Iconic ballerina Wendy Whelan enjoyed a groundbreaking career, both in length and breadth. She danced with New York City Ballet for 30 years and has had more roles made for her than nearly any other ballerina. Despite her accomplishments, the last few years of her career at NYCB were riddled with worsening injuries and a creeping sense that others saw her as in decline. Whelan, like most dancers, knew her desire to perform would outlast what her body could do—at least within the confines of ballet.
Restless Creature, the new documentary covering her transition out of NYCB, hits select theaters in New York on May 24. It gives us a chance to look back on one of the most fraught times in Whelan's life, when she was giving her all onstage at the Koch Theater, yet battling pain and self-doubt offstage.
Funding for the arts has always been tenuous in the United States. With the current administration threatening to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, things are poised to become even more dire. In response, Boston Ballet principal John Lam created a video to showcase what dance means to his colleagues.
The dancers summarize their thoughts and feelings with a single word: strength, joy, perspective and more. It's a powerful reminder that art isn't a luxury, it's an essential part of what makes us human.
Misty Copeland's dancing and Justin Peck's choreography have graced stages around the world. Now, these two stars will test themselves as curators. This year, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in Washington, DC, features their respective visions as part of the Ballet Across America program, April 17–23.
During the first half of the run, Copeland's picks take the stage, including Nashville Ballet, Complexions Contemporary Ballet and Jeremy McQueen's Black Iris Project. “I chose these companies because it's a chance to give them a level of exposure on the Kennedy Center stage that's typically reserved for larger companies," Copeland says. “They all perform at a high level of excellence and represent a diverse, inclusive cast of dancers." Peck's curation includes Joffrey Ballet, L.A. Dance Project and Abraham.In.Motion—a departure from typical ballet programming. “I tried to emphasize musical choreography," says Peck. Ballet Across America also includes talk-backs with the curators and artistic directors, and two world premiere Kennedy Center commissions: a piece by McQueen choreographed on American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School students and a film by former Miami City Ballet dancer Ezra Hurwitz.
Cincinnati Ballet's Kaplan New Works series, which runs April 20–29, is an institution at the midwestern company. Now in its 12th year, and sixth season presenting an all-female lineup, it has positioned itself at the forefront of a global conversation around gender imbalances in ballet. Namely, why do so few women create and lead in an art form dominated by female performers?
During the beginning of her tenure at CB, artistic director and CEO Victoria Morgan didn't prioritize the lack of female voices. “Then I started to realize that the representation is really skewed," she says. “I thought, as a leader, I should do something."
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's timeless novel of class, family and love, will come to life this spring in Princeton, New Jersey. American Repertory Ballet's premiere on April 21 marks one of the few times Austen's writing has appeared as a full-length story ballet. ARB artistic director and choreographer Douglas Martin told Pointe why the story, famed for its witty dialogue, makes perfect sense as dance.
What inspired you to tackle this?
I wanted a full-length ballet that could be specifically for ARB. It's hard to write a great love story, and Pride and Prejudice has many different kinds of relationships at its heart, because of the Bennet sisters. That gives me many lead couples and all kinds of ideas about how people can interact with each other.
What music are you using?
With digital platforms, cinema screenings and Hollywood-worthy trailers, ballet is rapidly expanding beyond the grainy YouTube clips of yesteryear. These two gorgeous new films by Ezra Hurwitz, a former Miami City Ballet dancer turned director, show two facets of the Ballet Across America program, currently onstage at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
One is a moody dance film, featuring American Ballet Theatre stars whirling through the empty halls of the Kennedy Center, bringing the building to life. The other is a touching mini-documentary, highlighting the work, uncertainty and sacrifice that goes into a ballet career. Check them out below!
Dancers know that practice makes...room for more practice. We spend our entire lives working to refine our technique, and what non-dancers see as perfection we see as a work in progress. But with dedication and discipline, that work-in-progress starts to change and grow, and that's the beauty of our art form: constant opportunity to push ourselves further.
New York City Ballet has created a charming video trailer for their Spring HERE/NOW season, a festival of works created for the company over the past several decades. It's a great complement to the Royal Ballet videos (check them out at the bottom of the post!) detailing how ballet has evolved over the past 200 years or so. And, as I wrote in March, ballet trailers are getting more and more beautiful.