Sergei Danilian is a busy man. When he’s not producing star-filled programs like Kings of the Dance or presenting the Kirov’s U.S. tour, he’s managing the international careers of four of Russia’s biggest ballet stars: Natalia Osipova, Ivan Vasiliev, Diana Vishneva and Polina Semionova. “From one side it’s like being a matchmaker,” he says of his job, which includes securing their gala appearances, negotiating contracts and arranging flights. “From the other it’s like—you’re not quite a travel agent, but you’re a person looking out for them.” 

Agents may seem like a luxury reserved only for international superstars (which is true in Danilian’s case—he’s very selective). But an agent can be beneficial for any professional dancer who wants more performance opportunities. They’re a go-to person for companies, choreographers, festivals and dance schools searching for guest artists. Many also have access to private casting calls. “When you’re in one company, it’s hard to develop a good network with other companies and schools,” says Alfonso Martin, a principal dancer with Tulsa Ballet who secures gala engagements and Nutcracker guestings through his agent Mark Kappel. “I like the added exposure.”

Darren McIntyre, founder of DManagement, feels agents can also help those who haven’t yet achieved their desired rank and crave more challenging roles. “They can gain experience outside so that they can grow and move forward in their own company,” he says. “Every little opportunity helps.”

So what is it that agents do, exactly? “I send out bulk advertisements and e-mails promoting our dancers,” says McIntyre, who received 152 requests for a Nutcracker cavalier last year. Then he matches a client’s specifications with the right dancer: “With somebody else selling and marketing you, it’s easier to find opportunities.” Agents also deal with the business end of contracts—negotiating fees and per diems, reserving accommodations, booking flights, providing publicity—so that dancers don’t have to. “There’s someone to hold the full picture and be in touch with everyone,” says Danilian. “You just need to pack your bag and arrive in good physical condition.”

In addition to finding work, a few agencies provide work. Danilian’s Kings of the Dance and award-winning Diana Vishneva: Beauty in Motion give his dancers opportunities to explore new choreography outside of their home companies. This summer, DManagement dancers will collaborate with Montgomery Ballet for a full-length production of The Sleeping Beauty.

In exchange for their services, agents charge a percentage of the dancer’s earnings for each contract they arrange, anywhere from 10 to as much as 30 percent. Agents generally choose the dancers they want to represent, so finding one can be a bit of an audition process. Before Kappel signed Ballet Arizona’s Paola Hartley, he requested she send videos, articles and reviews for him to evaluate. “I sent as much information as I could to give him an overall look at my career and what I was capable of,” Hartley says.

Balancing guestings with your company’s production schedule gets a little sticky, so it’s best for dancers to communicate their availability with their agent up front. Hartley and Martin also talk openly with their directors about any outside opportunities their agent offers them.

How will getting an agent affect the way your company director sees you? It varies. “I think it’s great for a company member to go out and guest with other companies,” says Tulsa Ballet artistic director Marcello Angelini—especially, he says, during layoff periods. However, due to time constraints and the company’s size, he can’t afford to let dancers leave for more than a few days during the season. “Letting people go means we need to catch them up later, which slows down the process of putting any given work onstage.” Most directors share Angelini’s point of view, but some are less enthusiastic about agents than others, and some even forbid company dancers to work with them altogether. Finding out your director’s position on agents should be the first step in the process.

Hartley is relatively new to the agent experience, but she already has a Nutcracker possibility and a summer teaching position at the Goh Ballet Academy. “So far I’ve been very happy,” she says. “I can’t wait to go out there and show people what I can do!”

Video still by Nel Shelby Productions, Courtesy Dancio.

"What if you could learn from the world's best dance teachers in your living room?" This is the question that Dancio poses on their website. Dancio is a new startup that offers full length videos of ballet classes taught by master teachers. As founder Caitlin Trainor puts it, "these superstar teachers can be available to students everywhere for the cost of a cup of coffee."

For Trainor, a choreographer and the artistic director of Trainor Dance, the idea for Dancio came from a sense of frustration relatable to many dancers; feeling like they need to warm up properly before rehearsals, but not always having the time, energy or funds to get to dance class. One day while searching the internet for a quick online class, Trainor was shocked to not be able to find anything that, as she puts it, "hit the mark in terms of relevance and quality. I thought to myself, how does this not exist?" she says. "We have the Daily Burn for Fitness, YogaGlo for yogis, Netflix for entertainment and nothing for dancers! But then I thought, I can make this!" And thus, Dancio (the name is a combination of dance and video), was born.

