News
Gemma Bond in the studio with ABT's Cassandra Trenary. Jim Lafferty.

If, like us, you're already mourning the end of American Ballet Theatre's marathon Met season, don't fear. The company just announced the lineup for its fall season, and there's a lot to look forward to.

Running October 16-27 at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater, ABT's fall lineup includes world premieres by choreographers Twyla Tharp and Gemma Bond. While Tharp has been creating for ABT since 1976 (the company's Met season included a trio of her works), corps dancer Gemma Bond will be making her choreographic debut for ABT's main company. The season also shines a spotlight on principal Herman Cornejo, who will be celebrating his 20th anniversary with the company.

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Ballet Stars
Xiomara Reyes, Herman Cornejo and Erica Cornejo in the "Swan Lake" pas de trois, via YouTube.

This week's TBT is a three-for-one throwback special: A power trio of versatile American Ballet Theatre performers, Xiomara Reyes and siblings Erica and Herman Cornejo, dance the Act I pas de trois from Swan Lake in this 2005 video. Reyes, who now heads The Washington School of Ballet, and Herman Cornejo both became principals at ABT in 2003 and were regular partners. Erica danced at ABT as a soloist until joining Boston Ballet as a principal in 2006. In the pas de trois from Swan Lake, the three dancers' unique camaraderie, exuberance and light, bounding ballon make for a show-stopping performance.

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News
Los Angeles Ballet's Tigran Sargsyan and Petra Conti. LAB opens their fall season this week with a mixed bill including two company premieres. Photo by Reed Hutchinson, Courtesy LAB.

Fall for Dance FestivalWonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.

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Just for fun
Boon, Lauren Lovette's furry friend. Photo via @laurenlovette on Instagram.

There's nothing more purrrrfect than some fabulous trinas and their feline friends. We're not kitten: these bonds are paw-sitively adorable! From hanging out backstage to working out together and more, these pairs will pas de chat their way straight into your heart.

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Your Training
Herman Cornejo in "La Bayadere." Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy American Ballet Theatre.

A double tour, says American Ballet Theatre principal Herman Cornejo, "is the step that defines a male dancer." Here, he shares his thoughts on mastering this necessary trick.

Don't anticipate: "The takeoff is hard," Herman Cornejo acknowledges. "You want to take all your force around, and that twists your back to the side and your fifth out of place." Instead, the impulse for the rotations comes from the bottom of the plié. "Be calm to start. Prepare to a relevé, plié, and the moment the heels touch down, then you take the force."

Use your glutes: A common error Cornejo sees is "sticking your butt out and your chest forward in plié so that you're not on top of your hips. You'll never make it to the other side!" Your glutes, he adds, are "so powerful that when you engage them, it really makes a difference."

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Sprightly and sweet, the Swan Lake Act I pas de trois variations are deceptively difficult. But Boston Ballet principal Erica Cornejo betrays no hint of effort in this clip, filmed in 2005 while she was a soloist at American Ballet Theatre. The divertissement doesn't require a huge emotional range from its dancers. Still, Cornejo delivers a warm, generous stage presence. Her smile is authentic, not affected, and the only thing as natural as her joy is her jump, which is buoyant from the first entrechat six to the diagonal of temps de flèche.

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Photography by Kyle Froman

 

It’s rare to see celebrated ballet dancers outside of the grand opera houses that form their natural habitat. But Martha Clarke’s Chéri, which runs through December 22 at New York’s 294-seat Signature Theatre, gives audiences an up-close look at prima ballerina assoluta Alessandra Ferri and American Ballet Theatre star Herman Cornejo.

Based on the novella by Colette, which traces a turbulent affair between aging but glamorous Léa and dashing young Chéri in turn-of-the-century Paris, the multidisciplinary work poses a special challenge for two gifted dance-actors. It also marks a new phase in Ferri?’s post-ballet career. ?”When Martha proposed Chéri, I thought how incredible it would be to play somebody who belongs to me, now, and not to pretend to be 18,?” Ferri says. ?”There is something wonderful about looking at yourself as you really are?—as Léa does in the stories, and as I am doing in this process.?” Pointe went inside an intimate Chéri rehearsal with Clarke, Cornejo and Ferri.

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Allison Walsh and Billy Cannon in Darrell Grand Moultrie's "Differences in Sections." Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy BalletX.

Alina Cojocaru
At 31, The Royal Ballet’s Alina Cojocaru finally got the ultimate gift for a dancer: a full-length ballet created on her. John Neumeier choreographed Hamburg Ballet’s Liliom just for Cojocaru, tailoring the role of Julie, a poor waitress in love with a tough carousel barker, to Cojocaru’s gentle, vulnerable presence and delicate technique. “I had been longing to work with Alina. She is a choreographer’s dancer,” he says. “I couldn’t imagine anyone else as Julie.” Cojocaru carried much of the ballet on her shoulders, lending emotional resonance to her character’s angelic sense of forgiveness. Every step seemed born spontaneously of her stream of consciousness. Liliom was so well-received that a DVD is in the works, and for Cojocaru, it marks another milestone in her career. —Laura Cappelle


Sylvie Guillem
You can take away the pointe shoes, get rid of the bun, forget the tutu: Sylvie Guillem’s ballerina-ness is in her very soul. Guillem brought her repertory program, 6000 Miles Away, to New York this spring, performing two un-balletic pieces by William Forsythe and Mats Ek. But there were enough flashes of those peerless legs and feet to show us that, at 47, Guillem still boasts impeccable technique. And the elegant ease—almost nonchalance—that made her such an astonishing Aurora? It’s still there, and it still captivates. She may be one of the ballet world’s most notorious rebels, but she’ll always be ours. —Margaret Fuhrer


