OMG "Episodes"!

Last night I went to see New York City Ballet, which is coming to the end of "Balanchine Black and White Week", celebrating the choreographer's black and white leotard ballets.  On the program was Episodes, Le Tombeau de Couperin, and Symphony in Three Movements.  Awesome lineup.

 

I didn't know how awesome, though, until I saw Episodes.  I had never seen it before, and it totally blew me away.  It's a kaleidoscopic Balanchine powerhouse: ever-shifting patterns, luscious, yet angular choreography, and all-around hip-jutting female domination.  I think it's the most feminist and feminine Balanchine ballet I've ever seen, as you'll understand when I describe the individual sections, of which there are four.

 

Episodes (music by Webern) opens with "Symphony, Opus 21".  Abi Stafford and Tyler Angle led an energetic, responsive corps de ballet of three couples, who more or less imitated most of the steps the principal couple performed.  Abi tidily introduced us to the aggressively angled forward- and sideways-tilted hip motions that dominate this ballet; hers were especially smooth and economical.  Tyler partnered her gracefully as she shot him sidelong glances from under lowered lashes, revealing a sensuous quality underneath her neat exterior.

 

Next up were Teresa Reichlen (yay tall girls!) and Ask La Cour in "Five Pieces, Opus 10", and here's where I saw most of the mix of feminism and femininity that so struck me.  In this section, the stage is dark, save for a large spotlight in the middle, which casts stark, sculptural shadows on the dancers' bodies and faces.  Teresa dominated the pas de deux, climbing up and over and winding herself around Ask in a manner that called up a narrative in which a man becomes powerless in the face of a powerful woman.  Quite a few of the couple's movements were more than a little suggestive of this; at one point, Ask knelt as Teresa climbed over his shoulders on pointe to stand in front of him, and then held is hands as she slowly tilted backwards, pushing her pelvis forward toward the audience.  Another very striking pose was one in which she again stood in front of a kneeling Ask, and squeezed his hands between her thighs.  She absolutely commanded the stage and radiated a feminine authority that garnered her cheers during the curtain call.

 

Wendy Whelan and Sebastien Marcovici were next in "Concerto, Opus 24".  What can I say about Wendy as a neoclassical ballerina that has not already been said?  She has mastered this style; it seems to be in her very bones, in a body built for this kind of movement.  She can section off her arms and legs as no one can.  Her strength and maturity made it all look easy.  This section also had a feminist undertone, but was mildly aggressive, where Teresa's section was more sexual.  The only man onstage with five women, Sebastien was continuously surrounded by them in circular formations.  They seemed to be closing in on him, and at one point he seemed to be struggling to break free as he thrust is hands in the air repeatedly, while the women closed ranks in a tight circle around him, holding hands in a kind of solidarity.

 

The fourth and last section was "Ricercata in six voices from Bach's 'Musical Offering'", featuring Sara Mearns, Jonathan Stafford, and a large female corps.  (By now, it kind of seemed like Wendy and Sara had brough their own personal lady-militias with them).  Now, as you may know, I am a bit partial to Sara, and I was not disappointed last night.  She radiated strength and assurance and showed her trademark abandon--it did not seem so much that she had come onstange, rather, it looked like she had been turned loose.  Sara always seems to me like a wild thing gently governed by beautiful technique; she knows just how much she can let go, while still remaining solid and confident.  She managed to make the stark movement lyrical with her trademark lifted chest and fluid upper back and arms, which really took my breath away.

 

After the ballet finished, I realized I had been leaning forward in my seat in the same pose for the entire time.  I'm not sure whether I blinked or not.

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Andrew Peasgood and Constance Devernay in "The Fairy's Kiss." Photo by Andy Ross, courtesy Scottish Ballet.

From now through January 15, Pointe is streaming Scottish Ballet in Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Le Baiser de la Fée (The Fairy's Kiss). This one-act ballet, based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale "The Ice Maiden," was choreographed for The Royal Ballet in 1960. For more on the ballet's history and for behind-the-scenes footage, click here.

Synopsis

The Lullaby in the Storm
A mother with her child struggles through the storm. The Fairy with her attendants appears and pursues her. The Fairy separates the mother from her child. Passing villagers find the body of the mother, now dead, and guided by the Fairy, they find the child. The Fairy kisses him on the forehead. The villagers become frightened and taking the child with them, they run away.

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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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via YouTube

It's finally the weekend, and we're celebrating the best way we know how—a new ballet video. Juliet Doherty (who trained with San Francisco Ballet and Master Ballet Academy, and is set to star in the dance film, On Pointe), teamed up with Cartoon Network for her latest project.

"Cartoon Network contacted me about their show, Steven Universe, which was coming out with a new vinyl album of the soundtrack of the show," Doherty shared with Pointe. "They told me about one of the show's main characters named, Pearl, who is a strong-willed character but has the grace inspired by a ballerina."

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Mr. Jeremy FIsher, from Sir Frederick Ashton's "The Tales of Beatrix Potter."

