When American Ballet Theatre soloist Calvin Royal III and New York City Ballet soloist Unity Phelan burst into the opening diagonal of George Balanchine's Agon on Monday, they had reason to be nervous. Sitting in the downstage corner of Columbia University's Miller Theater—precisely where they'd need to spot their pencil turns—was Arthur Mitchell, the Dance Theater of Harlem co-founder and longtime director who originated the male role at NYCB in 1957. It was a rare and exciting moment of the future meeting the past. (Royal later described the experience as "surreal.") The two dancers, who had been coached by former NYCB principal Heather Watts, gave an electric and intense performance. Afterwards, Mitchell turned to the audience from his blue leather chair and smiled. "I would say it's in good hands."
Royal III and Phelan performing "Agon" during the Vail Dance Festival. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy Vail Dance Festival.
Their appearance was part of "An Informal Performance on the Art of Dance," an evening directed by Mitchell to celebrate both his legacy and the Arthur Mitchell archive at Columbia's Rare Book and Manuscript Library. (The first exhibition featuring Mitchell's donated archives will be on display at Columbia's Wallach Art Gallery January 13–March 11, 2018.) A slew of guest artists came together for the program, which included works by Balanchine, Alvin Ailey and Mitchell himself (including his South African Suite and Rythmetron).
New York City Ballet principal Lauren Lovette is no stranger to Colorado's Vail Dance Festival—she's performed there each summer since 2011. This year, she returns not only as a dancer but as a choreographer. Lovette gained recognition for her September 2016 choreographic debut at NYCB, For Clara. On August 7, Vail audiences will see her latest major commission.
Lovette as Giselle at the 2016 Vail Dance FestivalPhoto by Erin Baiano
Today The Juilliard School announced that former New York City Ballet star Damian Woetzel will become its next president. Woetzel, who currently serves as artistic director of the Vail Dance Festival and the Aspen Institute Arts Program will transition to his role at Juilliard, arguably the country's most prestigious performing arts conservatory, during the summer of 2018.