Six Bolshoi Ballerinas Take California

 

Six Bolshoi-trained primas perform new works by Mauro Bigonzetti and six other choreographers in “Reflections” at OCPAC.

 

Picture this: You’re standing in a studio with world-famous ballerinas Maria Kochetkova, Yekaterina Krysanova, Natalia Osipova, Polina Semionova and Yekaterina Shipulina, and they’re all waiting for you to make a dance for them.

 

Are you dreaming? No: You’re Mauro Bigonzetti, rehearsing CINQUE for January’s “Reflections” spectacular at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. A partnership with the Bolshoi Ballet, the glittery “Reflections” features six exceptional women alumnae of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy (Olga Malinovskaya is the last) in new works by Karole Armitage, Aszure Barton, Bigonzetti, Jirí Bubenicek, Lucinda Childs, Jorma Elo and Wayne McGregor, as well as repertoire by George Balanchine and Nacho Duato. The ballerinas are occasionally partnered by the Bolshoi’s Vyacheslav Lopatin, Denis Savin, Alexander Volchkov and Ivan Vasiliev. It’s A-list all the way.

 

Bigonzetti found his embarrassment-of-riches cast for CINQUE a bit daunting. “It’s been a great privilege to work with these prima ballerinas, but it’s difficult to put together five stars and do something that suits all of them together,” he says. “The most important thing in a dance like this is to capture the character of the dancers.”

 

His solution is a two-part work playing on the idea of the five senses, set to various pieces by Vivaldi, which allows each of the ballerinas to be herself. “It’s almost a little joke, the two sections,” he says. “The first part is five sad and boring women, simply dressed. The idea is that they’ve lost one of their senses. In the second part they’ve rediscovered that sense and are completely transformed into glamorous ballerinas in tutus.”

 

 

New Times: Boston Ballet

Just two years ago, a financially unsteady Boston Ballet was forced to reduce its size by nine dancers. Now the company is on the rebound: This season it welcomed 19 new members—adding five dancer positions—and promoted a crop of talent from within.

 

The revamped troupe has dancers from all over the world, including new members from The State Ballet of Georgia, Corella Ballet and Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet. “I had auditions in Amsterdam, Rome, Monte Carlo, New York and Boston,” says artistic director Mikko Nissinen. “I saw about 1,300 dancers! Augmenting our home-grown talent with dancers from all over is one of the ways I keep our standards up.” One notable new addition is 21-year-old corps member Keenan Kampa, who is the first American to graduate from St. Petersburg’s Vaganova Academy. “An American from Russia—imagine that,” Nissinen says. Boston Ballet’s nine promoted dancers include brother and sister pair Lia (now a principal) and Jeffrey (now second soloist) Cirio.

 

Companies across the country have made similarly sweeping changes to their rosters for the 2010–11 season. Houston Ballet welcomed nine new dancers, including former Boston Ballet principal Melissa Hough; San Francisco Ballet has 12 new faces, including former Bolshoi Ballet member Artem Yachmennikov; and six dancers were promoted at Pacific Northwest Ballet.


 

Douglas Martin’s New-Old Nutcracker at ARB
Douglas Martin’s first task as the new company director of New Jersey’s American Repertory Ballet was to revamp the company’s annual Nutcracker, and he wanted to include a bit of the old along with the new. “I’m re-choreographing the snow scene and Act II, but I’m reviving the party and battle scenes from the Nutcracker that the company’s founders, Audree and Bud Estey, did nearly 50 years ago,” he says. Martin has also hired eight new dancers, several of them New Jersey natives. 

 


 

A New Studio for Calegari and Cook
Husband and wife team Bart Cook and Maria Calegari, former principals with New York City Ballet, have spent years traveling the world setting ballets for The George Balanchine Trust—and now they’re bringing that expertise to their own backyard. This September the couple opened CaleCo Ballet Studio in North Salem, NY. “We bring the energy and experience we gain on our trips back to our young dancers,” Calegari says.

 

Though the school accepts children as young as 3, it also offers pre-professional training in Balanchine technique. “We have several talented students who are in that in-between place, where their parents don’t want to send them to the big city yet,” Calegari says. “Our classes are small and personalized, so we can give them what they need,” Cook adds. “We can prime them for auditions at institutions like the School of American Ballet, if that’s the path they choose.”

