Elisabeth Beyer, Elwince Magbitang and Jake Roxander in Le Corsaire Suite. Avery Brunkus, Courtesy ABT.

After Fall "Bubble" Residency, ABT Studio Company Gets Ready to Present Its Winter Virtual Program

The dominant narrative of how a young ballet dancer gets into a professional company generally goes something like this: You're accepted into a prestigious summer session at a company school, and then get invited to stay year-round. You perform a bit with the company for The Nutcracker and, if you're lucky, in a few other programs. You hope for a leading role in the student showcase performance, which helps you land an apprenticeship. After a year, you get invited to join the corps.


And then there's ABT Studio Company, which turns that narrative up a notch—to an altogether more glamorous wattage. Studio Company members tour extensively all over the country and world, almost all year long, and perform in American Ballet Theatre's Nutcracker in California, each year. World-class choreographers create new works on them. Increasingly, "StuCo," as it's affectionately called, has become the direct pipeline into ABT. (Almost 80 percent of company members spent some time there.) Its dancers, ages 17 to 21, are some of the most talented of their generation. And certainly, they are among the most fortunate.

But then came COVID-19, which abruptly sent all of the dancers home in March 2020. And home they've remained ever since, except for a seven-week fall "bubble" during which they briefly reunited and put together a virtual program. The resulting performance, ABT Studio Company Winter Festival, will premiere in two parts on February 9 and 10 on ABT's YouTube channel.

Rewind to March 2020: The 2019–20 cohort's touring schedule had been jam-packed. They'd performed in the Philippines, Los Angeles, Orange County, upstate New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and North Carolina. They were soon to fly to London for the International Draft Works festival hosted by The Royal Opera House. Choreographer and New York City Ballet principal Lauren Lovette had just created a new piece on them, and she hit the finish line not an hour too soon. After wrapping up rehearsal on Friday, March 13—one day after Broadway was shut down, and the same day that then-President Trump declared a national emergency—the dancers were told to fly home as soon as possible.

"I caught them just in the nick of time," Lovette says. Her La Follia Variations was meant to premiere a month later at the Ailey Citigroup Theater. Instead, the dancers—many of whom hadn't lived at home with their parents for years—were back in their family living rooms taking class together on Zoom, not knowing when or if they'd make it back to New York City.

Kyra Coco, a light skinned-Black ballet dancer, performs a sissone in second onto her left leg on pointe. Wearing a black spaghetti strap leotard and black skirt, she looks out over her right hand, which is stretched out to the side.

Kyra Coco in Sascha Radetsky's Class Concert

Avery Brunkus, ABT

For Sascha Radetsky, ABT Studio Company's artistic director, getting the dancers back together quickly became an imperative. He hatched the idea of the fall bubble with Studio Company manager Claire Florian as soon as it became clear that reconvening in New York City would not happen any time soon. His wife, Stella Abrera—an ABT principal until this past summer—had recently become artistic director of Kaatsbaan Cultural Park in Tivoli, New York. Sitting on 153 acres, the center had everything they needed: space, studios and living accommodations.

But first there was the question of quarantining. After flying back to New York City in late September, the dancers were loaded into extra-large shuttle buses that allowed for social distancing, and driven to Goodspeed Musicals, a performing arts center in East Haddam, Connecticut. For two weeks, they quarantined and trained in single bedrooms—on carpeted floors—before they finally got back into the studio. They spent a week rehearsing at Goodspeed before heading to Kaatsbaan.

"It was electric," says Tristan Brosnan, who joined Studio Company in September 2019. "All these connections hadn't been sparked since March, but they were suddenly there. You're seeing people without a face mask, you're touching them, dancing with them. Everyone had so much energy, and extra reserves of motivation, because it defied everything that our lives had become for the past eight or nine months."

Over five weeks at Goodspeed and Kaatsbaan, they prepared nine pieces for filming, including a new work by Hope Boykin entitled For What Is It All Worth? The piece, says Boykin, is inspired by "young people who are able to stand up for what they know is right."

The bubble also served as a glint of hope against a backdrop of desperation. For Studio Company dancers, the brutal economic reality of the ballet world, which has been frozen in time by the pandemic and resulted in wide-scale hiring freezes, is all too real.

A large group of male and female dancers in black leggings, white T-shits and jean jackets do a sissone with their left legs in front and their arms thrown back. They jump in front of a red backdrop, cocking their heads towards the audience with big smiles.

ABT Studio Company dancers in Hope Boykin's For What Is It All Worth?

