet help you with that. More specifically, let ENB's pointe shoe Christmas tree help you with that.
Yes. Those lovely Londoners created a pointe shoe Christmas tree.
To clarify: It's not a tree decorated with pointe shoes. It's a tree made of pointe shoes.
500 pointe shoes, to be exact.
And it is glorious.
AHHH SO PRETTY. (screenshot via YouTube)
The tree now graces the foyer of the London Coliseum, where ENB just kicked off its Nutcracker run. And as if the finished product wasn't enough to get you belting out carols and eating sugar cookies, there's also a delightful time-lapse behind-the-scenes video showing how this holiday miracle—the brainchild of Arnaud Stephenson and ENB dancer Amber Hunt (otherwise known as Photography by ASH)—was constructed.
What's that sound? Is that the sound of your small heart growing THREE sizes? Yes. Mine too.
English National Ballet first artist (and Cover Model Search finalist!) Madison Keesler has a new YouTube channel, and it's everything we've come to expect from our favorite ballerinas/life coaches. (Obviously, Kathryn Morgan has set the bar pretty high.)
A recent back injury gave Keesler the time she needed to learn the ins and outs of filming, editing and producing her own videos. Everything she's made so far has been super professional, and her fun personality shines through. Check out her very thorough stage makeup tutorial and directions on how to make an elegant, low bun. You can also follow her on Instagram at Mad's Pointe. We can't wait for more!
Nowadays, when dancers go on tour, you can practically go with them. Thanks to social media blogs, you can follow your favorite company all around the world.
The Great Wall of China (photo by Guilherme Duarte de Menezes, @guilhermedmenezes on Instagram)
The English National Ballet just embarked on a tour of China—which is especially exciting because China is a nation of visual extremes, and the dancers' photos take full advantage of that magic.
Inside the enormous Tianjin Grand Theatre (photo by Guilherme Duarte de Menezes, @guilhermedmenezes on Instagram)
You can follow along with the company on Instagram and Twitter. The dancers' individual posts and Tweets give the social feeds a really personal feel, and the ENB blog wraps everything into a clear, scrollable narrative. Enjoy!
Last week, two male dancers on two different continents made Facebook fans do a serious double take. Warning: When you watch these dancers' incredible feats of balance and strength, you may want to hold onto your jaw—it's going to drop.
If you've ever been on a Boso Balance Trainer (or any other balance board) in a physical therapy session or at the gym, you know that just standing on the thing can be pretty darn challenging. (Do a simple YouTube search, and you can see that even the fittest people struggle a bit—fast-forward to 2:15 in this video for exhibit A.)
But you all know that ballet dancers are crazy—crazy-strong, crazy-focused and crazy-AMAZING. Take English National Ballet's Barry Drummond, for example. This is his Bosu Balance workout:
So there's that. But then, inspired by Drummond, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet's Jon Bond decided to try it out:
I just can't even.