On a flight home from a teaching stint in California last summer, Miami City Ballet corps member Rebecca King wrote a letter to her former self to post on her popular dance blog, Tendus Under a Palm Tree. Her hindsight advice to aspiring ballet students—no chit-chatting in class, implement corrections, study ballet videos—ended up going viral, eventually landing a page in Florida's World of Dance Magazine.
“Sometimes what takes off is a surprise," says King, 27, a native of Northern California who founded her blog in 2010. “It's made me realize how important social media can be for all businesses, especially in the way it can affect art."
King, who trained at Contra Costa Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet School before completing her senior year at The Rock School in Philadelphia, joined MCB as an apprentice in 2007, entering the company a year later. Tendus Under a Palm Tree began as a way to connect with audience members, “but I never thought it would turn into what it has become today," King says. She has earned a following with her thoughtful and well-researched “Musings," which range from commentary on dance in popular culture to profiles of ballets by her favorite choreographer, George Balanchine.
It was through promoting her blog via her own social media accounts—and the resulting requests from friends and acquaintances asking if she could help them do the same—that King decided to start her own company, Rebecca King Social Media Management, in 2012. Using her own self-taught successes as a guideline, she has since assisted more than half a dozen clients—including a ballet school, a choir and an accountant—in producing promotional videos and materials aimed at increasing their social media presence and traffic. In one case, she more than doubled the number of “likes" on a client's Facebook page, and tripled her Twitter followers. (As for King herself, at last count her blog had nearly 3,000 Facebook “likes" and over 3,100 Twitter followers.)
Her demanding performance schedule—and her long-distance marriage to an accountant who works a couple hours north of Miami—forced King to put the business “on a back burner" during the past year. But her blog continues to be a place to dig deeper into the ballets she performs. For example, cast as one of the three Fates in Balanchine's La Valse, she studied a poem that reportedly inspired the choreographer and wrote a post about the correlations to better understand her character.
“That got me extra interested in what I was dancing," she says. “It became a venue for me to enrich my career."
Her posts have also helped her clarify connections between Balanchine ballets, answer questions from audience members and even explore healthy recipes suitable for a dancer's busy lifestyle.
An ankle injury that cut her season short made King especially aware that, even if it's on hold for now, founding her company was “important for my future."
“As dancers, we all think about what comes next," says King, who hopes to fashion a career from teaching and writing when her stage days are done. “I felt that starting a little earlier would be a good career path."
Favorite social media platform: Twitter
Dream clients: Sara Mearns, Maria Kochetkova
Favorite ballet book: "George Balanchine: The Ballet Maker," by Robert Gottlieb
Do you have any tips for dealing with a stubborn partner? We both want to succeed, but we can't seem to communicate. —Jesse
We've all dreamt of it: dancing a romantic pas de deux with your real-life love interest. Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg have done it countless times as one of ballet's most beloved on- and offstage couples. In this immaculate 2003 performance with The Royal Ballet, where they were then principals, their chemistry brings magic to their roles in Sir Frederick Ashton's Cinderella.
As the title character, Cojocaru, who is now a lead principal at English National Ballet, dances with gorgeous generosity–as well as flexibility and turnout. Her lines are long and expansive, and her 6 o'clock penchés inspire awe. True to the Ashton style, the pas is full of unexpected partnering feats, like the lift at 2:52, where Cojocaru balances almost completely upside down on Kobborg's shoulder, and the stunning choreographic motif in which Kobborg supports Cojocaru as she appears to leap in slow motion as across the stage. Their trust in one another truly brings the fairytale to life. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!
Each year, the Princess Grace Foundation honors an extraordinary group of artists. This year, ballet got a major nod. Six of the eight winners in the dance performance and choreography category are ballet-related. (The other two are Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Jacquelin Harris and downtown dance-theater choreographer Raja Feather Kelly.) While you already know some of these names, we're excited to follow the careers of newcomers, like current Juilliard dance major Mikaela Kelly. Past Princess Grace Award winners include the likes of Carlos Acosta, Gillian Murphy and Tiler Peck, so they're in exceptional company.
What do you enjoy more: performing or being in the studio?
Performing, of course. It's like waiting and getting ready for your birthday party. The rehearsals are a hard process: It's a long wait for enjoyment.
What qualities do you admire most in other dancers?
A brain. Some say that a ballerina only needs good footwork, physical abilities, but I realized gradually that it's very important to have a good head on your shoulders. You go further if you think deeply about your roles.
