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Onstage This Week: Wayne McGregor's New "Rite of Spring" for ABT, Miami City Ballet Opens the Spoleto Festival, and More!

Boston Ballet in Bournonville's "La Sylphide." Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy Boston Ballet.

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


Wayne McGregor Makes His ABT Choreographic Debut

Ever since Vaslav Nijinsky shocked Paris audiences in 1913 with his Rite of Spring for the Ballets Russes, dancemakers from Sir Kenneth MacMillan to Pina Bausch have tried their hands at choreographing to Igor Stravinsky's infamous score. This spring, Wayne McGregor will be added to that list. The Royal Ballet resident choreographer's first work for American Ballet Theatre, titled AFTERITE, will premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City on May 21. Known for his grounded and experimental movement style, McGregor's work will feature video designs by innovative filmmaker Ravi Deepres and sets and costumes by designer Vicki Mortimer, both longtime collaborators. Alessandra Ferri, who has collaborated with McGregor in the past, will join ABT as a guest artist.


Spoleto Festival Features Miami City Ballet

The Charleston, SC-based Spoleto Festival USA celebrates its 42nd season May 25-June 10. Though the festival's focus spans from jazz to opera, the 2018 lineup also includes its fair share of dance, starting with Miami City Ballet. MCB first takes the stage on the festival's opening night in a tribute to Jerome Robbins on the art of the pas de deux. The program pays homage to a Spoleto Festival performance organized by Robbins in 1973. May 26-27 MCB presents works by Alexei Ratmansky and Sir Kenneth MacMillan alongside George Balanchine's Walpurgisnacht Ballet and Justin Peck's Heatscape. Check out MCB's trailer for Heatscape before its 2015 premiere below (one of our favorite collaborations between Peck and filmmaker Ezra Hurwitz.)


Four World Premieres at Oregon Ballet Theatre

OBT's program Closer, May 24-June 3, features four world premieres, three of which are by company dancers Peter Franc, Makino Hayashi and Katherine Monogue. All three are set to original music by Grammy-award winning composer André Allen Anjos (RAC). The fourth piece on the program is a world premiere titled Departures by choreographer Helen Simoneau. Closer will be presented in a studio setting at BodyVox Dance Center in Portland, OR, giving audiences an intimate experience to see these new works up close.


Nashville Ballet Gives Choreographers 12 Hours to Make a New Work

Nashville Ballet's Emergence series gives audiences a glimpse of art only 12 hours in the making, pushing dancemakers to trust their instincts and work quickly. A long list of choreographers, including a handful of Nashville Ballet dancers and faculty, will have the chance to show their work over three separate programs—see the full list here. This year's program will also feature a collaboration with Nashville country music club The Bluebird Cafe. Emergence runs May 24-June 3 at Nashville Ballet's Studio A.


Understand the Physics Behind Texas Ballet Theater's "Swan Lake"

Texas Ballet Theater brings back Ben Stevenson's Swan Lake from May 25-27 in Fort Worth and June 1-3 in Dallas. Rather than make a trailer for the upcoming performance, TBT created two videos featuring physicist Dr. Magnus Rittby explaining the physics behind the ballet's turning and jumping sequences. Below, Dr. Rittby explains how Swan Lake's famous fouettés work (don't worry, we promise it's not boring). Click here to hear what goes into jumping.


"La Sylphide" Opens at Boston Ballet

May 24-June 10, Boston Ballet presents 19th century Danish choreographer August Bournonville's beloved story ballet La Sylphide in conjunction with rarely seen Bournonville divertissements, including excerpts from Flower Festival in Genzano, From Siberia to Moscow and Napoli. Have you ever watched a story ballet and wondered what all of the pantomime really means? Boston Ballet created this handy video with subtitles to help viewers understand what the Sylph and James are talking about.

Ballet Training
Kali Kleiman performing at YAGP's New York Finals. VAM Productions, Courtesy YAGP.

As someone who has judged many ballet competitions, I've had the opportunity to see some breathtaking contemporary solos that combine fantastic technique with well-conceived choreography. Yet it's often hard for us judges to see the artistic intention behind these solos the way we can when watching a classical variation. For one thing, we're simply more familiar with classical ballet's repertoire and characters. But also, when a contemporary solo is just a string of one trick after another, or only delivers one emotion (such as overwrought angst), we don't get to see any artistic depth.

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Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet Academy

When you're looking for a ballet program to take you to the next level, there are a lot of factors to consider. While it's tempting to look for the biggest name that will accept you, the savvy dancer knows that successful training has more to do with the attention and opportunities you'll get.

We put together a few of the most important things for dancers to look for in a summer or year-round training program, with the help of the experts at Colorado Ballet Academy:

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Ballet Stars
Elle Macy in Benjamin Millepied's Appassionata. Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

Cross-training misconceptions: Before Elle Macy became an apprentice with Pacific Northwest Ballet, she was apprehensive about cross-training. "I was warned that it might bulk you, or not to do certain activities because they could potentially injure you." But a stress fracture in her foot changed her perspective. Unable to bear much weight, Macy reluctantly tried stationary biking at her physical therapist's suggestion. "What I learned is that you're not going to get injured from being on an elliptical for 20 minutes or by taking a Pilates class," says Macy. Today, it's not uncommon to find the soloist training on the elliptical, doing ankle stability exercises, using the Pilates reformer or taking a hot yoga class.

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Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

We got Payne's advice on strategizing your summer intensive plan before the audition cycle kicks in:

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