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Boston Ballet Announces 5-Year Partnership with William Forsythe

Kathleen Breen Combes and Bo Busby in Forsythe's Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude. Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy Boston Ballet.

If you ask most dancers whose work they hope to perform, William Forsythe is usually at the top of the list. (How many of us have drooled over videos of In the middle, somewhat elevated?) He’s also, simply put, a nice guy: When Pointe went behind the scenes with him at Pacific Northwest Ballet last year, he radiated positive energy throughout the rehearsal process.

Well, we’re about to see a whole lot more of Forsythe now. Last week, Boston Ballet announced that it is entering a five-year partnership with the internationally renowned choreographer, who is also a dance professor at the University of Southern California. Starting with his full-length Artifact next season, the company will add one Forsythe work to its repertoire each year, creating the richest collection of his ballets nationwide.

The news comes shortly after Forsythe confirmed that he is leaving his post as associate choreographer of the Paris Opéra Ballet—an announcement made on the heels of Benjamin Millepied’s resignation as artistic director. But according to The New York Times, Forsythe's partnership with Boston has been several years in the making and is totally unrelated.

In the article, Boston Ballet artistic director Mikko Nissinen says he hopes to acquire ballets that are unfamiliar to North American audiences. As for new ballets? Forsythe alludes to the possibility in the company’s statement: “Mikko’s support of the work means that the dancers and I can deepen our wonderful relationship and I will have a new home for new ideas.”

In the meantime, Boston Ballet dancers are getting better acquainted with his extreme, improvisational style through workshops with Harvard dance professor and former Forsythe dancer Jill Johnson. We can’t wait to see the results!

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The Conversation
Ballet Stars
Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB

Your teacher at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Marcia Dale Weary, recently passed away. What impact did she have on you?

I feel deeply indebted to her. She shaped my life's course, and I know that were it not for her, I would not be living out my dream today. She led by example through her remarkable commitment to her work, as well as her genuine kindness and generosity.

You were a trainee with San Francisco Ballet. What was that experience like?

It was an exposure to different schools of thought. We were mostly in the full-lengths, and watching run-throughs of Sleeping Beauty and Don Quixote was revolutionary for me. But I was young and far away from home. That transition was hard. My body started changing. It wanted to be fleshy. Biology is cruel in that way. I desperately wanted to fit in, but it wasn't meant to be.

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Xiao Nan Yu in company class. Aaron Vincent, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada.

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"She is a supreme dance actress with an innate ability to bring the audience into her world," says NBoC artistic director Karen Kain. "Nan has always brought such a calm confidence into the studio and has been a role model for so many dancers I will miss her generosity both inside the studio and out." We spoke with Yu as she prepared for her final week of performances. She opened up about her initial culture shock upon moving to Toronto, her thoughts on artistry and why she chose Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow as her final role.

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