Hee Seo rehearses "Cinderella." Photo by Gene Schiavone

If the Slipper Fits…

ABT takes on Ashton’s Cinderella

Given the number of Frederick Ashton works American Ballet Theatre has been dancing, and dancing beautifully, as of late—The Dream, A Month in the Country, Sylvia—it’s surprising that this spring marks the company’s first time tackling Ashton’s iconic Cinderella. ABT fans are already familiar with James Kudelka’s Art Deco Cinderella, which has been in the troupe’s repertoire since 2006. But Ashton’s more traditional version poses its own challenges for dancers.

“It requires extreme control,” says principal Hee Seo, who will dance the title role. “The arms and legs are low and must be perfectly placed—only your chest is lifted, filled with air. After a while, Cinderella actually gives you a better feeling for your body, because you’re not just throwing up your legs as high as they can go. When done well, that kind of precision can be very expressive.”

Seo, who gave a rapturous performance as the all-too-human Natalia Petrovna in Ashton’s A Month in the Country last season, has enjoyed immersing herself in Cinderella’s fairy-tale world. “There’s a moment when I’m in the carriage, heading to the ball,” Seo says, “and I’m wearing my beautiful tutu, and I have this long, dramatic cape—it’s like a little girl’s fantasy, and it gives me chills. You can feel Cinderella’s excitement in the air.”

 

Trey McIntyre Project’s Farewell

This summer marks the end of the Trey McIntyre Project as we know it, and the beginning of a new, multi-disciplinary chapter for McIntyre himself. TMP will give its final performances as a full-time dance company at Jacob’s Pillow in June, dancing Mercury Half-Life—a tribute to the classic rock band Queen—and a new work inspired by the pen-and-ink drawings of Edward Gorey. “I’ve always been fascinated by his illustrations,” says McIntyre of Gorey. “While you won’t actually see any of the drawings onstage, I’ve been working with Michael Curry, one of The Lion King’s designers, on puppetry and masks that look like they’re ripped right off Gorey’s pages.”

Afterward, TMP will begin a new phase: The dance company will disband, allowing McIntyre to take on projects in film and photography, as well as commissioned dance works. “We’re paring things way down and taking baby steps,” McIntyre says. “Once we find out what takes hold, where the audience is, we’ll see if we can expand from there.”

This is an artistic choice, he emphasizes, not a financial one. “Financial issues were a factor, but not in the way you’d think,” McIntyre says. “We’re in great shape financially, and it seemed like a healthy decision to make the transition now, while things are good.” McIntyre has been mulling the change for a few years, trying to figure out how to reconcile his interests in nondance art forms with the responsibilities that come with running a full-time dance company. “In the end, a dance company takes a leader who can give everything all the time, and it just wasn’t doable,” he says.

There are already two film projects in McIntyre’s pipeline: an artistic retelling of the creation of TMP’s Ma Maison, and a documentary about the company’s first 10 years.

 

Herman Cornejo Stars at Vail

American Ballet Theatre virtuoso Herman Cornejo has been a regular at the Vail International Dance Festival for several years now. This summer, however, he’ll be the festival’s official artist in residence, a title previously held by choreographer Larry Keigwin and New York City Ballet’s Robert Fairchild and Tiler Peck, among others.

The artist-in-residence role, which entails involvement in multiple projects across the festival, is an imprimatur, signaling a dancer’s artistic maturity. “At Vail, I’ve been able to cast Herman in things that were totally new for him, and it’s clear that he thrives on those opportunities,” says Damian Woetzel, VIDF’s director. Woetzel was especially impressed by Cornejo’s collaboration with tango artists Gabriel Missé and Analía Centurión last summer, and Cornejo’s artist in residency will include more opportunities for cross-pollination. Cornejo will dance in a new staging of Martha Graham’s Letter to the World, one of his first encounters with Graham’s technique. He’ll also make his debut as the lead in Balanchine’s “Rubies,” after giving a blazing performance of its pas de deux at last year’s festival. “He’s a dancer of the 21st century—he’s always eager to absorb more, and that process is cumulative,” Woetzel says. “The things he learns in each new piece inform his later work.”

 

Osipova and Vasiliev Visit California

They may no longer be an offstage couple, but Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev still have an electric partnership onstage. This July, the globetrotting pair are scheduled to dance four performances at California’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts, with a program designed to show both at their best: the Kingdom of the Shades scene from La Bayadère and Roland Petit’s Le Jeune Homme et la Mort.  

 

Cedar Lake Turns 10

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet celebrates its 10th birthday this June by making its debut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The forward-thinking venue is a good fit for the perennially cutting-edge company, which enters its second decade led by a new creative team that includes Alexandra Damiani as artistic director and Crystal Pite as associate choreographer. At BAM, Cedar Lake will perform repertory favorites by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Pite, Hofesh Shechter, Alexander Ekman and Jo Strømgren.

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.

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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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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.

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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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