Ballet Stars
American Ballet Theatre corps member José Sebastian (center) is launching the Hamptons Dance Project with a cast of fellow ABT dancers this August. Rochelle Brodin, Courtesy Hamptons Dance Project.

From coast to coast, and on the shores of Lake Michigan in-between, professional dancers and choreographers are going one step beyond putting together a summer pickup company. Some are now curating multi-evening festivals in their hometowns and beloved vacation areas, and featuring an impressive range of companies, dancers and dance styles. So get ready to plan your next trip—here are three dance fests in beautiful resort areas to keep on your radar.

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Site Network
Maria Kochetkova in Wayne McGregor's Chroma. Erik Tomasson, Courtesy Joyce Theater.

Maria Kochetkova's first season as a freelancer has been a whirlwind! A year after leaving San Francisco Ballet, she's already guested in Oslo, Berlin and London. Now, she's got something exciting in the works: From July 16-20, New York City's Joyce Theater will present her first solo program, Maria Kochetkova: Catch Her If You Can. Mounting such a production took a lot of time, self-development and courage, she says—but she's up for the challenge. Between rehearsals in Berlin, Kochetkova talked to Pointe about her favorite moments from the past year, her plans for the Joyce performances, and the ups and downs of life as a rogue ballerina.

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Gianna Forte reveals her scars. Stark Photo Productions, Courtesy The Washington Ballet.

Before I was born, my parents found out that I had a condition called an omphalocele. All of my organs were outside my stomach. I was rushed into surgery as soon as I was born, and they put a little patch in, pushed in my organs and sewed me up. When I was 1 1/2, I had another surgery to remove the patch. Ever since, I've just had a scar on my stomach—I didn't have a belly button, but I had no problems other than malrotation, which means all of my organs were going the opposite way.

I was raised in Connecticut, and stayed there until I graduated high school. It was the year Julie Kent and Xiomara Reyes were taking over The Washington Ballet company and school, and I sent my video and got accepted into their professional training program.

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From left: ABT's Alexandra Basmagy, Lauren Post and Gillian Murphy. Photo by April Giangeruso, courtesy ABT.

On the last day of America Ballet Theatre's 2018 tour of The Nutcracker in Costa Mesa, California, corps member Alexandra Basmagy couldn't hold it in any longer. She broke the news to fellow corps members Gemma Bond and Lauren Post that she and her husband are expecting a little boy in August.

Basmagy was not the first ABT dancer to announce her pregnancy this season—principal Gillian Murphy revealed in December that she and her husband Ethan Stiefel were expecting a boy—nor would she be the last. Post's own announcement soon followed! Artistic director Kevin McKenzie burst out laughing when she told him the news, Post says. "He was like, 'It always happens in threes. Since Gillian told me and then Alex, I've been waiting for the last shoe to drop.'"

There is a veritable baby boom at ABT—Gemma Bond, corps member Alexei Agoudine, soloist Luciana Paris and soloist Thomas Forster are all new parents, and Murphy gave birth to her son, Ax Nathaniel, last month. Basmagy and Post are both in their third trimesters, with due dates on August 5th and August 19, respectively. Pointe interviewed these two moms-to-be, and then caught up with Forster and Paris, to learn how they navigate pregnancy and parenthood alongside a ballet career.

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Ballet Careers
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As an aspiring or professional dancer, whose voice do you hear the most in your head? While you may think it's the voice of your teacher, ballet master or director, or perhaps even your friends and colleagues, it's most likely your own. Even when we're not speaking out loud, we're in constant dialogue with ourselves. But whether you're thinking about choreography or your to-do list, how does that voice sound?

In a field that is already hypercritical, let's pause and evaluate exactly what we're saying to ourselves. Is our inner voice helping, or could it be hurting?

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Ballet Careers
Garry Corpuz and Wang Qingxin in an ad campaign for Hong Kong Ballet. Design Army and Dean Alexander, Courtesy HKB.

"Opportunities always come when you least expect them," says Septime Webre. In 2016, he'd left The Washington Ballet, after 17 years as artistic director, to focus on his choreography career. Halfway around the world in East Asia, Hong Kong Ballet was hiring a new director for its following season, and Webre's agent convinced him to submit his resumé. "I ended up on a call with leadership and the energy between us was great," says Webre.

