Brooklyn Mack in Le Corsaire. Photo by Carlos Quezada, Courtesy Mack

After almost a decade at The Washington Ballet, Brooklyn Mack has struck out on his own. Last summer, after unsuccessful contract negotiations with the company—now under the direction of Julie Kent—the 32-year-old star decided to go it alone. So far, his full-time freelance career has taken him to Hong Kong, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Georgia (the country, not the state) and various cities across the U.S. But his biggest debut is still to come. This month, he appears with American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House for four performances of Le Corsaire, playing both Conrad and Ali.

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Houston Ballet's Melody Mennite in Stanton Welch's Marie. Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy HB.

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

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Photo by Carlos Quezada, Courtesy ABT

American Ballet Theatre announced today that Brooklyn Mack, a former Washington Ballet star, will join the company as a guest for its spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House. Currently an in-demand international guest artist, Mack will dance in three performances of ABT's Le Corsaire this June.

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Courtesy VAM Productions

Raise your hand if you're excited for competition season! Youth America Grand Prix Regional Semi-Finals are well underway, leading up to the much-awaited New York Finals April 12-19. Even better, they're live-streamed, meaning you now have the perfect excuse to spend your weekend at home, watching ballet (while sewing your pointe shoes and stretching, of course).

This weekend features semi-finals in Seattle, Washington and Tampa, Florida. To see the full schedules and set up streaming, click here. Streaming starts at $13.99. Packages of 2, 4, 6 or 12 total viewing hours are available, and viewers can log in and out as often as they like.

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2014 Junior Gold Medalist Gisele Bethea and partner Michal Wozniak at the 2014 USA IBC Awards Gala. Photo by Richard Finkelstein, Courtesy USA IBC.

From June 10–23, 119 competitors from 19 countries will gather in Jackson, Mississippi, for the 11th USA International Ballet Competition. Held every four years, the USA IBC has helped launch the careers of dozens of stars, including Daniil Simkin, Misa Kuranaga and Brooklyn Mack. "The 2014 competition was good, but we're making this year better," says jury chairman John Meehan. Changes include broadened age limits for competitors and a larger sum of prize money. This summer's competition also has a special focus on Marius Petipa in honor of his 200th birthday. There will be an emphasis on Petipa repertoire, and choreographer Alexei Ratmansky will give a workshop for competitors on his reconstructions of original Petipa choreography. This edition will also honor the legacy of Robert Joffrey, who was a catalyst in launching the USA IBC with founder Thalia Mara. Dancers from The Joffrey Ballet will perform in the opening ceremony.

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Misty Copeland as Juliet with American Ballet Theatre. Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT.

Valentine's Day makes February the perfect month for ballet companies to perform Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's famous tale of star-crossed lovers. A few companies presented their versions earlier this month and many are on their way in the next few weeks. We rounded up eight companies including New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, The Washington Ballet, Les Ballet des Monte Carlo, Orlando Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Carolina Ballet and Ballet BC to find out how they're using this classic ballet to celebrate the holiday of love.

New York City Ballet

A 12-performance run of Peter Martins' Romeo + Juliet comes in the middle of New York City Ballet's winter season, spanning from February 13-23 at the Koch Theater in New York City. This year's production marks the debuts of corps dancers Harrison Coll and Peter Walker as Romeo, and former Pointe cover star Indiana Woodward will be making her debut as Juliet. Below, hear Tiler Peck, who will dance Juliet alongside Zachary Catazarro, point out the tricky technical moments in this role and explain what makes it so special to her.

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"Confetti" by Margot Hallac, of dancer Misa Kuranaga. Courtesy Hallac.

Growing up in Hong Kong, Margot Hallac always knew she had a knack for the arts. After training in ballet as a child and teen, she eventually found herself focusing on visual arts and moved to New York City to study at the Parsons School of Design. Now a graphic designer, she's since resumed her dance training—and is melding her talents together.

Outside of her day job, Hallac started creating her own artwork and noticed that the subject matter was gravitating towards ballet. Shortly after, Pointebrush was born. Not only does she frequently share her work on the site and its wildly popular Instagram account (with over 15,000 followers), she also sells her unique designs on phone cases, mugs, t-shirts, and as framed prints. We caught up with Hallac to hear more about her stunning ballerina art and where she draws inspiration for her work.



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Arthur Mitchell. Photo by Eileen Barroso, Courtesy Columbia University.

