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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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Ashley Bouder in George Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova's Coppélia. Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB.

Hollywood may have the Oscars, but ballet has the Prix de Benois de la Danse. Held every spring at Moscow's Bolshoi Theater, the prestigious international awards ceremony recognizes dancers, choreographers, composers and designers for their extraordinary work on and off the stage. This year's laureates, chosen by a jury, were announced during an awards ceremony last night, followed by a star-studded gala featuring many of the nominated artists.

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American Ballet Theatre principal James Whiteside is known for more than just his uber-charismatic presence on the ballet stage; He doubles as both the drag queen Ühu Betch and the pop star JbDubs. Whiteside's newest musical release, titled WTF, came out last week, and is for sure his most ballet-filled song to date. Both the lyrics and the choreography are jam-packed with bunhead references, from the Rose Adagio to Haglund's Heel to a framed portrait of George Balanchine. Not to mention the fact that he and his four backup dancers (Matthew Poppe, Douane Gosa, Maxfield Haynes and Gianni Goffredo) absolutely kill it in pointe shoes.

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Ballet Stars
Crystal Serrano and Jorge Andrés Villarini in Christopher Wheeldon's This Bitter Earth. Rachel Neville, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Crystal Serrano never envisioned someday joining Dance Theatre of Harlem, the company founded by Arthur Mitchell to show the beauty and uplift of classical ballet on dancers of all colors. Her career began with Sacramento Ballet, which she joined after one year in Pacific Northwest Ballet School's Professional Division, but her time there was cut short by illness. After recovering, she felt so worn down that she left dancing behind and enrolled at the University of Washington. But she soon realized she'd made a mistake. "I thought, what am I doing?" she recalls. "I had to dance." With a fresh perspective and renewed determination, Serrano took an apprenticeship with Oregon Ballet Theatre before landing a job with Ballet San Antonio, where she soon rose to soloist.

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School of American Ballet students (Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy SAB)

Do you have a "Strictly Ballet"–sized hole in your heart? Good news: There's an upcoming docuseries, "On Pointe," that just might fill it.

The School of American Ballet is teaming up with Imagine Documentaries and DCTV for the project. Though it's not yet clear where "On Pointe" will air, we do know that it'll follow talented SAB students preparing for professional ballet careers—much as Teen Vogue's popular "Strictly Ballet" web series did back in the day. But "On Pointe" marks the first time documentary filmmakers have been allowed access to the school, and it sounds like it'll paint an even more complete picture of the dancers' lives inside and outside the studio.

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