The venerable Jacob's Pillow dance festival will celebrate its 85th birthday in 2017, making it the country's longest-running international dance festival. As usual, Jacob's Pillow gives equal weight to different dance styles (presenting everything from hip hop to Bharatnatyam over the course of the summer), and that ethos extends to its ballet programming. Classical and contemporary companies will visit throughout the summer, showcasing both traditional and innovative choreography. Additionally, this year's festival includes 11 companies led by female directors.
The opening gala on June 17 includes New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns in collaboration with Company Wang Ramierz, a hip-hop duo. While it's hard to imagine what this might look like, Mearns has been diving into the unknown lately, so it's sure to include her signature level of commitment.
Miami City Ballet visits from June 21–25, dancing the type of work the company does best: George Balanchine's Allegro Brillante and Christopher Wheeldon's Polyphonia, along with other works to be announced. The Washington Ballet performs from August 23–27, returning to the Pillow for the first time since 1980. The company, under Julie Kent's new leadership, will dance Alexei Ratmansky's Seven Sonatas, among other works.
In between these two preeminent companies are several ballet-adjacent troupes. Portland's NW Dance Project brings its slippery contemporary moves and commitment to international choreographers to its Pillow premiere from June 28–July 2. New York's Ballet Hispanico will perform a Pillow-commissioned work, Línea Recta, by in-demand choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, along with other works during its July 26–30. Lastly, New York's Jessica Lang Dance will appear in its own Pillow-commissioned premiere by Lang, along with Thousand Yard Stare and the east coast premiere of Lyric Pieces. Lang has made serious headway into the classical ballet world, recently choreographing for American Ballet Theatre and Pacific Northwest Ballet which premiered her ballet Her Door to the Sky at the Pillow in 2016.
For a full list of performances and dates, click here.
Nothing's more impressive than a fluttery entrechat six. Here, School of American Ballet's Suki Schorer gives her tips for perfecting this tricky jump.
1. Your power is in the plié: One of the most common problems Suki Schorer sees is dancers taking too short of a plié. "They bounce off the floor and then don't have the power to go high in the air," she says. You'll need that height to create the beats. A juicy plié will also allow you to control the landing and hold on to the tempo.
2. Timing can help. As you plié, think "and-down-entrechat six" rather than "and-up-entrechat six."
3. Keep legs and chest forward: "As students start to jump, they often throw their upper bodies back and then their feet get behind their bodies," says Schorer. As a result, the legs swing front and back instead of scissoring through first and fifth. "You need your legs underneath you or a teensy bit in front, with your chest also forward."
New York City Ballet's Tiler Peck makes her curatorial debut this evening at the The Music Center's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, and she's brought an all-star dance cast with her to the West Coast. The BalletNow program will run through July 30, and features a mix of classical and contemporary works danced by 24 international stars.
But if you can't make it to LA this weekend for a performance, we've got the next best thing—courtesy of the BalletNow dancers themselves. We've been spotting rehearsal clips on Instagram all week, and we've gathered them right here. From Romeo and Juliet to Justin Peck's Chutes and Ladders, the dancers (which include Lauren Cuthbertson of The Royal Ballet and Jeanette Delgado who is currently on a leave of absence from Miami City Ballet) are as diverse as the program lineup. Just do yourself a favor, and watch with the sound on.
Five years after joining American Ballet Theatre, corps member Zhong-Jing Fang sustained a serious ankle injury. Not one to let a setback take her off course, Fang wondered: What other things can I do as an artist? She loved imitating movie actresses as a child, so she decided to try acting while she recovered. For two years, she went every Wednesday evening to a four-hour group class with acting coach Diaan Ainslee. There she learned to dissect a monologue, develop a character, listen and feel emotionally exposed. The experience thrust Fang out of her comfort zone and transformed her as an artist. “It's a different layer of becoming a person," Fang says, “and becoming much more real."
Acting classes, which often incorporate exercises aimed at self-exploration, can offer dancers tools to deepen their artistry. Even simple things, Fang notes, like working without mirrors, can inspire you to go beyond image and find a deeper sense of self. “There is a lot more to say, beyond just being able to dance," she says. Here, Fang and three other dancers explain how acting skills have made them better performers.
Do you have any tips for dealing with a stubborn partner? We both want to succeed, but we can't seem to communicate. —Jesse
We've all dreamt of it: dancing a romantic pas de deux with your real-life love interest. Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg have done it countless times as one of ballet's most beloved on- and offstage couples. In this immaculate 2003 performance with The Royal Ballet, where they were then principals, their chemistry brings magic to their roles in Sir Frederick Ashton's Cinderella.
Each year, the Princess Grace Foundation honors an extraordinary group of artists. This year, ballet got a major nod. Six of the eight winners in the dance performance and choreography category are ballet-related. (The other two are Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Jacquelin Harris and downtown dance-theater choreographer Raja Feather Kelly.) While you already know some of these names, we're excited to follow the careers of newcomers, like current Juilliard dance major Mikaela Kelly. Past Princess Grace Award winners include the likes of Carlos Acosta, Gillian Murphy and Tiler Peck, so they're in exceptional company.
What do you enjoy more: performing or being in the studio?
Performing, of course. It's like waiting and getting ready for your birthday party. The rehearsals are a hard process: It's a long wait for enjoyment.
What qualities do you admire most in other dancers?
A brain. Some say that a ballerina only needs good footwork, physical abilities, but I realized gradually that it's very important to have a good head on your shoulders. You go further if you think deeply about your roles.
What do you do to remain injury-free?
I always warm up properly, and I also have massages and water treatments to relax and soothe my body. Sometimes I go to the banya, a typical Russian sauna.
You created the lead role in Jean-Christophe Maillot's The Taming of the Shrew. What place does it have in your repertoire?
A very significant one. It's so precious when a ballet is made on you. So many dancers wait for that, try to find choreographers. If you are the very first person to do a role, it stays with you—and you stay in it, in a way.