Much has changed since Pointe launched 15 years ago—the emergence of social and digital media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube; continuing economic uncertainty, which has forced some ballet companies to downsize; the proliferation of competitions, like Youth America Grand Prix, and the extreme technique they showcase; the globalization of dance, making borders more permeable for dancers like David Hallberg and other international stars to move from one company to another; and the genesis of a new generation of dancers, choreographers and directors in the 21st century. Pointe asked five ballet movers-and-shakers for their opinions on what ballet needs to flourish in the next 15 years. (Interviews by Joseph Carman and Laura Cappelle.)

 

 

Lourdes Lopez
Artistic director, Miami City Ballet

You have to embrace new technology. It’s a no-brainer, but you have to figure out how to use it. People think of ballet as fragile. I completely disagree. I think it’s actually very powerful in terms of a transformational art form. Look how long it’s survived with all the issues and agendas—political, scientific, social and economic. I’m a believer that you can live-stream dance into a bar or restaurant or stadium or a parking lot. It’s not going to diminish the art form.


I also think Latin America is a sleeping giant with tremendous potential. There are so many investments moving there. I feel I need to get MCB down there—the roster of our dancers is like West Side Story, half Hispanic and half American. —JC 

 


Justin Peck
Choreographer and New York City Ballet soloist

For some reason there has been a departure in choreography from focusing on the music itself. To me, what’s interesting in ballet is watching an interpretation of the music by the choreographer. I think that’s the purest form of choreography—George Balanchine was ahead of his time. We’ve had choreographers come to NYCB who’ve treated the music like an added factor or wallpaper. And there have been some very good pieces created that way, but then there’s not enough balance between music and movement.


Also, collaborations with different artistic mediums are very important. There’s a great section of Miami called Wynwood Arts District. Many street artists have painted this huge mural on a blank warehouse. That inspired me to get in touch with one of the artists and prompted collaboration on a ballet for MCB. There’s a history of dance being this meeting point of many artistic mediums, and I want to carry on that tradition in a very current, relevant way. —JC 


 

Helen Pickett
Resident choreographer, Atlanta Ballet

Ballet sometimes has the reputation of being exclusionary. We need to keep moving forward in how our ballet companies look, in their makeup. We need to make ballet more inclusionary in other ways, too, like using other traditions of dance. But we have to investigate, not merely appropriate. With today’s speed, we take a master class, and we think we have an idea of a particular technique.


Choreography composition classes in big ballet conservatories are key. They get dancers curious and involved, and make them better artists. Perhaps as part of a conservatory’s requirements, making a short piece could be mandatory? Wouldn’t that be wonderful? So many ballet kids come into my improvisation class and say, “I was at an audition, and they asked me to improv and I didn’t know what to do.” It’s showing up more in the ballet world, and these kids need to know it. —JC

 

 

Sara Mearns
Principal dancer, New York City Ballet

It’s definitely great that more women are in directorial and choreographic positions in ballet. It’s not to say men don’t do a good job, but women are taking executive positions all over, not just in ballet. I’m actively seeking to work with more women choreographers because they have a different take. Women are very strong, and I’m a very strong dancer.


I don’t agree with the extreme technique that the competitions develop these days. I think it turns dancers into robots, which is not pretty to watch. I am definitely a believer in artistry over tricks. The artistry will last longer, and you can develop it over decades. Tricks will come and go; one day you won’t be able to do them. After a while they’re kind of boring. With artistry, something new always happens. It’s creating a story and using your imagination on­stage. There is no imagination in tricks whatsoever. —JC

 

 

Benjamin Millepied
Director, LA Dance Project; director designate, Paris Opéra Ballet

One of the issues facing ballet is the relative lack of choreographers. There are some great ones, but I’d like to see more people who have the talent and the craft to create works that are complex, interesting and of our time. Part of the issue is that choreography isn’t taught; unlike music, there are no training programs. Choreography has rules, and you need a knowledge of architecture, space, music. It’s like studying mathematics. There’s also a lot to learn from the works of the past. I want to start an academy at the Paris Opéra Ballet where people will have a year to try it out and practice.


Ballet would also gain from more diversity. The idea that ballet is a white art is absurd and shocking, and it’s gone on for too long. Nothing would make me happier than having a company that reflects society, to have dancers onstage that people can relate to. —LC

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Photo by Rob Becker, courtesy DePrince.

In January, a commercial for Chase's QuickPay Mobile App starring Michaela DePrince aired on national television. In March, it was announced that Madonna would be directing the movie version of DePrince's autobiography. And in April, she graced the cover of Harper's Bazarre Netherlands. With all the buzz, it's easy to forget that the Dutch National Ballet soloist has been sidelined since August 2017 with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Pointe checked in with DePrince to see how her recovery is going.

