Ballet Stars

What to Watch: NYCB Dancers Splish, Splash and Sauté in This New Site-Specific Video Series

Behind-the-scenes shot of NYCB dancers on set. Lawrence White, Courtesy Emily Kikta and Peter Walker.

Tonight, New York City Ballet opens its 53 annual summer season at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. But if you're away at a summer intensive or busy rehearsing at your home studio and can't make it to a performance, we have the next best thing: seven new site specific videos made by and featuring NYCB dancers.


This is the third year that NYCB corps dancer Emily Kikta and soloist Peter Walker have choreographed, co-directed and filmed a series of videos leading up to the company's SPAC season. According to Kikta and Walker, they took inspiration from the "water" focus of SPAC's season—this year, all the videos are aquatic-themed. The films were released each morning for the past week, and now we've collected them here for you to watch. Scroll through Kikta and Walker's seven new films below, and be sure to follow their new Instagram page @kw_creative for more from this creative duo.

SNOW

Looking to cool off from the summer heat? Watch Kikta's solo video, where she dances in the powdery Saratoga snow. We don't know how she does it without getting frostbite, but it brings a whole new meaning to the name Snow Queen!

What we love: Kikta's creative, contemporary floor work (or should we say, snow work) at 0:25.

HUMIDITY

For beautiful summer scenery, look no further. Principal Lauren Lovette choreographed this frolic through the Saratoga countryside amidst meadows, gardens and even a real-life farm featuring some very cute baby goats.

What we love: The beautiful pas de deux featuring NYCB corps members Olivia MacKinnon and Lars Nelson at 0:30.

RIVER

Talk about a dynamic duo—principal Anthony Huxley and corps member Devin Alberda perform a lively duet on a bridge overlooking a riverbed, and we're mesmerized by their coordination and the cannon choreography.

What we love: When the two dance in unison at 0:43.

WATERFALL

Here NYCB dancers go "chasing waterfalls," and perform in one of the coolest locations we've ever seen. Plus, Alberda had a chance to choreograph, and worked with Kikta on the video.

What we love: The angular, geometric choreography at 0:30.

CREEK

Watch Lovette take on a starring role in this fun, creek-side video. She and her colleagues look like modern-day Midsummer Night's Dream fairies, but with with sundresses and sneakers rather than tunics and tutus.

What we love: One of the coolest variations on a shoulder sit we've ever seen at 0:34.

LAKE

In this video, Walker and Kikta perform a dreamy pas de deux while dancing knee-deep in a lake. Watch their beautiful port de bras silhouetted by the Saratoga sunset.

What we love: How Walker and Kikta incorporate the water with their movement at 0:24.

POOL

Talk about squad goals: Catch the NYCB dancers performing poolside, featuring some synchronized swimming that makes us wonder if the company should start training for the 2020 Olympics.

What we love: The ladies' petit allegro section starting at 0:33, even if it makes our poor feet hurt just watching them jumping on concrete (please don't try this at home).

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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