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NYCB Ushers in New Voices for Fall Fashion Gala

Members of NYCB in Gianna Reisen's Composer's Holiday at the 2017 Fall Fashion Gala. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

Last year, New York City Ballet wowed fans by hiring its youngest choreographer ever, the then-18-year-old Gianna Reisen, to make a ballet for its Fall Fashion Gala. For this year's gala, held September 27 at Lincoln Center's Koch Theater, Reisen will be back alongside NYCB first-timers Kyle Abraham and Matthew Neenan. All three will present world premieres. Reisen, a former student at the School of American Ballet, is now an apprentice at Dresden Semperoper Ballett. "Living, dancing and choreographing in Europe has given me a set of tools that I could never throw away," she says. Reisen will work with a cast of 18 dancers to a score by John Adams, and will incorporate set pieces onstage. "I plan to tell more of a story this time around," she says.


Though Abraham, a highly acclaimed contemporary choreographer and artistic director of A.I.M, worked with former NYCB principal Wendy Whelan on her project Restless Creature, this is his first time choreographing for a ballet company. "It's very exciting, and it's very daunting," he says. Abraham plans on working with a cast of seven to eight dancers primarily in solos and duets, featuring principals Sara Mearns, Ashley Bouder and Taylor Stanley, whom he refers to as "a gift." "I'm very inspired by these new artists who have these different tools," he says.

As choreographer in residence at Pennsylvania Ballet and co-founder of BalletX, Neenan has choreographed for nearly a dozen ballet companies around the country. Yet having trained at SAB, he says this experience "feels like coming back home." He plans on working with 15 to 20 dancers and using a Dvořák string quartet. "I want the piece to be atmospheric and to the point."

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.

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?

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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.

San Francisco Ballet just announced some major news: longtime Boston Ballet star Misa Kuranaga will be joining the company as a principal dancer for the 2019-20 season, while Dutch National Ballet principal Sasha Mukhamedov has been hired as a soloist. They join a slew of newly promoted SFB principals and soloists, announced earlier this year.

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Ballet Stars
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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