How Three Boys From Utah Changed Ballet In, And Brought The Nutcracker To, America

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Every December, The Nutcracker comes to life in theaters all across the United States. But how did this 19th-century Russian ballet become such a big part of the holidays in 21st-century America? 

Meet Willam, Harold, and Lew Christensen, three small-town Utah boys who caught the ballet bug from an uncle in the early 1900s. They performed alongside elephants and clowns on vaudeville, immersed themselves in the New York City dance scene, and even put on a ballet featuring gangsters at a gas station. Russian immigrants shared the story of The Nutcracker with them, and during World War II―on a shoestring budget and in need of a hit―they staged their own Christmastime production in San Francisco. It was America's first full-length version and the beginning of a delightful holiday tradition.

“The restless Christensens couldn’t seem to stay put. Which turned out to be providential for American ballet, especially on the West Coast. Willam brought ballet to Portland, Oregon, and later established the formidable Salt Lake City company that would be known as Ballet West. In between, there was San Francisco, where he and Harold spun off the ballet troupe from the opera company.”

How Do You Get More Dance In Rural Areas? Here’s One Plan

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“The Rural Touring Dance Initiative, a three-year project, has been launched by the National Rural Touring Forum and seeks to address an under-representation of dance in rural areas. A report by Arts Council England in March found just 2% of national portfolio dance companies toured to rural regions in 2012 and 2013.”

What Marcelo Gomes Fears About Choreographing

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“When you’re choreographing you have to be able to try things out, and to fail, and the fear is always that I’m putting my reputation as a dancer at risk. But now that I’ve started, I can’t hold myself back.”

Dance, Disability And Stretching The Limits Of Human Movement

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“There still seems to be a distinction between companies interested in presenting diverse bodies and companies committed to a long-standing aesthetic norm. For now, the solution still exists in parallel structures rather than full-scale integration – not so different from what’s happening in ballet or, for that matter, sports. What’s fascinating about this debate between “excellence” and inclusivity is that it doesn’t exist the same way in breakdance culture.”

Black Dancers, White Ballets – Misty Copeland Is Not Enough (Classical Dance Makes The NY Times Op-Ed Page)

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Laurie A. Woodard, formerly of Dance Theater of Harlem, now teaching at NYU: “Ms. Copeland’s career, on the stage and beyond, has brought ballet into the wider culture in ways Louis XIV could not have imagined. … [Yet] the insular world of classical ballet has limited not just the number of black ballerinas; there are only a handful of black classical choreographers. And for companies other than D.T.H., black spectators are rare. The days of whiting-up are behind us, but ballet still needs to change.”

New Thing: Dance Parties Early In The Morning

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“The concept for Daybreaker came about in 2013 inside a Brooklyn falafel shop. Founders Radha Agrawal and Matthew Brimer were musing over their night of dancing when they had the idea to take the energy and inclusiveness of the nightclub scene and infuse it into the weekday morning routine.”

Mikhail Baryshnikov: Why I Finally Agreed To Play Nijinsky

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“It is a sign of Baryshnikov’s confidence in his director” – Robert Wilson – “that he has agreed to play Nijinsky, a role that has been suggested to him ‘at least 15 times’ in his life and which he had always turned down.” (One f those invitations came from no less than Ingmar Bergman.)

The Man Who Dared Create A Flamenco Dance About The Holocaust

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Israel Galván’s Lo Real/Le Réel/The Real “is tipped to be a highlight of the Edinburgh international festival this summer. Yet back in Madrid, something about its subject matter or discordant style so outraged the audience that they began chanting insults and calling for the performers to leave the stage.”

A Struggle For The Soul Of British Dance

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“The students don’t believe you when you say it’s not good enough. Don’t take on board how hard you have to concentrate in class. Don’t warm up. Don’t get that you shouldn’t have to tell them more than twice. They just don’t really listen.”

What Does A Dancer Do After A Career-Killing Injury? [VIDEO]

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“Karine Newborn knew she wanted to be a professional dancer since watching her mother dance as a little girl in Paris. Her career as a dancer took a sharp turn though after suffering an injury while performing on Broadway. The single mother and dancer found herself unable to continue her career as a dancer, putting her in a financial bind.”

Watching Male Strippers With Sociologists

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“And, as it turns out, there’s been lots of [sociological study] done on male strippers who dance for women. With the opening of Magic Mike XXL yesterday, we thought this would be a good time to review the research.”

The Brother-Sister Dancing Duo Starring On Broadway This Year

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City Ballet dancers Megan Fairchild – who’s starring in On the Town – and Robbie Fairchild – nominated for a Tony for An American in Paris – are used to dancing together, but now they’re on Broadway, they have to FaceTime to see each other. Megan: “This is connecting us and bringing us closer in a different way. When we go back to the ballet, we’ll have this experience that we can only talk about with each other.”

Misty Copeland Talks About Being Promoted To Principal At ABT

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Ms. Copeland said she had been pleased to see more racially diverse audiences turn out at some of her performances in the past year. “From the day that I met my manager, Gilda Squire, she asked me, ‘What do you want to do?’ ” she recalled. “And I said, besides continue dancing at A.B.T., I want to bring more people to ballet, I want to see more people that look like me on the stage, in the school, and in the audience — on the board.”

Misty Copeland Promoted To Principal At ABT

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“Her promotion — after more than 14 years with the company, nearly eight as a soloist — came as Ms. Copeland’s fame spread far beyond traditional dance circles. She made the cover of Time magazine this year, was profiled by “60 Minutes” and presented a Tony Award on this year’s telecast. She has written a memoir and a children’s book, and has more than a half-million followers on Instagram.”

Former NYCity Ballet Principal Albert Evans, 46,

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“Mr. Evans joined City Ballet in 1988 and was named a soloist in 1991 and a principal four years later, becoming only the second black dancer in the company’s history to hold that position. The first, Arthur Mitchell, now 81, performed with City Ballet in the 1950s and ’60s and in 1969 helped found Dance Theater of Harlem.”

Principal Ballet Dancers, Aging Gracefully

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“Retirement is there, it is going to happen. This is going to sound morbid and I don’t know if I should say it, but it’s a bit like dying. You know you’re going to die, everybody does, but you don’t stop what you are doing because of that. You don’t slow down because you know you are going to have to retire. You get on with it, you keep taking the vitamins, you go to Pilates, you do what you have to do to survive in this thing that we do.”

Twerking? That’s Sooo 1800s!

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“Researchers found the word, one of 500 new dictionary entries, was first used in 1820, spelt twirk, to refer to a twisting or jerking movement or twitch. The verb is believed to have emerged later in 1848 and the twerk spelling was used by 1901, the dictionary says.”

After 67 Years Japan To Repeal No-Dancing Law

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“The law was officially introduced after World War II, aiming to put an end to prostitution usually thought to have been taking place at venues where dancing occurred. It prohibits dancing anywhere without a special license – and even at a place that has one, you can only dance until midnight.”