Beyond ABT and NYCB

New York City.  From classical ballet to post-modern dance, the Big Apple has it all. American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet are at the pinnacle of the ballet world, the crème de la crème. Many a young ballet dancer dreams of performing in one of Lincoln Center’s famed theaters. But for most, they’re unattainable. With a history of hiring dancers from their specifically tracked schools (JKO and SAB), other aspiring ballerinas may be kept out of the loop.

 

Yet in a city of 8 million people, dancing doesn’t stop at Lincoln Center. You know the saying ‘Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars'? Well, that holds true for New York City. There are a ton of exciting and incredible companies out there performing great work—and hiring dancers.

 

Akjun Ballet Theatre – Relatively new to the dance scene, 11-year-old Akjun Ballet Theatre is very up-and-coming.  Presenting classical, chamber and contemporary works, they perform in a variety of spaces in NYC and around the world. They audition regularly and employ a number of company trainees.

 

Armitage Gone! Dance – ‘Punk Ballerina’ Karole Armitage launched her company in 2005, and has been producing edgy and innovative work ever since. Bordering on modern/contemporary dance, this group is not for your average bunhead, but can be hugely fulfilling who those that like to dance out side of the box. 

 

Ballet Deviare – Laura Kowalewski and Andrew Carpenter have created a company that is, as their mission statement reads, “unbound by restrictive standards of tradition.” The small group performs ballet that is exciting and fresh, and well outside the realm of classical—and often accompanied by hard core rock music.

 

Ballet Hispanico – Taking inspiration from Latin culture, Ballet Hispanico presents contemporary work. Under their new director Eduardo Vilaro, they've been turning heads with commisions from high-profile names like Andrea Miller and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. They also have a number of training programs at their school, located on the Upper West Side.

 

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet – If you saw The Adjustment Bureau or watch So You think You Can Dance, this name may sound familiar to you. It’s only been around since 2003, but has made quite a name for itself, producing cutting-edge work performed by an extremely talented and diverse group of dancers.

 

Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance – NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts chair, Cherylyn Lavagnino, has put together a small group of artists with the goal of “exciting audiences through the medium of classical ballet while expressing the immediacy and humanity of post-modern contemporary dance.”

 

Collective Body Dance Lab – Just three years old, Brian Carey Chung’s company, comprised of very diverse and accomplished dancers, is pushing the traditional conventions of ballet. His troupe presents new material each year, developed through a method unique to them, called Movement Translation.

 

Complexions Contemporary Ballet ­– Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson, formerly of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, have helped pave the way for contemporary ballet companies with their ground-breaking approach to movement. If you like to kick, turn and move at lightning speed, this is the place for you.

 

Dances Patrelle ­– Performing The Yorkville Nutcracker (their take on Nutcracker) as well as a repertory season (including works by artistic director Francis Patrelle), Dances Patrelle has proven to be a strong company in their 18 years of existence. They are regularly joined by guest artists from NYCB, such as Jenifer Ringer.

 

Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble – Arthur Mitchell’s company has become an emblem of racial diversity in ballet. Performing neo-classical works since 1969, DTH is not only a great performance group, but a training center, too. Now led by former Pointe editor in chief Virginia Johnson, DTH hosts a second company, the Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble for young artists to gain performance experience.

 

Miro Magloire's New Chamber Ballet ­– This small company is comprised of tall men and women with a mature sense of artistry and strong technique.  With a strong emphasis on the connections between the dancing and music, NCB has been presenting complex works by young NYC choreographers since 2004.

 

New York Theatre Ballet – A chamber ballet company, NYTB performs a variety of works, from abbreviated interpretations of classical works to newer, more contemporary pieces. They are known for their historical rep, which includes work by Antoy Tudor, Frederick Ashton, Jose Limon, Agnes de Mille and others. They typically hold open auditions each season.

 

Rebecca Kelly Ballet – Based in New York City and the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York, RKB strikes a balance between classical and contemporary.  The earthy quality of their movement aligns with Kelly’s interest in exploring environmental issues—the company was chosen in 2007 to present work at an event for the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks.  

 

 

See what I mean?  The opportunities are plenty, and this is just a short list.  Check these out, and do some of your own exploring!

Career
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I want to be a professional dancer, but my parents won't listen. They either don't think I can do it (contrary to what my teachers have said) or they won't let me take the necessary steps to become a professional. Please help. —Audrey

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Rigorous program, check. Well-rounded technical training, check. Purposeful liberal arts curriculum, check. Study your craft abroad, check! If you are looking for all the above, the Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College truly has it all.

