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.”

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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 also offers sensory-friendly versions of Jorden Morris' Peter Pan and Lew Christensen's Beauty and the Beast throughout the year.

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!


Pointe Stars
Ingrid Silva and her dog, Frida Kahlo. Photo by Nathan Sayers for Pointe.

You're probably already following your favorite dancers on Instagram, but did you know that you can follow many of their dogs, too? We rounded up some of our favorite dog-centered accounts and hashtags to keep you pawsitively entertained (sorry, we can't help ourselves).

Cora and Maya (American Ballet Theatre's Sarah Lane and Luis Ribagorda)

Sarah Lane and Luis Ribagorda's pups Cora and Maya update their profile pretty frequently. Often accompanying Lane to the ABT studios, they can also be seen using tutus or piles of pink tights as dog beds.

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Pointe Stars
Vladislav Lantritov and Ekaterina Krysanova in "Taming of the Shrew." Photo by Alice Blangero, Courtesy Bolshoi Ballet.

If you haven't checked your local movie listings yet for this weekend, hop to it. The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema series and Fathom Events is broadcasting a performance of Jean-Christophe Maillot's The Taming of the Shrew to theaters nationwide on Sunday, November 19. (To see if it's playing near you and to purchase tickets, click here.) While the rest of the Bolshoi's cinema season features 19th- and 20th-century classics, The Taming of the Shrew gives audiences a chance to see the revered Moscow company in a thoroughly modern, 21st-century take on Shakespeare's famous play.

Aside from a limited run in New York City this July, American audiences have had little exposure to Maillot's 2014 production. To learn more, check out these two exclusive, behind-the-scenes webisodes below. Principal dancer Ekaterina Krysanova, who stars as the hotheaded Katharina, gives an intimate play-by-play of two major scenes in Act I. The first is her fiery rejection of three potential suitors (who all would prefer to marry Katharina's younger sister Bianca).

The second scene breaks down Katharina's first encounter with Petruchio (danced by the larger-than-life Vladislav Lantritov), the only man who seems to be able to challenge her. Here, too, we see the shrew's heart start to soften. (Don't miss her time-stopping attitude turn at 4:27.)

The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Series continues through June; for more details on upcoming screenings, click here.

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Smuin Ballet dancers Erica Felsch, Rex Wheeler, Mengjun Chen and Tessa Barbour in "White Christmas," choreographed by dancers Ben Needham-Wood and Michael Smuin. Photo by Keith Sutter, Courtesy Smuin Ballet.

Nutcracker-ed out? Or just can't get enough holiday ballets? These unique Nutcracker interpretations and non-Nutcracker productions will make your season bright.


The Hip Hop Nutcracker

Through December 30

Tchaikovsky's masterful Nutcracker score isn't just for classical ballet…

Hip Hop + a live DJ + an electric violinist unite in The Hip Hop Nutcracker, currently touring the U.S.

Familiar characters such Drosselmeyer, the Nutcracker, Mouse King and Marie (here called Maria-Clara) dance through an updated New York City storyline with choreography by Jennifer Weber, artistic director of the Brooklyn-based theatrical hip hop company Decadancetheatre.

Premiered in 2014, The Hip Hop Nutcracker is produced by New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

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