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Dance, Love—and Twitter
Ballet Nouveau Colorado harnesses the power of social media.

Ballet Nouveau Colorado has collaborated with all kinds of artists, from poets to painters to musicians. But their latest project involves a different kind of collaboration: a piece that anyone and everyone can help create. Love in the Digital Age, which premieres this February, makes use of fan submissions from various media platforms—Vimeo, Flickr, Twitter and Facebook among them—to create a collaged portrait of love. BNC followers (and a few professional artists) have been sending in their pictures, poems, short films and the like since November.

“I love the new ideas that come when you bring multiple people into the creative conversation,” says BNC artistic director Garrett Ammon, the project’s ringleader. “Now we have all these digital tools that can facilitate that conversation, so that it can easily become a large-scale thing. I thought, Why not run with that?”

As for what the piece will actually look like, Ammon has no idea (yet). “We’re going to take all this information and assemble it into an evening-length performance that expresses a broad idea about love,” he says. And what will the BNC dancers have to do with all of this? “My plan is for the dancers to be manipulating a lot of the technology during the performance,” Ammon says. He’s especially excited about the Kinect for Xbox, a motion-sensing device that will allow the dancers to control projections with their bodies. “I’m not sure where it’ll all go,” he says. “But hopefully it will encapsulate the meeting of technology with one of the most basic human experiences.”  —Margaret Fuhrer

Tharp’s Goblin in Atlanta
Children, goblins, Twyla Tharp—not three things that usually fall in the same sentence. But this February Atlanta Ballet will premiere Twyla Tharp’s The Princess and the Goblin, a full-length story ballet featuring students from the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education. (The production was co-commissioned by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, which will perform it this fall.)

Goblin is based on a fairytale by George MacDonald. In Tharp’s version of the story, Princess Irene and her friend, Curdy, attempt to rescue Irene’s sister and a gaggle of other children who have been captured by goblins. According to AB dancer Jacob Bush, who plays Curdy, Tharp has been mulling the ballet for years. “We learned some of the choreography off videotapes, but she’d pop one in and the date would come up as 1989,” he says. “And Twyla would say, ‘Yup, here’s your duet—I choreographed it 20 years ago.’ ”

Working with students seems to have softened the notoriously demanding Tharp. “In the beginning, all of the professional dancers were nervous: Oh gosh, it’s Twyla,” he says. “But the kids had no idea who she was, so they were just being their fearless selves. Twyla loved it. Soon they were saying, ‘We want to try this today’ or ‘We want to do it this way,’ and she’d go along with it all.” —MF

Colorado Ballet's Strong Women
Colorado Ballet’s “Tribute” program, premiering in March, honors the company’s two female founders, the late Lillian Covillo and Freidann Parker, with new works by three women choreographers. Emery LeCrone is excited to be on the lineup along with Jodie Gates and Amy Seiwert. “It’s important to put women working in the ballet idiom at the forefront, and give us a chance to see each others’ work and learn from each other,” LeCrone says. “Shows like ‘Tribute’ give us a moment in the sun.”

When LeCrone first began creating her piece on the company this summer for the Vail International Dance Festival, she didn’t realize just how perfect it would be for “Tribute.” “Colorado Ballet has two beautiful but very different principal dancers, Chandra Kuykendall and Maria Mosina,” she says. “I had them learning the same part initially, but I kept seeing different qualities in it depending on which one was dancing.” LeCrone eventually decided to split the principal part between two movements, having Mosina dance one and Kuykendall the other. “It became an exploration of the tug and pull between their styles,” she says. A few days after LeCrone split the role, a CB board member mentioned how fitting the work was for a program honoring two women artistic directors. LeCrone laughs. “I guess it was fate!” —MF

Ratmansky in Miami
The ever-busy Alexei Ratmansky has been hard at work this winter. Pacific Northwest Ballet will present the U.S. debut of his Don Quixote in February, and American Ballet Theatre will premiere his Firebird on March 29. His new Symphonic Dances will have its world premiere at Miami City Ballet’s gala on March 1. (The ballet will then enter the company’s regular repertoire this fall.) MCB soloist Sara Esty kept notes on the Symphonic Dances rehearsal process for Pointe.

Every once in a while, a person comes along and changes the ballet world, as Alexei Ratmansky has. Over the past few months, Miami City Ballet has worked with Ratmansky on a new piece set to Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Symphonic Dances.”

The ballet feels dramatic and edgy from the start. In the first movement, questions hang in the air as everyone follows the principal male character intensely with their eyes; then, suddenly, the stage erupts with activity. The second, more romantic movement slows down the pace. And the final movement is fantastically powerful and impressive. “There is no real story,” Ratmansky explained to us. “This may confuse some people, but I almost want the audience to be confused by the mystery of it all. I want them to leave with the images and feelings that the movement gives them.”

