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Onstage This Week: Brooklyn Mack's ABT Debut, "Marie" Returns to Houston Ballet, and More!

Houston Ballet's Melody Mennite in Stanton Welch's Marie. Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy HB.

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


Brooklyn Mack Makes His ABT Debut in "Le Corsaire"

American Ballet Theatre's Metropolitan Opera House season brings it back to the classics this week with Le Corsaire. And to make things more interesting, former Washington Ballet star Brooklyn Mack will be making his ABT debut as a guest artist, dancing the roles of Conrad and Ali. The June 11-15 run also includes exciting debuts by Devon Teuscher, Katherine Williams, Aran Bell, Cassandra Trenary and Blaine Hoven.

NYLA's Women/Create! Festival Brings Together 7 Female Choreographers

New York Live Arts' Women/Create! A Festival of Dance runs June 11-16. The fest's focus is on female contemporary choreographers, though many of the seven dancemakers highlighted (Karole Armitage, Jacqulyn Buglisi, Carolyn Dorfman, Jennifer Muller, Francesca Harper, Helen Simoneau and Katarzyna Skarpetowska) cross over into the ballet realm. Each program features four works, danced primarily by members of the choreographers' companies; Skarpetowska's piece, Akwarium, will be performed by 12 dancers from Richmond Ballet.

Birmingham Royal Ballet's All-Female Triple Bill Features a World Premiere by Didy Velman

Birmingham Royal Ballet's June 12-26 [Un]Leashed program features three works by female choreographers, including a world premiere by Dutch dancemaker Didy Veldman. Veldman's Sense of Time is set to a score by Gabriel Prokofiev, Sergei Prokofiev's grandson. Also on the program are Jessica Lang's Lyric Pieces and Ruth Brill's Peter and the Wolf (to the senior Prokofiev's masterpiece).

"Marie" Returns to Houston Ballet

Houston Ballet's 2018/19 season closes this week with artistic director Stanton Welch's Marie, onstage June 14-23. This dramatic retelling of Marie Antoinette's story is set to a compilation of compositions by Dmitri Shostakovich. This year, principal Melody Mennite returns to the titular role, which was made for her in 2009; above, company dancers discuss the production.

Ballet BC Heads to The Big Apple 

The Vancouver-based Ballet BC is back at New York's Brooklyn Academy of Music June 13-15 as part of its celebration of artistic director Emily Molnar's 10th anniversary with the company. The contemporary ballet troupe presents a triple bill including William Forsythe's Enemy in the Figure, Molnar's To This Day and Crystal Pite's Solo Echo.

NWA Ballet Theatre Presents a Quadruple Bill of Contemporary Works

Bentonville, Arkansas-based NWA Ballet Theatre presents a mixed bill titled Next: Classically Contemporary Dance June 13-14. The program features four original works by artistic director Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye and choreographers Karen Castleman and Gillmer Duran. This chamber-sized company is committed to community engagement and promoting the growing arts scene in Northwest Arkansas.

BalletNext at Kaatsbaan

BalletNext makes its way to Kaatsbaan in Tivoli, New York, for two days of performances June 15-16. BalletNext was founded by former American Ballet Theatre principal Michele Wiles in 2011; these shows mark the close of the company's 2019 spring season, and promise live music.

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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