Richmond Ballet dancer Lauren Archer never thought she'd be able to blend ballet with her knowledge of American Sign Language. But at a recent "Signing Santa" event at the MacArthur Center in Norfolk, Virginia, Archer—dressed as the Snow Queen from Nutcracker—got to make an extra-special connection with deaf and hard-of-hearing children. "Most of the parents and children were shocked to see that I was able to sign with them and that I wasn't just there for the pictures," Archer says. "I think the children loved meeting a real-life ballerina who was also able to communicate with them in their own language."
Archer began learning ASL 12 years ago, when her family adopted her younger brother, who is deaf. "He was almost 5 years old with absolutely no language or way to communicate," she says. "We continued to learn the language and teach him more and more each day—and now he's the one teaching us!"
Eugene, Oregon–based Ballet Fantastique debuts a forgotten holiday classic December 14–16. Babes in Toyland, co-choreographed and produced by mother-daughter duo and company directors Hannah and Donna Bontrager, pulls from source material ranging from Victor Herbert's original 1903 operetta to Disney's 1961 film. "We watched all the movies and read as many different versions of the story as we could find," says Hannah. The pair distilled the elements they liked best to create their own amalgamated plot. "The story is filled with joviality and lovable, familiar storybook characters," adds Donna. The cast also pays homage to the world's best-known holiday ballet, The Nutcracker. "We've added a character called Mother Gingerbread, and some gingerbread kids," says Hannah.
We already knew that Justin Peck is a crossover superstar. His accolades from this past year alone include a Tony Award for best choreography for Carousel, a performance on The Tonight Show with The National, and plans to choreograph Steven Spielberg's upcoming West Side Story remake. Today, he proves himself all over again with a series of short films for The New York Times Magazine titled "Let's Dance," featuring some of 2018's most lauded movie stars. You can see these videos here, including an augmented-reality experience available to those with newer iPhones or iPads.
When Gennadi Nedvigin took over as artistic director of Atlanta Ballet in 2016, one of his first goals was to produce a new Nutcracker; it's been over 20 years since the company's last revamp by former director John McFall. Nedvigin immediately turned to choreographer Yuri Possokhov. "You need to be a really mature choreographer to visualize the whole story," says Nedvigin. Now, two years later, Atlanta Ballet's new Nutcracker will come to life December 8–24.
Yuri Possokhov's "The Nutcracker" www.youtube.com
As conversations in the ballet world about race and representation have opened up in the past few years, its most beloved holiday tradition, The Nutcracker, has come under scrutiny as well. Last year New York City Ballet made changes to its second act Chinese Tea variation, removing elements of racial caricature from both the costume and makeup and the choreography.
NYCB soloist Georgina Pazcoguin, who is part Filipino, was one of the voices fighting for that change. This year, as companies and schools worldwide are gearing up for Nutcracker season, Pazcoguin, along with former dancer and arts administrator Phil Chan, is back with a new campaign. Final Bow For Yellowface is an online platform dedicated to educating companies and schools on how to veer away from offensive Asian stereotypes (yellowface) and providing resources on how to make those changes. The site also lets readers join dance world luminaries including Virginia Johnson, Julie Kent, Adam Sklute, Troy Schumacher and Christopher Wheeldon in signing a pledge to end the practice of yellowface onstage. We touched base with Pazcoguin to hear about how this initiative came to be, and what she and Chan have in the works for the future.
This winter, the renowned Russian dancer Diana Vishneva will appear in her most high-profile project since she retired from American Ballet Theatre in 2017. The 42-year-old prima ballerina, who gave birth to her first child, Rudolf Victor, last May, is set to star in the ambitious, technologically innovative multimedia production Sleeping Beauty Dreams, choreographed by Edward Clug. The production will also star Marcelo Gomes as Prince Peter. Inspired by the provocative question "What did Princess Aurora dream during her 100-year sleep?", Sleeping Beauty Dreams premieres December 7–8 at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and continues to New York City's Beacon Theatre December 14–15, before moving on to what promotors say will be a two-part international tour.
