In April, Dance Theatre of Harlem will take a break from its first national tour since the company’s relaunch to perform in its hometown, New York. This initial appearance, at Jazz at Lincoln Center, is the first of several high-profile engagements: In June, the company will perform in the Kennedy Center’s “Ballet Across America” series and at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

Clearly the iconic American organization is well on the way to fulfilling the five-year rebuilding plan devised by DTH artistic director Virginia Johnson, executive director Laveen Naidu and the board. Johnson emphasizes DTH’s unique artistic legacy in the dance world. Always a multicultural institution, DTH is “still a company of color, but a very diverse company,” Johnson says. “The phrase I like to use is ‘unimagined beauty.’ I think there are so many people who imagine ballet as one thing and black people as another. When you put them together, that’s the beauty that you hadn’t imagined before.”

The current company comprises 18 dancers, hired from the DTH Ensemble, national auditions and the company’s school. The compact troupe (down from 44 dancers in 2004) tours without trucks or scenery and does not have a union contract. “We’re never going to be 44 dancers again,” Johnson says, “but slightly larger than 18 is something I can aim for.” DTH’s 2013 repertoire consists of 12 ballets, including Balanchine’s Agon, the Black Swan pas de deux, Donald Byrd’s Contested Space, Robert Garland’s Gloria and Alvin Ailey’s The Lark Ascending.

The closing of DTH in 2004 didn’t just hurt the company, says Johnson: “It was a tragedy for future dancers of color. A generation of dancers didn’t see DTH and get inspired.” But she feels optimistic that dancers of color will eventually become more visible in ballet companies. “That’s going to change very rapidly—not just because we’re back but because the world is changing.” —Joseph Carman

Millepied’s Controversial POB Appointment
Many expected an étoile from the Nureyev era to be the designated heir, but in the end, an outsider prevailed. After much speculation, it was announced at a press conference in Paris this January that Benjamin Millepied would take over as director of dance of the Paris Opéra Ballet in October 2014. The appointment brings Brigitte Lefèvre’?s nearly two decades at the helm to a close, and opens a new chapter for the company. Millepied will leave the troupe he founded last year, L.A. Dance Project, to move to Paris with his wife, Black Swan star Natalie Portman.

The decision raised some eyebrows: Millepied has never run a large company, and, at 35, is younger than many of POB’s étoiles. The choreographer is also unfamiliar with the company?’s famed style. Born in Bordeaux, Millepied left France to join the School of American Ballet at 16 and went on to dance with New York City Ballet as a principal until 2011. He admitted that he would have much to learn about the POB’?s historic repertoire, with its Nureyev productions and Petit, Béjart and Neumeier classics.

But Millepied also has ideas that could set the venerable institution on a stimulating path. Opera and ballet collaborations are one of them, along with an emphasis on new contemporary choreography using the classical idiom. “I am passionate about ballet,” Millepied said. “I want to open up the company to my generation of classical choreographers.” He also said he would ration his own works in the repertoire and encourage budding choreographers within the company.

At the press conference, Lefèvre stressed the continuity between her term and Millepied?’s plans, adding: “?I didn?’t expect to be so emotional. You’?re young, Benjamin, but it will sort itself out.?” —?Laura Cappelle

Wheeldon’s Triple Play
Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon is having a very busy spring. In addition to setting his new Cinderella on San Francisco Ballet, he’s making new pieces for New York City Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet, and all three works have May premiere dates.

Bay Area audiences have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of Cinderella—a co-production with the Dutch National Ballet that had its world premiere last year in Amsterdam—and so have SFB dancers. Wheeldon’s version is principal Maria Kochetkova’s first experience dancing the lead role. “It’s been fascinating bringing her to life,” Kochetkova says. “I feel the way Chris sees Cinderella is very close to how I understand her”—as a girl with more confidence and initiative than the retiring heroines of other ballet versions of the tale. “This Cinderella stands up for herself when her stepmother and sisters mistreat her,” Kochetkova says. “In a way, they know she’s stronger than they are.”

Kochetkova is also enchanted by the ballet’s stage effects, created with the help of puppeteer Basil Twist. “My favorite moment has got to be when Cinderella’s on her way to the ball, and everything and everyone around her transforms in a few seconds,” she says. “It’s actually quite tricky, but it looks so magical.” —Margaret Fuhrer

Ratmansky at ABT
Symphony #9, the energetic first section of Alexei Ratmansky’s new Dmitri Shostakovich trilogy, impressed American Ballet Theatre audiences last fall; during the company’s Metropolitan Opera House season this spring, they’ll finally see the last two acts of the choreographer’s first abstract evening-length ballet. The Met season also includes the company premiere of Sir Frederick Ashton’s A Month in the Country, the return of several classical warhorses and, in June, a new production of Le Corsaire.

McIntyre’s New Fleet Foxes Ballet

Trey McIntyre is known for setting ballets to pop music, frequently choreographing to the likes of Peter, Paul and Mary and The Shins. “I think you can actually be lazy choreographing to symphonic music, because there’s so much detail that you can follow as a roadmap,” McIntyre says. “I want to have something to contribute beyond illustrating what a composer has already done. In pop music, the form is simplistic, so I have to bring more of myself to add that next layer.”

