Amy has been the editor in chief of Pointe magazine since 2014, following a 19-year dance career. She danced professionally with the Milwaukee Ballet and The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, among others, and performed in honor of Ms. Farrell at the 2005 Kennedy Center Honors. While pursuing her college degree part-time, she began writing extensively for several dance publications, including Pointe's "Ask Amy" advice column. Amy graduated summa cum laude from Marymount Manhattan College with a BA in English and World Literatures, and currently serves on its advisory board. Before joining Pointe, she was an associate editor for Dance Teacher and Dance Magazine.
There's nothing more satisfying than witnessing young dancers take their artistry to the next level. During Dance Theatre of Harlem's spring season at New York City Center, Chyrstyn Mariah Fentroy and Da'Von Doane—two dancers who had grown up at DTH since the company relaunched in 2013—brought joy and sophistication to Robert Garland's Brahms Variations. Costumed in sunny yellow and muted gray, the pair were perfect vessels for Johannes Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Haydn, punctuating accents and lengthening through legatos with heightened musical sensitivity.
"My whole mission in life is to keep Balanchine's work alive," says former New York City Ballet dancer Karin von Aroldingen in Frances Mason's I Remember Balanchine, a collection of interviews by George Balanchine's friends and colleagues. Her words feel especially potent now—and never more true. On Friday, January 5, news came to light that the German-born dancer, teacher, NYCB ballet master and longtime stager for the Balanchine Trust had died at age 76.
Born in East Germany in 1941, von Aroldingen joined Frankfurt Ballet as a first soloist before George Balanchine invited her to join NYCB in 1962. Trained in the Russian method, she had to adjust her technique to fit NYCB's fast, streamlined style. "It took me years to unwind myself, to be good," she says in Mason's book. She eventually rose to principal dancer in 1972. Her dancing was strong, assertive and passionate. During her 22-year career at NYCB, Balanchine created 20 roles for her, including Kammermusik No. 2, Union Jack, Vienna Waltzes, Who Cares?, Robert Schumann's Davidsbündlertanze and her most well-known, Stravinsky Violin Concerto. (Who hasn't marveled at her elastic backbends in the 1972 "Dance in America" broadcast above?)
Birds, with their expressive wings and glorious flight patterns, have always made good fodder for beautiful ballets: Swan Lake, Firebird, Sleeping Beauty's Bluebird pas de deux and variation, for example. This month, Shanghai Dance Theatre is presenting the U.S. premiere of Soaring Wings: Journey of the Crested Ibis at New York's Koch Theater (January 5–7) and Boston's Boch Center Shubert Theatre (January 11–12). Blending traditional Chinese, ballet and contemporary dance styles, the two-act production is not a love story; instead, it focuses on the fate of the endangered crested ibis, a symbol of happiness and blessings in China.
Once populous throughout Asia and Russia, the elegant birds became nearly extinct during the 20th century due to human industrialization and urbanization. By the 1980s, only a handful were left, although conservation efforts have helped to slowly bring the species back. "It's not a simple, linear storyline," says Soaring Wings director/choreographer Tong Ruirui. Instead, the ballet aims to show the bird at different stages of its existence, as well as the interdependence between humankind and nature.
Ever since President Obama reestablished diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2014, the two countries' dance communities have been eager to strengthen relationships. Now, in spite of tightened travel and business restrictions by the Trump administration, an exciting new collaboration is on the horizon: Cleveland–based Verb Ballets is teaming up with Cuban ballet company ProDanza for a series of performances in Havana. There, the two companies will combine to form the Cleveland Havana Ballet, presenting a full-length production at the prestigious Alicia Alonso Grand Theater.
Last spring, the Cleveland Foundation, through its Creative Fusion: Cuba Edition program, brought ProDanza artistic director Laura Alonso to Ohio for a two-month residency with Verb Ballets, where she taught classes in the rigorous Cuban style. "We're not a classical company, so the dancers needed that kind of training," says artistic director Dr. Margaret Carlson in a phone interview. Alonso—a former dancer with the National Ballet of Cuba and daughter of its founder, prima ballerina Alicia Alonso—worked with the company to break technique "down to the little finger," says Carlson, who points out that "it's hard to get that kind of training anymore."
Laura Alonso (far left) works with dancers of Verb Ballets during her two-month residency last spring. Photo by Susan Bestul, Courtesy Verb Ballets.
If you're looking to upstage Clara, there's no better way to do it than with a four-legged furry friend—especially when that furry friend is looking for its forever home. Cue Richmond Ballet: During its December 16 and 21 matinees, the company is teaming up with the Richmond SPCA to present the "Pupcracker," special Nutcracker performances featuring adoptable shelter dogs. Several pups make their stage debut during the party scene as the guests bring their family pets to and from the Silberhaus home. Audience members can then meet—and adopt—the dogs during intermission and after the performance. The SPCA even provides a crate, collar, leash and treats so that patrons can bring their new family members home after the show.
Audience members can meet and adopt featured dogs during intermission. Photo Courtesy Richmond Ballet.
As the investigation into claims of sexual harassment by New York City Ballet ballet master in chief Peter Martins remains under wraps, more dancers are speaking publicly on the matter. And while many allegations are decades old, dancers with recent and current ties to the company are becoming more vocal.
Yesterday, Kathryn Morgan—a former NYCB soloist with a hugely popular YouTube channel and an advice column in Dance Spirit—posted a candid video addressing questions she's received about the scandal. Although Morgan left the company in 2012, her post sheds light on the mixed emotions that current NYCB dancers may be feeling right now. "This is an issue that NEEDS to be discussed," she writes in the comments section. "And I appreciate that you all understand I am in no way defending him. I just wanted to give you my honest and true experience with dealing and working with Peter."
Class, rehearse, perform, repeat—a typical day at a ballet company follows the same routine week after week. It's a relentless cycle that Joseph Gatti, a former principal with Cincinnati Ballet and Corella Ballet and first soloist with Boston Ballet, thinks has a negative impact on professional dancers' longevity and performance quality. Now, Gatti—who has had an extensive international freelance career in recent years— is founding his own company in Orlando with a distinct focus on maintaining dancer health and wellness. Called United Ballet Theatre, the company will treat its dancers as athletes, building time within the workday for cross-training and personalized medical care, and alternating days of rehearsal intensity.
Gatti plans to start small as he builds support. For now, the company will employ between 8–10 dancers (including Gatti), as well as a handful of world-renowned guest artists. UBT will also operate during the summer months. "It's mainly for dancers on layoff who want to continue dancing, so that they can get consistent pay and work with great teachers and physical therapists," says Gatti. Artistic staff includes Vadim Fedotov, Irina Depler, Stanislav Fečo, Orlando Molina and Lasha Khozashvili. Repertoire and performance dates are yet to be confirmed, although Gatti hopes to bring in new contemporary works and condensed full-lengths, like Fedotov's Romeo and Juliet.