Historian Simon Morrison (Bolshoi Confidential) talks with Here & Now‘s Robin Young about how turmoil has abounded at the theater for all of its 241 years, and how the ballet company has stabilized following the horrific attack on former ballet artistic director Sergei Filin (and after Filin’s subsequent involuntary departure from the company). (audio)
Can dance change lives? In “The OA,” it does. “When people say, ‘I was crying when I was watching it,’ it’s like, exactly. That is exactly what dance has the power to do. Whether or not it’s true — which I think is a beautiful question in the series — I know that it can heal.”
After 20 years at the theater, including 13 as a principal, Maria Alexandrova has resigned. Bolshoi management says “This was Ms. Alexandrova’s personal decision,” and that they asked her several times to stay on. She herself posted on her Instagram page, “I’ve made a decision and I’m turning this page.”
“When Marta Becket died on Monday at 92, her only survivor was the theater, the walls and ceiling she painted depicting a colorful audience that would never leave: Renaissance royalty, nuns and monks, clowns and jousters, revelers and cherubs — and Clive Barnes, the longtime drama critic of The New York Times, a playful nod to her theatrical past.”
Chase Johnsey, of the all-male Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (the Trocks), “faced off competition from the likes of Vadim Muntagirov and Alexander Campbell, both principal dancers at the Royal. Johnsey’s win is not only a celebration of his talent, but also a celebration of the fact that ballet, however rigorous its traditions, has an inalienable genius for the wayward, the comic and the camp.”
Lyndsey Winship, citing such examples as Siobhan Davies’s’ material/rearranged/to/be and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Babel(words) and m¡longa: “It’s the choreographer’s prerogative, of course, but in an art form that already feels distant and unreadable to some audiences, being wilfully abstruse in your labelling doesn’t exactly help. … It can feel as though artists are attempting to prove their cleverness and exclusivity when jargon actually functions as a barrier rather than an invitation.”
Svetlana Zakharova: “This ballet is so difficult, not just technically, but also on an emotional level. It’s so complex. You need to be 100 percent sure that you have the full technique, that you will be interesting to the audience, that during the White Adagio, people won’t be able to tear their eyes away from you.” (includes video)
The futuristic new capital of the energy-rich Central Asian republic has two fully professional ballet theaters, and talented dancers no longer need to go to Russia or the West to make a career.
“The film director Tomer Heymann entered – or barged – into the life of the Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin 25 years ago, first as his waiter at a cafe and then as the boyfriend of one of his dancers.”
A little gift for the Year of the Rooster. (video)
Seriously, dance practice 30 or more hours a week doesn’t provide enough cardio or core strength, or so the dancers say.
Raw ambition wrapped in hoodies and pearl earrings, of course.
“With apologies to James Brown, the hardest working people in show business may well be ballet dancers. And at New York City Ballet, none work harder than the dancers in its lowest rank, the corps de ballet.” Michael Cooper spent six days shadowing one corps member, and he found even that “exhausting.” (includes video)
The choreographer has cast Ashly Isaacs as Robert Fairchild’s understudy in The Times Are Racing. “I don’t know if it’s a first time, but it certainly feels like it might be one,” says Peck. “[Isaacs] has stepped in a few times, and she looks great.”
The founder of the London Boys Ballet School says that he had only 15 students when the place opened 2½ years ago – and it now has 170.
“As a fashion influence, ballet has come and gone for decades: legwarmers cycle in and out of style, and American Apparel spent years trying to convince hipsters everywhere that leotards are comfortable. Ballerinas from New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theater are currently serving as models for luxe clothing brands like Wolford, Thakoon and Negative Underwear. But ballet’s current mainstream moment goes beyond fashion, crossing over into fitness culture and serving as a revealing reminder of the kind of female athleticism ― the kind of female bodies ― that American culture deems acceptable and admirable.”
Sydney Dance Company and the Art Gallery of New South Wales created a show for which Rafael Bonachela choreographed dances to be performed alongside such artworks as Rodin’s The Kiss and Francis Bacon triptych. Then they took the slowest-selling performance and branded it nude-audience-only; tickets sold out that day. Kate Hennessy went, and she writes about her experience there – as an art-lover and as a female.
Corinne Haas, former member of Alonzo King LINES Ballet: “When your heart is pounding and your knees are trembling, it’s hard to cultivate a calm, confident persona at an audition. But if you practice that feeling before stepping foot in the room, you can improve your chances of success.”
“[He] stops short of calling it a protest dance, but his newest ballet, The Times Are Racing, is certainly of the moment. The dancers wear sneakers, and T-shirts and hoodies emblazoned with words like Unite, React, Act, Protest and Fight.”
“Full festival details, including associated activities and events, will be made public at the time of the 2018 season announcement three months from now, but the list of participating choreographers has been announced: David Dawson, Alonzo King, Edwaard Liang, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Cathy Marston, Trey McIntyre, Justin Peck, Arthur Pita, Yuri Possokhov, Dwight Rhoden, Stanton Welch, and Christopher Wheeldon.”
To go down the list: Melissa Hayden was born Mildred Herman; Allegra Kent — Iris Margo Cohen; Suzanne Farrell — Roberta Sue Ficker; Violette Verdy — Nelly Guillerm (even the French were doing it!); Merrill Ashley — Linda Michelle Merrill…
Seventeen-year-old Sara Pore: “Lion dancing started 2,000 years ago — that’s incredible. … But what makes you a competent lion dancer is that there is a sense of imagination involved. Lion dancing teaches competence in leadership because of this. You’re constantly forced to push yourself past your limit.”
Things are going well for the ballet, which “opened” in September 2016: “So far, Night Fall has been a success, and not just with art critics. It has garnered attention from tech blogs and dance publications alike, bringing a diverse crowd together.”
Says one of the dancers in Sean Gandini’s 4×4: Ephemeral Architectures, “The juggling props are pretty light, so it doesn’t really hurt if you get hit by them, especially when compared to the pain of wearing pointe shoes.”
As a teaser for his new ballet, The Times Are Racing, Peck has made a video with himself and Fairchild jeté-ing, sashaying, tapping (in tennis shoes), and sliding down the bannisters of the 34th Street-Javits Center station in Manhattan.
“While the Rockettes are an American symbol — as much as Radio City Music Hall or Mr. Trump and his branded buildings — the group’s individual dancers remain fairly anonymous. They don’t speak unless deemed interview-appropriate by the Madison Square Garden Company, which has fiercely protected them against criticism surrounding the inauguration.”
“In a two-part feature, we first hear from [board president Nancy] Garton about why the board has decided to move forward with retiring [artistic directors Ron] Cunningham and [Carinne] Binda. After that, the two will talk about what happened from their end and their next steps in life.” (audio)
A photo journal of a visit to the Kibera ballet school in Nairobi, where the best students get chances to perform at Kenya’s national theatre.
Dance has become a popular acquisition of museums in recent years. Immersive, participatory, and often silly, “The Museum Workout” could be seen as a cheeky response to the trend. But the work also tackles serious questions that dance artists have long been asking about the relationship between artists and audiences and about what constitutes dance.
“Embodiment” and “the intelligent body” are buzz terms both in dance and academia: the idea is that the brain doesn’t have dominion over human experience. “We still hugely privilege the mind over everything else,” says Siobhan Davies. “I think the mind is bloody wonderful, but the whole of us lives in the world, the whole of us communicates, the whole of us can fantasise and imagine. I’d like us to turn the world around.”