Oregon Ballet Theatre’s American Music Festival program this April offered McIntyre a chance to further explore his pop fascination: He’ll premiere a work set to music by Pacific Northwest–based folk band Fleet Foxes. “When the company asked me to contribute to a program celebrating American music, it made sense to me to use pop songs,” McIntyre says. “It’s my connection to American composers. I haven’t found a contemporary symphonic composer I respond to, so I like to work with the best of American pop instead.”

McIntyre has had the Fleet Foxes in the back of his mind for a while. (He’s used one of their songs in another ballet.) “Their music has this great connection to nature,” he says. “I picture huge open canyons when I listen to it, grand landscapes. I think that sense of space is something that translates well into choreography.” —MF

Angela Sterling, Courtesy of Pacific Northwest Ballet

Clear your schedule now for Monday, January 29th, 2:45PM (EST)/ 11:45AM (PST). Pacific Northwest Ballet will be live-streaming rehearsal from Kent Stowell's Swan Lake, straight from their Seattle, WA-based studios. To psych us up for their on stage performances February 2nd - 11th, PNB is letting us in on their Act II rehearsal.

From the corps of swans to Odette and Prince Siegfried's pas de deux, and the infamous four swans, this rehearsal is not to be missed. You can sign up now for a live-stream reminder on their site. In the meantime, we'll be brushing up on our Cygnets with this PNB sneak peek.


Rigorous program, check. Well-rounded technical training, check. Purposeful liberal arts curriculum, check. Study your craft abroad, check! If you are looking for all the above, the Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College truly has it all.

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Lopez in Circus Polka. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy MCB.

When Miami City Ballet artistic director Lourdes Lopez was a principal dancer at New York City Ballet, she missed her opportunity to honor Jerome Robbins onstage. "Every time there was a celebration for Jerry, I was either injured or had just retired," says Lopez. "I was never able to publicly thank him onstage for all that he taught us and the beauty he left us."

But when Lopez was planning MCB's Jerome Robbins Celebration for the 100th anniversary of the legend's birth, she saw an opportunity. She asked the Robbins Trust to allow her to perform the Ringmaster in Robbins' Circus Polka, a role the choreographer originated himself.

Keep reading at dancemagazine.com.


Videos are a great alternative when auditioning in person isn't possible. Here are some general guidelines for making a good impression.

1. Follow directions. Before filming, research what each school you're interested in requires. "It demonstrates your ability to follow instructions, and schools pay attention to that," says Kate Lydon, artistic director of American Ballet Theatre's summer intensives and the ABT Studio Company. "If the guidelines haven't been followed, your video might not be watched the whole way through." You may need to make multiple versions to accommodate different schools.

2. Videos should be no longer than 10 minutes. "Keep it short, simple and direct," advises Philip Neal, dance department chair at The Patel Conservatory and artistic director of Next Generation Ballet. "You have to be sensitive to how much time the director has to sit down and look at it." Barre can be abbreviated, showing only one side per exercise, alternating. Directors will be looking at fundamentals—placement, turnout, leg lines, stability—but don't ignore musicality or movement quality. Make sure music choices match combinations and are correctly synced in the footage.

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I want to be a professional dancer, but my parents won't listen. They either don't think I can do it (contrary to what my teachers have said) or they won't let me take the necessary steps to become a professional. Please help. —Audrey

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They say that pigeons mate for life—perhaps that's why these birds naturally symbolize the young lovers in Sir Frederick Ashton's The Two Pigeons. In these two clips from a 1987 performance in Pisa, Alessandra Ferri and Robert LaFosse—then stars with American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet, respectively—dance a rapturous pas de deux at the end of Act II. With tiny pricks of her feet and bird-like flaps of her elbows in Part 1, Ferri marks her anguish, thinking she's been abandoned for another woman. Later, both she and LaFosse grow more and more entangled as they reconcile, Ferri dancing with the passionate abandon she's famous for. I love how in Part 2 (0:20), they can't seem to get enough of each other as their necks arch and intertwine. At the end of the ballet, two pigeons fly in to perch symbolically on the chair—er, there's supposed to be two. It looks like one missed its cue at this performance! No matter—Ferri and LaFosse's dancing make it clear that these young lovers are meant to be together for life. Happy #TBT!

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Summer Study Advice
The author at 13, rehearsing at her home studio, Ballet Arts Theater, in Endicott, NY. Courtesy McGuire.

This story originally appeared in the December 2010/January 2011 issue of Pointe.

As a young student at a small ballet school in upstate New York, I was obsessed with getting into the School of American Ballet. From the age of 10, I entered class each day with the ultimate goal of studying at SAB dangling before me like a carrot on a stick. Every effort I made, every extra class I took was for the sole purpose of getting into what I thought was the only ballet school that really mattered.

I auditioned for SAB's summer program for the first time when I was 12. In the weeks that followed, I became a vulture hovering over my family's mail, squawking at my mother if the day's letters were not presented for my inspection when I walked through the door. The day the letter finally arrived, it was thin and limp. I cried for a week as I dealt with the crushing feeling of rejection for one of the first times in my life.

My mind filled with questions and self-doubt. What was wrong with me? Why wasn't I good enough? I figured I must be too fat, too slow, my feet too flat. I had worked so hard. I had wished on every fallen eyelash and dead dandelion in pursuit of my single goal, just to have a three-paragraph form letter conclude that I was a failure. For a while, I let myself wallow in the comfort of my resentment, content to believe that success should have come easily, and that to fall was the same as to fail.

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