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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.

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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