Photo by Christopher Duggan, Courtesy James Whiteside Presents.

On Wednesday, June 19, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival welcomes James Whiteside Presents to the outdoor Inside/Out stage. This will be the American Ballet Theatre principal's fourth time at the Pillow. He first came to the Massachusetts–based Dance Festival as a corps de ballet member of Boston Ballet in 2004. ("I was struck by the beauty of the place," he recalls.) Whiteside returned in 2010 with Avi Scher & Dancers and most recently with Daniil Simkin's Intensio in 2015.

Now, Whiteside is bringing a program of his own work, performed alongside muse and fellow ABT soloist Cassandra Trenary and actor/show maker Jack Ferver.

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Georgina Pazcoguin as Victoria in the Broadway revival of CATS (photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy CATS)

A debilitating illness forced Katelyn Prominski to retire early from Pennsylvania Ballet. However, once she recovered, she felt ready to tackle a new stage: Broadway. But before she began booking musicals like Flashdance and Dirty Dancing, she had to reckon with a new and humbling audition process. “When you go into a Broadway audition, you learn a dance combo first and then by the time they ask you to sing, your heart rate is going," says Prominski. “I remember one audition where I forgot the words and la-di-da'd my way through instead of singing the lyrics."

More and more ballet dancers are taking a chance on Broadway musicals. New York City Ballet principal Megan Fairchild recently starred in On the Town, while ballet-centric shows such as Christopher Wheeldon's An American in Paris have provided starring and ensemble opportunities for dancers from NYCB, The Royal Ballet Miami City Ballet and more. Many cite the artistic benefits of exploring an entirely new side of performance and the challenge of dancing, acting and singing. With eight shows a week, you get to practically live onstage and dive deep into a role. The pay is usually better, too. But in order to make this new world your own, you must be ready to rethink your audition approach and be open to a different set of professional expectations.

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News

If you haven’t seen Christopher Wheeldon’s Tony Award winning musical An American in Paris yet, you better hop to it. The hugely successful Broadway production closes on January 1, 2017 after a nearly two-year long run. Don’t panic if you can’t drop everything and buy a plane ticket to New York, though: The show will commence its national tour in October 2016.

Garen Scribner and Leanne Cope. Photo by Matthew Murphy via Broadway World.

The U.S. tour will star former San Francisco Ballet soloist Garen Scribner as Jerry Mulligan (who has been performing the role on Broadway) and former Miami City Ballet soloist Sara Esty as Lise Dassin. At the show’s London opening in March 2017, New York City Ballet principal Robert Fairchild and The Royal Ballet’s Leanne Cope will reprise their originating roles.

“Ballerinas” and “Broadway” can be used in the same sentence more and more these days. Who could forget Megan Fairchild and Misty Copeland in On the Town? Next up for Lincoln Center/Great White Way crossovers: New York City Ballet soloist Georgina Pazcoguin (who also starred in On the Town) will join the cast of the CATS revival, opening on Broadway in July.

The American in Paris tour includes stops in Florida, Texas, California, Colorado, Iowa and more. For a complete list and tickets, visit here.

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

News

Christopher Wheeldon rehearsing Leanne Cope in An American in Paris. Photo by Matt Trent via the Wall Street Journal.

If you had plans for Sunday night, you may want to cancel. This week on CBS’ "60 Minutes," host Lesley Stahl will interview Christopher Wheeldon. This master choreographer’s career—which has given us stunning story ballets and hauntingly beautiful pas de deux—provides a lot of material for 60 minutes worth of intimate conversation. But one hot topic Stahl focuses on is how Wheeldon has made ballet mainstream with Broadway show An American in Paris, which he directed and choreographed (and won a Tony Award for).

The interview promises some personal moments: “I certainly felt like a door was flung open,” Wheeldon says of American in Paris.  “It is possible for ballet to be young, sexy, dynamic, exciting… to tell complex stories, not just stories about sleeping princesses but to take audiences on breathtaking journeys.” And the preview claims that Wheeldon is transforming ballet into something that’s “fun to watch.” Of course, we’d argue that it was already, but we won’t miss a chance get inside Wheeldon’s head.

Tune in to CBS on Sunday, April 3 at 7pm ET/PT.

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

The Royal Ballet in Wheeldon's The Winter's Tale. Photo by Tristram Kenton via the Guardian.

