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 in George Balanchine's Serenade) (Photo by Andrea Mohin, via The New York Times

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.

Pacific Northwest Ballet in Jessica Lang's Her Door to the Sky (photo by Hayim Heron)

 

For a full list of performances and dates, click here.

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

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Angela Sterling, Courtesy of Pacific Northwest Ballet

Clear your schedule now for Monday, January 29th, 2:45PM (EST)/ 11:45AM (PST). Pacific Northwest Ballet will be live-streaming rehearsal from Kent Stowell's Swan Lake, straight from their Seattle, WA-based studios. To psych us up for their on stage performances February 2nd - 11th, PNB is letting us in on their Act II rehearsal.

From the corps of swans to Odette and Prince Siegfried's pas de deux, and the infamous four swans, this rehearsal is not to be missed. You can sign up now for a live-stream reminder on their site. In the meantime, we'll be brushing up on our Cygnets with this PNB sneak peek.

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Rigorous program, check. Well-rounded technical training, check. Purposeful liberal arts curriculum, check. Study your craft abroad, check! If you are looking for all the above, the Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College truly has it all.

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Summer Study Advice
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Videos are a great alternative when auditioning in person isn't possible. Here are some general guidelines for making a good impression.

1. Follow directions. Before filming, research what each school you're interested in requires. "It demonstrates your ability to follow instructions, and schools pay attention to that," says Kate Lydon, artistic director of American Ballet Theatre's summer intensives and the ABT Studio Company. "If the guidelines haven't been followed, your video might not be watched the whole way through." You may need to make multiple versions to accommodate different schools.

2. Videos should be no longer than 10 minutes. "Keep it short, simple and direct," advises Philip Neal, dance department chair at The Patel Conservatory and artistic director of Next Generation Ballet. "You have to be sensitive to how much time the director has to sit down and look at it." Barre can be abbreviated, showing only one side per exercise, alternating. Directors will be looking at fundamentals—placement, turnout, leg lines, stability—but don't ignore musicality or movement quality. Make sure music choices match combinations and are correctly synced in the footage.

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I want to be a professional dancer, but my parents won't listen. They either don't think I can do it (contrary to what my teachers have said) or they won't let me take the necessary steps to become a professional. Please help. —Audrey

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Videos

They say that pigeons mate for life—perhaps that's why these birds naturally symbolize the young lovers in Sir Frederick Ashton's The Two Pigeons. In these two clips from a 1987 performance in Pisa, Alessandra Ferri and Robert LaFosse—then stars with American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet, respectively—dance a rapturous pas de deux at the end of Act II. With tiny pricks of her feet and bird-like flaps of her elbows in Part 1, Ferri marks her anguish, thinking she's been abandoned for another woman. Later, both she and LaFosse grow more and more entangled as they reconcile, Ferri dancing with the passionate abandon she's famous for. I love how in Part 2 (0:20), they can't seem to get enough of each other as their necks arch and intertwine. At the end of the ballet, two pigeons fly in to perch symbolically on the chair—er, there's supposed to be two. It looks like one missed its cue at this performance! No matter—Ferri and LaFosse's dancing make it clear that these young lovers are meant to be together for life. Happy #TBT!

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Summer Study Advice
The author at 13, rehearsing at her home studio, Ballet Arts Theater, in Endicott, NY. Courtesy McGuire.

This story originally appeared in the December 2010/January 2011 issue of Pointe.

As a young student at a small ballet school in upstate New York, I was obsessed with getting into the School of American Ballet. From the age of 10, I entered class each day with the ultimate goal of studying at SAB dangling before me like a carrot on a stick. Every effort I made, every extra class I took was for the sole purpose of getting into what I thought was the only ballet school that really mattered.

I auditioned for SAB's summer program for the first time when I was 12. In the weeks that followed, I became a vulture hovering over my family's mail, squawking at my mother if the day's letters were not presented for my inspection when I walked through the door. The day the letter finally arrived, it was thin and limp. I cried for a week as I dealt with the crushing feeling of rejection for one of the first times in my life.

My mind filled with questions and self-doubt. What was wrong with me? Why wasn't I good enough? I figured I must be too fat, too slow, my feet too flat. I had worked so hard. I had wished on every fallen eyelash and dead dandelion in pursuit of my single goal, just to have a three-paragraph form letter conclude that I was a failure. For a while, I let myself wallow in the comfort of my resentment, content to believe that success should have come easily, and that to fall was the same as to fail.

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