News

Onstage This Week: PBT's "Great Gatsby," Nashville Ballet's  "Attitude: Lucy Negro Redux," 7 World Premieres at Grand Rapids Ballet, and More!

Grand Rapids Ballet in rehearsal. Jade Butler, Courtesy GRB.

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


Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Dives Into the Roaring '20s With the World Premiere of "The Great Gatsby" 

February 8–17, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre presents choreographer Jorden Morris' The Great Gatsby. Based closely on F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous novel, this new ballet takes viewers into the Roaring '20s with an original score by film composer Carl Davis. The ballet shows the glitz of the era with glamorous costumes designed by PBT costumer Janet Marie Groom. You can catch a glimpse into the costume shop here.

Nashville Ballet's "Attitude: Lucy Negro Redux" Has Its World Premiere


February 8–10, Nashville Ballet presents Attitude: Lucy Negro Redux, choreographed by artistic director Paul Vasterling and based on Caroline Randall Williams' 2015 book of poetry, Lucy Negro, Redux. In it, Williams investigates the theory that the mysterious Dark Lady to whom William Shakespeare dedicated many of his sonnets was actually a black historical figure known as Lucy Negro. Featuring an original score by Rhiannon Giddens, with spoken word performed live by Williams, Vasterling's ballet explores Shakespeare's romantic life from the point of view of the Dark Lady (danced by Kayla Rowser) while focusing on themes of love, otherness and equality.

Grand Rapids Ballet Presents Seven World Premieres in One Program

Grand Rapids Ballet's contemporary dance series returns February 8-10 with MOVEMEDIA: Handmade, featuring seven world premieres. The first five pieces are choreographed by company dancers Cassidy Isaacson, Nigel Tau, Nicholas Bradley Gray, Isaac Aoki and Yuka Oba. Gray's work, Divine Light, is dedicated to Raffaella Stroik, the Saint Louis Ballet dancer who mysteriously drowned in a Missouri lake last fall. The final two works on the program are by GRB choreographer in residence Penny Saunders and Joffrey Ballet dancer and choreographer Nicolas Blanc.

BalletX Returns to Vail With a Nicolo Fonte World Premiere

On February 9, Philadelphia-based company BalletX makes its way to Vail, Colorado as part of the Vilar Performing Arts Center's Winter Dance Series in collaboration with the Vail Dance Festival. BalletX will present the world premiere of Nicolo Fonte's Steep Drop, Euphoric in advance of its March 6 Philadelphia premiere. A regular at the Vail Dance Festival, BalletX will be back again this summer from July 26-August 10.

Ballet Idaho's Winter Repertoire Program Includes a World Premiere by Danielle Rowe

Ballet Idaho's winter repertoire program, titled (re)Define, explores contemporary and classical ballet to ask the question: How do you define dance? The program, running February 8-9, features a diverse list of works including George Balanchine's Allegro Brillante, Penny Saunders' Berceuse, Alejandro Cerrudo's Lickety-Split, the U.S. premiere of Craig Davidson's Ambiguous Content and Dreamland, a world premiere by Danielle Rowe.

Ballet West Reprises "Swan Lake" and Bids Farewell to Principal Christopher Ruud

Ballet West brings back a classic February 8-23: artistic director Adam Sklute's Swan Lake. The final performance on February 23 will feature principal Christopher Ruud as Prince Siegfried, marking his final performance with the company after 21 years. Ruud's history with the company runs deep; both of his parents also danced for Ballet West.

Matthew Bourne's "Cinderella" is Back in Los Angeles

Following the success of 2017's The Red Shoes, Matthew Bourne's New Adventures is back at Los Angeles' Ahmanson Theatre February 5-March 10 with Cinderella. Set to Prokofiev's famed score, Bourne reinterprets the classic fairy tale as a World War II love story. Cinderella originally had its premiere at the Ahmanson Theatre in 1999, and was revived in 2010 and then again in 2017.

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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