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Onstage This Week: Wendy Whelan in "THE DAY," Vail Dance Fest Week 2, World Premiere at American Contemporary Ballet and More!

Nils Schlebusch, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow Dance

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


Wendy Whelan Returns to the Stage

This week, New York City Ballet associate artistic director Wendy Whelan joins celebrated cellist Maya Beiser onstage at Jacob's Pillow in THE DAY, choreographed by postmodern icon Lucinda Childs. Exploring memory and resilience, this multi-genre collaboration between Beiser and Childs features music by Pulitzer Prize–winning composer David Lang. After its July 31–August 4 run at Jacob's Pillow, THE DAY is scheduled to tour to New York City and Washington, DC.

Stars Descend on the Vail Dance Festival 

The second week of the Vail Dance Festival has arrived, and with it a deluge of stars and premieres. July 30 marks the the festival premiere of BalletX in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's new The Little Prince. On July 31, M.A.I. co-founders Lil Buck and Jon Boogz, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Hope Boykin and New York City Ballet principal Lauren Lovette join forces for UpClose: Just Dances, a rehearsal-style performance.

On August 2 and August 3, things get even more glamorous. The two International Evenings of Dance feature a seemingly endless list of stars from NYCB, American Ballet Theatre, the Mikhailovsky Ballet, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Pam Tanowitz Dance, Dorrance Dance and much more. A handful of the many ballet highlights include Catherine Hurlin and Julian MacKay in a pas de deux from Don Quixote, Unity Phelan and Calvin Royal III in excerpts from Apollo and Maria Kochetkova and Joseph Gordon in a pas de deux from La Sylphide.

World Premiere of "Death and the Maiden" at American Contemporary Ballet

American Contemporary Ballet artistic director Lincoln Jones presents the world premiere of Death and the Maiden August 1-11 at The Fashion Theater in Los Angeles. Jones' newest ballet is set to Franz Schubert's string quartet of the same name, which he wrote in 1824 as a testament to his own mortality. Check out ACB's Instagram for beautiful rehearsal shots of this new work.

Stars of American Ballet Take Aspen

New York City Ballet principal Daniel Ulbricht's summer pickup company, Stars of American Ballet, takes the stage in Aspen on August 3. The troupe, which is being presented by Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, is bringing classic works including George Balanchine's Tarantella, Jerome Robbins' Andantino and Christopher Wheeldon's This Bitter Earth.

Louisville Ballet Presents "Cleopatra: Queen of Kings" Outdoors

July 31-August 4, Louisville Ballet presents Cleopatra: Queen of Kings as part of the company's partnership with Kentucky Shakespeare's Festival in Central Park. Choreographed by Louisville Ballet dancer Erica De La O, Cleopatra is set to an original score by Kentucky-based composer Scott Moore and features step dancers from Western Middle School. This week's performances are all free and open to the public.

Summer Intensive Survival
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There's a sweet spot toward the end of August—after summer intensives have wrapped up and before it's time to head back to school or work—where the days are long, lazy and begging to be spent neck-deep in a pile of good books. Whether you're looking for inspiration for the upcoming season or trying to brush up on your dance history, you can never go wrong with an excellent book on ballet. We've gathered eight titles (all available at common booksellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble) guaranteed to give you a deeper understanding of the art form, to add to your end-of-summer reading list.

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James Yoichi Moore and Noelani Pantastico warm up onstage. Angela Sterling, Courtesy SDC.

On a sunny July weekend, hundreds of Seattle-area dance fans converged on tiny Vashon Island, a bucolic enclave in Puget Sound about 20 miles from the city. They made the ferry trek to attend the debut performance of the fledgling Seattle Dance Collective.

SDC is not a run-of-the-mill contemporary dance company; it's the brainchild of two of Pacific Northwest Ballet's most respected principal dancers: James Yoichi Moore and Noelani Pantastico. The duo wanted to create a nimble organization to feature dancers and choreographers they felt needed more exposure in the Pacific Northwest.

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Roman Mejia in Robbins' Dances at a Gathering. Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB.

The Princess Grace Foundation has just announced its 2019 class, and we're thrilled that two ballet dancers—New York City Ballet's Roman Mejia and BalletX's Stanley Glover—are included among the list of über-talented actors, filmmakers, playwrights, dancers and choreographers.

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The Royal Ballet's Alexander Campbell and Yasmine Naghdi in Ashton's The Two Pigeons. Tristram Kenton, Courtesy ROH.

While most ballet casts are 100 percent human, it's not unheard of for live animals to appear onstage, providing everything from stage dressing to supporting roles. Michael Messerer's production of Don Quixote features a horse and a donkey; American Ballet Theatre's Giselle calls for two Russian wolfhounds; and Sir Frederick Ashton's La Fille Mal Gardee requires a white Shetland pony. Another Ashton masterpiece, The Two Pigeons, is well known for its animal actors. But though ballet is a highly disciplined, carefully choreographed art form, some performers are naturally more prone to flights of fancy—because they're birds.

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