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Onstage This Week: "Hamilton" Choreographer's Ballet Debut, Ballet West's Choreographic Fest, Australian Ballet in NYC, and More!

Scottish Ballet in Sophie Laplane's Sibilo, which will have its US Premiere at Ballet West's choreographic festival this week. Jane Hobson, Courtesy Ballet West.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.


"Hamilton" Choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler Makes His Ballet Debut in Tulsa

As a three-time Tony Award winner for Best Choreography, Andy Blankenbuehler has certainly made a name for himself on the Broadway stage. This spring, the acclaimed Hamilton choreographer is taking his talents to Tulsa Ballet, where he's creating his first-ever work for a ballet company. The piece tells the story of sailors on a submarine, daydreaming of their loved ones back home. It's set to a patchwork score, including works by Regina Spektor and the Benny Goodman Orchestra, with voices and sound effects overlaid. The world premiere joins Jerome Robbins' Fancy Free and George Balanchine's Who Cares? on a program blending the line between ballet and Broadway, running May 9–12.

Ballet West's Choreographic Festival Presents Scottish Ballet

Ballet West's third annual Choreographic Festival, running May 9–11, is welcoming international guests for the first time. Scottish Ballet will head to Salt Lake City to perform choreographer-in-residence Sophie Laplane's 2016 Sibilo, which explores whistling in connection with human emotion. Also on the program are four works danced by Ballet West: a world premiere by BalletMet artistic director Edwaard Liang, and pieces by BW company dancers Emily Adams, Katlyn Addison and Trevor Naumann.

A Visit From Down Under

The Australian Ballet heads to New York City May 9–12 as part of The Joyce Theater's Australia Festival. For its Joyce debut, the company is featuring 12 dancers in contemporary works by three of its homegrown resident choreographers. The program includes Alice Topp's Aurum, Stephen Baynes' Unspoken Dialogues and a world premiere by Tim Harbour.

Pennsylvania Ballet Closes Its Season With a World Premiere by Jorma Elo

Pennsylvania Ballet's closes out its season with a triple bill running May 9-12. A world premiere by Jorma Elo titled Trigger Touch Fade joins Christopher Wheeldon's DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse and the company premiere of Jerome Robbins' Glass Pieces. Elo's new work is set to excerpts from four violin concertos: one by Joseph Haydn and three by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Atlanta Ballet Director's Choice Program Includes World Premiere by Liam Scarlett

Atlanta Ballet's Director's Choice program, running May 10-12, showcases three contemporary works: Gemma Bond's Denouement, the company premiere of Kiyon Ross's Sum Stravinsky and a world premiere by Liam Scarlett titled Catch, set to Philip Glass' Violin Concerto No. 1. This commission follows the success of his Vespertine, which Atlanta Ballet presented in 2017. Catch a short glimpse above.

Kansas City Ballet Pairs Tharp and Forsythe with a David Parsons World Premiere

Kansas City Ballet's May 10-19 Tharp/Parsons/Forsythe is a celebration of three American contemporary choreographers. This high-energy program includes Twyla Tharp's In the Upper Room, William Forsythe's In the middle, somewhat elevated and the world premiere of David Parsons' A Play for Love. Parsons, a Kansas City native, has based his new work on some of Shakespeare's best-loved comedic characters.

Ballet Fantastique's Debuts Its New "Cleopatra"

May 9-12 marks the debut of Ballet Fantastique's Cleopatra. This new, full-length ballet is choreographed and produced by mother/daughter team Donna and Hannah Bontrager. This historic tale of romance and politics will be paired with original electronic music by Sidecar Tommy and Eonor Wildeboar from Beats Antique, played live.

MorDance Reimagines "Romeo and Juliet"

New York-based company MorDance presents its first full-length story ballet, R+J Reimagined May 9-11. Choreographed by artistic director Morgan McEwen, this work for 11 dancers and six musicians features a score by Ben Gallina, who mixes Sergei Prokofiev's original with his own compositions. To create her version, McEwen dug into the history behind Shakespeare's original play.

Kirk Peterson Choreographs a New "Beauty and the Beast" for American Repertory Ballet

May 10 marks the world premiere of choreographer Kirk Peterson's Beauty and the Beast for New Jersey-based company American Repertory Ballet. Set to music by Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Peterson's take on this magical tale is a good fit for audiences of all ages. Above, see the making of the ballet's original costumes.

San Francisco Ballet Presents Ratmansky's "Shostakovich Trilogy"

For San Francisco Ballet's eighth program of its season, the company celebrates choreographer Alexei Ratmansky. SFB presents his Shostakovich Trilogy May 7-12. This piece, a co-commission with American Ballet Theatre, is made up of three separate ballets: Symphony #9, Chamber Symphony and Piano Concerto #1, all set to Dmitri Shostakovich's orchestral works.

Ballet Memphis Brings Back Three Audience Favorites

This weekend, Ballet Memphis turns the viewing experience on its head with an audience-curated program. Rewind, running May 10-11, features three favorites from the past year, based on a vote by audience members. Trey McIntyre's Memphis Suite, Julia Adam's Devil's Fruit and Steven McMahon's Flyway will all be reprised.

4 Story Ballets Take the Stage

  • May 10-June 8, Boston Ballet brings back Sir Frederick Ashton's Cinderella
  • Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre presents Marius Petipa's The Sleeping Beauty, staged by Terrence Orr, May 10-12
  • The romantic classic Giselle returns to Ballet Austin May 10-12
  • Swan Lake, billed as an "iconic story of love and deception," hits Festival Ballet Providence's stages May 10-12

Ballet Careers
Lenai Alexis Wilkerson. Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Michelle Tabnick Public Relations.

This is one of a series of stories on recent graduates' on-campus experiences—and the connections they made that jump-started their dance careers. Lenai Alexis Wilkerson graduated from University of Southern California with a BFA in dance (dance performance concentration) and a political science minor in 2019.

As Lenai Alexis Wilkerson looked at colleges, she wanted a school that would prepare her for two totally different professions: dancing and law. "I knew, pretty much when I was 16, that I wanted to go to law school," she says. "So I wanted the opportunity to have a dual college experience, where I could have a conservatory training style within a university and I could focus equally on my academics." When she auditioned for the inaugural class of University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, she knew it was the right fit.

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Sponsored by Ballet Arizona
Tzu Chia Huang, Courtesy Ballet Arizona

These days, ballet dancers are asked to do more than they ever have—whether that's tackling versatile rep, taking on intense cross-training regimens or managing everything from their Instagram pages to their summer layoff gigs.

Without proper training, these demands can take a toll on both the mind and the body. But students can start preparing for them early—with the right summer intensive program.

The School of Ballet Arizona's summer intensive takes a well-rounded approach to training—not just focusing on technique and facility but nurturing overall dancer growth. "You cannot make a dancer just by screaming at them like they used to," says master ballet teacher Roberto Muñoz, who guests at the program every summer. "You have to take care of the person as well."

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News
Nicolas Pelletier in Carmina Burana. Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet.

Last week, Colorado Ballet interrupted Nutcracker rehearsals for an exciting announcement: Four dancers were being promoted. Though all made the jump from the company's corps de ballet, Nicolas Pelletier ascended directly to the rank of soloist, while Sean Omandam, Emily Speed and Melissa Zoebisch were promoted to demi-soloist. This news comes hot on the heels of last August's promotion of Francisco Estevez to principal.

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Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

We got Payne's advice on strategizing your summer intensive plan before the audition cycle kicks in:

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