New Work at The Royal
Though long a story ballet stronghold, The Royal Ballet has become a home for new choreography as well. During his first year at the company’s helm, artistic director Kevin O’Hare has made it clear that he’ll follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, Monica Mason—which means there are a lot of premieres on the horizon. “I want to build on what Dame Monica started,” O’Hare says. “New work is the lifeblood of the company.”

To wit: The Royal will perform its first Alexei Ratmansky commission, set to an orchestration of Chopin’s 24 Preludes, this February. “I approached Alexei before I even got the job,” O’Hare says. “I felt if I wasn’t appointed director, whoever was would be happy to have a new Ratmansky work.”

O’Hare also made up-and-coming talent Liam Scarlett The Royal’s first artist-in-residence last fall. Add in resident choreographer Wayne McGregor and artistic associate Christopher Wheeldon, and the company has a heady home team of choreographers generating new ballets, on top of its commissions. “What’s fantastic about Wayne, Christopher and Liam is the diversity of their styles,” O’Hare says. “And they know the company dancers so well they will bring out facets of their abilities that may not have otherwise been seen.”


Ballet San Jose Rebounds
Ever since Wes Chapman’s appointment as Ballet San Jose’s artistic consultant last January—following the controversial ousting of founding artistic director Dennis Nahat—ballet fans have wondered what the reinvented BSJ might look like. The answer? A bit like American Ballet Theatre, Chapman’s one-time home.

BSJ announced a partnership with ABT in December 2011, giving it access not only to the larger company’s teaching curriculum, but also to its coaches, costumes and sets. So in a way it’s not surprising that BSJ begins 2013 with three company premieres right out of the ABT playbook: the full-length Don Quixote (staged by Chapman) in February, and a repertory program that includes Sir Frederick Ashton’s Les Rendezvous and Thaïs Pas de Deux in March.

“We’re still trying to figure out the company’s identity,” says Chapman, who now serves as BSJ’s artistic advisor, and shares artistic leadership with principal ballet master Raymond Rodriguez. “But for me it’s natural to head in the ABT direction. I grew up there during the Baryshnikov era, and he was one of the greatest directors of the time. He had exquisite taste. So these days, I frequently find myself thinking, ‘What would Misha have done?’ ”

In future seasons, Chapman hopes to bring in a production of The Sleeping Beauty, as well as works by European choreographers like Jirí Kylián and Hans van Manen. He’s also planning a number of repertory commissions, with the first, a ballet by frequent ABT collaborator Jessica Lang, premiering in April. “This company is a strong, eclectic group of people,” Chapman says. “They’re hungry for new stuff, and the best way to feed them is to have them work with artists like Jessica.”


Rite of Spring Turns 100
Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, with choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky, shocked balletomanes at its Paris premiere in 1913. A century later, Stravinsky’s score has become one of the most frequently choreographed pieces of music in the world. Ballet companies everywhere are celebrating Rite’s centennial this year with performances of old and new versions of the work. Particularly notable is Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer’s reconstruction of Nijinsky’s original choreography. The Joffrey Ballet will tour it in the U.S. in February and March and the Mariinsky Ballet will perform it later in the spring.


Hamburg Ballet Brings Nijinsky to the U.S.
This February, Hamburg Ballet embarks on a U.S. tour that includes stops in San Francisco, Costa Mesa and, for the first time, Chicago. The highlight of the three-week excursion is Nijinsky, artistic director John Neumeier’s dark, kaleidoscopic retelling of Vaslav Nijinsky’s life. Neumeier, who is famously fascinated with the great dancer, has amassed the world’s largest private collection of Nijinsky artifacts. “I’ve learned so much through John,” says Hamburg principal Alexandre Riabko, the tour’s first-cast Nijinsky. “He brought photographs and lithographs to rehearsals, and told us: ‘It looks like Nijinsky is still dancing, even though his movements are frozen within a photo. He is never posing, but always alive in these images.’ That was my greatest inspiration for the role.”


Going Gaga at Atlanta Ballet
The works of Batsheva Dance Company artistic director Ohad Naharin—rooted in his improvisational, imagery-driven Gaga technique—have become staples for many contemporary dance companies. But a ballet company tackling Naharin? That’s a very different story.

When the Atlanta Ballet dancers found out they’d be performing Naharin’s Minus 16 this March, “we flocked to YouTube to get a sense of what exactly we were in for,” says company member Rachel Van Buskirk. “I knew a little about his work, but not much. It looked fun. And surreal. And, really, really hard.”

Van Buskirk has been exposed to improvisational techniques before, but “nothing as in-depth as Gaga,” she says. “The hardest part was letting go of my ballet impulse to make pretty shapes all the time. Gaga isn’t about shapes; it’s about interpreting words and feelings through movement.” Former Batsheva dancer Rachael Osborne, who set Minus 16 on AB, tried to ease the transition. “She knows we’re ballerinas,” Van Buskirk says, with a laugh. “Her whole approach is: Nothing you do is ‘wrong.’ She’d pick out different words to motivate each person, to get us closer to the look she wanted.”

It’s a process that has stretched the company dancers considerably, but they’ve relished the chance to branch out. “During one of our first rehearsals, there was a moment when we all looked around at each other and just shook our heads in disbelief, it was so different,” Van Buskirk says. “We were like: Is this happening? This is so cool.”

Andersen in Balanchine's "Valse-Fantaisie." Photo by Daniel Azoulay, Courtesy Miami City Ballet.

I got my corps contract on my 18th birthday. It was such a relief. I had convinced myself that I would be okay not dancing, but inside I just wanted to get a contract with Miami City Ballet.

