As the new year approaches, we here at Pointe took a moment to look back on some of the ballet stories we loved from 2016. Here are just a few of our (many) favorites!
“In Defense of Patience” (December/January): Julie Kent’s heartfelt essay on embracing the unknown is the perfect anecdote to today’s high-pressure, social media-driven world. Kent gently reminds us about what’s really important as an artist: “The work is still the work, and at the end of the day, the work is what you have left, and is both your labor and your reward.” —Amy Brandt, editor in chief
"Dateline Havana” (April/May): I love Quinn Wharton's photos for this feature, especially those of the National Ballet of Cuba's dancers rehearsing and taking class in the company's old studios. The story offered readers an exclusive look at Cuba's rich ballet tradition and how it may be becoming less insular. —Madeline Schrock, managing editor
“Her Time” (December/January): Ballet fans have long considered Stella Abrera a principal dancer and now that she has the official title, she's never looked better. It was our honor to put such a paragon of grace and determination on the cover of our biggest issue of the year. —Nicole Loeffler Gladstone, assistant editor
"Story Ballets for the 21st Century" (April/May): Hanna Rubin's thoughtful piece explored the unique challenges of choreographing a narrative for today's audiences, and some of the exciting things artists are doing—whether working with classic literature or creating completely original works. —Suzannah Friscia, assistant editor
“The Quest for Confidence” (August/September): Writer Gavin Larsen unpacked this complicated subject and explained that, just like technique, building and believing in your own confidence is something that takes practice.” —Madeline Schrock, managing editor
“Taking the Lead” (June/July): This story talked to professional dancers who understand that you don't need to stand in the spotlight to be a leader. They're great role models for ballet students, who often worry that being a principal is the only way to matter in a company setting.” —Nicole Loeffler Gladstone, assistant editor
"Finding Balance" (December/January): I loved following Alonzo King LINES Ballet's Courtney Henry through a typical day. I was inspired by the way she makes time to take care of herself, as well as her attitude in the studio: “If you don't believe in your awesomeness, who will? Ballet can be good at tearing you down, so it's a personal responsibility to lift yourself up.” —Suzannah Friscia, assistant editor
“Semi-Pro Limbo” (April/May): With so few professional jobs available, many young dancers are moving from one second company to the next—and feel the clock ticking on their career. Writer Candice Thompson took a frank look at the anxious situation many entry level dancers face, and offers advice for those wondering how long to stick it out. —Amy Brandt, editor in chief
What were some of your favorite Pointe stories? Tell us in the comments section!
American Ballet Theatre's Cassandra Trenary seems to have it all—not only is our June/July 2016 cover star a dazzling soloist at ABT, she has a sunny, down-to-earth personality and a life-saving hero for a husband. But her first year in the company had its fair share of disappointments—in fact, she almost left dance altogether to pursue acting.
In May, the National YoungArts Foundation, an organization that provides scholarships and mentorship to aspiring performing artists, brought Trenary (herself a 2011 YoungArts winner) and ABT artist in residence Alexei Ratmansky together for a salon-style discussion. Together they talked about critical turning points in their careers, as well as the challenges of navigating the dance world as a young professional. Below are exclusive excerpts of their interview—we hope their words inspire you as much as they inspire us!
There's still time to enter YoungArts's national arts competition for a chance at scholarships, workshops and more. Click here for information on how to apply.
As a teenager, Adrian Durham studied at his local ballet school in Lake Charles, Louisiana. "I was one of three or four guys training there, and there were no male teachers," says Durham. "Most of my partnering experience came from rehearsals for performances." But after he began training with the male scholarship program at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet in 2014, he experienced a sea change. "It challenged me mentally, physically and emotionally, because it's such an intense program," he says. Now 20, he is preparing for a professional career with an integrated set of tools: ballet technique, physical strength and partnering skills.
Men's ballet technique classes have been available for decades, especially at summer intensives and urban ballet schools. Yet programs designed specifically for male dancers, often offering full scholarships, have been rarer—until now, that is. Training that allows boys to separately explore their skills, above and beyond a supplement of double tours en l'air and pirouettes à la seconde at the conclusion of a mixed class, can literally give young men a leg up as they aspire towards a dance career.
To watch Irina Kolpakova coach Swan Lake is to witness a true artist at work. Although long retired from the stage, the American Ballet Theatre ballet mistress still possesses a commanding presence and an instinctive artistic spirit.
"Don't think about your shape when you first see Siegfried," she tells principal Isabella Boylston during rehearsal for Odette's Act II entrance. "This is not 'port de bras.' This is 'Don't touch me!' " Kolpakova demonstrates, transforming instantly into the Swan Queen. Her eyes sparkling and alive, every inch of her diminutive stature swells with a palpable energy capable of reaching the highest ring of the balcony.
Call it stage presence, call it the "it" factor, some dancers just have a natural ability to draw people in and change the atmosphere around them. Stage presence can carry a dancer to a higher artistic realm. It's the final piece of the puzzle, the emotional heart of a performance that can bring an audience to tears. Without it, even the best choreography risks falling flat.
Last fall, Diana Vishneva shocked her NYC following when she announced that she would give her final performance with American Ballet Theatre on June 23, 2017. The Russian-born dancer has been part of ABT since performing in Romeo and Juliet as a guest artist in 2003, and has held the title of principal dancer with the company since 2005 in addition to her principal role with the Mariinksy Ballet. Throughout her time with ABT, which she spoke about in the below video for The New Yorker, Vishneva has danced as a guest artist with Bolshoi Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet and Berlin State Ballet.
Karen Kain is internationally renowned as a performer and as the National Ballet of Canada's artistic director. The former NBoC principal always carries herself with the grace and sophistication of a true leader. However, in this 1976 clip from Giselle, the distinguished ballerina is convincingly naïve and bewildered in her interpretation of the mad scene.
Kain conveys Giselle's innocence at the start of the scene with pure, unaffected gestures and facial expressions. Then, after Albrecht betrays her, her eyes stare unfocused into the distance as if she's in a trance. Although this scene is mostly acting, Kain dances dreamily to the musical motif at 5:30 and conceals her technical strength in order to show the character's frailty. It takes a true ballerina to perform this heartbreaking and beautiful role, and with performances like this and her lifelong commitment to the art form, Kain proves that she is an extraordinary one. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!
If you, like many of us here at Pointe, wish you could have seen Royal Ballet star Zenaida Yanowsky's retirement performance on June 7, you're in luck. The Royal will screen a recording of it in select movie theaters across the U.S. starting Sunday, June 25. (In many cities, it will be screened on Tuesday, July 11.) The program includes three works by the company's founding choreographer, Sir Frederick Ashton: The Dream, Symphonic Variations and Marguerite and Armand—the latter of which stars Yanowsky and Roberto Bolle. You can also catch other Royal favorites like Marianela Nuñez, Vadim Muntagirov, Steven McRae, Akane Takada and Yasmin Naghdi. Make sure to bring tissues!
To find dates, times and theaters near you, click here.
Choreographer Diane Coburn Bruning has a different kind of vision for her Chamber Dance Project. Though she relocated the project-based company from New York City to Washington, DC several years ago, her focus remains on creating collaborations between classically-trained ballet dancers and other contemporary artists to share in intimate venues with live music. This summer, the artistic director brings together dancers from Cincinnati, Kansas City, Milwaukee and Washington Ballets for a condensed period of time. The company's 2017 season show titled Ballet Brass & Song opens this weekend, and features works by Jennifer Archibald, Jorge Amarante, and a world premiere by Coburn Bruning herself. We caught up with her last week to hear more about her company's mission.