Avery Brunkus, Courtesy ABT

For Boykin, however, there is reason for them to be optimistic: "This bubble has raised the bar of what they know they're capable of." She views the quarantine as a metaphor for all the sacrifices they've been willing to make to keep dancing since COVID began, and she's confident they'll come out all the stronger for it. "They just need to have patience," she says. "It's not going to be easy, but they've got to remember they're still on an upward trajectory."

Lovette sees this moment as a time that's ripe for nurturing assertiveness and exploration. "What's cool about right now is that it's a direct cutoff from the way things have always gone," she says. "I don't think the old way of 'waiting to be asked' is how things are going to go anymore. I keep telling young dancers, this is the time to connect to who you are and to explore: If you're interested in costume design, now's the time to play. If you've thought about choreographing, now's the time to play."

Kotomi Yamada, a young Asian ballet dancer, performs a piqu\u00e9 attitude on pointe on her right leg and looks up toward her raised right arm. She wears a black camisole leotard and white practice tutu and dances on a black box stage in front of a blue backdrop.

Kotomi Yamada in Le Corsaire Suite

Avery Brunkus, Courtesy ABT

Radetsky, who is currently co-planning a spring bubble for the Studio Company, sees another silver lining, which is the emergence of an artistic maturity that teenage dancers are normally years away from cultivating.

"These dancers have matured a lot in a short amount of time," he says. "They've gone through a mini crucible—like an injury. It's grief, not being able to do what you love to do."

"To have what you love most taken away from you is something that happens to all dancers eventually, but they've been hit with this trial run at a very young age," Radetsky adds. "That fosters life experience. It can deepen your artistry, as it galvanizes your hunger to get back out there."

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Eighteen-year-old Sarah Patterson (foreground), with her classmates at New Ballet School. She's decided to stay home this summer to take advantage of outdoor, in-person classes. Courtesy New Ballet School.

Why Planning Summer Study This Year Is More Complicated Than Ever

When it comes to navigating summer intensives, 2021 may be more complicated for ballet students than last year. On the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic's spring spike in 2020, summer programs went all-virtual or had very limited capacity. This year is more of a mixed bag, with regulations and restrictions varying widely across state and county lines and changing week by week.

Between vaccines and variants, can students aim for a full calendar of intensive training at local and national summer programs?

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Chris Hardy, Courtesy LINES

Check Out These 2021 Summer Intensives Especially for Adults

After a year of shuttered studios, virtual-only classes, and waving to ballet buddies over Zoom, summer intensives are back. For adult students, packing up for a few days of intensive training might seem like a pipe dream, as many of us spent the last year trying to fit in ballet classes while juggling work and, for those of us with kids, remote learning. With the country opening up again, let's start planning (safely!) for workshops that allow us to jump into technique, conditioning and, of course, high-elbowing some new friends.

For in-person intensives, please check the studio's website for detailed health and safety guidelines, including policies on masks, cleaning/hygiene, social distancing, and the policy on having to cancel in-person programs due to COVID-19 restrictions.

CALIFORNIA

Alonzo King LINES Ballet Adult Dance Intensive (virtual only, via Zoom)

May 28–31, San Francisco

Immerse yourself in the celebrated home of Alonzo King, the artistic visionary who created LINES 39 years ago. Now in its second year as a virtual offering, this four-day workshop includes ballet, yoga, Pilates, choreography and contemporary. Students also have the option to drop in to class if they can't commit to all four days.

KENTUCKY

Lexington Ballet Adult Ballet Intensive

July 12–16, Lexington

Why should thoroughbreds have all the fun of training in the horse capital of the world? Reach new heights in your training at Lexington Ballet's Adult Ballet Intensive. Join school directors Luis and Nancy Dominguez and principal instructor Ayoko Lloyd for a five-day workshop that includes conditioning, Pilates, technique and repertoire. All classes are held in the evenings, and the program welcomes beginning through advanced students.

A group of eight smiling adult ballet students\u2014seven women and one man in the middle\u2014pose in a line and stand on their right leg in tendu crois\u00e9 devant.

A group of dancers pose at a past Lexington Ballet Adult Dance Intensive.

Ayoko Lloyd, Courtesy Lexington Ballet

Louisville Ballet Adult Summer Intensive

May 31–June 4, Louisville

Polish off a glass of sweet tea (or two), and then work up a sweet sweat at Louisville Ballet's Adult Summer Intensive. Geared towards beginning through advanced levels, students ages 18+ can take part in half- or full days of training. Classes offered include technique, pointe and jump strengthening, modern, Pilates and yoga. Students will also perform in a livestreamed performance on the final day.

