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Onstage This Week: ABT Makes Its Vail Dance Fest Debut, Companies Celebrate National Dance Day, and More!

Catch Royal Winnipeg Ballet for free this week at Ballet in the Park. Photo by Daniel Crump, Courtesy RWB.

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


American Ballet Theatre Makes Its Vail Debut

The Vail Dance Festival is best known for bringing together diverse performers to create outside-of-the-box collaborations. This summer, the festival's 30th anniversary, American Ballet Theatre gets added to that mix. July 28–29, 15 company members will dance the festival premieres of Alexei Ratmansky's Souvenir d'un lieu cher and Serenade after Plato's Symposium, as well as Jerome Robbins' Other Dances with New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck. ABT will also collaborate with tap choreographer Michelle Dorrance. She's creating a trio of new works for ABT this year, coproduced by Vail, the second of which she'll present at the festival. "It always broadens a dancer's perspective to cross-pollinate with their peers," says ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie. "It gives them an opportunity for independent thinking and self-evaluation." For Vail artistic director Damian Woetzel, incorporating the company into the festival reminds him of the magical sense of camaraderie that he felt as an NYCB principal when running into ABT dancers after their respective Lincoln Center performances. "Vail builds on that," says Woetzel. "We bring dancers together to create our own special community." —Chava Lansky


National Dance Day is Back!

We know that for most of you every day feels like National Dance Day, but this Saturday it's made official. We've pulled together a few events happening at ballet companies across the country, but you can find the full list of happenings here.

Ballet Austin — Ballet Austin is hosting 12 free classes of various styles throughout the day.

Ballet Memphis— Learn the official National Dance Day dance, to be performed flash-mob style at the Memphis Zoo.

Nashville Ballet — The ballet company is offering free adult, musical theater and opportunities to learn new choreography.

Orlando Ballet — Classes for all ages at both Orlando Ballet campuses will be free.

Can't wait till Saturday? Check out The Kennedy Center's take on this year's official National Dance Day choreography from the Dizzy Feet Foundation, choreographed by Mandy Moore.


LINES Ballet Hits SummerStage NYC for Its 35th Anniversary

On July 25, Alonzo King LINES Ballet returns to the Rumsey Playfield SummerStage in New York City's Central Park. for a one night only performance in honor of its 35th anniversary. This program features two ballets choreographed by King: Sand, with music by jazz artists Jason Moran and Charles Lloyd, and Biophony, which draws inspiration from the Earth's many types of ecosystems.


Four Ballet Premieres from the National Choreographers Initiative

On July 28, the National Choreographers Initiative, an organization committed to supporting the development of choreography, will present four world premieres at the Irvine Barclay Theatre in Irvine, CA. Each summer, NCI chooses four choreographers and provides them with the resources that they need to create, including studio space and dancers, over the course of three weeks. This year's group features Kevin Jenkins, David Justin, Ilya Kozadayev and Mariana Oliveira. The choreographers had the chance to work with 16 dancers hailing from a range of companies across the nation including Ballet Austin, Kansas City Ballet and Nevada Ballet Theatre. See a full list here, and catch a glimpse of Jenkins' creative process below.


Royal Winnipeg Ballet Gives a Free Outdoor Performance

If you happen to find yourself in Winnipeg, Canada July 25-27 you can catch a sneak preview of Royal Winnipeg Ballet's upcoming production of The Wizard of Oz for free in Assinboine Park's Lyric Theatre. While choreographer Septime Webre's full adaptation of the classic story won't have its Canadian premiere until May 2019, Winnipeg audiences can whet their appetites with excerpts this week. The full-length narrative, a joint production with Kansas City Ballet and Colorado Ballet, and will have its world premiere this October in (appropriately) Kansas City, MO. A summer tradition at RWB since the 1970s, Ballet in the Park also includes food trucks and children's activities such as face-painting and a pointe shoe toss. Check out RWB's trailer below to see what else is on the horizon for the 2018-2019 season.

Ballet Careers
Sisters Isabella Shaker and Alexandra Pullen. Photo Courtesy Alexandra Pullen.

This is the second in a series of articles this month about ballet siblings.

My mom was in the corps de ballet at American Ballet Theatre. A generation later, so was I. As if that's not enough for one family, my younger sister Isabella Shaker dreams of following in our dancing footsteps. Her endeavor, and her status as somewhat of a child prodigy, stirs feelings of pride and apprehension within me, since I have lived through the ups and downs of this intense yet rewarding career.

Ballet will always be my first love and the thing that brings me the most joy, and my dance career has opened endless opportunities for me. However, it's a difficult career path that requires a lifelong dedication. It's super competitive and can lead to body image issues, physical injury and stress. Most dancers will face some of these problems; I definitely dealt with all three.

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Ballet Stars
Photo by Gabriel Davalos, Courtesy Valdés

For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.

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Ballet Stars
Photo by Jayme Thornton

It's National Bullying Prevention Month—and Houston Ballet breakout star Harper Watters is exactly the advocate young dancers facing bullying need. Watters is no novice when it comes to slaying on social media, but his Bullying Prevention Month collaboration with Teen Vogue and Instagram is him at his most raw, speaking about his own experiences with bullies, and how his love of dance helped him to overcome adversity. Watters even penned an incredible op-ed for Teen Vogue's website, where he talks candidly about growing up queer. Catch his amazing anti-bullying video here—and, as Watters says, "Stay fabulous, stay flawless, stay flexible, but most importantly, stay fearless."

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News
Alicia Alonso with Igor Youskevitch. Sedge Leblang, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"

At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.

Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.

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