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New York City Ballet in "George Balanchine's The Nutcracker." Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy Lincoln Center.

Nutcracker season is upon us, with productions popping up in on stages in big cities and small towns around the country. But this year you can catch New York City Ballet's famous version on the silver screen, too. Lincoln Center at the Movies and Screen Vision Media are presenting a limited engagement of NYCB's George Balanchine's The Nutcracker at select cinemas nationwide starting December 2. It stars Ashley Bouder as Dewdrop and Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz as the Sugarplum Fairy and Cavalier.

While nothing beats seeing a live performance (the company's theatrical Nutcracker run opens Friday), the big screen will no doubt magnify some of this production's most breathtaking effects: the Christmas tree that grows to an impressive 40 feet, Marie's magical spinning bed, and the stunning, swirling snow scene. Click here to find a participating movie theater near you—then, go grab some popcorn.

Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet rehearsing for "The Sleeping Beauty" for the 2017/18 season. Photo by Arian Molina Soca, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet.

Today the Pennsylvania Ballet's board of trustees announced the appointment of Shelly Power as its new executive director. Having been involved in the five-month international search, company artistic director Angel Corella said in a statement released by PAB that he's "certain Shelly is the best candidate to lead the administrative team that supports the artistic vision of the company." Power's official transition will begin in February. This news comes at the end of a few years of turmoil and turnover at PAB, including the departure of former executive director David Gray in June.

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Pointe Stars
Tiler Peck with Andrew Veyette in "Allegro Brillante." Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy New York City Ballet.

"I was particularly excited when I saw my name on casting for Allegro Brillante in 2009," remembers principal dancer Tiler Peck. "Balanchine had said Allegro was, 'everything I know about classical ballet in 13 minutes,' and of course that terrified me." To calm her fear, Peck followed her regular process for debuts: begin by going back to the original performers to get an idea of the quality and feeling of the ballet and ballerina. "It is never to imitate, but rather to surround myself with as much knowledge from the past as I can so that I can find my own way," says Peck.

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Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's 'The Nutcracker.' Photo by Rich Sofranko

Catching a performance of The Nutcracker has long been a holiday tradition for many families. And now, more and more companies are adding sensory-friendly elements to specific shows in an effort to make the classic ballet inclusive to children and adults with special needs.

While the accommodations vary depending on the company, many are presenting shorter versions of the ballet with more relaxed theater rules. Additionally, lower sound and stage light levels during the performance, as well as trained staff on hand, make The Nutcracker more accessible for those on the autism spectrum and others with special needs.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's performance will take place on Tuesday, December 26th, and they are one of the pioneer companies in presenting sensory-friendly performances of The Nutcracker (their first production was in 2013). PBT has also offered sensory-friendly versions of Jorden Morris' Peter Pan and Lew Christensen's Beauty and the Beast in the past.

See our list of sensory-friendly performances, and check out each site for all of the details regarding their offerings.

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Your Best Body
Pilates hundred intermediate set-up, modeled by Jordan Miller. Photo by Emily Giacalone.

The Pilates hundred is a popular exercise used by many dancers for conditioning and warming up, but it's also one of the most misunderstood. Pumping your arms for 100 counts sounds simple enough, but it requires coordinated breathwork, a leg position that suits your abilities and proper alignment. Marimba Gold-Watts, who works with New York City Ballet dancers at her Pilates studio, Articulating Body, breaks down this surprisingly hard exercise. When done correctly, the benefits are threefold: "If you're doing it before class," she says, "the hundred is a great way to get your blood flowing and work on breath control and abdominal support all at once."

To Start

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Nod your chin toward the front of your throat, and reach your fingertips long.

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Pointe Stars

At just 16 years old, the Bolshoi Ballet's Maria Alexandrova already had the makings of a great artist. In this variation from Coppélia, she portrays the carefree Swanilda with blithe, youthful ease.

When she bounds on stage in her perky pink tutu, you immediately notice her legs–they just go on forever. In the first sequence of steps she keeps her jetés and développés low, but then the phrase repeats and she lets her gorgeous extensions fly. She sails through Italian fouettés and whirls around in piqués en manège that get faster and faster. While she nails all the virtuosic movement, Alexandrova also pays beautiful attention to detail throughout the variation. Even the simplest steps become something exciting, like her precise pas de bourrées beginning at 1:03 that sing with musicality.

Swanilda has been one of Alexandrova's signature roles throughout her career. For a fun side by side, watch her perform the same variation almost 20 years later in this video. Although Alexandrova formally retired from the Bolshoi in February, she still performs frequently in Moscow and internationally as a guest artist. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!





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