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Photo by Kyle Froman

Peek inside Devon Teuscher's pointe shoes and you'll see a discreetly placed number. "I want to see how many shoes I go through in a year," says the American Ballet Theatre principal. "Last year it was close to 200 pairs." Teuscher keeps a Sharpie handy for this season's count in a small pouch containing other shoe accessories like ribbons and elastics. It's one of a handful of carefully organized pouches stored in her red mesh bag. "I'm definitely not a pack rat," she says of her no-frills style. Teuscher's bag came from Ascot + Hart, a California boutique that her sister introduced her to. "I love that it's breathable and lightweight and it can pack quite a bit. It's also easy to wash."

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Everything Nutcracker
Texas Ballet Theater's Brett Young as Edward Scissorhands in "The Nutty Nutcracker." Photo by Steven Visneau, Courtesy Texas Ballet Theater.

On December 15, Texas Ballet Theater will set aside its familiar Nutcracker costumes, variations and sets for their one-night-only performance of The Nutty Nutcracker. A satirical take on the classic story, The Nutty Nutcracker combines the most riotous in current pop culture and politics with Tchaikovsky's well-worn refrains.

TBT dancers portray Elsa and Olaf in the snow scene of the Nutty Nut in 2015. Photo by Ellen Appel, Courtesy TBT.

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Everything Nutcracker
New York City Ballet's famous growing tree. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

Literary Roots

E.T.A. Hoffmann, a German writer, penned the eerie and dark tale "Nutcracker and Mouse King" in 1816. About 30 years later, the French writer Alexandre Dumas took the Nutcracker story into his own hands, lightening things up and softening the character descriptions. Dumas even cheered up the name of the protagonist. "Marie Stahlbaum" (meaning "steel tree," representing the repressive family Marie found herself in, which led her imagination to run wild) became "Clara Silberhaus" (translated to "silver house," a magnificent home filled with shiny magic.)

Snowflakes of the original cast, "The Nutcracker" at the Mariinsky Theatre, 1892. Photo by Walter E. Owen, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

From Page to Stage

In 1892 St. Petersburg, choreographer Marius Petipa and composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky pulled the story off the page and onto the stage of the Mariinsky Theatre. But Petipa fell ill while choreographing The Nutcracker and handed his duties over to his assistant, Lev Ivanov. Critics at the 1892 premiere were not pleased. Balletomanes felt the work to be uneven, and lamented the lack of a main ballerina in the first act. Many thought that the story was too light compared to historically based stories.

Out of Russia

Despite its initial reception, the ballet survived, partially due to the success of Tchaikovsky's score. Performances were scarce, though, as the Russian Revolution scattered its original dancers. The Nutcracker's first major exposure outside of Russia took place in London in 1934. Former Mariinsky ballet master Nikolas Sergeyev was tasked with staging Petipa's story ballets on the Vic-Wells Ballet (today The Royal Ballet) from the original notation. The notes were incomplete and difficult to read, yet Sergeyev persisted, and The Nutcracker made it to the stage.

Dancers from ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in "The Nutcracker" pas de deux. Photo Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

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Trending
From left: Justin Peck, Rebecca Krohn, Jonathan Stafford and Craig Hall. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy New York City Ballet.

The New York City Ballet Board of Directors announced on Saturday the interim team that has been appointed to run the artistic side of the company during ballet master in chief Peter Martins' leave of absence. Martins requested a temporary leave from both NYCB and the School of American Ballet last Thursday while the company undergoes an internal investigation into the sexual harassment accusations aimed at him.

The four-person group is made up of members of the company's current artistic staff, led by ballet master and former principal dancer Jonathan Stafford. Joining Stafford are NYCB resident choreographer and soloist Justin Peck and ballet masters Craig Hall and Rebecca Krohn, both former dancers with the company. While the members of this group haven't had much leadership experience, their close familiarity with the company (Krohn left the stage for her new role just two months ago) should help to ease the dancers' transition.

The team will be responsible for the day-to-day artistic needs of the company including scheduling, casting and conducting rehearsals. While there's no word yet on the length of their tenure, we'll continue to keep you updated as the story surrounding Martins unfolds.

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Artists of Houston Ballet in Alexander Ekman's "Cacti." Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

When Hurricane Harvey badly damaged Houston Ballet's Wortham Theater Center this fall, all programming was cancelled and the fate of the company's upcoming season was unclear. Yet over the past few months, the greater performing arts community has pulled together to help the company get its fall season back on its feet. This week Houston Ballet announced new dates and venues for its Spring 2018 Season.

The spring season will continue the company's "Hometown Tour" of Houston theaters that they began for Nutcracker season, switching between the George R. Brown Convention Center's General Assembly Hall and Resilience Theatre (a fitting name, no?), Sarofim Hall at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, Jones Hall, and the Moores Opera House at the University of Houston. The company is making light of the situation, titling their two mixed repertoire programs scheduled for the Brown Center "Unconventional Ballets at the Convention Center." (They've also had plenty of fun with wordplay while advertising their productions of The Nutcracker held in Sugar Land, TX, a city just south of Houston.) The season showcases the full diversity of Houston Ballet's offerings, from Alexander Ekman to Don Quixote to a world premiere by artistic director Stanton Welch celebrating Houston's resilience.