 

 

ABT Tackles Ratmansky’s Bright Stream

 

Fresh off its debut of Alexei Ratmansky’s new Nutcracker (see p. 64), American Ballet Theatre will present The Bright Stream this January at the Kennedy Center. The ballet first won Ratmansky acclaim here when the Bolshoi Ballet presented it on a U.S. tour in 2005. The original version of Bright Stream, performed in Leningrad in 1935 with choreography by Fyodor Lopukhov, was quickly banished by a disapproving Stalin. Ratmansky, now ABT’s resident choreographer, created his cheerfully comic take on this story of love on a Soviet farm collective for the Bolshoi in 2003. ABT will also present Bright Stream as part of its spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House.

 

 

Ballet All Over:


Watch the Bolshoi on the Big Screen
You’ve probably heard about the “Opera in Cinema” program, which broadcasts live opera performances to movie theater screens across the country. Beginning this December, you’ll be able to catch live broadcasts of the Bolshoi Ballet and the Paris Opéra Ballet at a theater near you, too. The Bolshoi’s classic Nutcracker kicks off the “Ballet in Cinema” series December 19. Visit emergingpictures.com for show times and locations.

 

 Ballet All Over:

 

NY Export: Opus Jazz on DVD
Looking for the perfect gift for a dancer or dance lover? The artfully shot NY Export: Opus Jazz is out on DVD November 23. A reimagining of Jerome Robbins’ “ballet in sneakers,” filmed on location in New York City, it offers intimate portraits of the 18 New York City Ballet dancers in its cast
and celebrates the timelessness of Robbins’ choreography. Find the DVD at factorytwentyfive.com.

 

 

Pointe Shoe Profile
Houston Ballet’s Amy Fote

 

Brand: Bloch, Inc. Heritage

 

Size: 5 no X

 

Years Wearing This Shoe: Almost two

 

Padding: “I cut off the foot section of an old pair of tights (from the ankle down) and fold it around the tops of my toes. I find this absorbs sweat, so I rarely get blisters or have to tape my feet. I also use a gummy pad on both of my big toes.”

 

Break-in Process: “I bend the heel section of the shank numerous times, until it is very pliable. I also apply rubbing alcohol to the box to soften it so it molds to my foot, and cut the satin off the toe so it’s less slippery.”

 

Number of Pairs She Uses: “Depending on what I’m dancing, I can go through a pair a show (which I then use for class or light rehearsals) or a pair a week.”

Elizabeth Abbick as the Snow Queen in Butler Ballet's "Nutcracker." Photo by Brent Smith, Courtesy Abbick.

Pointe caught up with three college dancers last spring to see what it's like juggling ballet, academics and a social life on campus. First up is Elizabeth Abbick, a student at Jordan College of the Arts, Butler University getting her BFA in dance performance and her BA in mathematics.

Abbick studying in the library. Photo by Jimmy Lafakis for Pointe.

Leawood, Kansas, native Elizabeth Abbick faced some tough choices her senior year of high school. Equally talented in math and ballet, she wanted a professional dance career but also desired to plan her post-performance life. "Butler University had always been on my radar because I knew the faculty was stellar and the students are the best of the best. I realized it could offer me both worlds," she says. Now a senior majoring in dance performance and mathematics, she hopes to work on the business side of the ballet world after her stage career.

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If you're in the NYC area and are in need of weekend plans, you might want to consider heading to the Film Society of Lincoln Center to see Jean-Stéphane Bron's documentary, The Paris Opéra. While the film was originally released in France this past spring, it just made its way to the US on October 18th, and it chronicles the 2015-2016 season at the Paris Opera.

Encompassing the entire institution (which was founded in 1669 by King Louis XIV!), dancers will particularly enjoy an inside look at the Paris Opéra Ballet—both in rehearsals and onstage. Most notably, Bron captures the then POB director Benjamin Millepied as he decides to leave his position with the company barely a year after his appointment.

Check out the full trailer below, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center's full listing of showtimes here.

Your Training
Thinkstock.

Bianca Bulle was always prone to ankle sprains. When she was 18, her recoveries became more complicated: She started experiencing Achilles tendonitis due to muscle weakness and fluid buildup in the ankle. "The last thing to get back to normal would be my Achilles, which was so incredibly tight and painful," says Bulle, now a principal at Los Angeles Ballet.