MASSACHUSETTS

Brookline Ballet School Adult Summer Ballet Intensive

June 23–27, Brookline

The Red Sox and New England Patriots may get a bulk of the glory in Beantown, but the city is also a mecca for ballet. At Brookline Ballet School's Adult Summer Ballet Intensive, students (beginner or intermediate level) will spend three weeknights and two weekend mornings in technique and repertoire classes, wrapping up with an informal performance on Sunday afternoon.

NEW YORK

Kat Wildish Presents (virtual, via Zoom)

June 14–25 and July 12–23

Join master ballet teacher Kat Wildish in a virtual intensive that aims to take your training to the next level. Each day, in one-hour classes, Kat will lead students of all levels from basic to advanced in various ballet exercises. The group will be limited to 20 dancers, so each person will get personal attention.

A group of older adult ballet students in leotards, tights or leggings, stand in two lines with their left foot in B+ position and holding hands, as if rehearsing a ballet.

Kat Wildish (far left) working with adult students at Peridance Capezio Center

Matthew Venanzi, Courtesy Kat Wildish

OHIO

artÉmotion Adult Ballet Summer Workshop

June 14–19, Cleveland

Head to the Buckeye State for a week of training under the tutelage of Ballet West first soloist Allison DeBona and principal Rex Tilton. In this Adult Ballet Summer Workshop, beginner and intermediate/advanced students will fine-tune their skills in two classes every morning: a 90-minute technique class followed by a one-hour class in one of the following disciplines: pointe/pre-pointe, acting, men's and women's variations, conditioning.

PENNSYLVANIA

Amy Novinski

May 24–28 and June 28–July 2, Philadelphia

Those interested in the Vaganova technique may want to check out Amy Novinski's Adult Workshops. For the five-day May workshop, newbie dancers can look forward to classes devoted to ballet, jazz and yoga. For those more advanced, the June workshop offers more rigorous technique, contemporary ballet, pre-pointe/beginner pointe and jazz.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Ballet Academy of Charleston Adult Summer Intensive

July 26–30 and August 2–6, Charleston

Embrace the low-country charm in historic Charleston, where a weeklong Adult Summer Intensive at the Ballet Academy of Charleston invites beginning through advanced students to take classes in technique, stretching/Pilates/yoga, pre-pointe or pointe (for advanced students), variations, jazz, modern, contemporary and choreography. You may choose the half-day or full-day program.

TEXAS

Houston Ballet Adult Intensive

June 1–5, Houston

For intermediate/advanced students with at least three years of ballet training, Houston Ballet's Adult Intensive might be the perfect place to hone your skills. The school has two-, three- or five-day options, and includes ballet technique, variations, yoga and Zumba.

UTAH

May 31–June 5, Salt Lake City

Ballet West welcomes students of all levels to artÉmotion's one-week Adult Ballet Summer Intensive. Classes include ballet, contemporary, pointe, jazz, modern, acting, and men and women's variations. Available in full-day or half-day options, those dancing only in the morning will take two 90-minute technique classes. The full-day experience offers the opportunity to be choreographed on for an in-studio performance on Saturday, June 5. All students will also have a professional dance photo shoot with Logan Sorenson.

A group of four men in dance practicewear face the right corner of the room and raise their arm as if beckoning someone. Three of the men stand in parallel, which the man in the middle sits in a wheelchair.

A men's class at artÉmotion Adult Summer Ballet Intensive

Logan Sorenson, Courtesy artÉmotion

INTERNATIONAL

The August Ballet Retreat in Leeds

August 28–30, Leeds, UK

The three-day August Ballet Retreat in Leeds offers classes for students of all abilities. The mornings are devoted to technique, and in the afternoon, students will focus on repertoire. In the past, The Ballet Retreat has taught solos from Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet and Giselle. One detail is still tentative: If the retreat is unable to take place in person due to the pandemic, it will be offered virtually over Zoom.

Morlaix International Adult Ballet Camp

July 2–10, Morlaix, France

The Morlaix International Adult Ballet Camp is in the heart of France's Brittany region. In this full-day intensive, intermediate through advanced-level students will be led by an international faculty. Dancers can look forward to morning ballet classes and rehearsals in the afternoon. The week of training wraps up with a performance of Bournonville's Napoli at a nearby theater. Please contact the school for information about room and board.

Still shot by cinematographer Benjamin Tarquin, Courtesy Post:ballet

10 Online Ballet Performances to Catch in April

Spring is in full bloom with another round of exciting digital dance offerings. This month, companies across the country are releasing world premieres, season finales, artistic collaborations and more. We've rounded up some highlights below.

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