Sara Webb and Connor Walsh with Artists of Houston Ballet in "Swan Lake" choreographed by Stanton Welch. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

The company's full list of new dates and venues are listed below:

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Your Career
Saint Louis Ballet dancer Kaila Feldspausch and Angus. Photo Courtesy Dancers & Dogs.

Last March photographer Kelly Pratt Kreidich came up with an idea: to photograph dancers and dogs...together. "It all came to me," she says. "I wanted the images to look really clean, simple and lighthearted. And obviously, because it's dogs, kind of silly." And thus, Dancers & Dogs was born.

Based in St. Louis, MO Kreidich and her husband Ian are a husband-and-wife photography team known as Pratt and Kreidich Photography. Four years ago, just for fun, they started taking pictures of a couple of the dancers in the Saint Louis Ballet, and when the company was in need of a Nutcracker photographer, they were hired. Now the duo is responsible for all of SLB's marketing and performance photography. So when Kreidich came up with her vision, she naturally reached out to SLB for dancers. "The company was really receptive to it," she says. "They've even been letting us use their studios."

Finding dogs wasn't quite so easy. "We have certain requirements. They have to be able to sit and stay and behave nicely indoors," says Kreidich. She put out a call to all of her canine-loving friends, promising fine art portraits of the dogs alone if their owners let them pose with the dancers.

SLB dancers Elizabeth Lloyd with Lola and Trooper. Photo Courtesy Dancers & Dogs.

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Your Career
The candied fig and pear variation. Courtesy Reid and Harriet Design.

Last May we covered the new swimwear line that costume designers Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung, otherwise known as Reid & Harriet Design, created based on Justin Peck costumes. The duo, known for their work with top companies including New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and Miami City Ballet, are just as skilled at creating whimsical yet streamlined costumes as they are at rethinking the role that design plays in dance. "Designers are often seen as filling a need verse creating art," says Bartelme, noting that he and Jung often feel that they're at the very bottom of the production totem pole. This fall, the twosome have taken matters into their own hands. As Resident Fellows at New York University's Center for Ballet and the Arts, Bartelme and Jung are taking a different approach to creating a ballet: starting with the designs.

Bartelme and Jung equate this to the early 20th century model used by Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, where the composer, choreographer and designer had equal importance, contributing to the gesamtkunstwerk, or "total work of art." Productions by the Ballets Russes featured designs by Pablo Picasso, Coco Chanel and Henri Matisse.

Last week Bartelme and Jung presented their work in an informal seminar at CBA. They chose to work with The Nutcrackerseasonally appropriate, yes, but also the country's most-performed ballet. In addition to the role of designer and director, Jung and Bartelme acted as dramaturges for their production, delving deep into the storied ballet's history from page to stage. Rather than look at the way that companies interpret The Nutcracker today, they looked to the original story by E.T.A. Hoffmann and the later interpretation by Alexandre Dumas for inspiration. The result? A Nutcracker unlike any we've ever seen.

Courtesy Reid and Harriet Design.

Jung and Bartelme's Nutcracker is set in the 1950s. Why? It has a clear aesthetic as well as strong conservative conventions for Marie to rebel against in the second act. First off we see Marie's family at their Christmas gathering. Smaller than the conventional Nutcracker party scene, this intimate celebration aligns more closely to Hoffmann's tale. Marie is set downstage in a simple blue dress, which the designers compare to the blue dresses worn by Alice in Alice in Wonderland and Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz—two other young, storybook women who feel confined by their respective societies and so escape to magical lands.

Other details to note are the gilded owl clock on the wall, a detail included in Hoffmann's story, as well as the 1950s style cherry jello mold on the center of the table which will soon open up to expose a world within, Bartelme and Jung's replacement for the classic dollhouse.


Courtesy Reid and Harriet Design.

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Pointe Stars
Marcelo Gomes and dancers of Sarasota Ballet in Ashton's "The Two Pigeons." Photo by Frank Atura, Courtesy Sarasota Ballet.

American Ballet Theatre principal Marcelo Gomes heads south this winter to create a piece on Sarasota Ballet to premiere December 1 at the Sarasota Opera House. Following the success of his 2015 ABT main-stage production AfterEffect, the burgeoning choreographer is looking forward to continuing to create outside of New York City. "We all know the big companies, but there are some really beautiful groups all throughout the U.S. that deserve just as much praise, and I'm really looking forward to spreading my work to them," he says.

Gomes comes to Sarasota Ballet from a place of familiarity. After following Gomes' career for years, director Iain Webb invited him to guest star in Sir Frederick Ashton's The Two Pigeons for a company gala last season. "He seemed to fit like a glove with us down here," says Webb about the experience. He commissioned this premiere soon after. Gomes' work will be featured on the company's Metropolitan program alongside Balanchine's Theme and Variations and Ashton's Illuminations. When asked how it feels to be grouped in with these masters, Gomes broke into laughter. "It's intimidating. It takes a lot of courage for directors to take a chance on young choreographers. But I'm humbled and honored to be next to those geniuses of ballet."


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