Guys, how excited are you for Red Sparrow? The fabulous-looking thriller, starring Jennifer Lawrence as a ballerina-turned-spy, has dancers everywhere buzzing—in no small part because a real star dancer, American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, acts as Lawrence's dance double. (The film's ballet bona fides don't end there, btw: Your boyfriend Sergei Polunin makes an appearance as Lawrence's partner, and Justin Peck provided the choreography.)
Red Sparrow got us thinking about some other famous onscreen dance doubles—and about the controversy they've inspired. (Always credit your dancers, filmmakers!) Here are a few of our all-time faves.
The signature cupped hands of the celebrants in Primitive Mysteries; the clawed hands of Medea in Cave of the Heart—“Graham hands" are unmistakable and create next-level drama. Each thrust or flick enhances Graham's larger-than-life characters. “Martha marveled over the possibilities of the hands," says Terese Capucilli, a former Martha Graham Dance Company principal dancer who trained with Graham, and was co-artistic director of the company from 2002–05. “She used hands as an extension of the expression that inhabits the body. It's a magnification of the energy that's projected from the center."
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.
Dancers are some of the greatest photographic subjects around (for obvious reasons). They know their bodies, how to pose and captivate audiences—all of which translate into consistently stunning images. But Nir Arieli's photo series, "Flocks," showcases some of our favorite dance companies in a completely new context: without motion.
Arieli has been photographing a number of world-class companies for two years. The dancers are posed in motionless formations that, while aren't showing any movement, are still 100% dancey—not to mention stunning. Arieli told Slate that he wanted to show "what happens after the movement is over or when the movement is drained from the body. You get an intimate moment about this special group of people who spend so much time together...They’re very physical with each other...there are very interesting relationships formed with these people, and I hope this project is speaking about that in a visual way.” Below are some of our favorites, but be sure to check out the entire feature here!
(Now-disbanded) Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet (Photo by Nir Arieli, via Slate)
The Martha Graham Dance Company. (Photo by Nir Arieli, via Slate)
Ailey II members. (Photo by Nir Arieli, via Slate)
If there's one word to describe the Martha Graham Dance Company, it's iconic. From the trademark "Graham" cupped hands to the powerful movements making up her choreo, Martha Graham knew a thing or two about statements. So it's no surprise that she was as tuned into fashion as she was dance. Vogue took it a step further and decided to delve into the fashion-forward world of Graham costumes over the 90 (!) years the company has been performing. Turns out, lots of designers seem to have been influenced by the beautiful pieces worn by MGDC dancers. Below are some of our favorites, and be sure to check out the entire article (and remaining pictures!).
Vionnet's Spring 2016 show (left) and Graham (right). (Photos via Vogue)
Proenza Schouler (left) and Graham in performance (right). (Photos via Vogue)
The Martha Graham Dance Company turns 90—NINETY—this year. Like most things that have survived for the better part of a century, it has an incredibly rich history. Unlike most 90-year-olds, though, it still knows how to throw a heck of a birthday party.
What does a Graham-style anniversary celebration look like? Well, it kicked off last Thursday at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, where MGDC is performing a series of programs that include Graham classics commissioned by the Library (Appalachian Spring and Cave of the Heart among them) and a brand-new work by edgy Swedish choreographer Pontus Lidberg. And it'll continue later in April, during the MGDC's NYC season. (Fun fact: April 18, the day Lidberg's work will have its NYC premiere, is the exact day when, 90 years ago, Graham mounted her first concert in the Big Apple.)
In a way, Lidberg's creation, Woodland, follows in the MGDC tradition: Like many Graham works, it's a) set to a score by a mid-century composer (Irving Fine) and b) co-commissioned by the Library of Congress. But based on the glimpses of the piece that we get in a new behind-the-scenes film by Ezra Hurwitz, Lidberg is taking the Graham dancers in some interesting new directions, too. And it's thrilling to watch these fantastic artists explore a different side of their artistry. We're used to seeing them like this...
...but Lidberg shows them to us like THIS:
Watch the full video, which includes great interviews with Lidberg and MGDC artistic director Janet Eilber, below. And if you're in D.C. or NYC, get your tickets to the 90th anniversary season now. Because the only way to really experience the power of Graham is to see the Graham company live.
Ross Katen auditioned for the Limón Dance Company on his 21st birthday, just after graduating from the BFA dance program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Limón, he knew, was an unusual choice for a recent NYU alum. “I’d been focused on creating new work in a pretty progressive conservatory program,” he remembers, “and this was a company performing dances that had been in repertory since the 1940s.” But after the audition and a weeklong workshop, he felt excited about the challenges of the dramatic Limón style—and he earned a contract with LDC.