The Achilles is the body's largest tendon, attaching the bottom of the calf muscles to the back of the heel. It contracts and releases as you relevé and plié, as well as when you jump and even walk. Tendonitis, or inflammation, of the Achilles is one of the most frequently reported overuse injuries among active people, according to the American Physical Therapy Association. You'll know it by the pain or tightness at the back of the heel. If the condition gets bad enough, the tendon can rupture, which requires surgery to fix.

Achilles tendonitis is especially common among dancers on pointe, but it's not inevitable. With rest and proper conditioning, you can work to avoid it with careful technique and a commitment to cross-training.


Boston Ballet School pre-professional students. Photo by Igor Burlak Photography, Courtesy Boston Ballet.

What Causes It?

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New York City Ballet in Marc Chagall's costume designs for Balanchine's "Firebird."

I am a self-confessed costume nerd who really needs little persuasion to travel nearly 3,000 miles to see a costume exhibition—which is what I did when I set off for California for the new exhibition at Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage. I knew Marc Chagall primarily for his sumptuous blue swirling paintings featuring violin-playing goats, his incredible ceiling at the Paris Opéra's Palais Garnier, and murals at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, so I was intrigued to see his work with ballet.

Marc Chagall (1887–1985), was born Moishe Zakharovich Shagal in Belarus. He later moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, to study art, apprenticing under famed Ballets Russes designer Leon Bakst. Chagall's work in ballet and opera, however, did not begin until he and his wife Bella arrived in the U.S. as World War II refugees in 1941.

Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage, adapted from an earlier exhibition at the Montreal Music of Art and curated by Yuval Sharon and Jason H. Thompson, is an exciting opportunity to see 41 costumes and nearly 100 designs. But it is the costumes that really steal the show. You won't see any tutus here, but instead amazing, almost cartoon-like realizations of Chagall's artwork. LACMA's exhibition runs through January 7, 2018. For those of you who can't make the trip like I did, here's a rundown of highlights.

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Tiler Peck in "Who Cares?". Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck and Emmy-winning actress Elisabeth Moss (of Mad Men and Handmaid's Tale fame) may seem like unlikely friends, until you dig a little deeper into their backgrounds. Both attended Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica and spent summers at the School of American Ballet in their youths. Moss and Peck's career paths diverged when the former fell in love with acting and Peck went on to study at SAB full time, eventually becoming the star we know today. Now, the pairs' artistic pursuits are uniting in an exciting new project.

According to Deadline.com, Moss will produce a documentary featuring Peck and her work curating BalletNOW, last summer's star-studded, critically acclaimed program at Los Angeles's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Peck was the first woman to lead BalletNOW's programming, and she brought together dancers from companies including The Royal Ballet, Miami City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and the Paris Opéra Ballet, putting them on stage with tappers, clowns and break dancers (sometimes simultaneously).


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Your Best Body

Looking for creative and healthy ways to get your pumpkin fix this fall? First, back away from the pumpkin-spiced latte—the season's unofficial drink is often laced with sugary syrup and comes with a complimentary mid-rehearsal crash. Instead, try these simple snacks with puréed pumpkin. It's high in beta-carotene, which converts to immunity-boosting vitamin A, and is a good source of vitamin K, iron and fiber. You can buy it canned or make the purée from a "sugar" or "pie" pumpkin (they're commonly available at grocery stores or farm markets).

Fruit-and-Spice Toast

- Spread purée onto whole-grain toast.

- Top with sliced pear.

- Add a dash of cinnamon.

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Pointe Stars

When Maya Plisetskaya first toured abroad with the Bolshoi Ballet, she stunned the world. Her dramatic and technical abilities were far beyond what anyone outside the Soviet Union had seen before. She quickly became an icon, symbolizing Russian ballet.

Plisetskaya was the perfect ballerina to play the Tsar Maiden in The Little Humpbacked Horse when choreographer Alexander Radunsky and composer Rodion Shchedrin recreated the classic Russian folktale in the 1960s. This vintage clip of the ballet offers a glimpse into an era gone by. Although ballet technique has advanced since then, Plisetskaya's performance is still electrifying. She is daring and agile in her manèges and fouettés, while she shows gentle purity and authentic emotion in the pas de deux with the wide-eyed Ivan. Even half a century later, this magnificent artist continues to transfix us with her radiant presence onstage. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!


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