Any dancer who plans on auditioning for companies anytime soon should watch "A Chance to Dance." The new series on Ovation follows the affable British BalletBoyz Billy Trevitt and Michael Nunn as they audition dancers across the US in order to form a new troupe. The show gives an inside peek at their process, and what they're thinking as they decide which dancers to hire. Pointe asked the two directors a few questions about the project.

 

What inspired you to take part in "A Chance to Dance"?

We loved the idea of a search for dancers from a pool that was totally new to us, finding dancers with different skills and approaches to their art from the ones that we know in the UK.

 

Did you notice any difference between American and British dancers?

The most striking difference was in style. American dancers have developed a whole new genre of dancing, one in which you develop a series of personal moves that best describe you as a dancer. We ended up getting used to this ability and may well miss it when we return to the UK.

 

Out of a room full of dancers in these auditions, what made people stand out?

This is a difficult question as the answer is always different. Just when you think you've found the perfect physique, it turns out they have no technique or no ideas to offer, or perhaps they have physical challenges but are incredibly creative. We are always looking for the ultimate blend of ability and charisma, but we are constantly surprised by what works in a dancer, and therefore have to keep a very open mind.

How do you think the recent surge of reality dance shows on television will affect the field of dance?

The most exciting result of having so much dance on TV is that the audience now knows a great deal about what they see. It means that standards have to keep getting higher for television productions and following on from that, in live performances.

 

Catch the second episode of "A Chance to Dance" tonight on Ovation at 10 pm ET/7 pm PT.

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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