Ballet Choreography: It's Kinda Great Again

Is ballet's post-Balanchine choreography rut finally over? Roslyn Sulcas, a contributor to Pointe, argues today in The New York Times that it is. She points out that works by Christopher Wheeldon, Alexei Ratmansky and Wayne McGregor offer a completely new way of using the classical vocabulary. There's also a whole generation of imaginative choreographers who came out of William Forsythe's company: David Dawson, Crystal Pite, Jacopo Godani, Helen Pickett, Jorma Elo, Emily Molnar—a group that's exceptional not only for its prolific creativity, but also for its large number of women. Just in the past couple of years we've seen two newbies with exceptional promise: Justin Peck at New York City Ballet and Liam Scarlett at The Royal Ballet.

 

Why is ballet choreography finally stretching in new directions and connecting with audiences again? Peck credits the distance from the shadow of Balanchine. He tells Sulcas, “There is a clearing for new creative thought in choreography. I don’t feel intimidated; there is a lot I can do that is new or innovative or different.” Pickett points to the use of technology like projections that can make ballet more cinematic and engaging. Kevin O'Hare, the new artistic director of The Royal, suggests today's interconnected world has given choreographers a broader perspective, and encouraged a willingness to take risks: “They are slightly fearless...these are people who are not afraid to fail. This generation sees so much, is open to so much, is always looking for new inspiration and collaborations. Ballet was very away from all of that, but very recently we seem to have broken down those barriers. It feels very much part of our world.”

Ballet Careers
Eri Nishihara in Rex Wheeler's Symphonic Dances. Sarah Ferguson, Courtesy Richmond Ballet.

This is one of a series of stories on recent graduates' on-campus experiences—and the connections they made that jump-started their dance careers. Eri Nishihara graduated from University of Utah with a BFA in ballet performance in 2016.

As her time in high school drew to a close, Eri Nishihara knew she wasn't ready to dance professionally. She had seen dancers her age from other cities at summer intensives and didn't think that she was up to company caliber yet. "I didn't want to feel like I was having to keep up for a lack of training or experience, while adjusting to a new professional life," she says. Nishihara had trained with University of Utah professors in the past, through summer intensives at Ballet West, and felt that their teaching style would best prepare her for a future career.

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Courtesy Apolla

Ballet dancers today are asked to do more with their bodies than ever before. The physical demands of a ballet career can take an immense toll on a dancer's joints and muscles—subjecting them to pain, inflammation and an increased risk of injury. Considering all that is required of today's dancers, having a top-notch recovery regime is paramount.

Enter Apolla Performance Wear, which is meeting ballet's physical demands with a line of compression footwear that is speeding up the recovery process for professional dancers by reducing inflammation and stabilizing the joints.

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News
The Washington Ballet's NEXTsteps program opens this week. Here are company dancers Ashley Murphy-Wilson and Alexandros Papajohn. Procopio Photography, Courtesy The Washington Ballet.

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

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News
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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