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!