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Videos

They say that pigeons mate for life—perhaps that's why these birds naturally symbolize the young lovers in Sir Frederick Ashton's The Two Pigeons. In these two clips from a 1987 performance in Pisa, Alessandra Ferri and Robert LaFosse—then stars with American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet, respectively—dance a rapturous pas de deux at the end of Act II. With tiny pricks of her feet and bird-like flaps of her elbows in Part 1, Ferri marks her anguish, thinking she's been abandoned for another woman. Later, both she and LaFosse grow more and more entangled as they reconcile, Ferri dancing with the passionate abandon she's famous for. I love how in Part 2 (0:20), they can't seem to get enough of each other as their necks arch and intertwine. At the end of the ballet, two pigeons fly in to perch symbolically on the chair—er, there's supposed to be two. It looks like one missed its cue at this performance! No matter—Ferri and LaFosse's dancing make it clear that these young lovers are meant to be together for life. Happy #TBT!

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Summer Study Advice
The author at 13, rehearsing at her home studio, Ballet Arts Theater, in Endicott, NY. Courtesy McGuire.

This story originally appeared in the December 2010/January 2011 issue of Pointe.

As a young student at a small ballet school in upstate New York, I was obsessed with getting into the School of American Ballet. From the age of 10, I entered class each day with the ultimate goal of studying at SAB dangling before me like a carrot on a stick. Every effort I made, every extra class I took was for the sole purpose of getting into what I thought was the only ballet school that really mattered.

I auditioned for SAB's summer program for the first time when I was 12. In the weeks that followed, I became a vulture hovering over my family's mail, squawking at my mother if the day's letters were not presented for my inspection when I walked through the door. The day the letter finally arrived, it was thin and limp. I cried for a week as I dealt with the crushing feeling of rejection for one of the first times in my life.

My mind filled with questions and self-doubt. What was wrong with me? Why wasn't I good enough? I figured I must be too fat, too slow, my feet too flat. I had worked so hard. I had wished on every fallen eyelash and dead dandelion in pursuit of my single goal, just to have a three-paragraph form letter conclude that I was a failure. For a while, I let myself wallow in the comfort of my resentment, content to believe that success should have come easily, and that to fall was the same as to fail.

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Pointe Stars
Photo by Theo Kossenas, Courtesy The Washington Ballet

You made a deal with your mom to take ballet classes in exchange for a ride to tryouts for the football team. How did that work?
I thought that I would take ballet for a couple months, become a master and then leave that alone and concentrate on football. Ballet had other ideas, which perplexed me, and ultimately, I think, made me fall in love with it.

How is The Washington Ballet evolving under Julie Kent's leadership?
It's still early, but I think that the company is growing stronger classically. And we have Julie, Victor Barbee, Xiomara Reyes and Rinat Imaev—a great team of people who are giving their input and expertise, which is quite helpful.

Mack in 'Swan Lake.' Photo by Theo Kossenas

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Summer Study Advice
Summer intensive students at the School of American Ballet. Photo by Rosalie O'Conner, Courtesy SAB.

As a young student, Shea McAdoo's classes at the Master Ballet Academy in Scottsdale, Arizona, were “strict, straightforward, very classical and purely Vaganova." She appreciated the Russian rigor and precision, but when she was accepted to the School of American Ballet's summer course at 13, she leapt at the chance to learn something new. The vastly different emphasis on Balanchine technique at SAB was illuminating: “It changed my whole way of thinking about musicality and accents. I'd never known there were so many ways to do a tendu! And the épaulement—I loved how they talked about light hitting your face, tilting your chin to show off your diamond earring."

McAdoo's experience was transformative, even when she returned home. “Of course, I lowered my arms back down in second and didn't cross my wrists," she says, “but there were stylistic choices I brought back with me." Today, as an apprentice with Oregon Ballet Theatre rehearsing Balanchine's Serenade, she credits her ease with the ballet's fluid port de bras to her summer at SAB.

Learning about ballet's various styles and techniques is an important part of a dancer's development. With summer intensive auditions approaching, it's a perfect time to consider broadening your training. While it can be initially confusing, immersing yourself in a style outside your comfort zone can be eye-opening and influential for your future training and career. And the benefits of diversifying your training can last beyond a single summer.


Shea McAdoo in OBT's production of "Paquita." Photo by James McGrew.

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