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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 Training
Kali Kleiman performing at YAGP's New York Finals. VAM Productions, Courtesy YAGP.

As someone who has judged many ballet competitions, I've had the opportunity to see some breathtaking contemporary solos that combine fantastic technique with well-conceived choreography. Yet it's often hard for us judges to see the artistic intention behind these solos the way we can when watching a classical variation. For one thing, we're simply more familiar with classical ballet's repertoire and characters. But also, when a contemporary solo is just a string of one trick after another, or only delivers one emotion (such as overwrought angst), we don't get to see any artistic depth.

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Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet Academy

When you're looking for a ballet program to take you to the next level, there are a lot of factors to consider. While it's tempting to look for the biggest name that will accept you, the savvy dancer knows that successful training has more to do with the attention and opportunities you'll get.

We put together a few of the most important things for dancers to look for in a summer or year-round training program, with the help of the experts at Colorado Ballet Academy:

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Ballet Stars
Elle Macy in Benjamin Millepied's Appassionata. Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

Cross-training misconceptions: Before Elle Macy became an apprentice with Pacific Northwest Ballet, she was apprehensive about cross-training. "I was warned that it might bulk you, or not to do certain activities because they could potentially injure you." But a stress fracture in her foot changed her perspective. Unable to bear much weight, Macy reluctantly tried stationary biking at her physical therapist's suggestion. "What I learned is that you're not going to get injured from being on an elliptical for 20 minutes or by taking a Pilates class," says Macy. Today, it's not uncommon to find the soloist training on the elliptical, doing ankle stability exercises, using the Pilates reformer or taking a hot yoga class.

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Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

We got Payne's advice on strategizing your summer intensive plan before the audition cycle kicks in:

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