Ballet Stars
Alice Topp in rehearsal for her work Little Atlas. Kate Longley, Courtesy The Australian Ballet.

Though Australian Ballet coryphée Alice Topp has been dancing since she was four, when it comes to choreographing, she's just getting started. Topp created her first piece, Trace, on a whim in 2010 as part of The Australian Ballet's annual Bodytorque program. Since then, she has gone on to make several main stage works for the company, as well as music videos for artists like Ben Folds and Megan Washington; in 2018 she was named one of the The Australian Ballet's resident choreographers.

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As all bunheads know, there's so much more to dancing on pointe than sewing and bourées. In this new video, The Australian Ballet lays it all out for us, from A-Z. Or rather from "Arch" to "Zzzzzz's." Using a super fast-paced style, this four-and-a-half minute long video skips back and forth between ultra-sleek minimalism and sepia-toned nostalgia. Both educational and insider-y (see "cashews" at 0:54), this video includes some gorgeous shots (Apollo-inspired arabesques at 2:00) interspersed with quirky humor (note adorable pointe shoe bed at 3:53).

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Australian Ballet in rehearsal during World Ball Day. Photo by Kate Longely, Courtesy Australian Ballet.

For the last few years, World Ballet Day has transfixed millions of ballet lovers with its hours and hours of live-streamed classes, rehearsals and behind-the-scenes extras from major companies around the globe. (We here at Pointe certainly don't get any work done!) And the 2018 edition is finally here! Hosted by Australian Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet and The Royal Ballet, streaming begins on WBD's Facebook page in Melbourne on October 2. However, for folks in North America, that means 9pm EST/6pm PST on Monday, October 1. In past years, the National Ballet of Canada and San Francisco Ballet helped host the event, but they are not participating this time. Other U.S. and Canadian companies, however, will get time in the limelight this morning and this afternoon--check out the full schedule here.

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Ballet Stars
An emotional Hallberg during bows after a performance of "Giselle" last May at the Metropolitan Opera House. Photo by Kent. G. Becker, Courtesy Simon & Schuster.

On November 7, David Hallberg's highly anticipated memoir, A Body of Work: Dancing to the Edge and Back, will be available in bookstores. (It's currently available for pre-order from Simon & Schuster and various other retailers.) Published by Touchstone Books, the autobiography details Hallberg's arduous recovery from a series of career-threatening injuries, and his triumphant return to the stage. Marina Harss spoke with the American Ballet Theatre principal about how his experience has changed him, his future with the Bolshoi and his desire to someday direct a company.


Courtesy Simon & Schuster

Why did you decide to write a memoir?

The initial seed was planted by New York Times dance critic Roslyn Sulcas. This was way before the Bolshoi. She just said you're traveling a lot now. You know, maybe just start to jot some things down about your experiences. So I took her advice, and then Simon & Schuster called and expressed interest in a book, and I dove in headfirst.

The focus of the book must have changed a lot after the injury.

Absolutely, and to be honest, the book had no backbone before the injury. It was "dance memoir 101." Not to say I didn't have a story to tell. But the meat of the book and for me, the heart, and soul, and the gut, is the nightmare that I went through with the injury.

As I was reading the book it felt almost as if you were a survivor of some kind of trauma.

It was emotionally traumatic. It was physically traumatic. It was mentally traumatic. Everything unraveled, and everything went wrong.

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Photo by Emily Gan, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada

If everyone in your ballet class has called out sick on October 5, there's a perfectly good explanation: that's when World Ballet Day LIVE is scheduled to return. In other words, 24 hours of binge-worthy behind-the-scenes footage featuring five of the world's leading ballet companies. Tune in to Facebook Live to watch as The Australian Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, The Royal Ballet, National Ballet of Canada and San Francisco Ballet take you inside the studio for classes, rehearsals and interviews with your favorite dancers. Details have yet to be released, but we'll be sure to keep you in the loop! In the meantime, mark your calendars, and enjoy some of San Francisco Ballet's highlights from last year's event.


Back in December, we jumped for joy when we learned that David Hallberg would be making a triumphant return to the stage. It's been a little over a year since the American Ballet Theatre and Bolshoi Ballet star moved to Australia to take care of an ankle injury, working closely with the Australian Ballet's physiotherapy team.

Hallberg rehearsing in Melbourne, photo by Kate Longley via nytimes.com

After a comeback performance as Franz in the Australian Ballet's Coppélia (a role debut for him!), Hallberg was back on the roster for ABT's spring season. He's scheduled to dance in the new Alexei Ratmansky work Whipped Cream in California next month, and in New York in May.

But it looks like Hallberg's time in Australia isn't over just yet. This week, according to the Melbourne-based paper The Age, the Australian Ballet named him their first international resident guest artist. In this role, he'll perform with the company every year, and he has also agreed to do some mentoring and coaching (something we know is important to him).