Sleeping Beauty Dreams New Trailer youtu.be
Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker is not your average Nut. In 1994, the production debuted in six cities across the U.S. This winter, three simultaneously traveling companies of Russian dancers will bring the ballet to 137 cities, incorporating up to 120 local children in each location. For Mary Talmi, co-founder and producer of Talmi Entertainment, which produces the show, this is no small feat. "The role of arts education in this country is needed more than ever, and the more expansive our tour is, the more I realize that the benefits to the children are way beyond dance," she says.
Every ballet star's stage career must eventually come to an end. This season, Festival Ballet Providence celebrates the retirement of one of its Nutcracker's best loved performers: Archie the dog. This Yorkshire Terrier, owned by FBP artistic director Misha Djuric, has taken the stage in more than 125 performances of FBP's Nutcracker over the past 19 years. Though he'll be missed, it makes sense... after all, in human years, he is nearing his 93rd birthday.
Archie appears in the ballet's first scene, scampering across the stage with the partygoers. "Archie announced that he's settling down to a life of luxury and long naps on pillow," says Djuric in a statement. "He actually never expected to have become so famous and he's very grateful for the fans who have supported him all these years."
Archie prepares for his 100th Nutcracker performance www.youtube.com
Thanksgiving is just days away, and while to some that means family and football, to bunheads it means one thing only: Nutcracker is coming. Looking for a Nut near you? We know that your next few weeks will be too busy with rehearsals to keep your eye on ballet news, so we've decided to help you out by rounding up 71 of our nation's Nutcrackers, state by state.
We're not perfect! If we missed a major Nutcracker production, we want to know. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
Anyone attending the National Ballet of Cuba's biennial Havana International Ballet Festival can expect an adventure that is equal parts treasure hunt and lottery, amidst a cornucopia of choices. This year's festival, the 26th, was no exception, offering 25 programs in four theaters. The event, held October 28-November 6, was also notable for the unanticipated absence of 96-year-old Alicia Alonso, the host company's founder and Cuba's ballerina assoluta. Due to flagging health, Alonso was unable to make her customary opening night appearance, where she would have been seated alongside Cuba's new President, Miguel Díaz-Canel.
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Do you ever wish you could teleport to London and casually stroll into The Royal Opera House to see some of the world's best-loved ballets? Well, we have a solution for you: The Royal Ballet's 2018-19 cinema season.
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?
Yesterday Cincinnati Ballet announced an exciting addition to this year's Nutcracker cast: a character based on Fiona, the world's most famous hippopotamus.
Fiona was born at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden in January 2017. Six weeks premature, she weighed only 29 pounds at birth as opposed to the standard 55-120, and required round-the-clock care from dedicated zoo staff. Cincinnati Children's Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit even got involved. The zoo chronicled her progress on Facebook, creating the heart-warming Fiona Show (see the first episode below). The baby hippo's story went viral, winning hearts in Cincinnati and around the world.
Update: Raffaella Stroik's body was found near a boat ramp in Florida, Missouri on Wednesday morning. According to the South Bend Tribune, the cause of death has not yet been released and the investigation remains open. Foul play is not suspected. A funeral Mass has been scheduled for Wednesday, November 20 at the Sacred Heart Basilica at the University of Notre Dame. Our thoughts are with her friends and family.
Raffaella Stroik, a 23-year-old dancer with the Saint Louis Ballet, went missing on Monday.
Her car was found with her phone inside in a parking lot near a boat ramp in Mark Twain Lake State Park—130 miles away from St. Louis. On Tuesday, the police began an investigation into her whereabouts.
There's a new tool that lets amputee ballet dancers perform on pointe. As reported in Dezeen, an architecture and design magazine, industrial designer Jae-Hyun An has created a prosthesis he calls the"Marie . T" (after Marie Taglioni, of course) that allows dancers with below-the-knee amputations to do pointe work.