Animal roles might not typically be what dancers dream of performing…but they're oh-so-fun to watch. You can't help falling under their spell (and perhaps aspiring to dance one someday). Here's a round-up of some of our favorite furry and feathered roles.

Bunny Hop

Run. Dance in a circle. Pretend to be a rabbit. It might sound like a creative movement combo, but don't let that fool you. The role of Peter Rabbit in Sir Frederick Ashton's The Tales of Beatrix Potter requires fierce technique—not to mention the ability to project personality while wearing an animal head and fur suit.


Four-Legged Interlude

Who do you turn to for halftime entertainment during a quartet of fairy variations? Dancing lizards, mice and a frog of course! This charming quintet of creatures light up the stage in David Bintley's Cinderella.

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Your Career
Photo Courtesy Barry Kerollis.

I was probably about 15 years old when the director of my local dance school, seeing my drive and ambition, asked me to work as a teaching assistant for one of the main ballet instructors. She asked to meet with me to discuss the details of my new job. She explained what my role was in the studio, expectations of me in the position and more. But as we approached the end of my meeting, I wasn't expecting the conversation to take the serious turn that it did.

"Now, Barry, I need you to be very, very careful about how you work with these young girls. Kids are sensitive and, especially considering that you are a man, if you correct them in a way that can be viewed as sexual by either a student or a parent, even if you didn't do anything, you could be jeopardizing your future as a teacher and in this field." The look on my face must have been utter shock; the prospect of losing my job or getting sued over sharing my artform had never crossed my mind. This forever changed my perspective on being a dance educator, and I still find myself overly cautious about the way that I work with my students today.

Unless you've been hiding underneath a holiday blanket, it has become abundantly clear that we are undergoing a massive cultural shift here in the States. It started in the entertainment industry, then shifted to major corporations. Sexual misconduct in the form of harassment and assault that had been swept under the rug for years is bubbling to the surface. Things began to boil quite quickly, and those interested in our performing-arts world were speculating that something was going to be brought up in our tight-knit community, especially considering the hands-on approach that teachers have with students, dancers have with other dancers and artistic staff has while coaching employees. I had to sit on my own hands for over a month, after I was given a heads-up that a major news publication was working on an exposé about Peter Martins and his many alleged abuses (which had been quietly circulating around our dance community for years).

Keep reading at dance-teacher.com.

Your Career
Erica Lall and Shaakir Muhammad in class at American Ballet Theatre's 2013 New York Summer Intensive. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT.

This story originally appeared in the December 2013/January 2014 issue of Pointe.

When Pacific Northwest Ballet School student Madison Abeo was accepted into San Francisco Ballet School's summer session on a partial scholarship, she was thrilled. But then she added up the remaining cost for the program and realized she didn't have the funds. “I really wanted to go," she says, “but we just couldn't make the other half of it work."

Ballet training is expensive. For many families, a trip to a dream summer intensive simply isn't in the budget. SFB was $2,500 out of Abeo's reach. But she was determined. At the suggestion of her aunt, Abeo created a Facebook fan page where she asked for opportunities to babysit or perform odd jobs, and included a link to a PayPal account where friends and family could make donations. Two local dancewear businesses, Vala Dancewear and Class Act Tutu, offered to outfit her for fundraising photos, which a photographer took for her Facebook page for free. By June, Abeo had raised enough for tuition—plus plenty of pointe shoes.

Affording your dream intensive isn't as difficult as you might think. There are a surprising number of eager dance supporters out there. Case in point: On Kickstarter, dance projects have the highest success rate of any type of campaign, with dancers receiving over $4 million in donations through the site since it began. You can also apply for need- or merit-based grants and scholarships, either through your summer program or an outside foundation. Most dancers who want it badly enough can make it happen.


Madison Abeo with other Pacific Northwest Ballet School students in the 2013 School Performance of an excerpt from "Serenade," choreography by George Balanchine. Photo by Rex Tranter, Courtesy Abeo.

Take Your Cause to the (Online) Streets

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Your Career
In class at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy summer intensive. Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy Russian American Foundation.

When Complexions Contemporary Ballet's summer intensive program director Meg Paul auditions students for its Detroit intensive, there's one thing that catches her eye for all the wrong reasons. "It's a real pet peeve of mine when a dancer keeps shifting her eyes to me during a phrase," she says. "It tells me that she's not fully invested in the movement, that she's more interested in being watched than in embodying the choreography."

Every summer intensive director has their own list of audition deal-breakers, but there are a handful of universal turnoffs to avoid. "Yes, we want the most talented students, but when talent is paired with a bad attitude or improper etiquette, it gives us pause," Paul says. While certain behaviors may seem minor, they can make all the difference when it comes time for scholarship offers or even acceptance decisions.

DEAL BREAKER #1: Not Presenting Yourself Professionally

An audition is a first impression, and you want to look your best. This begins with researching the specific intensive's audition requirements. "Our audition has a dress code, and we expect dancers to respect that," says Rina Kirshner, director of the Russian American Foundation's Bolshoi Ballet Academy programs. "We want dancers to stand out through hard work and talent, not brightly colored leotards or flowers in their hair."

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