Vancouver, British Columbia's 2010 Olympic Winter Games were golden for more than just big-name athletes.
Like so many Vancouverites at that time, Ballet BC dancer Alexis Fletcher and her husband, former rehearsal director Sylvain Senez, struggled to keep pace with the skyrocketing cost of living. The couple wondered if they could rent out two empty bedrooms to Olympic visitors to help make ends meet. “We posted our place on Craigslist, just to see what would happen," Fletcher explains.
The response exceeded their hopes, financially and socially. Their guests loved the rooms. And it turned out that Fletcher and Senez enjoyed welcoming strangers into their home—everything from providing fresh fruit and pastries in the mornings to hanging out with their guests after work, swapping stories. When the Olympics ended, the couple made the B&B—dubbed “Casa Om"—a full-time venture.
Six years later, Fletcher and Senez now rent out the original bedroom, plus a garden-level suite. The couple share the cleaning and administrative tasks, and Senez takes care of breakfast duty. Running a B&B is a full-time job on top of her dance career, but Fletcher finds it incredibly rewarding. “We have this new skill set—hosting," she says. “Welcoming people into a space, allowing them to have privacy and comfort and whatever they need."
Fletcher grew up in the town of Comox, on Vancouver Island. She started dance lessons there at age 8, and later enrolled in a youth performance company called Dancestreams. Although she attended summer classes at Vancouver's Arts Umbrella, the self-described painfully shy girl decided not to leave home for year-round ballet training.
After graduation, and a summer program with the National Ballet of Canada, Fletcher returned to Arts Umbrella for its full-time training program. That's where former Ballet BC artistic director John Alleyne saw her perform in 2005, and offered her a full-time contract. She's been with the company ever since.
Ballet BC's edgy creative environment, along with the B&B, has pushed Fletcher and Senez to take risks. Last year, they decided to open a performance space in their urban backyard. Senez custom-built a removable fence between the yard and the alley, and built bleacher seating for 75. They installed a marley floor on their patio and invited a group of artists to present new work at an evening they named “The Dance Deck Debut."
Ballet BC dancer Andrew Bartee, who performed at the inaugural Dance Deck, calls it a magical experience. “It really feels like somewhere to play," he says.
This past summer, Fletcher and Senez expanded The Dance Deck shows to four performances over two weekends. At some point, they'd love to add an outdoor film series and indoor music performances.
Meanwhile, Fletcher still dances full-time with Ballet BC, and has started to choreograph. Hosting and curating have inspired her to look beyond the hard work she puts in at the studio every day and realize that, when she puts her mind to it, she can make most of her dreams come true. “It's a really beautiful balance, just stepping back and broadening my worldview," she says.
Karen Kain is internationally renowned as a performer and as the National Ballet of Canada's artistic director. The former NBoC principal always carries herself with the grace and sophistication of a true leader. However, in this 1976 clip from Giselle, the distinguished ballerina is convincingly naïve and bewildered in her interpretation of the mad scene.
Kain conveys Giselle's innocence at the start of the scene with pure, unaffected gestures and facial expressions. Then, after Albrecht betrays her, her eyes stare unfocused into the distance as if she's in a trance. Although this scene is mostly acting, Kain dances dreamily to the musical motif at 5:30 and conceals her technical strength in order to show the character's frailty. It takes a true ballerina to perform this heartbreaking and beautiful role, and with performances like this and her lifelong commitment to the art form, Kain proves that she is an extraordinary one. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!
If you, like many of us here at Pointe, wish you could have seen Royal Ballet star Zenaida Yanowsky's retirement performance on June 7, you're in luck. The Royal will screen a recording of it in select movie theaters across the U.S. starting Sunday, June 25. (In many cities, it will be screened on Tuesday, July 11.) The program includes three works by the company's founding choreographer, Sir Frederick Ashton: The Dream, Symphonic Variations and Marguerite and Armand—the latter of which stars Yanowsky and Roberto Bolle. You can also catch other Royal favorites like Marianela Nuñez, Vadim Muntagirov, Steven McRae, Akane Takada and Yasmin Naghdi. Make sure to bring tissues!
To find dates, times and theaters near you, click here.
Choreographer Diane Coburn Bruning has a different kind of vision for her Chamber Dance Project. Though she relocated the project-based company from New York City to Washington, DC several years ago, her focus remains on creating collaborations between classically-trained ballet dancers and other contemporary artists to share in intimate venues with live music. This summer, the artistic director brings together dancers from Cincinnati, Kansas City, Milwaukee and Washington Ballets for a condensed period of time. The company's 2017 season show titled Ballet Brass & Song opens this weekend, and features works by Jennifer Archibald, Jorge Amarante, and a world premiere by Coburn Bruning herself. We caught up with her last week to hear more about her company's mission.
Some may consider New York's Symphony Space a smaller theater, but big things were happening inside June 6–10. Just under 200 young dancers from all over the world were testing their luck at the Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition in hopes of receiving scholarships, medals and company contracts. Their jury? An international panel of company and school directors, chaired by Andris Liepa, that included State Ballet of Georgia's Nina Ananiashvili, Boston Ballet School's Peter Stark, Dance Theatre of Harlem's Virginia Johnson and Cincinnati Ballet' s Victoria Morgan.
Last weekend, the Mariinsky Ballet announced on its website that one of its most revered prima ballerinas, Uliana Lopatkina, has retired from the stage. A principal dancer since 1995, Lopatkina's interpretation of Odette/Odile and "The Dying Swan", among other roles, was legendary. To honor her dance career, we're re-visiting this interview from the February/March 2013 issue.
What's the toughest part of being a dancer?
More than most professions, ballet erodes the private sphere. You don't fulfill yourself in this career: You serve it; you're a slave to it.
What ballet makes you most nervous?
Swan Lake. Even if it's not the most difficult ballet to perform, it's difficult in another way, a mystical way.
Being in the corps can be pretty unforgiving. You dance in nearly every performance, it sometimes feels like you're only onstage to add to the scenery, and you're expected to fit in—while still vying for soloist roles. It's enough to make even the most determined dancer lose steam. Pointe spoke with three corps de ballet dancers about how they use a combination of self-discipline and creativity to keep themselves motivated.
Shine in Class
After a few years, morning class can feel like a chore—especially during heavy rehearsal periods when your body just wants to rest. But rather than viewing it as a drag, try reframing class as a chance to show your best, hardest-working self. For San Francisco Ballet corps member Rebecca Rhodes, class is a time to push harder, not slack off. "It's a great time to be noticed," she says, especially for dancers hoping to be cast in featured roles. "I make sure to do every combination two or three times, and I try not to pick and choose what's comfortable," she says.
This past winter, Isabelle Brouwers used her two-week break from English National Ballet to bring dance to the orphaned children at the Spurgeons Academy in Kibera, a slum on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya. Funded by the U.K.-based charity, Global Care, Spurgeons Academy provides an academic and extracurricular education to 400 children in Nairobi, as well as daily essentials like food and water.
After stumbling on a video of the children practicing ballet on Al Jazeera, Brouwers told us that she immediately knew she wanted to help. "It made me realize how fortunate I was to grow up with all the resources to make my dream of becoming a dancer a reality, and I was so passionate about trying to offer a similar opportunity to these children," she said. Brouwers' research led her to the Spurgeons Academy, where she learned the children's dance classes were organized by Anno's Africa.