A carbon fiber calf absorbs shock while a stainless steel toe and rubber platform allow a dancer to both turn and grip the floor to maintain balance. What it doesn't allow the dancer to do? Roll down to demi-pointe or flat.
The largest performance studio at the Fernando Alonso National School of Ballet in Havana, Cuba, is packed with lower school students, seated helter-skelter around the edges of its new sprung floor. They move over to make room for photographers and visitors in town for the 26th Havana International Ballet Festival, who have come from as far away as Mexico, England and the United States. They are all at the academy, known world-wide for its rigorous adherence to a scientific methodology painstakingly developed by ballet master Fernando Alonso, because Aurora Bosch is giving a mixed-level master class to the upper school, of which she is a graduate, becoming one of its first teachers at the age of 19. Bosch, known as one of the "Four Jewels" of the Cuban National Ballet (along with Loipa Araújo, Josefina Méndez and Mirta Plá), is now based in London, but earlier this month she returned to Havana to attend and participate in the festival.
Shortly afterwards, the school's director Ramona de Saá invited me to speak with her and Bosch about the expanding focus of this distinguished school that has produced such outstanding dancers as Carlos Acosta, Lorena and Lorna Feijóo, José Manuel Carreño, and a host of others who have danced with first-rate companies the world over.
Last month The School at Jacob's Pillow announced a major change to its historic summer ballet program, which boasts alumni at companies including American Ballet Theatre, Pennsylvania Ballet and Dutch National Ballet. This summer, rather than focusing on coaching dancers in the traditional, story-driven classical repertoire, the intensive makes the shift to contemporary ballet. Directed by former Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet director Alexandra Damiani and BalletX co-founder Matthew Neenan, the Contemporary Ballet Program will work to engage students in the development of new work and the ever-adapting repertoire (including pointe work) it requires.
Former New York City Ballet prima and longtime Jacob's Pillow participant Wendy Whelan played a large role in the decision making process. We touched base with Whelan to hear about what went into this decision, and whether she thinks that this focus on contemporary training represents a growing trend in the ballet world.
Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? In addition to the seven performances listed below, John Neumeier's Anna Karenina makes its North American premiere at National Ballet of Canada November 10-18, and Hungarian National Ballet makes its U.S. debut with three performances at Lincoln Center's Koch Theater November 7-11.
As the Hungarian National Ballet prepares its first U.S. tour to New York City's Lincoln Center this week amid a busy fall season in Budapest, first soloist Lili Felméry and principal dancer Gergő Ármin Balázsi have a lot on their plates. But adapting to the unknown is nothing new; since joining the company, both Hungarian dancers have tackled impressive lists of classical and contemporary roles. Just recently married, they're bursting with excitement to perform in New York together, where the company is performing Swan Lake, Don Quixote and an all Hans van Manen program. Pointe caught up with the newlyweds to hear about some of their favorite onstage moments, honing the details of style, and favorite memories learning from some of the dance world's greatest masters.
November 10–18, the National Ballet of Canada presents the North American premiere of John Neumeier's Anna Karenina at the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto. Co-produced with Hamburg Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet, NBoC is the last of the three companies to present the new two-act production.
Anna Karenina: Inside the Studio | 2018 | The National Ballet of Canada www.youtube.com
The Royal Ballet's Francesca Hayward is no stranger to collaborations outside of the dance world. The principal ballerina has modeled for Vogue (on more than one occasion), created her own clothing line with Lululemon, and up next, she'll star in the film adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Cats.
If there's one thing that dancers know well, it's The Nutcracker. From the minutiae of the plot to the choreography to Tchaikovsky's timeless score, we've got it down.
Disney's new holiday film, The Nutcracker and The Four Realms, released in theaters November 2, is not a retelling of the ballet's story, and it's not a dance movie. Nevertheless, we think there's plenty in it for bunheads to love (like Misty Copeland). Don't believe us? First, watch this featurette featuring Copeland, and then read on for four reasons why you might want to take a break from your Nut rehearsals to head to the movies.
