Being coached by a treasure like former Kirov prima Irina Kolpakova is an experience most dancers only dream of. But company members at American Ballet Theatre have been the lucky beneficiaries of her wisdom since 1990. Thanks to Instagram, where pros like Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside share snippets of their sessions with Kolpakova, any ballet lover can be a fly on the wall during rehearsals with the famed ballet mistress.
In recent years, Royal Ballet principal and international touring artist Natalia Osipova has curated her own evenings of new works, collaborating with a slew of contemporary choreographers. The newest of these is Pure Dance, which premiered last September at Sadler's Wells and comes to New York City Center April 3–6. "I really like to try new things," she told the Financial Times last year. "There is something in my personality that makes me want to start new projects."
"I feel like you want to move one more thing," says choreographer Gabrielle Lamb, her head cocked slightly to the right as she watches American Ballet Theatre corps dancers Zimmi Coker and Xuelan Lu work through an intertwined movement sequence. "My hip," answers Lu, who stands with her right leg extended, foot flexed, her hand on Coker's head. Both are in socks, and in the background music plays softly, providing atmosphere rather than counts and cues. It's week two of ABT Incubator, a new choreographic workshop spearheaded by principal dancer David Hallberg that was held earlier this month. Lamb is one of five choreographers, including New York–based dancemaker Kelsey Grills and ABT dancers Sung Woo Han, Duncan Lyle and James Whiteside, who were chosen to participate through an audition process.
Have you ever dreamt of the chance to choreograph for American Ballet Theatre? Thanks to ABT Incubator, the company's newly launched choreographic initiative directed by company principal (and recent author) David Hallberg, that wish could become a reality this fall. The two-week choreographic lab will run from October 31-November 10 at ABT's New York studios and will give both members of the company and freelance choreographers the chance to create new work on dancers from ABT and the ABT Studio Company. Participants will also have access to crucial dance making tools including a stipend, studio space, collaborators, feedback and mentorship from Hallberg and other artists. They'll present their creations in a private showing on November 10. "It has always been my vision to establish a process-oriented hub to explore the directions ballet can forge now and in the future," said Hallberg in a statement released today. "I am thrilled that Incubator will provide the resources for emerging and established creators to explore movement and new paths in dance."
"Do you still love ballet?" I ask David Hallberg as we sit in a drab conference room at American Ballet Theatre discussing his new memoir, A Body of Work: Dancing to the Edge and Back. The book details Hallberg's grueling return from a series of injuries that left him questioning whether he would ever dance again. "Yes, I love it even more," he says almost hungrily, as he stares me down with his searching, slightly hollow gaze.
A Body of Work is not an easy read. Its final section, devoted to the long road back from injury and despair, is the most distressing, but what comes before is not much lighter. The self-portrait Hallberg has outlined is stark: a boy, and later a man, propelled by a single-minded drive, subjected to savage bullying at school in Arizona; ostracism during a year of studies at the Paris Opéra Ballet School; arduous private training that has his parents half-joking about appealing to child services; un-empathetic partners; a punishing work schedule that leaves his body broken. All this, in order to satisfy the "gravitational force" of ballet, which he feels "pulling [him] in deeper and deeper," he writes.
A class taught by American Ballet Theatre principal David Hallberg sounds like a dream come true. And after watching him give a quick lesson to a video producer at Business Insider, we're going to need Hallberg to start a regular class, ASAP. While promoting his new memoir, A Body of Work: Dancing to the Edge and Back, Hallberg taught Business Insider's Kevin Reilly some essential ballet steps. But while Reilly begins by confessing to Hallberg that he's in need of some new dance moves when he's going to a wedding or a club, the steps he learns aren't quite what the average viewer would expect to see. As a bunhead though, the balancés and changements are exactly what we find ourselves wanting to do at parties.
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.
We all know that seeing world class dance is expensive. But for two weeks a year New York City Center offers $15 tickets to their Fall for Dance Festival. This magical unicorn of an experience features five unique programs and will run from October 2-14.
The program includes five world premieres commissioned specifically for the Festival, three of which feature some of our favorite ballet superstars.
Program One (Oct. 2-3) will showcase a new work by choreographer and New York City Ballet soloist Troy Schumacher on 14 dancers from Miami City Ballet. While rehearsals are still in progress, we do know that the piece will be a meditation on childhood set to Francis Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos in D Minor.
Troy Schumacher in rehearsalPhoto by Kyle Froman for Pointe
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Between book deals and Under Armour endorsements, her own Barbie doll and a spot at the judges table on NBC's "World of Dance," Misty Copeland has been one of the few ballerinas to break into mainstream pop culture. Now she's conquering the world of cosmetics. Yesterday, Esteé Lauder announced that Copeland is the new spokesmodel for its fragrance, Modern Muse. The name seems fitting, given how her journey to becoming American Ballet Theatre's first black principal woman has inspired so many. She'll front the fragrance's campaign across digital, print, in-store and television advertisements.
The dancer-as-brand-ambassador theme is catching on. Back in ballet's glory days, Suzanne Farrell was the face of L'Air du Temps perfume, while Mikhail Baryshnikov attached his name to not one, but two colognes. After a prolonged dry spell, we're happy to see dancers receiving mainstream visibility again as more companies book them to represent their brands. Here are just a few recent examples:
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.
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).
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.
We've been breathlessly waiting to find out when David Hallberg will step out with American Ballet Theatre, and it sounds like L.A. audiences get to see him first. He's scheduled to debut the role of Prince Coffee in Alexei Ratmansky's Whipped Cream, on March 15 at the Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts. His first performance back, after returning from injury, was his debut as Franz in Coppélia, with the Australian Ballet.
Whipped Cream sounds like a (more?) surreal take on The Nutcracker, featuring a boy who eats too many sweets and imagines a fantastical land populated by characters like Prince Coffee and Princess Praline.
New Yorkers will have to wait until May 22 for a reprise of the role. And while we're excited to see Hallberg back onstage, and we're always up for a new Ratmansky ballet, we're especially curious about the trippy costumes and sets, designed by Pop Surrealist Mark Ryden. They look a little bit creepy.
We can't wait!
After a successful return to the stage with the Australian Ballet, not to mention his debut as Franz in Coppélia, international star David Hallberg is officially back with one of his two home companies. He will join American Ballet Theatre for its Spring 2017 season. No word yet regarding when he'll return to the Bolshoi Ballet.
In a statement, both Hallberg and ABT artistic director Kevin Mackenzie expressed excitement for the return, and New York ballet fans are surely eager to see Hallberg partnered up with the company's women once again (the editors at this magazine certainly are!). Hallberg's schedule hasn't been announced yet, but we're keeping our fingers crossed for a Gillian Murphy/David Hallberg matchup in Giselle (Murphy's partner is currently listed as TBA on May 27). And with Stella Abrera as Myrta, no less? There's also an enticing TBA listed on June 24, for Hee Seo's partner in Onegin. Hallberg told the New York Times that he was excited to work with Alexei Ratmansky again, which means he might be part of the cast originating the choreographer's latest creation for ABT: a surreal evening-length story ballet titled Whipped Cream. The casting for its March premiere is still to be announced.
Hallberg's return probably also means that company men who have recently received notable performance opportunities (Calvin Royal III, for example) may have to wait a bit longer for their turn in other major classical roles. That said, we can't wait to see him back on the opera house stage. Our friends at Dance Magazine made this GIF, which perfectly sums up our feelings: