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Get Tiler Peck's pointe shoe wisdom at The School at Steps' annual workshop (photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy NYCB)

Even if you've been wearing pointe shoes for years, chances are you have some questions. There are so many variables at play when it comes to finding the right shoe and making sure you're training safely.

And these panelists know their stuff: They include New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck, podiatrist Dr. John Brummer, professional fitter Mary Carpenter, master teacher Gretchen Gunther, and Pointe's own editor-in-chief, Amy Brandt.

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Michaela De Prince, Photo by Jordi Matas/Polaris/Newscom

It's Youth America Grand Prix time again, and when the competition wraps up this week, we'll meet some of tomorrow's potential stars. YAGP has a track record of predicting some of ballet's biggest names. Take a walk down memory lane with us and see for yourself.

Before Sarah Lane earned her soloist spot at American Ballet Theatre (and graced our June/July 2015 cover), she won the senior bronze medal at the 2002 YAGP. Here she is as a poised, expressive 17-year-old, performing a variation from Paquita.

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Boston Ballet's Dusty Button competed frequently as a ballet student. Photo via Dance Magazine

Competitions can be intimidating. But their many benefits can serve you well, regardless of whether you come home with a prize. Whether you're a competition veteran or trying it for the first time, here are a few of our best tips for making the most of the experience.

Evaluate whether you're ready. You may be a technically advanced dancer, but competitions come with a whole other set of challenges, from networking to the stress of performing for judges. Before signing up, ask yourself these questions to clarify your goals and make sure you're prepared to handle the pressure.

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The dance world lost a legend this past week, when choreographer Trisha Brown passed away at age 80. A leader of postmodern dance, her work had dancers doing everything from walking on the walls of New York City's Whitney Museum to signaling to one another across Soho rooftops.

Trisha Brown, photo by Lois Greenfield, via Dance Magazine

Ballet dancers don't often get to try their hand at Brown's liquid movement, but in 2013, the Paris Opéra Ballet performed her 1979 Glacial Decoythe first work she made for a proscenium stage. It was restaged by Lisa Kraus, a former member of Brown's company; and Carolyn Lucas, the co-associate artistic director of Trisha Brown Dance Company.

The fascinating rehearsal process was captured in Marie-Hélène Rebois' documentary, In the Steps of Trisha Brown. The excerpt above shows a portion of their performance.

For ballet dancers, Brown's more pedestrian choreography can be a challenge, and it's a far cry from tutus and pointe shoes. But the POB dancers tackle the movement—danced in silence, with projected slides behind them—with confidence. Dressed in sheer, flowing white gowns, they let the weight and impulse of each movement propel them, like a current running through their bodies. Brown's choreography brings out a whole new side of them.

For a glimpse of what rehearsals were like, check out the clip below:

 

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We're seeing a lot of Crystal Pite in the ballet world this season—and no one is complaining. Only a few months after debuting a work for the Paris Opéra Ballet, her first creation for The Royal Ballet premiered last night, alongside work by Christopher Wheeldon and David Dawson.

According to The Guardian, the last time a woman choreographed a ballet for the main stage at the Opera House was 18 years ago, and it sounds like this piece pushed limits in other ways too, with its dark and very timely subject matter.

Called Flight Pattern, it features 36 dancers and is set to Henryk Górecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. It takes on the experience of refugees during the current migrant crisis, exploring the pain of displacement and loss.

In our December/January issue, Pite talked about her love of working with classical dancers. But what is it like on the other side of the creation process? In the video above, which was originally livestreamed back in February, Pite and some of the Royal Ballet dancers open up about their experience in the studio. You can also watch Pite coaching them through one section of the piece (this starts about 30 minutes in).

Flight Pattern runs through March 24 at the Royal Opera House.

 

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For an aspiring choreographer, what could be better than the chance for a fully-realized performance of one of your works, complete with a group of talented dancers? That's what former Ballet San Jose principal Karen Gabay will experience this weekend, as one of the four winners of the Joffrey Academy's seventh annual Winning Works competition. Every year, the program recognizes emerging African, Latino(a), Asian, Arab and Native American choreographers, and the winning artists create original works on Joffrey Academy trainees and Studio Company members.

As she prepared for the final performance series, Gabay told Pointe about her Winning Works experience.

What is your new work about?

My piece is called Hopeful Undertones and is inspired by the issues that teenagers face today. This generation of teens has hit puberty where technology and social media has transformed society, creating more stress and anxiety. I wanted to show that the smallest gesture of kindness is powerful and can change the hopelessness in someone else's world.

What was it like working with the Joffrey Academy Dancers?

It was challenging because I wanted to create a piece that had a narrative, yet I didn't want it to be too dark for these young dancers. My cast is fairly close to the age that my piece is about, yet I needed dancers who weren't afraid to show a different side to themselves. The six soloists out of my cast of fifteen had to express themselves more emotionally while maintaining the technique of classical ballet. Each of the six get featured in either a solo or pas de deux, and they handled it beautifully.

What is the movement like?

My movement is based on classical ballet. My first inspiration always comes from the music, and from there I imagine the tone of the piece and textures of the movement I'd like to create.

How did you get started as a choreographer?

I was encouraged by a friend of mine, Lev Polyakin, who at the time was the assistant concert master for the Cleveland Orchestra. He'd book "gigs" and I'd choreograph (and dance) to the music of his repertoire. These performances were very popular and eventually, I started my own company, Pointe of Departure, to expand on that idea.

What would you say to young dancers who want to try their hand at choreographing?

I would encourage them, especially young women. I think it is a great creative outlet.

 

Shannon Alvis, Sean Aaron Carmon and Jimmy Orrante join Gabay as this year’s winners. Their work will be presented at the Chicago Public Library's Harold Washington Library Center on March 11 and 12. Find out more about all the winning choreographers here.

 

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It's International Women's Day! To celebrate, we combed our archives for career advice and wisdom from some of the women currently directing ballet companies. Let their words empower and inspire you, today and always.

Julie Kent working with students at ABT, photo by Rosalie O’Connor

"You don’t become a ballerina in one show or one season or one week. It’s a journey. You work towards the goal and the harder you work, the bar raises. And then over a period of time, you’re able to look back to see where you came from."

–The Washington Ballet's Julie Kent on the importance of patience

Lourdes Lopez teaching at the MCB School, photo by Daniel Azoulay

"You have to embrace new technology. It’s a no-brainer, but you have to figure out how to use it. People think of ballet as fragile. I completely disagree. I think it’s actually very powerful in terms of a transformational art form. Look how long it’s survived with all the issues and agendas—political, scientific, social and economic. I’m a believer that you can live-stream dance into a bar or restaurant or stadium or a parking lot. It’s not going to diminish the art form.

-Miami City Ballet's Lourdes Lopez on the future of ballet

“The ideal is something you use as your compass, but it’s not actually possible to attain...Polish your strengths so they’re the center of attention, and know what can and can’t be done to change your weaknesses.”

–Dance Theatre of Harlem's Virginia Johnson on fighting perfectionism and gaining confidence

Virginia Johnson at DTH, photo by Quinn Wharton

"It’s not just about being too big. I don’t want rail-thin people, either. Trying to keep women like little girls is a power move, albeit sometimes not a conscious one. I don’t want a company where everyone is the same height or has the same instep. I don’t think that’s very American."

–Ballet Memphis' Dorothy Gunther Pugh on body type in the ballet world

“I look for commitment and openness. You can keep learning through your entire career, and there are always new ways of looking at things...The spirit of a dancer and their versatility is more important to me than whether they have perfect legs and feet.”

–National Ballet of Canada's Karen Kain on what she looks for in dancers

 

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