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 Stars
From left: Douane Gosa, Gianni Goffredo, James Whiteside, Maxfield Haynes and Matthew Poppe in WTF. Yo Poosh, Courtesy Kimberly Giannelli PR.

We've always known that Madonna loves dance. After all, the "Queen of Pop" studied at the Martha Graham School in the 1970s. Nevertheless, we were still surprised (and thrilled) to see that she invited James Whiteside to perform at her 61st birthday party in The Hamptons last weekend.

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Giveaways
Modeled by Daria Ionova. Darian Volkova, Courtesy Elevé Dancewear.
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News
Boston Ballet's Kathleen Breen Combes, María Álvarez and Dawn Atkins. Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow.

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

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Ballet Stars
Alexandra MacDonald (front row, third from left) didn't win a medal at the Genée International Ballet Competition, but says she came home inspired and newly motivated by the people she met there. Photo Courtesy Genée IBC.

Ballet competitions are an exciting part of any dancer's career. Yet while scholarships, prize money, job offers and the prestige that comes with winning a medal are compelling incentives to participate in one, they're not the only benefits. In fact, many dancers who go home empty-handed still look fondly on the experience and go on to become successful professionals.

This week, the 2019 Genée International Ballet Competition kicks off in Toronto. From August 20-29, over 50 dancers, ages 15–19 and trained in the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus, will perform three solos in the hopes of winning a medal and a $10,000 cash prize. Many past medalists have gone on to illustrious careers—but so have those who didn't win anything. We spoke with three Genée alumni now dancing professionally who know what it's like not to place. Read on to find out why they deem their comp experiences a success, and how you can make the most of yours—whether you win or not.

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