“It turns out it wasn’t easy to find dancers in their 20s (or even a decade older) who were moved by it or who had even seen it: They came of age with Center Stage and Black Swan. … But for an older generation, and for some just discovering it, the film is a touchstone.”
The news broke yesterday that the fledgling company, announced with fanfare earlier this year with an emphasis on diversity of backgrounds and body types – had fired nearly two dozen dancers and had seen yet more resignations, including of its marquee star. Jennifer Stahl and Amy Brandt talk to ANB’s executive director as well as current and former dancers – and piece together a tale of changed management, a changed vision, and a hush-hush impending merger with another company.
The still-gestating Charleston-based company, which announced ambitious plans to “reinvent and diversify” the art form earlier this year, asked its members last Friday to sign nondisclosure agreements. Then, on Monday, “23 dancers … were told they were demoted or fired. It was part of an effort to address financial realities.” Three choreographers and coaches, including Rasta Thomas and Octavio Martin, left the company in August; its leading principal dancer, Sara Murawski, resigned this week. (ANB says that 24 dancers remain on its roster.)
Rafael Bonachela, who took the reins of the company from Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon in 2009, “wants to create a Sydney Dance Company 2, a sibling company of eight young dancers to tour regional theatres throughout Australia. … [He] also wants Sydney to have its own ‘dance house’ – a dedicated theatre just for dance performances such as Sadler’s Wells or The Place in London – and an annual international dance festival.”
During the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, Philadelphia had a thriving scene that nourished some of the later 20th century’s most important African-American dancers. Dance Magazine‘s Jennifer Stahl interviews Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet founder Theresa Ruth Howard about what made the city such a relatively good place for black dancers to work, while Judith Jamison, Delores Browne, and Joan Myers Brown offer comments on video about the city’s dance history.
A reporter travels to the northeastern corner of Vermont to visit Steve Paxton, who was a star in Merce Cunningham’s company in the 1960s and went on to invent Contact Improvisation.
Janie Taylor thought she’d finished with performing when she retired from City Ballet. But Benjamin Millepied – and a multifaceted artistic life that includes teaching and costume design, along with, yes, dancing onstage – has her back in the life. A friend says, “Now she gets to decide, ‘I’m gonna feel who I am again. I’m gonna be creative.’ And guess what? Her body feels better.”
Choreographer Ben Duke on making dance post-Brexit and in a world dramatically changed by terrorism and war: “I think art is the opposite of terrorism. And that means the more frequent and violent the terrorism is, the better the art has to become.”
“These ballet dancers are great and they’re ready and what they need is more interesting work. I feel people are playing it safe a lot. If anything, I think it’s the choreographers and the directors who need to make an effort for these dancers who have made this art form their passion, and to really be as daring or at least as relevant as some of our peers were when they were commissioning pieces a long time ago.”
“In taking dance out of the theatre, Is This a Waste Land? not only takes the theatre out of dance, but most of the dance too. We’re left with a kind of social choreography, and an open expanse of questions that can – like other projects that venture outside theatre’s contained space – revitalise our experience of performance, spectatorship, sometimes even the world itself. Like seeing a familiar landscape anew.”
“By reputation, Kenneth MacMillan was the dark genius of British ballet – its destroyer, if you listen to some. They think this country’s classical ballet reached its pinnacle under the Apollonian hand of Frederick Ashton, before MacMillan stomped in with his working-class neuroses and rape simulations and took ballet down to the psychological underworld.” Ismene Brown looks at his body of work – especially the little-performed short ballets – in this 25th anniversary year of his death.
“This weekend, Chicago dance artists and venues are opening their doors and inviting the public to stages all over the city to witness excerpts, works-in-progress and studio processes from our rich community of independent artists and small to midsize dance companies. Called Elevate Chicago Dance, the Chicago Dancemakers Forum (CDF) is the presenter of the multiday, multivenue, mostly free festival aimed at highlighting Chicago dance and increasing the visibility of established dance artists across a range of genres and disciplines.”
“For as long as anyone can remember, theater and movie directors, rich sponsors of art, dancing masters and acting coaches here in Russia have demanded sex from young actresses, ballerinas, and students in exchange for a part in a movie, a role in a play, or promotion in the ballet.”
25 years ago this month, the choreographer suffered a fatal heart attack backstage at the Royal Opera House during a performance of his ballet Mayerling. Crisp, who was there, remembers the fateful evening and pays tribute to MacMillan’s “fascination with the psyche rather than the fouetté … [his] interest in movement’s capacity to convey psychological complexity.”