Last fall, you ruptured your Achilles tendon. How did that happen?

It was the first of August. I was in Sicily doing an event with Google. We had dinner at a temple and it was just absolutely incredible. I'm kind of clumsy outside of ballet, so I thought it would be safer if I took my shoes off. Then Lenny Kravitz starts to sing a song and he dedicates it to me. I got up and went to go sit next to him on the stage. When I got up from sitting, I stepped in the wrong place at the wrong time. I knew right away that I ruptured my Achilles. They brought me to an ambulance and took me to the hospital. I flew back to the Netherlands the next day and had an appointment with the doctors here in Amsterdam. They said, "Yeah, you ruptured three quarters of your Achilles." And then on August 14, I had surgery.

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Make sure you're comfortable slipping into pointe shoes for center. Photo by Jim Lafferty.

I was offered a company contract (my first!) starting this fall. What should I do in the meantime to make sure I'm as prepared as possible? —Melissa

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Photographed by Jayme Thornton for Pointe.

This is Pointe's April/May 2018 Cover Story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

If you are a dance lover in South Korea, EunWon Lee is a household name. The delicate ballerina and former principal at the Korean National Ballet danced every major classical role to critical acclaim, including Odette/Odile, Giselle, Kitri, Nikiya and Gamzatti. Then, at the peak of her career, Lee left it all behind.

In 2016, she moved to Washington, DC, to join The Washington Ballet. The company of 26 is unranked, making Lee simply a dancer—not a soloist, not a principal and not a star, like she was back home.

"I try to challenge myself, and always I had the urge to widen my experience and continue to improve," she says one blustery winter day after company class, still glowing from the exertion of honing, stretching and strengthening. "When I had a chance to work with Julie Kent, I didn't hesitate."

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Olga Smirnova. Photo by Quinn Wharton.

Several weeks ago, Youth America Grand Prix announced that the lineup for tonight's Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow gala at Lincoln Center's Koch Theater would include Bolshoi Ballet principal Olga Smirnova and first soloist Jacopo Tissi. But an article in Page Six published last night states that Smirnova and Tissi were denied visas to enter the US.

YAGP organizers "believe the Department of Homeland Security's decision may be motivated by the myriad tensions between the superpowers," says the piece, noting that "Smirnova is so revered in Moscow that her treatment could create a Russian backlash."

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Houston Ballet principal Connor Walsh getting early practice as a leading man. Photo courtesy Connor Walsh

It's that time of year again—recital season! And not so long ago, some of your favorite ballet dancers were having their own recital experiences: dancing, discovering, bowing, laughing, receiving after-show flowers, making memories, and, of course, having their pictures taken! For this week's #TBT, we gathered recital photos—and the stories behind them—from five of our favorite dancers.

Gillian Murphy, American Ballet Theatre

Murphy gets ready for her role as "Mary Had a Little Lamb." Photo courtesy Gillian Murphy.

"This photo was taken by my mom when I was 11, waiting in the dressing room (the band room of West Florence High School in South Carolina) before I went onstage as 'Mary' for a recital piece featuring 3-year-olds as little lambs.I had so much fun being the teacher's assistant in the baby ballet class each week, particularly because my little sister Tessa [pictured below] was one of the 3-year-olds. I remember feeling quite grown up at the time because I was dancing in the older kids' recital piece later in the program, but in this moment I was just looking forward to leading my little lambs onstage in their number."

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From the latest launches to forever favorites, these stretch-canvas flats will (comfortably) keep you on your toes:


Bloch Inc. Infinity


Bloch combined the top features from two of their best-selling shoes to create this arch-enhancing slipper. An elastic top line (instead of draw- string) allows the shoe to mold to your foot, and a ridge-less outsole helps with balances and turns by giving the toes more room to spread out.


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Photo by Jacob Bryant, Courtesy Random Acts

"When you turn up at someone's door saying, 'I would like to make the first dance in Antarctica,' they often call you crazy."

So says Kiwi choreographer and former ballet dancer Corey Baker. Luckily, his persistence paid off. On Sunday, April 22 (that's Earth Day, everybody), Baker, who now directs the U.K.–based Corey Baker Dance, is releasing his short film "Antarctica: The First Dance." Commissioned by Random Acts for Channel 4 and The Space (UK), the four-minute film stars Royal New Zealand Ballet dancer Madeleine Graham—who performed in unimaginably frigid conditions to promote Baker's very important message. "I wanted to highlight Antarctica's epic landscape and vast beauty, but at the same time show that it is under threat," he says. "Climate change impact is real and immediate. By showing up-close the beauty of this incredible place, people can feel closer to something that may otherwise seem abstract and unconnected."

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