What do you do to remain injury-free?
I always warm up properly, and I also have massages and water treatments to relax and soothe my body. Sometimes I go to the banya, a typical Russian sauna.
You created the lead role in Jean-Christophe Maillot's The Taming of the Shrew. What place does it have in your repertoire?
A very significant one. It's so precious when a ballet is made on you. So many dancers wait for that, try to find choreographers. If you are the very first person to do a role, it stays with you—and you stay in it, in a way.
It may be the middle of summer, but San Francisco Ballet is already rehearsing for its spring season. There's a lot to prepare for—the company's Unbound: A Festival of New Works, which runs April 20–May 6, 2018, will feature 12 new ballets by 12 choreographers. And it's an impressive group of dancemakers: David Dawson, Alonzo King, Edwaard Liang, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Cathy Marston, Trey McIntyre, Justin Peck, Arthur Pita, Dwight Rhoden, Myles Thatcher, Stanton Welch and Christopher Wheeldon. That's a lot of choreography to pack in!
Stanton Welch in rehearsal with San Francisco Ballet. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.
Luckily, we don't have to wait until spring to get a sneak peek of some of these new works. SFB is kicking off Unbound: LIVE, a series of live-stream events that will take us inside rehearsals. The first one is Wednesday, July 26, at 5:30 pm Pacific Standard Time (8:30 EST). It will highlight rehearsals with Arthur Pita, Edwaard Liang and Stanton Welch. You can expect to see the dancers perform excerpts of their works in progress, as well as interviews with each choreographer.
Artur Pita in rehearsal. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.
Visit SFB's website or its Facebook page tomorrow night to watch. And if you miss it, no worries—it'll be accessible on the company's site and YouTube channel for 60 days. The other live-stream events have yet to be announced, but we'll be sure to keep you posted!
When the Bolshoi Ballet visited New York in 2014, Soviet-era productions like Yuri Grigorovich's Swan Lake and Spartacus were on the menu. This summer, the company is taking a different approach under ballet director Makhar Vaziev, bringing fresh collaborations to the Lincoln Center Festival.
Ekaterina Krysanova and Vladimir Lantratov in "Shrew"Photo by Jack Devant, Courtesy of Lincoln Center
First the Bolshoi participated in the 50th anniversary celebration of Balanchine's Jewels last weekend alongside stars from New York City Ballet and the Paris Opéra Ballet. From July 26-30 Jean-Christophe Maillot's The Taming of the Shrew, created in Moscow in 2014, will have its American premiere. With 10 soloist roles, the witty, fast-paced version of Shakespeare's play is tailor-made for a brilliant new generation of Bolshoi stars, like Ekaterina Krysanova, Vladislav Lantratov and Olga Smirnova.The ballet was Maillot's first creation in two decades for a company other than his Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. "It has become emblematic of a form of renewal for the Bolshoi," says Maillot. "It's a showcase for these dancers."
Get a sneak peak of the premiere with these two beautiful trailers.
On the morning of June 25, Festival Ballet Providence dancer Jordan Nelson was biking to meet a friend in Rhode Island when he was hit by a box truck. The driver drove off, leaving Nelson injured on the ground. The accident left Nelson with a fractured skull, serious concussion, broken clavicle, and abrasions down the right side of his body. He was unconscious for five days and suffered short term memory loss. Though doctors feared he might never be able to regain the memory and mobility to dance again, less than three weeks later Nelson is back in the studio. We checked in with him to hear about his inspirational recovery process and how his passion for dance motivated him.
When you woke up in the hospital were you immediately worried about dancing?
Definitely, because this upcoming season is very important to me, because we're doing Christopher Wheeldon's The American, which I believe is the first Wheeldon ballet the company has done. So for the whole month of June I was working hard on really pushing myself to get in shape and be as ready as possible for the start of the season. And the doctors originally told me I wouldn't be able to get back until January, if at all.
You've said that the hardest part of being in the hospital was not being able to move. What did you do to keep your spirits and your body active?
From the outside, one might assume that the stars onstage are leaders offstage, too. It might be so, but life in a company is usually more complex. Opportunities to volunteer, teach or represent fellow colleagues allow dancers at any rank to develop important skills and make their voices heard. Others take the lead simply by lifting company morale or setting a good example in the studio. In fact, leadership takes many forms—and you don't have to be a principal ballerina to be an influential company member whom others look up to. For these three dancers, stepping into leadership roles has given greater meaning and fulfillment to their careers.