When American Ballet Theatre soloist Calvin Royal III and New York City Ballet soloist Unity Phelan burst into the opening diagonal of George Balanchine's Agon on Monday, they had reason to be nervous. Sitting in the downstage corner of Columbia University's Miller Theater—precisely where they'd need to spot their pencil turns—was Arthur Mitchell, the Dance Theater of Harlem co-founder and longtime director who originated the male role at NYCB in 1957. It was a rare and exciting moment of the future meeting the past. (Royal later described the experience as "surreal.") The two dancers, who had been coached by former NYCB principal Heather Watts, gave an electric and intense performance. Afterwards, Mitchell turned to the audience from his blue leather chair and smiled. "I would say it's in good hands."


Royal III and Phelan performing "Agon" during the Vail Dance Festival. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy Vail Dance Festival.

Their appearance was part of "An Informal Performance on the Art of Dance," an evening directed by Mitchell to celebrate both his legacy and the Arthur Mitchell archive at Columbia's Rare Book and Manuscript Library. (The first exhibition featuring Mitchell's donated archives will be on display at Columbia's Wallach Art Gallery January 13–March 11, 2018.) A slew of guest artists came together for the program, which included works by Balanchine, Alvin Ailey and Mitchell himself (including his South African Suite and Rythmetron).

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Stella Abrera in "Le Corsaire," Photo by Rosalie O'Connor

Hollywood may have the Oscars, but ballet has the Benois de la Danse. The glamorous awards ceremony, held each year at Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre, recognizes the year's best dancers and choreographers around the globe. The 2017 nominees were announced yesterday, and they include some of our favorite dancers, including two Pointe cover stars!

Two principal ballerinas from U.S. companies, American Ballet Theatre's Stella Abrera and Boston Ballet's Misa Kuranaga, were nominated for best female dancer. Abrera who graced our December/January cover, was nominated for her debut as Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. It's heartening to see this longtime ABT dancer receive the star treatment she deserves since her promotion to principal in 2015. Kuranaga, who was our August/September 2012 cover star, is being recognized for her performances in not one, but two roles: Tatiana in Onegin and Medora in Ivan Liška's Le Corsaire.

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Photo of Brooklyn Mack and Misty Copeland by Theo Kossenas, Courtesy TWB.

The Washington, DC, dance scene is abuzz this week. Not only is The Washington Ballet premiering its first-ever production of Swan Lake tonight at the Kennedy Center, but two African-American dancers—American Ballet Theatre soloist Misty Copeland and TWB's Brooklyn Mack—will star as Odette/Odile and Prince Siegfried in Thursday and Sunday evening's performances.

Ballet's abysmal lack of diversity, especially for black dancers (and women in particular), has been an ongoing topic of discussion, recently with Copeland at the forefront. She debuted as Odette/Odile with ABT last summer in Brisbane, Australia, and is slated to perform it again in June at the Metropolitan Opera House. But pairing Copeland and Mack together for Swan Lake sends an even more powerful message. “To have two African-American dancers as the leads in a major company is so important," Mack told writer Lisa Traiger in this month's issue of Pointe. “There are so many inequalities imbedded in society."

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Misty Copeland and Brooklyn Mack in costume for TWB's Swan Lake. Photo by Theo Kossenas, Courtesy TWB.

This April, The Washington Ballet will not only tackle its first ever full-length Swan Lake, but it will cast two African-American dancers, American Ballet Theatre's Misty Copeland and TWB's Brooklyn Mack, in the principal roles of Odette/Odile and Siegfried. The performances run April 8–12 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Artistic director Septime Webre has long had his sights set on challenging TWB with the iconic ballet. It wasn't until this past season that he felt the company, particularly the corps, was ready. “It's important for me to make a strong statement with our first Swan Lake," Webre says.

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The sixth Helsinki International Ballet Competition, held this June in Finland, was something of a guy’s show. The most notable of the 70 competitors, who performed over the course of seven evenings in the beautiful Finnish National Opera House, were all men: authoritative, silky Brooklyn Mack, 23, of the United States, who was the Senior Silver medalist; fiercely masculine Jeffrey Cirio, 18, also of the United States, who took home the Junior Gold; and scissors-sharp Xiaoyu He, 21, of China, winner of the Grand Prix.

 

Some of the more intriguing women in the competition—Korean National Ballet Company’s lyrical Seul Ki Park, and the sleek, serene Byelorussian Nadzeya Filipava—did not win medals. Perhaps ballerina moonlight-energy doesn’t fit so well with the flash-boom-bang of competition craft.

 

Nevertheless, the international exposure that young dancers gain in competition is invaluable—particularly at the Helsinki contest. “The city is well-situated between the East and the West,” says Doris Laine-Almi, the former Finnish National Ballet artistic director, who founded HIBC in 1984 to complement the other Inter­national Theatre Institute Competitions in Varna, Jackson and Moscow. “And everyone speaks English!” adds Junior Silver medalist Lonnie Weeks, of Texas Ballet Theater, who is a veteran of the competition scene. “That makes it much easier here.”

 

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