Ballet Stars

2019 Stars of the Corps: Boston Ballet's Sage Humphries

Sage Humphries and Lauren Herfindahl in John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet. Liza Voll, Courtesy Boston Ballet.

Onstage, Boston Ballet artist Sage Humphries is notable for her elegant poise and liquid grace. But offstage, she's a creative whirlwind: model, singer/songwriter and talented emerging choreographer. Amidst the demands of rehearsal and performance last fall, she choreographed her first major work, a deeply personal quintet set to original music by her brother Michael and showcased on Boston Ballet's BB@home: ChoreograpHER 2018. And this past May, the company asked her to create a new work for the music festival Boston Calling. Her White, commemorating the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' White Album, shared the festival spotlight with the likes of Tame Impala and Twenty One Pilots. "It was amazing to be part of that circle of artists who already had a huge fan base," she recalls. "The fact that Boston Ballet could be amongst that and get people excited about the art form was so special."


Humphries choreographing in the studio.

Brooke Trisolini, Courtesy Boston Ballet

A Youth America Grand Prix award winner, Humphries grew up in Orange County, California. Training with Dmitri Kulev landed her merit scholarships to study at American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, Ballet West, Dresden Semperoper Ballett and Ballet Munich before she joined Boston Ballet II in 2016 and the main company in 2017. At just 22, she thrives on new challenges, determined, she says, to "push forward as a dancer and choreographer and a leader in the ballet industry, a role model that's positive and uplifting to young girls."

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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