For many young dancers, the performance dream centers on contemporary companies. And for good reason: Getting to perform new works and be involved in the creative process is pretty darn exciting. But dancers are also finding fulfillment in time-honored repertory groups like LDC, Paul Taylor Dance Company and the Martha Graham Dance Company—companies that were established long before they (and, in some cases, their parents) were born.
Why join a company grounded in the past? For one, Katen says, the work still resonates. Though LDC was established in 1946, “there are so many intricacies to explore within the repertory,” he says. “You can still find new ideas to play off of in historical pieces.” That quality, he says, is what’s allowed those works to stick around.
(From left) Ho, Katen and O'Donnell strike a pose (photo by Jayme Thornton)
Today, LDC primarily presents pieces by Limón himself—just as the MGDC repertory is mostly Graham, and the PTDC rep is nearly 100 percent Taylor. That means dancers get
a chance to dig deep into a single vocabulary, exploring the nuances of its technique through a wide variety of rep. “I love the diversity of Paul Taylor’s work,” says Madelyn Ho, who recently joined PTDC after spending four years in the company’s apprentice/
touring group, Taylor 2. “There are some really dark, ugly pieces that let me draw on my intense side, and there are happier dances, too. Having the opportunity to experience that range—and all by one choreographer—really pulls me in.”
Anne O’Donnell, who joined the 90-year-old MGDC as an apprentice
in 2014, agrees. “Working in one style so intensely is gratifying,” she says. Classic techniques like Graham are also a great foundation to build a career on, because “so many choreographers have come out of the traditions of these modern dance pioneers,” O’Donnell says.
Because their names are well known throughout the world, classic modern companies tend to tour frequently, too. MGDC tours internationally several months out of the year; PTDC travels 16 weeks each year. O’Donnell loves that her job lets her see the world. “Touring has been one of the biggest blessings,” she says. “One of my proudest career moments was going to Sweden with MGDC to learn a new work by Mats Ek. It was surreal.”
Now is an especially good time for younger dancers to look into older companies. In the past, heritage modern groups have struggled with funding, which has sometimes meant limited seasons. But recently, there’s been an exciting wave of revitalization. Last October, to celebrate Limón’s 70th anniversary, companies from around the globe gathered at The Joyce Theater in NYC to perform a wide variety of Limón’s work. MGDC has commissioned work from contemporary choreographers, including Kyle Abraham, Sonya Tayeh, Nacho Duato and Andonis Foniadakis. And last year, Paul Taylor—who continues to create new pieces—broadened his troupe’s scope by creating Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance, a presenting organization that showcases guest companies and outside choreographers. (PTDC also presents a jam-packed month-long season at Lincoln Center each year.)
Above all, joining a classic modern company offers young dancers a chance to participate in a revered, time-honored tradition. “You feel like you’re part of a bigger history,” Ho says. “When you put on a Taylor costume, you know there have been all these dancers who’ve worn the same one before you. It’s a pretty amazing feeling.”
(photo by Jayme Thornton)
Madelyn Ho, Paul Taylor Dance Company
What she loves about Paul Taylor's work: "Connecting with people onstage. You get to make eye contact and be a human instead of a 'performer.' "
Advice for DS readers: "Think about how to dance with others. When I was younger, I lacked spatial awareness and was too focused on technique."
Number-one PTDC audition tip: "Taylor's auditions start out with just walking across the floor alone. It's terrifying. But don't let it psych you out. They just want to see you being yourself."
(photo by Jayme Thornton)
Ross Katen, Limón Dance Company
What he loves about Limón's work: "Limón was a master of theatricality, but he has such a huge range. For example, The Winged is totally abstract. There's also a certain morbidity to much of his work that I find fascinating."
Advice for DS readers: "Remember that dance is subjective. It's dependent on who's viewing it, and on which day, and where. That's good, though: As a dancer, it's important to be open to different opinions."
Number-one Limón audition tip: "Rhythm is one of the most important elements of Limón technique and choreography. You have to be a musical dancer."
(photo by Jayme Thornton)
Anne O'Donnell, Martha Graham Dance Company
What she loves about Martha Graham's work: "It's so honest, so true. It shows off the body and makes you a powerful performer."
Advice for DS readers: "Know that hard work does pay off. Dance isn't an easy career; at some point you'll question why you're doing what you're doing. But believe in yourself—and be kind."
Number-one Graham audition tip: "Know the foundation of the technique, and look the part. Wear skin-tight clothing that shows off your body and your contraction. Show your knowledge of the company."