Disney's The Nutcracker and The Four Realms - "On Set with Misty Copeland" Featurette www.youtube.com
Competition season is just around the corner. Today, The Prix de Lausanne announced the 80 dancers that will head to Switzerland February 3–10 to compete for scholarships and apprenticeships to the Prix's partner schools and companies.
By the numbers, 363 dancers (273 girls and 90 boys) from 40 countries applied. Nine jury members reviewed the video submissions and selected 71 dancers over the course of three days. Add in the nine preselected competitors for a grand total of 80 dancers (44 girls and 36 boys) hailing from 20 countries.
Out of that group, 10 are from the U.S. Get to know them below. There's another reason to follow these Americans: Last year, Aviva Gelfer-Mundl, one of the American Prix de Lausanne competitors, took home a big prize.
Stay tuned for more updates on the Prix in the months to come!
It's been quite some time since we've had the pleasure of watching Lauren Anderson do 32 fouettés. The former Houston Ballet star, who became the company's first African American principal dancer in 1990, was famous for her thrilling bravura and for her partnership with Carlos Acosta. Now Houston Ballet's program manager of community engagement and an in-demand master teacher, Anderson, 53, just made a fun announcement on her Instagram page: if Houston Ballet can get enough votes to win at least second place in Aetna's Voices of Health Competition, she says, "I will give you 32 fouettés, right here in this studio—yes I will."
Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? In addition to the programs at Pacific Northwest Ballet, The Washington Ballet, Ballet West and City Ballet of San Diego listed below, this week also marks Balanchine: The City Center Years, a five-day extravaganza bringing together eight companies from around the world. You can read more about it here. Also coming up is Boston Ballet's black box show, BB@home: ChoreograpHER, which features six new works by women in the company. Peek inside the budding choreographers' processes here.
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This year, Boston Ballet's annual choreographic workshop is all about empowering women. Taking place in Boston Ballet's black box theater November 1-2, BB@home: ChoreograpHER will feature six works by women of various ranks in the company.
"Given the reality that the majority of produced choreographers have been male, I am excited this BB@home program encourages our talented female dancers who have an interest in choreography by giving them a platform to gain experience as choreographers," said artistic director Mikko Nissinen in a statement.
In 1948, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein founded New York City Ballet at New York City Center. This year, in honor of its 75th anniversary, City Center is bringing together eight companies—American Ballet Theatre, The Joffrey Ballet, Mariinsky Ballet, Miami City Ballet, NYCB, Paris Opéra Ballet, The Royal Ballet and San Francisco Ballet—to perform 13 Balanchine works over six programs, running October 31–November 4. "I liked the idea of showing different perspectives on how Balanchine is performed internationally," says City Center president and CEO Arlene Shuler. "Bringing together these eight companies is unprecedented."
Balanchine: The City Center Years www.youtube.com
Since news that Steven Spielberg was directing a remake of West Side Story was released last winter, we've been eagerly awaiting any and all updates. Last month, Justin Peck was brought on board as choreographer, joining famed playwright Tony Kushner, who's adapting the script. Peck seemed like the obvious choice; in addition to following in original West Side Story choreographer Jerome Robbins' sneaker-clad footsteps as resident choreographer of New York City Ballet, he recently took home a Tony Award for his work on Carousel.
If your goal is to become a professional dancer, you likely have a lot of questions about what you need to do to get there. Last year, Youth America Grand Prix created a Facebook video series called "Ask the Expert," featuring conversations with dance professionals on topics ranging from nutrition to dancing in college to career building. (Good news: They are now available on YAGP's website and YouTube page).
This season, YAGP is expanding the series to include more interviews. The latest video features American Ballet Theatre Studio Company artistic director Sascha Radetsky. The topic? Navigating your first year of professional life, from a director's perspective. Radetsky answers questions about professional etiquette and protocol, navigating company hierarchy and managing conflicts, and offers his tips for a successful career and what qualities stand out to him in dancers.