Work In Progress

Whenever The Joffrey Ballet needs a bravura allegro dancer, Allison Walsh, a powerful natural jumper, is at the ready. But at 25, this small, muscular, dark-eyed dancer—who joined The Joffrey as an apprentice in 2004 and was invited into the company the following year—has started to develop a new profile.

 

Ashley Wheater, The Joffrey’s artistic director, has been helping Walsh find another aspect of her talent. He told her: “You are a powerhouse, so now work on being a ballerina, and don’t always hit so hard. Be more nuanced.” While Walsh remains ever ready to soar—and has been tapped in recent seasons to perform a wide range of new works by such choreographers as Edwaard Liang, Jessica Lang and James Kudelka, as well as to dance the lead in Twyla Tharp’s demanding Waterbaby Bagatelles—she also has begun exploring the subtleties of adagio and partnering. Not surprisingly, she has jumped into the process with her usual brio. —Hedy Weiss

 

Allison Walsh: Things changed for me at The Joffrey with the arrival of Ashley Wheater as artistic director, although I already had begun doing new roles. I love Ashley’s classes and feel they’ve improved my technique. And his advice about becoming a real ballerina—his belief that I could be doing more principal roles but first I had to see myself in that way—really started to change my thinking.

 

Edwaard Liang, who asked me to learn a solo and pas de deux for his Age of Innocence last year, also had an impact. He told me I had a great adagio; I had never thought that. And working on his piece with my partner, Matthew Adamczyk, was a terrific experience, because I usually dance by myself and depend on myself. I had to give up some of that self-reliance and let the boy be in control. It irked me at first, because I like to lead, but I learned how to compromise and communicate.

We also worked recently with James Kudelka. He knew exactly what he wanted, and he likes things danced with full force, so that was natural for me. We were all dressed in long tulle skirts, so we looked classical, but he wanted us to really work our legs and feet, move quickly and take the classical line to an extreme.

 

In the company, I now keep my eye on Victoria Jaiani and Christine Rocas because adagio comes so naturally to them, and you can learn so much from other dancers. Ultimately, you really are on your own as a professional dancer. And as you get older, you become more responsible for your own progress.



Ballet Careers
Roderick Phifer in Trey McIntyre's The Boogeyman . Bill Hebert, Courtesy BalletX.

This is one of a series of stories on recent graduates' on-campus experiences—and the connections they made that jump-started their dance careers. Roderick Phifer graduated from University of the Arts with a BFA in dance in 2017.

While walking out of a technique class during the first semester of his senior year at Philadelphia's University of the Arts, Roderick Phifer was approached with an unexpected offer. BalletX needed a guest artist for an upcoming performance, and after seeing Phifer perform in one of his senior shows, a UArts alumnus dancing with the company had offered up his name. Phifer ran straight from his technique class to a company class with BalletX, and the troupe's artistic leadership quickly gave him the green light to perform. "It was so last-minute, that, I kid you not, I had three rehearsals," he says. He performed with BalletX as a guest artist that fall, auditioned for an open company position in the spring and had a contract by the end of his senior year.

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Sponsored by The Rock School
From left: Sarah Lapointe, Derek Dunn and Jeanette Kakareka. Courtesy The Rock School

For more than five decades, The Rock School for Dance Education has been launching young dancers into professional ballet careers around the globe. Boasting distinguished alumni such as Beckanne Sisk, Michaela DePrince and Taylor Stanley, the Philadelphia-based institution has garnered a well-deserved reputation for pairing rigorous training with a tight-knit, welcoming community. Their summer intensives are no different, with a wealth of prestigious faculty members, many of whom are Rock School alums currently dancing at companies around the world.

What inspires busy pros to keep returning to their alma mater? We talked to three of The Rock School's buzziest alums about why they make it a priority to come back and teach:

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In this video ThePointeShop's Josephine Lee may not be giving her usual pointe shoe advice, but she is putting pointe shoes to good use... in the classic wedding shoe game. She plays with newly engaged Ballet West dancers Beckanne Sisk and Chase O'Connell to find out how well the couple knows each other.

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Courtesy Apolla

Ballet dancers today are asked to do more with their bodies than ever before. The physical demands of a ballet career can take an immense toll on a dancer's joints and muscles—subjecting them to pain, inflammation and an increased risk of injury. Considering all that is required of today's dancers, having a top-notch recovery regime is paramount.

Enter Apolla Performance Wear, which is meeting ballet's physical demands with a line of compression footwear that is speeding up the recovery process for professional dancers by reducing inflammation and stabilizing the joints.

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