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Nils Schlebusch, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow Dance

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

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American Contemporary Ballet presents five Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers duets this week. Victor Demarchelier, Courtesy ACB.

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

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Joaquin De Luz in Prodigal Son, one of his most celebrated roles. De Luz retires from New York City Ballet this week. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

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

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Ballet Stars
ACB's Summer Premieres features two new ballets by artistic director Lincoln Jones. Photo by Anastasia Petukhova, Courtesy ACB.

Creating new work is a staple for American Contemporary Ballet founder and artistic director Lincoln Jones. For the Los Angeles-based company's Summer Premieres program, August 2-12, Jones created two pieces "in absolute contrast to each other." The longer of the two, titled Transfigured Night, is set to Austrian-American composer Arnold Shoenberg's 1899 masterpiece Verklärte Nacht. We caught up with Jones to hear about the very personal research that went into his new ballet.

What's on deck for this summer's annual premieres program?

I'm making two ballets, one quite long and one very short. The program will open with Candide Overture, which is the overture to Leonard Bernstein's Candide. The second piece will be Transfigured Night. I started with the Shoenberg, which is this 30-minute, very beautiful piece about the inward lives of two lovers. I thought that the Bernstein would be interesting in absolute contrast to that. It's super extroverted and has all of these ebullient rhythms. I wanted to do something for the Bernstein centennial.

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Patricia Delgado in Pam Tanowitz's "Solo for Patricia 2017." Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy Vail Dance Festival.

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


Vail Dance Fest Enters Its Second Week

With half a month devoted to creating new art in the midst of stunning nature, Vail Dance Festival seems a dancer's paradise. Last week marked American Ballet Theatre's festival debut. The second week of performances, starting July 30, brings even more amazing ballet, with dancers and choreographers presenting a slew of new collaborations and premieres. Get the scoop on each program below.

Alonzo King LINES Ballet Takes the Vail Stage

July 30-31, Alonzo King LINES Ballet presents two different programs. The first performance, is a free, family-friendly event held in the Avon Performance Pavilion. The second, held at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, presents two works by King: Sand, a piece from 2016 set to jazz music, and Biophony, an exploration of the Earth's diverse ecosystems.

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Costume sketches for Alexei Ratmansky's new "Harlquinade" for ABT. Courtesy ABT.

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


ABT's New Harlequinade is Finally Here

The long wait for Alexei Ratmansky's Harlequinade for American Ballet Theatre is finally over. June 4-9, catch ABT at the Metropolitan Opera House in this bold and colorful tribute to the Italian commedia dell'arte traditions, based on the archival notes of Marius Petipa. If this trailer by Ezra Hurwitz is any indication, this new story ballet is sure to delight (fingers crossed that those dogs make their way to the stage).

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Ballet Careers
Artists of Wonderbound in "Snow." Photo by Amanda Tipton, Courtesy Wonderbound.

As a student in a pre-professional ballet school, one of the best parts of performing in company productions was getting to be in the midst of the action with the company dancers. In Nutcracker, for example—between my all-important moments of dancing glory (the two minute children's dance)—I'd eavesdrop on the party parents' conversations and (sometimes PG-13) jokes.

Even with the hazards of sweat flung from a pirouetting dancer's forehead, I often feel that audience members are missing out—watching a ballet from the front is rarely so intimate.

It seems I'm not alone in this thought. Two regional companies are looking to shake up the performance format with their immersive winter productions. With live music, cocktails, puppetry and up-close and personal party access, American Contemporary Ballet's The Nutcracker Suite and Wonderbound's Snow are sure to pique new interest.


American Contemporary Ballet's Sarah Bukowski as Marzipan. Photo by Art Lessman, Courtesy ACB.

American Contemporary Ballet's The Nutcracker Suite

American Contemporary Ballet, now in its seventh season, is premiering its unique Nutcracker production this year. Artistic director Lincoln Jones was initially reluctant to do a party scene. "For audiences today, especially audiences in Los Angeles where they don't really grow up with ballet," he says, party scene's "over-large acting" can be difficult to connect with.

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Ballet Careers
American Contemporary Ballet's Theresa Farrell and Colby Parsons

Ballet's earliest history can be traced as far back as the royal courts of Renaissance Italy (roughly 200 years before France's King Louis the XIV established the first ballet academy in 1661). Surprisingly, many of these court dances were written down and still survive. Lincoln Jones, the artistic director of American Contemporary Ballet in Los Angeles, reconstructed several examples for the company's Naked Souls of Kings and Queens program in April to show just how much ballet has evolved. The majority of the pieces were choreographed by Domenico da Piacenza, a well-known 15th-century dancing master; Jones also reconstructed a slow, stately dance (called a bassa danza) choreographed by the famous Renaissance statesman and arts patron, Lorenzo de' Medici. (His great-granddaughter, Catherine de' Medici, introduced these dance traditions to the French court when she married King Henri II.)


The first and third dances were choreographed by Domenico da Piacenza. The second dance, called a bassa danza, was choreographed by Lorenzo de' Medici.


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From left: Ashley Wheater, Anastacia Holden, Christopher Wheeldon and Joan Sebastián Zamora rehearse The Nutcracker (photo by Todd Rosenberg, courtesy Joffrey Ballet)

It's a truth universally acknowledged that any ballet company worth its sugar plums must have a production of Nutcracker as part of its holiday season repertoire. And for nearly three decades, through its final performance at Chicago's Auditorium Theatre in December 2015, the Joffrey Ballet was well served by its uniquely Victorian-American setting of the classic. It was choreographed by founding artistic director Robert Joffrey shortly before his death, and featured major contributions from Gerald Arpino.

Now the Joffrey is about to get a brand-new $4 million version of the ballet, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. He has assembled a stellar team of collaborators, including set and costume designer Julian Crouch, author and illustrator Brian Selznick, puppeteer Basil Twist, lighting designer Natasha Katz and projection designer Benjamin Pearcy. And while the production will retain the Tchaikovsky score, and many of the ballet's classic elements, the story will be reimagined with a distinctly Chicago backdrop.

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Emily Parker and Mate Szentes rehearse Balanchine's Agon. Photo by Anastasia Petukhova, Courtesy ACB.

.The last few years have seen notable company closures, including Silicon Valley Ballet in San Jose, California. But Los Angeles–based American Contemporary Ballet is moving in the opposite direction, extending its contract and filling out its now-year-round roster of dancers.

"We got the advice to grow slowly because it allows you to make your mistakes on a small scale," says artistic director Lincoln Jones, who founded the company to present ballet as a musical art form. To whit, the repertoire includes work by Balanchine, Fred Astaire and Jones. Performances are always accompanied by live music."

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