During rehearsals, Ratmansky was able to demonstrate exactly what he wanted with his own body. He is a fearless choreographer. In fact, he has such an extreme range of motion that at times it was hard for us to re-create his steps. That resulted in frustration, long rehearsals and sore muscles. However, by the end of our time with him, we all felt as though we had created something truly new. —Sara Esty

Ballet All Over: New Ballet Documentaries

-Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance is the first documentary to chronicle the history of The Joffrey Ballet. It’s a treasure trove of archival footage and photographs (like the one at left), woven in with interviews with former and current Joffrey dancers. The documentary will be screened at various locations across the U.S. Visit for more information.

-First Position follows six talented young dancers as they prepare for Youth America Grand Prix finals in New York. The documentary premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September, where it won the audience choice first runner-up for best documentary. It will be released in North American theaters this year. Visit to learn more. —MF


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Chisako Oga photographed for Pointe by Jayme Thornton

Chisako Oga Is Soaring to New Heights at Boston Ballet

Chisako Oga is a dancer on the move—in more ways than one. From childhood training in Texas, California and Japan to a San Francisco Ballet apprenticeship to her first professional post with Cincinnati Ballet, where she quickly rose to principal dancer, she has rarely stood still for long.

But now the 24-year-old ballerina is right where she wants to be, as one of the most promising soloists at Boston Ballet. In 2019, Oga left her principal contract to join the company as a second soloist, rising to soloist the following year. "I knew I would have to take a step down to join a company of a different caliber, and Boston Ballet is one of the best companies in the country," she says. "The repertoire—Kylián, Forysthe, all the full-length ballets—is so appealing to me."

And the company has offered her major opportunities from the start. She danced the title role in Giselle in her very first performances with Boston Ballet, transforming a playful innocent into a woman haunted by betrayal with dramatic conviction and technical aplomb. But she also is making her mark in contemporary work. The last ballet she performed onstage before the pandemic hit was William Forsythe's demanding In the middle, somewhat elevated, which she says was a dream to perform. "The style really clicked, felt really comfortable. Bill drew something new out of me every rehearsal. As hard as it was, it was so much fun."

"Chisako is a very natural mover, pliable and strong," says artistic director Mikko Nissinen. "Dancing seems to come very easy for her. Not many have that quality. She's like a diamond—I'm curious to see how much we can polish that talent."

Chisako Oga, an Asian-American ballerina, does a pench\u00e9 on pointe towards the camera with her arms held out to the side and her long hair flying. Smiling confidently, she wears a blue leotard and a black and white ombr\u00e9 tutu.

Jayme Thornton for Pointe

A Life-Changing Opportunity

Oga began dancing at the age of 3. Born in Dallas, she and her family moved around to follow her father's job in IT. Before settling in Carlsbad, California, they landed in Japan for several years, where Oga began to take ballet very seriously. "I like the simplicity of ballet, the structure and the clear vocabulary," she says. "Dances that portray a story or have a message really drew me in. One of my favorite parts of a story ballet is diving into the role and becoming the character, putting it in my perspective."

In California, Oga studied with Victor and Tatiana Kasatsky and Maxim Tchernychev. Her teachers encouraged her to enter competitions, which she says broadened her outlook and fed her love of performing in front of an audience. Though highly motivated, she says she came to realize that winning medals wasn't everything. "Honestly, I feel like the times I got close and didn't place gave me perspective, made me realize being a dancer doesn't define you and helped me become the person and the dancer I am today."

At 15, Oga was a semifinalist at the Prix de Lausanne, resulting in a "life-changing" scholarship to the San Francisco Ballet School. There she trained with two of her most influential teachers, Tina LeBlanc and Patrick Armand. "She came in straightaway with strong basics," Armand recalls, "and working with her for two years, I realized how clever she is. She's super-smart, thoughtful, driven, always working."

She became a company apprentice in 2016. Then came the disappointing news—she was let go a few months later. Pushing 5' 2", she was simply too short for the company's needs, she was told. "It was really, really hard," says Oga. "I felt like I was on a good track, so to be let go was very shocking, especially since my height was not something I could improve or change."

Jayme Thornton for Pointe

Moving On and Up

Ironically, Oga's height proved an advantage in auditioning for Cincinnati Ballet, which was looking for a talented partner for some of their shorter men. She joined the company in 2016, was quickly promoted to soloist, and became a principal dancer for the 2017–18 season, garnering major roles like Swanilda and Juliet during her three years with the company. "There were times I felt insignificant and insecure, like I don't deserve this," Oga says about these early opportunities. "But I was mostly thrilled to be put in those shoes."

She was also thriving in contemporary work, like choreographer-in-residence Jennifer Archibald's MYOHO. Archibald cites her warmth, playfulness and sensitivity, adding, "There's also a powerful presence about her, and I was amazed at how fast she was at picking up choreography, able to find the transitions quickly. She's definitely a special talent. Boston Ballet will give her more exposure on a national level."

