Everything Nutcracker
Lauren Archer with children at the "Signing Santa" event at the MacArthur Center in Norfolk, VA. Photo Courtesy Richmond Ballet.

Richmond Ballet dancer Lauren Archer never thought she'd be able to blend ballet with her knowledge of American Sign Language. But at a recent "Signing Santa" event at the MacArthur Center in Norfolk, Virginia, Archer—dressed as the Snow Queen from Nutcracker—got to make an extra-special connection with deaf and hard-of-hearing children. "Most of the parents and children were shocked to see that I was able to sign with them and that I wasn't just there for the pictures," Archer says. "I think the children loved meeting a real-life ballerina who was also able to communicate with them in their own language."

Archer began learning ASL 12 years ago, when her family adopted her younger brother, who is deaf. "He was almost 5 years old with absolutely no language or way to communicate," she says. "We continued to learn the language and teach him more and more each day—and now he's the one teaching us!"



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Ballet Careers
"With the recent passing of Mr. Mitchell, I feel an even greater responsibility to share and grow the vision he began," says longtime company member Lindsey Croop. "Art is both transformative and transcendent, and because of DTH, there is a place for everyone." Photo by Kyle Froman for Pointe.ne."

"Keep the rhythm going," calls Robert Garland, Dance Theatre of Harlem's resident choreographer, from the front of the studio. Five company women pulse through a series of syncopated pony steps, upright arabesque sissonnes and funky, Motown-inspired dance moves. It's an open rehearsal in early September, and the company is giving curious audience members a sneak peek at Garland's upcoming world premiere—one of several new works this season as DTH celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Founded in 1969 by former New York City Ballet principal Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook, DTH was groundbreaking in its makeup of mostly African-American dancers, and its insistence that they could excel in ballet. "We were a bunch of dancers who had been told no, we couldn't do this, and Mr. Mitchell was giving us a chance to show that we could," says artistic director Virginia Johnson, a founding company member and former principal. "He was a very demanding taskmaster—he knew there was something very important to prove and that it was on us to prove it."

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Ballet Stars
ABT corps members Rachel Richardson (left) and Zimmi Coker in rehearsal with choreographer Gabrielle Lamb. Photo by JJ Geiger, Courtesy ABT.

"I feel like you want to move one more thing," says choreographer Gabrielle Lamb, her head cocked slightly to the right as she watches American Ballet Theatre corps dancers Zimmi Coker and Xuelan Lu work through an intertwined movement sequence. "My hip," answers Lu, who stands with her right leg extended, foot flexed, her hand on Coker's head. Both are in socks, and in the background music plays softly, providing atmosphere rather than counts and cues. It's week two of ABT Incubator, a new choreographic workshop spearheaded by principal dancer David Hallberg that was held earlier this month. Lamb is one of five choreographers, including New York–based dancemaker Kelsey Grills and ABT dancers Sung Woo Han, Duncan Lyle and James Whiteside, who were chosen to participate through an audition process.

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Ballet Training
Photo by Gez Xavier Mansfield/Unsplash

I want to be a professional ballerina, but I am currently a freshman at a boarding school where the dance program is nowhere near the level I need to get there. What can I do? —Lucy

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Ballet Careers
Knowing your rights can help you steer clear of toxic dance companies. Getty Images

I was applying to audition for this ballet company, and the form asked if I had a history of mental issues (i.e., eating disorders, anxiety, depression) and to give a detailed description of them and steps taken for treatment. Is this something that companies normally take into account during auditions? Moreover, are they allowed to ask this? I felt so strongly about not wanting to give that information that I decided not to apply. —Melanie

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Ballet Stars
Lauren Anderson, via Instagram

It's been quite some time since we've had the pleasure of watching Lauren Anderson do 32 fouettés. The former Houston Ballet star, who became the company's first African American principal dancer in 1990, was famous for her thrilling bravura and for her partnership with Carlos Acosta. Now Houston Ballet's program manager of community engagement and an in-demand master teacher, Anderson, 53, just made a fun announcement on her Instagram page: if Houston Ballet can get enough votes to win at least second place in Aetna's Voices of Health Competition, she says, "I will give you 32 fouettés, right here in this studio—yes I will."

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Ballet Stars
Murphy (left) with Hee Seo. "Gamzatti has heard that Nikiya is a beautiful temple dancer, but when she lifts up her chin and first sees her face, it's like, 'Oh, no.' She's stunningly gorgeous." Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT.

By Gillian Murphy, as told to Amy Brandt.

Gamzatti was one of my first principal roles, when I was 19. Over the last 20 years I've had a chance to develop the character and find nuances. At first I saw her more as a villain and Nikiya as the good character. That's changed over time. I don't condone her actions, but she does what she believes is right. And Nikiya has a part to play in what happens. I've danced both roles and love each, but I feel like Gamzatti has more to dig into. She really has dimension.

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Ballet Training
ABT Studio Company artistic director Sascha Radetsky in YAGP's "Ask the Experts" series, screenshot via YouTube.

If your goal is to become a professional dancer, you likely have a lot of questions about what you need to do to get there. Last year, Youth America Grand Prix created a Facebook video series called "Ask the Expert," featuring conversations with dance professionals on topics ranging from nutrition to dancing in college to career building. (Good news: They are now available on YAGP's website and YouTube page).

This season, YAGP is expanding the series to include more interviews. The latest video features American Ballet Theatre Studio Company artistic director Sascha Radetsky. The topic? Navigating your first year of professional life, from a director's perspective. Radetsky answers questions about professional etiquette and protocol, navigating company hierarchy and managing conflicts, and offers his tips for a successful career and what qualities stand out to him in dancers.

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