I'd trained at Milwaukee Ballet School pretty much my whole life, and in 2014 I went to the MCB summer program and loved it. They invited me to stay for the year, and right when I got there, they offered me an apprenticeship. I spent the next two years as an apprentice. My second year I got to tour with the company and did Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and Bourrée Fantasque.

Once I was told that I had a contract, it felt like so much weight was lifted off my shoulders. Every single person came up and individually congratulated me. They were so kind, and ever since then they've been like a big family.

It's such a jump from being in a school setting to being in the company. I'm lucky that I was able to experience so much firsthand as an apprentice, but there were still some things that I couldn't get used to. As an apprentice, I would spend half my day rehearsing and taking class at the school, and the other half rehearsing with MCB. Once I got into the company, there was so much less work. It was hard to stay in shape and make sure that I was on top of my dancing. The ballet masters don't give you as many corrections, and I didn't have anybody there to discipline me. It was all self-motivation.

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Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee is back, this time sharing her tried-and-true advice from the streets of New York City. While conducting a pointe shoe seminar at the Joffrey Ballet School's NYC Ballet Intensive, Lee put together a list of five things to keep in mind when choosing a summer program. Whether you're about to embark on this summer's intensive or are already thinking ahead for next year, these are good tips to keep in mind. And what better way to receive advice than while viewing a stroll through some of our favorite ballet-happy spots in NYC?

American Ballet Theatre's Cassandra Trenary seems to have it all—not only is our June/July 2016 cover star a dazzling soloist at ABT, she has a sunny, down-to-earth personality and a life-saving hero for a husband. But her first year in the company had its fair share of disappointments—in fact, she almost left dance altogether to pursue acting.

In May, the National YoungArts Foundation, an organization that provides scholarships and mentorship to aspiring performing artists, brought Trenary (herself a 2011 YoungArts winner) and ABT artist in residence Alexei Ratmansky together for a salon-style discussion. Together they talked about critical turning points in their careers, as well as the challenges of navigating the dance world as a young professional. Below are exclusive excerpts of their interview—we hope their words inspire you as much as they inspire us!



There's still time to enter YoungArts's national arts competition for a chance at scholarships, workshops and more. Click here for information on how to apply.

ADrian Durham in CPYB's production of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy CPYB.

As a teenager, Adrian Durham studied at his local ballet school in Lake Charles, Louisiana. "I was one of three or four guys training there, and there were no male teachers," says Durham. "Most of my partnering experience came from rehearsals for performances." But after he began training with the male scholarship program at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet in 2014, he experienced a sea change. "It challenged me mentally, physically and emotionally, because it's such an intense program," he says. Now 20, he is preparing for a professional career with an integrated set of tools: ballet technique, physical strength and partnering skills.

Men's ballet technique classes have been available for decades, especially at summer intensives and urban ballet schools. Yet programs designed specifically for male dancers, often offering full scholarships, have been rarer—until now, that is. Training that allows boys to separately explore their skills, above and beyond a supplement of double tours en l'air and pirouettes à la seconde at the conclusion of a mixed class, can literally give young men a leg up as they aspire towards a dance career.

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Alessandra Ferri in "Romeo and Juliet." Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT.

To watch Irina Kolpakova coach Swan Lake is to witness a true artist at work. Although long retired from the stage, the American Ballet Theatre ballet mistress still possesses a commanding presence and an instinctive artistic spirit.

"Don't think about your shape when you first see Siegfried," she tells principal Isabella Boylston during rehearsal for Odette's Act II entrance. "This is not 'port de bras.' This is 'Don't touch me!' " Kolpakova demonstrates, transforming instantly into the Swan Queen. Her eyes sparkling and alive, every inch of her diminutive stature swells with a palpable energy capable of reaching the highest ring of the balcony.

Call it stage presence, call it the "it" factor, some dancers just have a natural ability to draw people in and change the atmosphere around them. Stage presence can carry a dancer to a higher artistic realm. It's the final piece of the puzzle, the emotional heart of a performance that can bring an audience to tears. Without it, even the best choreography risks falling flat.

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Via Instagram

Last fall, Diana Vishneva shocked her NYC following when she announced that she would give her final performance with American Ballet Theatre on June 23, 2017. The Russian-born dancer has been part of ABT since performing in Romeo and Juliet as a guest artist in 2003, and has held the title of principal dancer with the company since 2005 in addition to her principal role with the Mariinksy Ballet. Throughout her time with ABT, which she spoke about in the below video for The New Yorker, Vishneva has danced as a guest artist with Bolshoi Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet and Berlin State Ballet.


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Karen Kain is internationally renowned as a performer and as the National Ballet of Canada's artistic director. The former NBoC principal always carries herself with the grace and sophistication of a true leader. However, in this 1976 clip from Giselle, the distinguished ballerina is convincingly naïve and bewildered in her interpretation of the mad scene.



Kain conveys Giselle's innocence at the start of the scene with pure, unaffected gestures and facial expressions. Then, after Albrecht betrays her, her eyes stare unfocused into the distance as if she's in a trance. Although this scene is mostly acting, Kain dances dreamily to the musical motif at 5:30 and conceals her technical strength in order to show the character's frailty. It takes a true ballerina to perform this heartbreaking and beautiful role, and with performances like this and her lifelong commitment to the art form, Kain proves that she is an extraordinary one. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

Photo by Quinn Wharton

How can I wean myself off my coffee fix without experiencing headaches and crankiness that will disrupt my rehearsal process? —Lauryn

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