Chisako Oga, an Asian-American ballerina, poses in attitude derriere crois\u00e9 on her right leg, with her right arm out to the side and her left hand grazing her left shoulder. She smiles happily towards the camera, her black hair blowing in the breeze, and wears a blue leotard, black-and-white ombre tutu, and skin-colored pointe shoes.

Jayme Thornton for Pointe

That was Oga's plan. She knew going in that Cincinnati was more stepping-stone than final destination. She had her sights on a bigger company with a broader repertoire, and Boston Ballet seemed ideal.

As she continues to spread her wings at the company, Oga has developed a seemingly effortless artistic partnership with one of Boston Ballet's most dynamic male principals, Derek Dunn, who Oga calls "a kind-hearted, open person, so supportive when I've been hard on myself. He's taught me to believe in myself and trust that I'm capable of doing whatever the choreography needs." The two have developed an easy bond in the studio she likens to "a good conversation, back and forth."

Dunn agrees. "I knew the first time we danced together we had a special connection," he says. "She really takes on the artistic side of a role, which makes the connection really strong when we're dancing onstage. It's like being in a different world."

He adds, "She came into the company and a lot was thrown at her, which could have been daunting. She handled it with such grace and confidence."

Derek Dunn, shirtless and in blue tights, lunges slightly on his right leg and holds Chisako Oga's hand as she balances on her left leg on pointe with her right leg flicking behind her. She wears a yellow halter-top leotard and they dance onstage in front of a bright orange backdrop.

Oga with Derek Dunn in Helen Pickett's Petal

Liza Voll, Courtesy Boston Ballet

Perspective in a Pandemic

The pair were heading into Boston Ballet's busy spring season when the pandemic hit. "It was really a bummer," Oga says. "I was really looking forward to Swan Lake, Bella Figura, some new world premieres. When we found out the whole season was canceled, it was hard news to take in."

But she quickly determined to make the most of her time out of the studio and physically rest her body. "All the performances take a toll. Of course, I did stretches and exercised, but we never give ourselves enough time to rest as dancers."

She also resumed college courses toward a second career. Oga is one of many Boston Ballet dancers taking advantage of a special partnership with Northeastern University to help them earn bachelor's degrees. Focusing on finance and accounting, Oga upped her classes in economics, algebra, business and marketing. She also joined Boston Ballet's Color Our Future Mentoring Program to raise awareness and support diversity, equity and inclusion. "I am trying to have my voice inspire the next generation," she says.

Jayme Thornton for Pointe

One pandemic silver lining has been spending more time with her husband, Grand Rapids Ballet dancer James Cunningham. The two met at Cincinnati Ballet, dancing together in Adam Hougland's Cut to the Chase just after Oga's arrival, and got married shortly before her move to Boston. Cunningham took a position in Grand Rapids, so they've been navigating a long-distance marriage ever since. They spend a lot of time texting and on FaceTime, connecting in person during layoffs. "It's really hard," Oga admits, but adds, "We are both very passionate about the art form, so it's easy to support each other's goals."

Oga's best advice for young dancers? "Don't take any moment for granted," she says without hesitation. "It doesn't matter what rank you are, just do everything to the fullest—people will see the hard work you put in. Don't settle for anything less. Knowing [yourself] is also very important, not holding yourself to another's standards. No two paths are going to be the same."

And for the foreseeable future, Oga's path is to live life to the fullest, inside and outside ballet. "The pandemic put things in perspective. Dancing is my passion. I want to do it as long as I can, but it's only one portion of my life. I truly believe a healthy balance between social and work life is good for your mental health and helps me be a better dancer."

Louisville Ballet in Andrea Schermoly's Rite of Spring. Sam English, Courtesy Louisville Ballet.

Inside Andrea Schermoly’s Arctic "Rite of Spring" at Louisville Ballet

South African–born choreographer Andrea Schermoly is no stranger to challenges, and she's often on the move. Among an extensive portfolio of productions created for companies worldwide, she has also tackled reimaginings of Martha Graham's Appalachian Spring and Judith as one of three artists in residence at Louisville Ballet.

Schermoly is also no stranger to film, having created a digital short called In Passing for the Ashley Bouder Project in 2015. But her most recent film project for Louisville Ballet, a new version of the iconic Rite of Spring, breaks ground—or, rather, ice—with its fresh, arctic take on the Stravinsky masterwork.

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Tanya Howard in rehearsal Trase Pa. Photo by Karolina Kuras, Courtesy of NBoC.

8 Virtual Dance Performances to Watch in May

As we push into May, the ballet world presents another lineup of exciting digital performances. We've rounded up a few of the season finales, collaborations and special programs coming up this month. Check them out below!

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