News

American Ballet Theatre just wrapped up its 2015 spring season, but that doesn’t mean newly promoted principal Misty Copeland is slowing down any. Yesterday, The New York Times announced that from August 25–September 5, Copeland will be dancing—and singing—as Ivy Smith in the Broadway musical On the Town. (New York City Ballet principal Megan Fairchild currently portrays the role.) According to Broadwayworld.com, Copeland will perform during the Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evening shows and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees (but not the Saturday and Sunday evening performances). Luckily, her run on the Great White Way coincides with ABT’s summer layoff, so she should be back on the ballet stage in time for the company’s fall season. How on earth does she do it all? I’m not sure, but ballet hasn’t gotten this much popular attention in a long time. Keep it coming, Misty!

(Photo by Kyle Froman for Pointe)

Ever wonder what life is like as a ballerina on Broadway? Just peek inside Leanne Cope’s dance bag. Cope, who stars as Lise in Christopher Wheeldon’s production of An American in Paris, carries not only pointe shoes in her Parisian canvas tote but also a well-worn pair of LaDuca heels. “My dresser, Midge, carries this bag around with her during the show, just in case of emergencies,” says the Royal Ballet first artist, who’s on sabbatical from the company through the end of the show’s run. “She basically shadows me, because I have a lot of quick changes.”

Cope always has her script nearby, as well. “Not only is every word of the show written in here, but all my stage directions. It’s nice to go back to it every once in a while. When you reread it, almost as a novel, it gives you another spin on things.” Her other Broadway must-have? Lip balm. “With all the singing and talking, my lips tend to get dry,” she says. It also serves as a better alternative to lipstick during kissing scenes with her co-star, New York City Ballet principal Robert Fairchild. “We don’t do lipstick—it would end up all over his face!”

The Goods

Clockwise from top right: Canvas bag; character shoes; ballet slippers; booties; water bottle; practice skirt (“This is actually from Zara, but it moves really nicely and is similar to all my costumes”); legwarmers; mints (“Very important, since I speak so close to people onstage”); scissors; jelly tubes (“My big toenails are always bruised”); assorted lip balms; makeup bag; Jet Glue; phone; Hypafix athletic tape (“I brought practically a year’s supply from London—it stretches with you”); Coco Chanel perfume (“I wanted to choose a scent for Lise, especially since she works behind the perfume counter. It’s French—I think it’s quite her”); pointe shoes; toe pads; script.

When Tony nominations are announced on May 5, it’s not a stretch to guess that Broadway super-hit Billy Elliot: The Musical will receive at least a few nods. Elton John’s score and Peter Darling’s choreography have both made a splash. But the scene-stealers are the young boys who alternate in the title role.

 

All three have impressive dance resumés, but the buzz in the ballet world is David Alvarez, a 14-year-old scholarship student at American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. The Montréal native began turning heads in New York City four years ago when he auditioned for JKO. Instead of attending a typical cattle call audition, Alvarez was thrown into ABT company class. Undeterred, he performed with enough confidence and épaulement to rival some of the company’s principals.

 

Since then, Alvarez has been focused intently on his dream of joining ABT. Initially, he didn’t even want to audition for Billy Elliot. “I’d seen the movie and liked it, but I’m not a huge Broadway fan,” he says. He decided to try out after the casting director called JKO looking for talented male students and his teacher recommended him.

 

Alvarez had to train for six months in acting, singing and tap dancing before the producers told him he was cast as Billy. “It was really frustrating not knowing if I’d gotten the part. It was such hard work—I didn’t want to be doing it all for nothing,” he says. Nonetheless, he kept at it. “It was a great opportunity to play a principal role. And I felt like a lot of things might happen because of it.”

 

Alvarez says the most difficult skill to master was speaking with a British Midlands dialect, since English is his third language, after Spanish and French. Nailing Billy’s tap numbers was also a challenge. “But,” he notes, “in the future it will definitely help me as a dancer to know other styles than just ballet.”

 

On top of training, rehearsals and three performances a week, Alvarez still takes three to four technique classes at JKO. He believes his ballet background has given him the stamina to make it through the grueling schedule without getting injured.

 

Alvarez plans to return to training full-time at JKO as soon as he finishes with Billy. But he hopes to bring with him the more relaxed attitude he’s learned from Broadway: “In ballet class, I often stress myself out and go crazy if anything’s not right. But in the Broad­way world, people just have fun with it. I like that. Being in Billy has taught me to enjoy performing more—even when it’s not perfect.”

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