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."
After days spent rallying against "Good Morning America" host Lara Spencer's flippant comments about boys doing ballet, the dance world triumphed on Monday. Not only did Spencer issue a lengthy on-air apology, complete with an interview with Robbie Fairchild, Travis Wall and Fabrice Calmels, but over 300 dancers gathered outside of the "GMA" studios for an impromptu ballet class.
The dance field seemed geared to press forward with positivity; a change.org petition urging "GMA" to cover the benefits of ballet for young men has gathered over 40,000 signatures, and many are examining the ways in which the #boysdancetoo movement can be made more inclusive. This made it all the more disheartening to open Instagram this morning and see that Fox News commentators Raymond Arroyo and Laura Ingraham took the bullying a step further last night, mocking Spencer's apology on a program called "The Ingraham Angle."
On August 20, pop goddess Lizzo tweeted, "Someone do a ballet routine to truth hurts pls," referring to the anthem that's been top on everyone's playlists this summer. Lizzo might not know it yet, but ballet dancers are not known for shying away from a challenge. In the past two days, the internet has exploded with responses, with dancers like Houston Ballet's Harper Watters and American Ballet Theatre's Erica Lall tagging the singer in submissions.
Below are a few of our favorites so far, but we're guessing that this is just the beginning. Ballet world, consider yourselves officially challenged! (Use #LizzoBalletChallenge so we know what you're up to.)
If you could ask a professional dancer's advice for starting a ballet career, what would you want to know?
Earlier this month, Walnut Hill School for the Arts celebrated its 125th anniversary with a gala performance of students and alumni at New York City's Joyce Theater. And with graduation on the horizon, we thought it would be fun to arrange a Q&A session between upper level ballet students and the visiting graduates of Walnut Hill School for the Arts, among them San Francisco Ballet principal Joseph Walsh '06, Houston Ballet soloist Harper Watters '10, Ballet Arizona dancer Alison Remmers '12 and former Sacramento Ballet/Twyla Tharp dancer Charlie Hodges '98.
Last week, Houston Ballet toured artistic director Stanton Welch's Swan Lake to Dubai, making it the first American company to ever dance at the Dubai Opera House. Demi soloist Natalie Varnum covered this historic tour for Pointe through a series of vlogs, taking us from the long plane ride to harrowing camel rides to backstage shenanigans to opening night. Settle in and enjoy!
Part 1: Houston Ballet's Tour to Dubai with Natalie Varnum www.youtube.com
With the surplus of ballet festivals happening around the world these past few months, it's obvious that there's really no such thing as summer break for the pros. But between the red-eye flights and onstage performances, our favorite stars still found time to soak up the sun and enjoy some seriously stunning views (even if they were from rehearsal). From Verona, Italy to Vail, Colorado, click through to see the highlights from the 2018 summer tours.
All week, Houston Ballet soloist Harper Watters has been giving us the inside scoop on the company's tour to Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. In this last installment, we'll see how the dancers prep for opening night (hint: it involves a good nap and plenty of coffee). Plus, we'll catch glimpses of the show.
Houston Ballet has been taking Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival by storm this week, and soloist Harper Watters has been filling us in on how it's going. In yesterday's vlog he took us around the historic festival's scenic grounds and barn-like theater. Today, he and principal dancer Chun Wai Chan give us the inside scoop on HB's dress rehearsal (and take us into the wings to watch some beautiful dancing). Stay tuned for more from Watters later this week!
Get Pointe in your inbox
Houston Ballet soloist Harper Watters has a good thing going on. Not only is he one of the company's rising young dancers, but he's also a ballet celebrity on social media, where he charts his life on Instagram and on his hugely popular YouTube series, "The Pre Show" (which he describes as "tons of ballet, banter, boys and lots of backstage shenanigans").
The Dover, New Hampshire, native, who seems just as comfortable in a pair of pink heels as he does onstage, trained at Walnut Hill School for the Arts and Portsmouth School of Ballet. While a member of Houston Ballet II, he landed an apprenticeship with the company after winning the Contemporary Dance Prize at the 2011 Prix de Lausanne. He joined the main company that same year and was promoted to soloist in December 2017. Known for his big personality, elegantly long lines and sensual flow in contemporary work, Watters, 26, is ready to take on the next phase of his career. He recently spoke with Pointe about his new rank and his mission to help others feel proud of who they are.
Updated on 08/28/19
"I never wanted to stop dancing, I just wanted the bullying to stop," says American Ballet Theatre corps member Patrick Frenette in the trailer for Danseur, a new feature-length documentary about the social stigmatization young men face in ballet. His words shed light not only on the prevalence of harassment boys endure from peers outside the studio, but also their passion and determination to keep dancing in spite of it. The film, produced by NuArts Foundation, features interviews with ballet students, teachers and directors, as well as professional dancers like James Whiteside, John Lam, Derek Dunn and Harper Watters. Screenings are slowly being added around the country—check out the list of dates at the bottom of this story.
Dancewear brand Cloud & Victory is so much more than just clever t-shirts; founder Min is set on finding all kinds of ways to connect to the greater community. Earlier this fall she organized a master class led by American Ballet Theatre stars Gillian Murphy and Isabella Boylston, and now she's organizing a fundraiser to fight against child slavery called Pointes Against Child Slavery.
Signed pointe shoes donated by ballet dancers from some of the world's best companies will be sold online from November 8-19. The proceeds will be donated to two non-governmental organizations committed to fighting against child slavery, sexual abuse and exploitation for the empowerment and welfare of underprivileged children. The first is Destiny Rescue, a U.S.-based organization that since 2011 has rescued 2,000 children enslaved in Thailand, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines and India. The second organization is The Promiseland Project in Nepal. The Singapore-based Promiseland Project is working to build a school and orphanage in Dhamphus, Nepal to "shelter, raise and nurture the poor, needy and orphaned children of Nepal and equip them with an education and skill sets to make a better life for themselves." The earthquakes that devastated Nepal two years ago have set the project back, and they're looking for funds to finish construction.
Pointe shoes worn by Marianela Núñez during the Royal Ballet's Fall/Winter season. Photo via Cloud & Victory.
Deciding to pursue a career in dance is huge. But even with your eyes firmly on your goal, figuring out the best track to get you there can be confusing and stressful. What school to go to, which teacher to follow, and when or whether to leave home are questions all ambitious dancers face, and there's no right answer for everyone. Behind every successful dancer lies a path riddled with difficult decisions and moments of doubt. Often, coming to a fork in the road means making a realistic assessment of what your needs truly are. These three dancers faced tough choices at crucial moments in their training years, but pushed outside their comfort zones and took risks that ultimately paid off.