Photo by Matthew Karas for Dance Magazine

Hallberg has been vocal in his praise of the Australian Ballet's medical team. He told The Age that he credits the company with getting him back onstage, and relishes the opportunity to give back to them. The decision may also reflect Hallberg's uncertainty about the next steps in his career, and a reluctance to jump right back into the setup he had before. "I'm taking everything performance by performance," he told The Age. "I'm not looking into making a complete five-year plan."

For now, Hallberg's international career will stay more international than ever. This weekend, lucky Australian audiences can catch him in The Sleeping Beauty, and he plans to be back in Australia later this year.

 

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

After what appears to have been an emotionally draining injury-rehabilitation program, American Ballet Theatre and Bolshoi Ballet star David Hallberg has returned to the stage.

A little over a year ago, Hallberg buzzed his hair, posted a semi-cryptic message on Instagram and dropped out of the ballet world altogether. He moved to Australia to treat a lingering ankle injury, specifically seeking out Sue Mayes and the Australian Ballet's physical therapy team. Now healthy, he made his comeback in Sydney on the evening of December 13. He performed the role of Franz in Coppélia, as a guest artists with the Australian Ballet.

Hallberg tackled his therapy program with a dancer's usual determination and drive, though that didn't keep him from experiencing self-doubt. "Emotionally, some days I was just going by the words of my team and not my own self-belief," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. His pride also took a knock, when students from the Australian Ballet School witnessed him slowly working his way back from injury to peak condition.

Fortunately, those moments of struggle have paid off: Not only was Franz a brand new role for Hallberg to add to his repertoire, but the entire ballet world wished him well during his comeback performance.

 

 

 

 

Australian audiences can still catch the danseur noble on December 16, 19 and 21. We'll keep you updated on his next moves!

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

 

From June 24–July 10, Houston Ballet is embarking on its biggest tour yet to Melbourne, Australia, hometown of artistic director Stanton Welch. Pointe asked demi-soloist Jacquelyn Long to keep a diary of her experiences.

July 8, 2016

With my sisters Tyler Donateli and Soo Cho

We are nearing the end of our tour and I think everyone is trying to rally as we approach show number 10. We've had a long week with performances every day, including some double show days.

I got to debut the part of Miranda this week! It was a lot of fun. She is quite a sassy character! It's difficult though—there is intense acting, fouettés and lots of jumping. It was rewarding to emote onstage and get lost in a character. Something fun about that role is she has to wear a red wig! I took a little time lapsed video to show you guys what wig prep in the ballet world looks like.

 

 

 

We took class in the Australian Ballet studios yesterday, which was very nice. We've been using the rehearsal room at the theater, which is pretty small in comparison to their studios and what we are used to back in Houston. We had another guest teacher this week as well, Australian Ballet artistic associate and principal coach Fiona Tonkin. I think everyone enjoyed her class. There was also a class onstage with an audience, which our ballet master Steven Woodgate taught. He had a microphone so that the people could hear him correct and teach. He used to dance with the Aussie Ballet and was always a part of these demonstrations when he was with the company. I think it was neat for him to do it again.

Soloist Allison Miller and dancers of the company at the Australian Ballet studios

 

XO,

Jacquelyn

 

More more news on all things ballet, don't miss a single issue.

From June 24–July 10, Houston Ballet is embarking on its biggest tour yet to Melbourne, Australia, hometown of artistic director Stanton Welch. Pointe asked demi-soloist Jacquelyn Long to keep a diary of her experiences.

June 29, 2016

The State Theatre at Arts Center of Victoria. Photo by Chunwai Chan, Courtesy Long.

We had our first day of rehearsals yesterday in the Arts Center of Victoria rehearsal room. We did a run through of Romeo and Juliet and rehearsed the Australian Ballet School children into the production. They have a beggar’s dance and are also town children in the show. The run went well, and I think everyone is excited to go onstage!

In the dance world there are some things that come with the job—and casting changes is one of them. Due to injuries or passport problems, we had some fittings during rehearsals yesterday. I have to be a ball guest now and one of Juliet's friends, so I had a few costumes to try on. I also will be dancing Katerina (a tavern sister), a role I originated when the ballet was created. And, I get to premiere Miranda, who is the main tavern sister—Mercutio's girl.

Dancers Megumi Takeda and Aoi Fujiwara exploring Melbourne. Photo by Long.

After rehearsal, I think everyone was feeling the jet lag. If you have never experienced jet lag, it feels like it’s 1:00 am when it’s only 7:30 in the evening! Some of my friends and I walked the city to get food and drinks. We lasted until 10:15 before we were home in bed. I must say though, I feel better today after forcing myself to stay awake.

This morning, we got to take class from Australian Ballet staff member Eve Lawson, a fellow American.  It was fun to have a guest teacher while on tour. The floors here are a bit slippery, but I think the boys, especially, are enjoying turning on them. If you have a chance, check out the videos on Instagram of that! Following the hashtag #hbtakesaustralia

We have a technical rehearsal first today and then a dress rehearsal later tonight. I hope all goes smoothly! I'm looking forward to letting you guys know what the stage is like.

 

Xo,

Jacquelyn

Bridget Kuhns working on her lines before rehearsal. Photo by Chunwai Chan, Courtesy Long.

