The Joffrey’s Anastacia Holden is more than just a dancer; she’s a force in her community. In 2010, she co-founded EMBARC, Inc, a non-profit that offers cultural experiences for high school students in Chicago’s historically underserved neighborhoods. Through partnerships between public schools, local businesses and arts organizations, EMBARC offers teens exposure to the fine arts, takes them to visit local farms, gets them involved in their communities. The results of the program are kind of amazing: 50 percent of the students involved increased their standardized test scores, 89 percent increased their school attendance, and 99 percent are currently on track to graduate.

 

Next Thursday, The Joffrey is offering a one-night-only show to help fund the organization. “The company has donated their space for us to host a benefit performance, and my wonderful co-workers have donated their time and energy to create original works for the show,” says Holden. “We had a similar event last year and were able to raise a large percentage of EMBARC’s annual operating budget.” Joffrey artistic director Ashley wheater will cohost the event with US Department of Education special projects director Tim Tuten. For tickets, go to www.embarcchicago.org/anewmovement/

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During one of Charlotte Nash's first few weeks with Houston Ballet II, she was thrown into a run-through of Balanchine's Theme and Variations. "I had never really understudied before and I didn't know what I was doing," she says. "I fell right away and was quickly replaced." For Nash, now a dancer with Festival Ballet Providence, the episode was a tough lesson. "I was mortified, but then I said to myself, 'Okay, I need to figure out how to learn things more quickly.'"

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Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

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The Joffrey Ballet's Amanda Assucena and Greig Matthews in Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre. Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've rounded up some highlights.

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Herman Cornejo in Don Quixote. Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT.

American Ballet Theatre's fall season at Lincoln Center's Koch Theater offers a chance to see the company in shorter works and mixed-repertoire programs. This year's October 16–27 run honors principal Herman Cornejo, who's celebrating his 20th anniversary with the company. Cornejo will be featured in a special celebratory program as well as a new work by Twyla Tharp (her 17th for the company), set to Johannes Brahms' String Quartet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 111. The October 26 program will include Cornejo in a pas de deux with his sister, former ABT dancer Erica Cornejo.

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