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Onstage This Week: Justin Peck World Premiere at Houston Ballet, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet in NYC, and More!

Justin Peck rehearsing his new ballet, Reflections, with Houston Ballet. Lawrence Knox, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've rounded up some highlights.


Justin Peck Creates a World Premiere for Houston Ballet

March 21-24, Houston Ballet presents a program aptly titled Premieres, featuring the world premiere of Justin Peck's Reflections. With an original score by frequent collaborator Sufjan Stevens, this marks Peck's first time creating on the company; catch a glimpse of his process in the above video. The program also includes two company premieres: Jiří Kylián's Dream Time, set to a score by Japanese composer Toru Takamitsu, and Aszure Barton's Come In, a ballet for 13 male dancers.

Atlanta Ballet Showcases Ballet's Playful Side 

Atlanta Ballet's Look/Don't Touch program, running March 22-24, features three playful works: Alexander Ekman's Cacti, Mark Morris' Sandpaper Ballet and the world premiere of AON <All or Nothing> by former Boston Ballet principal Yury Yanowsky. Hear more from Yanowsky about his work above.

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Brings Three New York Premieres to the Joyce Theater

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet brings three New York premieres, all featuring live music by concert pianist Joyce Yang, to the Joyce Theater March 20-24. The program features Jorma Elo's Half/Cut/Split set to Schumann's Carnaval, Fernando Melo's Dream Play to Erik Satie, and Nicolo Fonte's Where We Left Off to Philip Glass.

Boston Ballet Presents George Balanchine's "Coppélia" 

Boston audiences can catch George Balanchine's Coppélia starting this week. Boston Ballet presents the clever, comedic classic March 21-31; catch a glimpse in the above trailer.

Sacramento Ballet Nurtures Company Choreographers

March 21-April 7, Sacramento Ballet continues its annual Beer and Ballet program, wherein company dancers have the chance to create new work on their peers in an informal setting. This year, Sacramento Ballet brings in Val Caniparoli as a choreographic advisor and mentor.

Ballet Memphis Rethinks "Giselle"

Leading up to Ballet Memphis' run of Giselle next month, on March 23, choreographers Julie Marie Niekrasz and Pablo Sanchez dive into the ballet with Through the Veil: Giselle Redux. In this one night only performance, Niekrasz and Sanchez reimagine the classic through a modern lens, including new movement and music and discussion.

San Francisco Ballet's Trainee Program Makes Rare East Coast Appearance

On March 23, Jenkintown, PA-based Metropolitan Ballet Company presents an evening of variations and collaborations in Philadelphia. The program, including works by Jessica Lang, Sarah Mettin and Ashley Walton, will feature special guest artists from San Francisco Ballet School's Trainee Program.

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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