Marina Harss talks with the choreographer and Leonid Desyatnikov, the only composer from whom Ratmansky has ever commissioned a score. Their sixth collaboration is about to open at American Ballet Theater.
Up to last year, the company was based in a cramped building with three studios and a leaky roof. In February they acquired a former fitness center, which has now been renovated into a spacious, light-filled, multi-studio headquarters. To celebrate, the family of the company’s founding donor has made a major new gift.
“Taking inspiration from the rotoscope – an early filmmaking device that allowed animators to trace over live-action – the Japanese design group EUPHRATES used an innovative computer algorithm to capture outlines and extract other information from a video of a ballerina, Kurimu Urabe of the Bolshoi, dancing in a ballet studio.”
Siobhan Burke: “I can’t remember when I first sensed disgruntlement toward the E-word. But in speaking with dancers and choreographers over the years, I’ve noticed that more often than not it elicits an eye roll, head shake, groan, sigh or shrug of ‘whatever that means.'”
“At his final curtain call, Mr. Fairchild, the youngest dancer to have a farewell event at City Ballet” – he’s 30 – “choreographed an unusual flower presentation: he stood by a basket of roses and handed a flower to fellow principal dancers, who came onstage one by one.”
“The 2018 ballet season will be cut in half, from a two-week run in 2017 to just one week. … [Saratoga Performing Arts Center CEO Elizabeth] Sobol said the board decided to reduce City Ballet’s stay because it lost more than $1 million on the NYCB residency. She said continuing to lose money on the residency is ‘not prudent’.”
Over a year and a half, older adults who took weekly dance classes showed gains in their balancing ability. There were no such improvements in the traditional exercise group. Researchers also found hints that all those mambos and cha-chas had extra brain benefits.
“We must trust that the intelligence that has allowed humanity to stave off death, make medical and engineering breakthroughs, reach the stars, build wondrous temples, and write complex tales will save us again. We must nurse the conviction that we can use the gentle graces of science and reason to prove that the truth cannot be vanquished so easily. To those who would repudiate intelligence, we must say: you will not conquer and we will find a way to convince.”
The director of the National Portrait Gallery: “The corporeal verve of dancers is a perfect remedy for the typically static environment of museums. ‘All these artificial boundaries between art and poetry and performance need to come down,’ Sajet says. ‘Our goal is to bring a sense of emotion about who we are as humans into the Portrait Gallery.'”
Fair question, but: “Whether Corella is shifting the company away from its heritage or not, a larger question hovers: Does it even matter? If the choice is ‘Change or die,’ who cares if the dancing is different? It’s a classic ‘would you rather’ moment: Ballet fans, would you rather have a different-looking company or no company at all?”
Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre, launched this past spring by five dancers who left Atlanta Ballet following the arrival of a new artistic director last year, has its organizational structure and early donors lined up, its first performances this month and next, and home venues secured in downtown Atlanta and the suburbs. Where to now? “As the group coalesces,” reports Candice Thompson, “[de facto leader John] Welker expects it will remain a company of five core dancers, performing in-house choreography. But there are plans for growth.”
“After 12 seasons dancing with the Rockettes, Rhonda Kaufman Malkin knows a thing or two about becoming one of Radio City’s iconic dancers. … At the most recent Rockettes callback, over half of the 25 dancers were Malkin’s students – and seven of them were offered contracts. Here’s how to get to Radio City, according to Malkin.”
Sara Michelle Murawski was personally recruited by incoming artistic director Ángel Corella, only to be told – four months into her first season and right before she went onstage as the Sugar Plum Fairy – that her contract would not be renewed because she was too tall for any of the company’s men to partner. (She’s 5’10½”.) She writes here about getting through the shock and disappointment, how her height has and hasn’t been an issue throughout her studies and career, and how she came to headline a new company that’s getting started this year in Charleston.
“Ballet is slower to change than most art forms, but in the span of just two weeks, New York City Ballet, one of the world’s premier companies, will have shown two ballets featuring significant same-sex duets.” Gia Kourlas talks with the choreographers of those ballets, Lauren Lovette and Justin Peck, and the men who’ll be dancing those duets.
Says Pranita Nayar, who has studied the form for decades, “My audience is not from a thousand years ago, so what are we preserving? For whom am I preserving it? … [What’s more,] the bharatanatyam of today is only about 100 years old.”
“Indianapolis City Ballet, founded in 2009 by the late Robert Hesse and now led by his son Kevin, presents an alternate paradigm: start with building an audience. After several attempts to sustain a professional company in Indianapolis failed, Hesse and his team are experimenting with a new model: a non-profit producing organization that seeks to bolster the city’s dance community by sponsoring events like gala performances, master classes and competitions.”