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Onstage This Week: Isabella Boylston's Ballet Sun Valley Festival Returns With An All-Star Lineup, NYCB Heads Upstate and More!

Isabella Boylston and Calvin Royal III at Ballet Sun Valley in 2017. Photo by Steve Dondero, Courtesy Ballet Sun Valley.

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


Isabella Boylston Curates Her Second Hometown Ballet Festival

American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston moonlights as artistic director of Ballet Sun Valley, which she founded last year. The second annual festival will run July 17–18 in Sun Valley, Idaho, Boylston's hometown. Boylston has created two programs composed of pas de deux and solo pieces from choreographers including George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins and William Forsythe, as well as Justin Peck's In Creases, the one work for a larger ensemble.

The festival brings together some of the brightest stars in the ballet world. Amongst Boylston's ABT colleagues are her bestie Lauren Post, fellow Cindy James Whiteside, and primas Misty Copeland and Gillian Murphy. The cast also features New York City Ballet's Tiler Peck, San Francisco Ballet's Dores André, Royal Danish Ballet's Ida Praetorius, Paris Opéra Ballet's Germain Louvet and more. See the full cast list or list of dancers here.

Like last year, the festival will be followed by an education day July 19, during which community members can take a range of dance classes, including one designed for those with special needs, taught by the participating dancers.


NYCB Heads Upstate to Its Summer Home

New York City Ballet returns to its longtime summer home this week in Saratoga Springs, New York. Although the engagement is short this year (at its peak, NYCB stayed for four weeks, but the appearance was cut to one week in 2017), a variety of ballets will still be on display. The July 17-21 run includes performances of Peter Martins' Romeo + Juliet; a lineup featuring Balanchine's Square Dance, The Four Temperaments and Symphony in C; and a night of 21st-century choreographers with Easy and Pulcinella Variations, by Justin Peck, Composer's Holiday by Gianna Reisen and Not Our Fate by Lauren Lovette. The week will end with a gala celebrating Jerome Robbins' centennial, including Robbins classics and Something to Dance About, a collection of the master dancemaker's musical theater choreography assembled by Warren Carlyle.


Island Moving Co. Hosts Its Ninth Summer Festival in Newport, RI

Island Moving Co.'s a Great Friends Dance Festival returns July 18–22 Newport, RI, with a mix of six small guest dance companies, specializing in contemporary dance and ballet. At least a dozen new pieces have been choreographed for the festival, and each night is preceded by an étude, a work that was choreographed and rehearsed the same day by festival participants. This year's resident dance company is Pittsburgh-based STAYCEE PEARL dance project, which uses multimedia, like video, to enhance its performances. Also appearing are Breathing Arts Company from Bari, Italy; carolyn dorfman dance from Union, NJ; CONTINUUM Contemporary/Ballet and Lotería Performing Arts from New York City; and Thomas/Ortiz Dance from New Canaan, CT. Watch Island Moving Co. rehearse Miki Ohlsen's A Tessellation of Beauty and Light below, which will be part of the festival.


Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami Presents the Ballet of Wo(Men)

Hot off its tours of Jacob's Pillow and New York City's Joyce Theater, Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami will perform Ballet of Wo(Men), a program of four ballets, at South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center on July 21. The night features two Balanchine works, Tarantella and Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, as well as Imagined Notions by Yanis Pikieris and Leonardo Reale's Tangos de La Plata. Billed as "his & hers," the program celebrates 20th- and 21st-century choreography in which the men and women share equal dominance. Oddly, no choreography by women will be featured. "With this program, we are celebrating gender 'equality' and a sort of magic that happens when choreography affords them the ability to flaunt their comparable might and mastery side by side," artistic director Jennifer Kronenberg told Pointe in an email. Watch the company's season trailer below.

Ballet Careers
Gray Davis with wife, ABT soloist Cassandra Trenary, after his graduation from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Courtesy Trenary.

When Gray Davis retired from American Ballet Theatre in July of 2018, he moved home to South Carolina, unsure of what would come next. Last month, just over a year later, Davis graduated from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Today, he's working as a deputy for the Abbeville County Sheriff's Office.

Though Davis danced in ABT's corps for 11 years and is married to soloist Cassandra Trenary, to many he's best known for saving the life of a man who was pushed onto the subway tracks in New York City in 2017. The heroic effort earned him the New York State Liberty Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by a member of the New York State Senate. We caught up with Davis to hear about how the split second decision he made in the subway affected the course of his life, what it's been like starting a second career and what he sees as the similarities between ballet and law enforcement.

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Sponsored by BLOCH
Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

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Ballet Stars
Megan Amanda Ehrlich, Courtesy LEAP Program

Claire Sheridan wanted to change the status quo. Leading up to the 1990s, she recalls, "there was a 'shut up and dance' mind-set," and as the founder of the dance program at St. Mary's College of California and a longtime teacher in professional companies, she had seen too many dancers retire with no plan for a successful career transition. "At that time, if you thought about education and the future," she says, "you were not a committed dancer. I wanted to fight that."

With the support of St. Mary's, Sheridan developed the Liberal Education for Arts Professionals program, or LEAP, an innovative liberal-arts bachelor's degree program designed especially for professional dancers. She first presented her idea to executives at San Francisco Ballet. "Kudos to that company, because they said, 'This is great,'" she says. "Eleven of the first 18 dancers who started in August 1999 were from SFB."

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Ballet Training
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I'm a college freshman, and my dance program isn't challenging enough. We only have ballet three times a week and a few hours of modern, and my classmates aren't as dedicated as I am. There's a small dance company nearby, where I was hoping to take extra classes, but I don't have a car. I want to transfer, but I feel like I won't be in good enough shape for auditions. —Tara

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