The National Ballet of Canada in rehearsal (photo by Karolina Kuras)

 

World Ballet Day will happen once again on October 1. The Bolshoi Ballet, The Australian Ballet, The Royal Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada and San Francisco Ballet will join forces for 18 hours of non-stop behind-the-scenes footage from around the world. 

It's no surprise that the event is back, considering its smashing success last year—it was trending on Twitter all day, and thousands of people watched the stream on YouTube.

This year, the event will include even more companies: Bangarra Dance Theatre, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Boston Ballet, English National Ballet, Hamburg Ballet, Houston Ballet, Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal, National Ballet of China, Nederlands Dans Theater, Northern Ballet, Pacific Northwestern Ballet, Royal New Zealand Ballet and Scottish Ballet will all participate. Those companies will show pre-recorded footage rather than a live stream.

The Australian Ballet will show class and rehearsals for The Sleeping Beauty, among others. The Bolshoi will show class and rehearsals for its 240th season. I'm especially excited to see The Royal Ballet's rehearsals of Romeo and Juliet and the National Ballet of Canada's rehearsals of The Winter's Tale. Both companies will also show morning class. San Francisco Ballet will show class and rehearsals and will feature an interview with choreographer William Forsythe.

For those of us in the United States, the time zones are a bit confusing. The stream starts with The Australian Ballet in Melbourne at 19:00 PDT (that's Pacific Day Time) on September 30. Use this handy time zone converter to determine when you should start watching the live stream.

Click here for more information about programming as it's released!

Stephanie Williams, one of American Ballet Theatre’s newest corps members, loves to move. As she waltzes and balancés through a rehearsal of Giselle, she’s as involved dancing a peasant in the ensemble as she would be dancing Giselle herself. Williams brings considerable experience to her corps position. She danced with The Australian Ballet for four years before embarking on a wider quest in New York. With her lovely classicism, ample jump, sunny smile and quick learning skills, the 5' 5" dancer has every chance of success in her new company.

 Williams grew up in Newcastle, New South Wales, a mining town  north of Sydney, which she claims has produced (Billy Elliot–style) a surprising number of dancers. She trained at the Marie Walton-Mahon Dance Academy and, at age 11, when dancers from The Australian Ballet came to perform Don Quixote, she announced to her mother that she wanted to be a ballet dancer. “It was intriguing for me to realize you could make that your life,” she says. At 15, she entered The Australian Ballet School, where she studied with teachers like Marilyn Rowe, the school’s director, who helped Williams shape her goals. “Stephanie possesses physical beauty, purity of line, artistic depth, musicality and an understated and easy technique that sets her apart,” says Rowe. “She also has a wonderful work ethic and is an artist of great generosity.”

After graduation, Williams joined The Australian Ballet as a corps member. There she danced principal roles in ballets like Jerome Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun, Michel Fokine’s Les Sylphides and Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain. Rehearsing with choreographer Wayne McGregor on Dyad 1929 proved a transformative experience. “It’s so mesmerizing the way he works,” she says. “You can see his brain telling his body how to move. His movements are unique, and so different that you have to be fearless to even attempt them. Working with him gave me such fulfillment.”

So why did she decide to leave? A promotion to coryphée in 2008 and a guesting gig with Morphoses in 2009 triggered an itch to take more professional chances. Williams says she felt herself getting stuck: “I needed to explore. I’m always best when I’m open to people, places and opportunities,” she explains. “I felt like my life was closing off and that scared me.”

She left Australia with zero planning and globe-hopped for six months. “I found a really good perspective on life,” she says. “I was getting to a point where I was feeling a little too consumed with getting to a certain status or a certain role.” She joined the Dutch National Ballet for six months, but  had long hoped to dance at ABT. One day she sent an email to inquire about taking company class. They said yes, she flew over and was hired this January.

During ABT’s spring season, she danced corps roles in a number of ballets, including Wheeldon’s Thirteen Diversions and Alexei Ratmansky’s The Bright Stream and new Firebird. Living in the city that never sleeps has been an easy adjustment for Williams, an insomniac. When not dancing, she runs, which calms her busy mind, or reads. Her colleagues in Australia miss her, but also respect her choices. “It was very difficult to see Stephanie leave, but she needed to stretch her wings and experience the world of dance on an international level,” says Rowe. “I hope that in time, she will return to her home country and company, where the journey began. She is, after all, a product of this wonderful land.”

Have you heard? The Australian Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, Royal Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and National Ballet of Canada are teaming up for a truly epic day of behind-the-scenes access. October 1st is World Ballet Day. 

Starting at 12:00pm local time in Melbourne, the Australian Ballet will begin live-streaming their company class and rehearsals on YouTube. The live stream will eventually move around the globe and across time-zones, next visiting the Bolshoi and eventually ending with San Francisco Ballet. Each company will also stream their segment on their own website. In addition to offering an unprecedented look into the working lives of some of the world's most amazing dancers, the program will allow viewers to ask questions of each company throughout the day. If you can't watch everything in real time, the full program will be available afterward on YouTube.

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