Have you ever had a moment of epiphany while watching a dance group perform--a realization that if you were a professional dancer, you'd want to make that company your home? Because that's exactly what happened to me last night at The Joyce Theater. As I witnessed the awesomely versatile members of the Lyon Opera Ballet tackle three wildly different stylistic worlds--those of Merce Cunningham, William Forsythe, and Maguy Marin--I couldn't help but think, I wish I were up there with them.

Actually, the dancers didn't just "tackle" the styles--they conquered them. I was particularly impressed by their rendition of Cunningham's Beach Birds. I've never seen anybody but the Merce Cunningham Dance Company do Cunningham, and yet the LOB dancers totally mastered the technique, in all its weighty, deliberate precision (so difficult for ballet dancers, trained from day one to create the illusion of weightlessness!). Amandine François and the gorgeous Dorothée Delabie seemed equally at home in Forsythe's Duo, luxuriating in its hyperextended, hyperactive take on classical ballet. And then four of the company's women literally let their hair down and threw themselves into Marin's Grosse Fugue, in which passion precluded polish and feet were left deliberately floppy. (OK, that hurt my bunhead soul a little; LOB is definitely a "foot" company, and I wanted them all to show off their glorious arches.)

I was expecting the LOB dancers to have exceptional ballet technique, and they did. (There was a moment in Duo when Delabie paused to perform a perfectly classical, perfectly executed développé à la seconde, and it knocked the wind out of me.) But--surprise!--the LOB dancers were also great stylists. They just got it--whatever technique "it" happened to be. And it looked like they were having so much fun exploring all these sides of their dance personalities! I envied them.

I know that the LOB model--classical dancers performing a repertory that isn't always rooted in classical technique--is very European. But I'm hoping it catches on over here, too. Because what intellectually curious ballerina wouldn't want the chance to do a little of everything? And why shouldn't America's big-company ballet dancers get the chance to try out Cunningham? Bring it on!



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Ballet Careers
Lenai Alexis Wilkerson. Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Michelle Tabnick Public Relations.

This is one of a series of stories on recent graduates' on-campus experiences—and the connections they made that jump-started their dance careers. Lenai Alexis Wilkerson graduated from University of Southern California with a BFA in dance (dance performance concentration) and a political science minor in 2019.

As Lenai Alexis Wilkerson looked at colleges, she wanted a school that would prepare her for two totally different professions: dancing and law. "I knew, pretty much when I was 16, that I wanted to go to law school," she says. "So I wanted the opportunity to have a dual college experience, where I could have a conservatory training style within a university and I could focus equally on my academics." When she auditioned for the inaugural class of University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, she knew it was the right fit.

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Sponsored by Ballet Arizona
Tzu Chia Huang, Courtesy Ballet Arizona

These days, ballet dancers are asked to do more than they ever have—whether that's tackling versatile rep, taking on intense cross-training regimens or managing everything from their Instagram pages to their summer layoff gigs.

Without proper training, these demands can take a toll on both the mind and the body. But students can start preparing for them early—with the right summer intensive program.

The School of Ballet Arizona's summer intensive takes a well-rounded approach to training—not just focusing on technique and facility but nurturing overall dancer growth. "You cannot make a dancer just by screaming at them like they used to," says master ballet teacher Roberto Muñoz, who guests at the program every summer. "You have to take care of the person as well."

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News
Nicolas Pelletier in Carmina Burana. Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet.

Last week, Colorado Ballet interrupted Nutcracker rehearsals for an exciting announcement: Four dancers were being promoted. Though all made the jump from the company's corps de ballet, Nicolas Pelletier ascended directly to the rank of soloist, while Sean Omandam, Emily Speed and Melissa Zoebisch were promoted to demi-soloist. This news comes hot on the heels of last August's promotion of Francisco Estevez to principal.

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Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

We got Payne's advice on strategizing your summer intensive plan before the audition cycle kicks in:

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