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Site Network
Left: Misa Kuranaga in The Veritginous Thrill of Exactitude. Gene Schiavone, Courtesy Boston Ballet. Right: Sasha Mukhamedov in Apollo. Altin Kaftira, Courtesy Dutch National Ballet.

San Francisco Ballet just announced some major news: longtime Boston Ballet star Misa Kuranaga will be joining the company as a principal dancer for the 2019-20 season, while Dutch National Ballet principal Sasha Mukhamedov has been hired as a soloist. They join a slew of newly promoted SFB principals and soloists, announced earlier this year.

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Ballet Stars
Xiao Nan Yu in company class. Aaron Vincent, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada.

On June 22, National Ballet of Canada principal Xiao Nan Yu will retire from the stage after 22 years with the company. Originally from Dalian, China, Yu studied at the Shen Yang School of Dance and the Beijing Dance Academy before coming to Canada's National Ballet School at age 17. She joined the National Ballet of Canada less than two years later, and was promoted to principal in 2001.

"She is a supreme dance actress with an innate ability to bring the audience into her world," says NBoC artistic director Karen Kain. "Nan has always brought such a calm confidence into the studio and has been a role model for so many dancers I will miss her generosity both inside the studio and out." We spoke with Yu as she prepared for her final week of performances. She opened up about her initial culture shock upon moving to Toronto, her thoughts on artistry and why she chose Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow as her final role.

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Jolie Rose Lombardo performing at ADC | IBC prior to her diagnosis. Richard Finkelstein, Courtesy Stephanie Lombardo

It was mid-January when 15-year-old Jolie Rose Lombardo first noticed the leg pain. A scholarship student at the John Cranko Schule in Stuttgart, Germany, the Florida native felt fine dancing through full days of classes and completing her regular school schedule. It was only at night that what appeared to be sciatic pain would shoot down her right leg when she tried to lie down, making resting difficult. After a few sleepless nights, spent mostly standing up, she went to the doctor for an X-ray, followed by an MRI.

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Ballet Stars
Antonio Carmena (right) coaches a Barnard College student. Photo by Marcus Salazar, courtesy Carmena.

Some ballet dancers, the lucky ones at least, get to enjoy long, successful careers. Yet their dancing schedule usually allows little time for anything else. At New York City Ballet, for instance, most dancers don't have secondary jobs on the side, although layoffs between seasons provide short opportunities to flex new muscles, like teaching. But performance careers inevitably come to an end, and dancers must then "become" something else.

When former NYCB soloist Antonio Carmena retired from the company in 2017, he realized he wasn't quite prepared for the next step. His retirement uncovered an insecurity buried deep within him—that without dance, he wasn't "good" at anything anymore. It's taken two years for Carmena to develop more work experience as he searches for a new place for himself in the dance world. And while he admits it's an ongoing journey, the pieces are finally starting to come together.

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Ballet Stars
Kathleen Breen Combes in George Balanchine's Serenade. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy Boston Ballet.

On Sunday, June 9 Boston Ballet principal Kathleen Breen Combes will take her final bow onstage before stepping behind the curtain into a new role: executive director of the Rhode Island–based Festival Ballet Providence. Originally from Rockville Center, New York, Combes spent three years with The Washington Ballet before joining Boston Ballet in 2003; she was promoted to principal in 2009. For her retirement performance she's dancing Paulo Arrais' ELA, Rhapsody in Blue. "It just happened to be the last thing on the program, but it worked out perfectly," says Combes. "It's me and 15 men, and it's all about female empowerment, so it felt very fitting to go out with that." Below, Combes shares what made Boston Ballet her dream company, how becoming a mother has affected her approach and why she's interested in dance administration.

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Ballet Careers
Sarah LaPointe, here in class at Charlotte Ballet, uses her summer layoff to teach and catch up on college. Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy Charlotte Ballet.

For a new professional dancer, the concept of a summer layoff—when ballet companies go on an unpaid hiatus for several weeks (or months)—can be a welcome change of pace, an anxiety-riddled uncertainty or a bit of both. While it should feel rejuvenating to take a break after an intense season, fear of financial instability or getting out of shape can overshadow the good. Here, six dancers share how they leverage their summer layoffs to be both productive and restorative.

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