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Benefit Brings Together Dance Stars to Raise Money—and Awareness—for Hurricane Harvey Victims

Houston Ballet's Jared Matthews and Sara Webb in"The Sleeping Beauty." Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

Despite the devastation and pain that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have left in their wake this fall, it's been encouraging to see dancers step up in aid of their communities: When the future of Houston Ballet's Nutcracker seemed uncertain, venues around the city pulled together to allow the company to produce the show on a "hometown tour." And when Florida ballet companies had to evacuate, Atlanta Ballet and Charlotte Ballet welcomed them with open arms. In addition, New York City-based studio Broadway Dance Center offered community classes in September with proceeds donated to the American Red Cross.

The next in this series of good deeds is Hearts for Houston, a benefit performance bringing dancers from seven major companies together at New York City's Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater to raise money for the United Way of Greater Houston's Harvey Relief Fund. Scheduled for Sunday, October 22, the evening will feature members of the Houston Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Texas Ballet Theater, The Washington Ballet and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Hearts for Houston is imagined and produced by Houston Ballet principal dancers Yuriko Kajiya and Jared Matthews (both formerly of ABT) and funded by patrons Phoebe and Bobby Tudor and sponsor Neiman Marcus.



The Hearts for Houston Instagram page has been releasing the program over the past week, and so far it looks like a pretty powerful lineup.

The benefit will feature a world premiere by Texas Ballet Theater director and former Houston Ballet artistic director Ben Stevenson O.B.E., titled Martinů Pieces. TBT dancers Carolyn Judson and Alexander Kotelenets will dance the second movement, "Harvey," inspired by the affect of the storm on Stevenson's friends in Houston. Houston Ballet principals Sara Webb and Jared Matthews will dance the La Bayadère Act I pas de deux, and Yuriko Kajiya and Connor Walsh will dance the Madame Butterfly pas de deux choreographed by Stanton Welch. Companies outside of Texas include The Washington Ballet in Alexei Ratmansky's Bolero and Pennsylvania Ballet principals Arian Molina Soca and Mayara Pineiro in the Don Quixote pas de deux. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancers Ashley Mayeux and Sean Aaron Carmon (both Texas natives) will dance "Fix Me, Jesus" from Revelations, and AAADT's Kanji Segawa will perform artistic director Robert Battle's Takademe. Another Ailey dancer, Jacquelin Harris, will be joined by NYCB's Ask La Cour in Christopher Wheeldon's touching (and aptly named) pas de deux, After the Rain. Hearts for Houston has also teased that NYCB's Daniel Ulbricht (no stranger to benefits as the director of the annual Dance Against Cancer) and ABT's Daniil Simkin will be involved, though what they'll be dancing has yet to be announced.

Tickets range from $150-$500. One hundred percent of funds raised will be donated directly to the cause, helping individuals and families with otherwise unmet relief needs including home repair and case management. VIP tickets also include a pre-show reception with a Dance Talk/Demonstration by former NYCB star Merrill Ashley, and Premium Access tickets include entry to the tech rehearsals and a backstage post-show toast. It's heartwarming to see this outpouring of support from the dance community, and we're sure the combined star power of this group of dancers will bring Houston one step closer to recovery.

The Conversation
Ballet Stars
Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB

Your teacher at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Marcia Dale Weary, recently passed away. What impact did she have on you?

I feel deeply indebted to her. She shaped my life's course, and I know that were it not for her, I would not be living out my dream today. She led by example through her remarkable commitment to her work, as well as her genuine kindness and generosity.

You were a trainee with San Francisco Ballet. What was that experience like?

It was an exposure to different schools of thought. We were mostly in the full-lengths, and watching run-throughs of Sleeping Beauty and Don Quixote was revolutionary for me. But I was young and far away from home. That transition was hard. My body started changing. It wanted to be fleshy. Biology is cruel in that way. I desperately wanted to fit in, but it wasn't meant to be.

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The Royal Ballet's Vadim Muntagirov and Marianela Nuñez in La Bayadère. Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy ROH.

Do you ever wish you could teleport to London and casually stroll into The Royal Opera House to see some of the world's best-loved ballets? Well, we have a solution for you: The Royal Ballet's 2018-19 cinema season.

Whether live or recorded, the seven ballet programs listed below, streaming now through next October, will deliver all of the magic that The Royal Ballet has to offer straight to your local movie theater. Can you smell the popcorn already?

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Site Network
Left: Misa Kuranaga in The Veritginous Thrill of Exactitude. Gene Schiavone, Courtesy Boston Ballet. Right: Sasha Mukhamedov in Apollo. Altin Kaftira, Courtesy Dutch National Ballet.

San Francisco Ballet just announced some major news: longtime Boston Ballet star Misa Kuranaga will be joining the company as a principal dancer for the 2019-20 season, while Dutch National Ballet principal Sasha Mukhamedov has been hired as a soloist. They join a slew of newly promoted SFB principals and soloists, announced earlier this year.

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Ballet Stars
Xiao Nan Yu in company class. Aaron Vincent, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada.

On June 22, National Ballet of Canada principal Xiao Nan Yu will retire from the stage after 22 years with the company. Originally from Dalian, China, Yu studied at the Shen Yang School of Dance and the Beijing Dance Academy before coming to Canada's National Ballet School at age 17. She joined the National Ballet of Canada less than two years later, and was promoted to principal in 2001.

"She is a supreme dance actress with an innate ability to bring the audience into her world," says NBoC artistic director Karen Kain. "Nan has always brought such a calm confidence into the studio and has been a role model for so many dancers I will miss her generosity both inside the studio and out." We spoke with Yu as she prepared for her final week of performances. She opened up about her initial culture shock upon moving to Toronto, her thoughts on artistry and why she chose Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow as her final role.

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