The Next Chapter
Jenifer Ringer’s memoir, Dancing Through It, describes her struggles with eating disorders.
New York City Ballet principal Jenifer Ringer never thought she’d write a book about herself. But after the fallout from New York Times critic Alastair Macaulay’s now-infamous 2010 comments about Ringer looking like she’d “eaten one sugar plum too many,” she was approached by a literary agent. “Many people had already said my story helped them through their own weight struggles,” Ringer says. “I thought a book might help even more people.”
The result, Dancing Through It: My Journey in the Ballet, on sale in February, is a charming and unflinchingly honest account of Ringer’s career, particularly her battle with eating disorders (now, thankfully, past). “It was difficult to write about my darkest hours, because a lot of it’s not pretty,” she says. “But one of the hallmarks of an eating disorder is shame—the sense that you don’t want anyone to know what you’re doing to yourself. Now that I’m on the other side of it, I understand the importance of being candid.”
Ringer did not use a ghost writer. The writing process required, she says, a kind of discipline she knew well. “When you’re a dancer, there are things you just have to do. You have to get into class, and put the work into rehearsal, every single day. Understanding that way of operating helped me finish the book—to write an hour a day, every day.”
Ringer will retire from NYCB on February 9, bowing out in Balanchine’s Union Jack and as the “pink girl” in Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering, “a ballet that feels like a journey, like an appreciation of the people you’re dancing with and the place you’re dancing in,” she says. But she’s not saying good-bye to the dance world for good: Her next step is a teaching role at a new ballet training program.
From Bournonville to Jookin’ at Ballet Memphis
“We’ve done a lot of work that investigates our own rich culture,” says Dorothy Gunther Pugh, Ballet Memphis’ founding artistic director. “But for the World Wonders program”—which opens in February—“I wanted to do something more global.”
Accordingly, the program’s lineup includes a ballet by an American (Matthew Neenan) inspired by the work of a European painter (Arshile Gorky); a Danish pas de deux (Bournonville’s Flower Festival in Genzano) performed by dancers from America (Kendall G. Britt Jr.) and Japan (Hideko Karasawa); and a piece by an artist who’s worked all over the world (Gabrielle Lamb). “I want as many people as possible to feel they’re part of the story we’re sharing,” Pugh says.
Memphis natives won’t feel neglected. The program also includes a piece by company dancer Rafael Ferreras, featuring the street style known as jookin’, which originated in Memphis about 30 years ago. “Rafael knows both ballet and street movement in every fiber in his body, and he’s friends with a lot of the jookers,” Pugh says. “He’s finding how to fuse those vocabularies in a non-cutesy way.” He’s also only using female jookers in the piece—an interesting choice, given the male-dominated jookin’ scene. “It has the potential,” Pugh says, “to be truly explosive.”
Ballet All Over: Irina Dvorovenko’s TV Turn
While Starz’s new ballet drama, “Flesh and Bone,” is still in development, the cable channel has released the names of several dancers attached to the project—and the list is impressive. Former American Ballet Theatre principal Irina Dvorovenko, current ABT soloist Sascha Radetsky and Ballet Arizona’s Raychel Diane Weiner will be acting in the series, and former ABT principal and current Royal New Zealand Ballet director Ethan Stiefel will serve as choreographer and consultant.
Dvorovenko heard about the show through Leslie Browne—star of the 1970s dance movie The Turning Point, longtime ABT dancer and sister of “Flesh and Bone” producer Kevin Brown. “She told me they were looking for a lead ballerina with a strong personality to play Kira Koval, the reigning star of the company and the artistic director’s longtime muse,” Dvorovenko says. “Kira is at the point of her career where she is terrified of ‘aging out’ as a ballerina. It’s a very deep character study.”
The timing on Dvorovenko’s end was perfect: She’s had the “theatrical bug” since wowing audiences and critics as diva Vera Baronova in the Encores! production of On Your Toes last spring (a 2013 Pointe standout performance). Encouraging words from Christine Baranski, her On Your Toes co-star, gave her the confidence she needed to make it through Starz’s intense audition process, which included everything from cold reads to dance sessions. “She assured me I was very natural and meant to do this,” Dvorovenko says.
Discovering that Radetsky and Stiefel would also be involved in the series was a pleasant surprise. “It makes me feel more comfortable that my colleagues will be near me, and we can offer each other support,” she says. “This is an exciting next step for me.”
Boston Ballet’s French Connection
Boston Ballet has had a productive relationship with the Paris Opéra Ballet for several years, with luminaries from the French institution setting everything from Bronislava Nijinska’s Les Noces to Rudolf Nureyev’s Don Quixote on the company. In 2010, former POB étoile Florence Clerc mounted a world premiere staging of La Bayadère in Boston. And this season, recently retired étoile José Martinez is creating a new ballet for the company’s Close to Chuck program, which opens in February.
”The Paris Opéra is one of the greatest ballet and opera houses in the world, so we need to have a strategic partnership with them,” says BB artistic director Mikko Nissinen. ”José was an exemplary étoile there, and I’ve known him for maybe 20 years—we used to dance in galas together. His choreography has a wonderful understanding of the classical vocabulary, but also a sense of theater and drama.”
The premiere will be Martinez’s first work for a North American company. Also featured on the Close to Chuck program are resident choreographer Jorma Elo’s C. to C. (Close to Chuck), made for American Ballet Theatre in 2007, and Jiřrí Kylián’s Bella Figura.
The Bayerisches Staatsballett will present a free live stream of La Bayadère on March 15 at 1:30 pm EST. Casting includes Marlon Dino and Lucia Lacarra in the leads—a rare chance for Lacarra fans outside of Germany to see the prima in a full-length ballet. Visit staatsoper.de for the stream.