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After 20 Years, William Forsythe Creates a New Ballet for an American Company

Boston Ballet in rehearsal with William Forsythe. Liza Voll, Courtesy Boston Ballet.

In 2016, Boston Ballet officially brought William Forsythe back to the U.S. after the revolutionary choreographer's four-decade European career. A five-year partnership with the company promises that Forsythe will add at least one piece to its repertoire each year, and it gives him an American home base for creating new work. Boston Ballet's Full on Forsythe program, March 7–17, features the world premiere of Playlist (EP), his first new ballet for an American company in more than two decades, as well as Pas/Parts 2018 and the North American premiere of Blake Works I.


Playlist (EP) expands on Playlist (Track 1,2), a showstopper for 12 men that premiered at English National Ballet last April. For the "extended play" version, Forsythe is revisiting the initial sections and adding three new movements incorporating female dancers. The ballet, featuring music by Abra and Cole King with Tunji Ige, is classically based but infused with the spirit of hip hop, house, R&B and funk. Forsythe says the intricate rhythms and counterpoint of these popular musical styles "support strict balletic structures really well...This is actually quite a traditional approach but looks fresh because we are unaccustomed to hearing these particular musical genres function as the foundation for works whose contents are exclusively balletic." He hopes that the juxtaposition of contemporary popular music with classical ballet will reinforce for audiences the relevance of the art form.

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Ma Cong in the studio with Tulsa Ballet. Courtesy Tulsa Ballet.

Without him we wouldn't have The Nutcracker, Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty. But how much do you know about Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the man behind classical ballet's most recognizable music? Did you know that the Russian composer hid his homosexuality for much of his life? He also struggled with depression; there's been speculation that his death in 1893 was in fact a suicide.

Tulsa Ballet resident choreographer Ma Cong dramatically recounts his life in a new full-length ballet titled Tchaikovsky: The Man Behind the Music, premiering March 29-31. If you think a story ballet about the most renowned composer of story ballets set to, yes, a Tchaikovsky score, is a bit meta, you wouldn't be wrong. But considering the renewed importance of LGBTQ rights in society, it's a ballet perfectly timed to our era. In Russia, censorship still asserts that Tchaikovsky was not gay. The subject also calls to mind backlash surrounding an LGBTQ-themed work at Louisville Ballet just last month.

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The Royal Ballet's Vadim Muntagirov and Marianela Nuñez in La Bayadère. Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy ROH.

Do you ever wish you could teleport to London and casually stroll into The Royal Opera House to see some of the world's best-loved ballets? Well, we have a solution for you: The Royal Ballet's 2018-19 cinema season.

Whether live or recorded, the seven ballet programs listed below, streaming now through next October, will deliver all of the magic that The Royal Ballet has to offer straight to your local movie theater. Can you smell the popcorn already?

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