Whenever The Joffrey Ballet needs a bravura allegro dancer, Allison Walsh, a powerful natural jumper, is at the ready. But at 25, this small, muscular, dark-eyed dancer—who joined The Joffrey as an apprentice in 2004 and was invited into the company the following year—has started to develop a new profile.

 

Ashley Wheater, The Joffrey’s artistic director, has been helping Walsh find another aspect of her talent. He told her: “You are a powerhouse, so now work on being a ballerina, and don’t always hit so hard. Be more nuanced.” While Walsh remains ever ready to soar—and has been tapped in recent seasons to perform a wide range of new works by such choreographers as Edwaard Liang, Jessica Lang and James Kudelka, as well as to dance the lead in Twyla Tharp’s demanding Waterbaby Bagatelles—she also has begun exploring the subtleties of adagio and partnering. Not surprisingly, she has jumped into the process with her usual brio. —Hedy Weiss

 

Allison Walsh: Things changed for me at The Joffrey with the arrival of Ashley Wheater as artistic director, although I already had begun doing new roles. I love Ashley’s classes and feel they’ve improved my technique. And his advice about becoming a real ballerina—his belief that I could be doing more principal roles but first I had to see myself in that way—really started to change my thinking.

 

Edwaard Liang, who asked me to learn a solo and pas de deux for his Age of Innocence last year, also had an impact. He told me I had a great adagio; I had never thought that. And working on his piece with my partner, Matthew Adamczyk, was a terrific experience, because I usually dance by myself and depend on myself. I had to give up some of that self-reliance and let the boy be in control. It irked me at first, because I like to lead, but I learned how to compromise and communicate.

We also worked recently with James Kudelka. He knew exactly what he wanted, and he likes things danced with full force, so that was natural for me. We were all dressed in long tulle skirts, so we looked classical, but he wanted us to really work our legs and feet, move quickly and take the classical line to an extreme.

 

In the company, I now keep my eye on Victoria Jaiani and Christine Rocas because adagio comes so naturally to them, and you can learn so much from other dancers. Ultimately, you really are on your own as a professional dancer. And as you get older, you become more responsible for your own progress.






LADP's Rachelle Rafailedes leading a workout. Photo by Studio 6, Courtesy Sunshine Sachs.

If your usual workouts are feeling stale, Benjamin Millepied's L.A. Dance Project might be able to help. The contemporary ballet troupe recently launched an online exercise platform that puts its stars in your living room.

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Training
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.

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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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