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Onstage This Week: Ballet Across America, Joffrey World Premiere, Tharp Trio at ABT, and More!

Cylla von Tiedemann, Courtesy NBoC

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


Dance Theatre of Harlem and Miami City Ballet Join Forces at the Kennedy Center for Ballet Across America

The Kennedy Center's fifth annual Ballet Across America festival runs from May 28-June 2, and it shines a spotlight on women's creativity and leadership by presenting two female-led companies: Dance Theatre of Harlem and Miami City Ballet. May 28-30, audiences can see DTH in George Balanchine's Valse Fantasie, Dianne McIntyre's Change, Claudia Schreier's Passage and Geoffrey Holder's Dougla. June 1-2, MCB presents Balanchine's Walpurgisnacht Ballet, Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Carousel Pas de Deux, the jointly choreographed Brahms/Handel by Jerome Robbins and Twyla Tharp, and Justin Peck's Heatscape. On May 31 the companies come together for a shared program; dancers from both ensembles present the world premiere of Pam Tanowitz's Gustave Le Grey No. 1 to a score by Caroline Shaw.

The Joffrey Ballet's Collaboration With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Includes a World Premiere

May 30-June 1, The Joffrey Ballet collaborates with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a program titled Stravinsky & The Joffrey Ballet. The dancers will perform two works to music by Igor Stravinsky: Christopher Wheeldon's Commedia to his Pulcinella Suite and the world premiere of Stephanie Martinez's Bliss!, set to Dumbarton Oaks Concerto. The Symphony will also play works by Gioachino Rossini and Maurice Ravel. Above, CSO conductor Matthias Pintscher and Joffrey artistic director Ashley Wheater discuss Stravinsky's role in the ballet canon.

ABT's Twyla Tharp Trio Features the Company Premiere of "Deuce Coupe" 

After three weeks dedicated to Alexei Ratmansky's oeuvre, American Ballet Theatre's Metropolitan Opera House season changes course with Tharp Trio. This program, running May 30-June 3, features three diverse Twyla Tharp ballets: The Brahms-Haydn Variations, Deuce Coupe and In The Upper Room. Deuce Coupe, set to music by The Beach Boys, will be a company premiere; it debuted in 1973 with dancers from the Joffrey Ballet and Twyla Tharp Dance. Above, Tharp shares what it's been like to work with three generations of ABT dancers.

National Ballet of Canada's All Forsythe Program Includes Two Company Premieres 

June 1-8 marks National Ballet of Canada's Physical Thinking program, celebrating the work of William Forsythe. The lineup includes The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude and Approximate Sonata 2016 (both company premieres), and The Second Detail. The above trailer, featuring second soloist Kathryn Hosier, is a fresh reminder of Forsythe's boundary-stretching style.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" Takes the Stage at NYCB and Milwaukee Ballet

William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream has long been a source of creative fodder for artists of all mediums. This week, two Midsummer ballets, both to Felix Mendelssohn's beloved score, hit the stage.

  • New York City Ballet closes out its spring season with a run of George Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream May 28-June 2. Above, Tiler Peck discusses dancing the ballet's Divertissement pas de deux.
  • May 30-June 2, Milwaukee Ballet closes out its 2018/19 season with its version, choreographed by Bruce Wells.

"The Merry Widow" Returns to Houston Ballet

May 31-June 9, Houston Ballet brings back British choreographer Ronald Hynd's The Merry Widow. This luscious ballet, set to a score by Franz Lehár, is based on Lehár's famous 1905 operetta about a secret romance taking place in the upper echelons of society. Above, Houston Ballet dancers talk about why they love this production.

PNB's Presents a Mixed Bill of Audience Favorites 

Pacific Northwest Ballet presents its final mixed bill of the season May 31-June 9. The program includes a a trio of classics—George Balanchine's Theme and Variations and Tarantella and Jose Limón's The Moor's Pavane—as well as a new favorite, company dancer Price Suddarth's Signature. PNB's Kyle Davis and Angelica Generosa discuss Tarantella in the above video.

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Ballet West in rehearsal for Le Chant du Rossignol. Beau Pearson, Courtesy Ballet West.

Ballet West opens its season October 25–November 2 with a triptych of works from George Balanchine's early choreographic career with Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Highlighting the program is Balanchine's 1925 The Song of the Nightingale (Le Chant du Rossignol), never before seen in the U.S. This ballet is not only the first piece that a then-21-year-old Balanchine made for the Ballets Russes; it also marks his first collaboration with Igor Stravinsky, and features costumes by Henri Matisse. To bring it to Salt Lake City, Ballet West is working closely with Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer, who reconstructed the work for Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo in 1999.

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Stella Abrera in Le Corsaire. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT.

American Ballet Theatre announced today that, after 24 years, beloved principal dancer Stella Abrera will retire from the stage this coming summer. Her farewell performance will be June 13, 2020, at the Metropolitan Opera House, dancing the title role in Giselle.

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Ballet Careers
Sisters Isabella Shaker and Alexandra Pullen. Photo Courtesy Alexandra Pullen.

This is the second in a series of articles this month about ballet siblings.

My mom was in the corps de ballet at American Ballet Theatre. A generation later, so was I. As if that's not enough for one family, my younger sister Isabella Shaker dreams of following in our dancing footsteps. Her endeavor, and her status as somewhat of a child prodigy, stirs feelings of pride and apprehension within me, since I have lived through the ups and downs of this intense yet rewarding career.

Ballet will always be my first love and the thing that brings me the most joy, and my dance career has opened endless opportunities for me. However, it's a difficult career path that requires a lifelong dedication. It's super competitive and can lead to body image issues, physical injury and stress. Most dancers will face some of these problems; I definitely dealt with all three.

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Ballet Stars
Photo by Gabriel Davalos, Courtesy Valdés

For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.

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