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Onstage This Week: "Mad Max" Rock Ballet Makes Its Debut, Ricardo Amarante World Premiere at Atlanta Ballet, and More!

LINES Ballet's Adji Cissoko in rehearsal for Fury. Photo by Alex Reneff-Olsen, Courtesy Fury.

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


"Fury," The "Mad Max" Rock Ballet, Makes Its Debut in San Francisco This Week

Who said that action movies and ballet don't go together? September 14–15, San Francisco audiences can see Fury, a contemporary rock ballet based on the 2015 post-apocalyptic film Mad Max: Fury Road. Choreographed by former Australian Ballet principal and Nederlands Dans Theater member Danielle Rowe, the project will feature seven dancers hailing from Alonzo King LINES Ballet and San Francisco Ballet: Adji Cissoko, Babatunji, Dores André, Frances Chung, Luke Ingham, Ulrik Birkkjaer and Jennifer Stahl-Weitz. For producer Kate Duhamel, the goal of the project is to "appeal to a broader audience than those who typically go to the theater to see classical ballet." To that end, Fury will use an original score by indie pop band YASSOU and be performed in-the-round at music clubs, rather than in a proscenium theater. Sets will be projected on various surfaces, and the audience will be standing, able to mingle throughout.

Atlanta Ballet's Season Opener Includes a World Premiere by Ricardo Amarante

Atlanta Ballet's 2018/2019 season opens September 14-16 with a program titled Return to Fall. This mixed repertoire lineup covers a lot of ground: Jiří Kylián's Return to a Strange Land, a selection of divertissement from works including Don Quixote and George Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, and a world premiere by Brazilian choreographer Ricardo Amarante, fittingly titled The Premiere. The program also includes a special performance of Mauro Bigonzetti's Vertigo, danced by Czech National Ballet, as part of Atlanta Ballet's new transatlantic partnership.

Houston Ballet Presents a Weekend of Free Outdoor Performances

Summer might be over, but Houston Ballet is taking advantage of the lingering warm weather with a weekend of outdoor performances at Houston's Miller Outdoor Theatre, September 13-15. The program includes excerpts from some of Houston Ballet's best-loved works: Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Raymonda, Sons de L'aime, Spring Waters and The Ladies, as well as artistic director Stanton Welch's newest work, Just!, which the company premiered at Jacob's Pillow last month.

Traverse City Dance Project's One-Night-Only Collaboration With the Traverse Symphony Orchestra

For the sixth year, Traverse City Dance Project co-directors Jennifer McQuiston Lott and Brent Whitney gather dancers from around the country to northern Michigan to present new choreography. Past dancers have hailed from Ballet Memphis, The Milwaukee Ballet, Ballet X, Sacramento Ballet, and more. This year's performance, slated for September 15, mixes things up; the group is collaborating with a full symphony orchestra. The program includes a new work by McQuiston Lott to Debussy's "La Mer," and a premiere choreographed by Whitney to Richard Danielpour's "Urban Dances."

Ballet Careers
Sisters Isabella Shaker and Alexandra Pullen. Photo Courtesy Alexandra Pullen.

This is the second in a series of articles this month about ballet siblings.

My mom was in the corps de ballet at American Ballet Theatre. A generation later, so was I. As if that's not enough for one family, my younger sister Isabella Shaker dreams of following in our dancing footsteps. Her endeavor, and her status as somewhat of a child prodigy, stirs feelings of pride and apprehension within me, since I have lived through the ups and downs of this intense yet rewarding career.

Ballet will always be my first love and the thing that brings me the most joy, and my dance career has opened endless opportunities for me. However, it's a difficult career path that requires a lifelong dedication. It's super competitive and can lead to body image issues, physical injury and stress. Most dancers will face some of these problems; I definitely dealt with all three.

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Ballet Stars
Photo by Gabriel Davalos, Courtesy Valdés

For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.

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Ballet Stars
Photo by Jayme Thornton

It's National Bullying Prevention Month—and Houston Ballet breakout star Harper Watters is exactly the advocate young dancers facing bullying need. Watters is no novice when it comes to slaying on social media, but his Bullying Prevention Month collaboration with Teen Vogue and Instagram is him at his most raw, speaking about his own experiences with bullies, and how his love of dance helped him to overcome adversity. Watters even penned an incredible op-ed for Teen Vogue's website, where he talks candidly about growing up queer. Catch his amazing anti-bullying video here—and, as Watters says, "Stay fabulous, stay flawless, stay flexible, but most importantly, stay fearless."

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News
Alicia Alonso with Igor Youskevitch. Sedge Leblang, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"

At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.

Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.

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