Emily Ellis
It didn’t take long for audiences to notice Washington Ballet’s Emily Ellis. Last season—her first with the company—she brought deadpan kookiness to Twyla Tharp’s Push Comes to Shove, then showed off her purity of line and refined technique in a classically based pas de deux in Septime Webre’s ALICE (in wonderland). But it was her turn as Daisy Buchanan, the pretty object of Jay Gatsby’s desire in Webre’s The Great Gatsby, where Ellis demonstrated her ability to fully commit to a character. Not quite a heroine, Daisy could have come off as empty or heartless, but Ellis imbued her with deep, lovely sentiment. Girlish in early duets with her Gatsby, Jared Nelson, she evolved into a more self-assured and sensual woman, one familiar with the darker corners of the heart. —Lisa Traiger


Herman Cornejo, Daniil Simkin, Ivan Vasiliev

Le Corsaire
isn’t good for anything, really, except showing off extraordinary men. But when they’re the right men, all the silliness and awkward ethnic stereotyping are worth sitting through. And when they’re Herman Cornejo, Daniil Simkin and Ivan Vasiliev—as they were for one brilliant night this summer at American Ballet Theatre—suddenly the Metropolitan Opera House’s civilized patrons are screaming like teenagers at a rock concert. Between Cornejo’s suave Conrad, Simkin’s gloriously slimy Lankendem and Vasiliev’s outrageous, off-the-rails Slave, there were enough death-defying leaps and endless pirouettes to goad even the most blasé critics to their feet. It was The Man Show, and what an incredible show it was. —Margaret Fuhrer


Allison Walsh
When Allison Walsh stepped onstage in Darrell Grand Moultrie’s Differences in Sections last July, the BalletX dancer resembled a young, glamorous Leslie Caron. But the statuesque poise soon crumbled, revealing a repressed woman full of inner anguish. With sweeping lyricism and Graham-like angst, Walsh plunged full-force to the floor—sometimes rolling violently across the length of the stage—then knelt in moments of tense stillness. For the audience, the solo felt almost uncomfortably voyeuristic, like watching someone’s private breakdown.

Remarkably, Walsh stepped into the role at the last minute to replace an injured colleague. But she found the lack of rehearsal strangely helpful—Moultrie didn’t want her to overthink her interpretation. “He told me not to show a representation of repression, but to really expose myself,” says Walsh. The result was thrilling. —Amy Brandt


Grace Shibley
One of the defining characteristics of a dancer with star potential is the ability to maintain focus in the face of daunting setbacks. Grace Shibley, a striking member of Oregon Ballet Theatre, was already considered an up-and-coming ballerina when, in 2010, a serious foot fracture threatened to derail her career. But the injury only sharpened Shibley’s resolve. With unshakeable will and keen intelligence, she used the rehabilitation process to propel her technique to new heights. When Shibley performed Stravinsky Violin Concerto’s Aria II pas de deux this April, a new physical strength matched her natural ability to explore a role’s nuances. Dancing with a hint of mystery, Shibley gave a mesmerizing performance that foreshadowed an even brighter future ahead.
—Gavin Larsen


The Royal Ballet Live
Peeking into The Royal Ballet studios as the company prepares a new season sounds like every balletomane’s fantasy. Thanks to the internet’s magic, a global audience tuned in when The Royal livestreamed an entire day on March 23. It began with company class at 10:30 am, and by the time U.S. ballet fans woke up, the day was well underway. Four camera crews roaming the building gave the broadcast the feel of a random stroll through the halls: Dancers threw themselves into a sword-fighting rehearsal, Christopher Wheeldon coached soon-to-be soloist Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Liam Scarlett worked on a pas de deux, Wayne McGregor lent commentary, Marianela Nuñez ran her Prince of the Pagodas solo with Monica Mason. Before it ended, Royal Ballet Live reached around 200,000 viewers, and #rblive trended on Twitter as fans chatted with their counterparts across the world. For ballet lovers, it was an unprecedented international moment, a sense of belonging to something bigger than they had ever imagined. Visit The Royal’s YouTube channel to see the highlights again. —Hanna Rubin

Justin Peck
New York City Ballet’s 25-year-old corps member Justin Peck is expertly balancing two careers these days: Movie-star handsome, he alternates partnering ballerinas with creating dances of his own. Peck began making work through the New York Choreographic Institute in 2009. His setting of three movements from Sufjan Stevens’ song cycle “Enjoy Your Rabbit” made such inventive, surprising use of School of American Ballet students that it stole the show at NYCI’s 10th anniversary celebration. Peck’s ability to create exciting phrases and intriguing stage patterns earned him the institute’s first year-long residency in 2011.

This year, his In Creases, set to Philip Glass's Four Movements for Two Pianos, was the first NYCB premiere given at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in over 25 years; MOVES, the company’s touring group, promptly took it to Colorado and Wyoming. In the fall, Year of the Rabbit, Peck’s expansion of his Stevens piece, also entered the repertoire.

 Peck even found time to create Distractions for City Ballet principal Daniel Ulbricht’s summer pickup troupe. “Maybe that title was ironic, considering how busy he was,” says Ulbricht, “but the guys loved it. So did the audience.” —Harris Green


Héloïse Bourdon
Paris Opéra Ballet dancers are famous for elongated lines, incredible elegance—and a stage presence that can seem too chic to connect with the audience. It’s a kind of look-don’t-touch allure. Yet during the company’s U.S. tour this summer, one soloist tore down the stereotype of what a French ballerina could be. In Giselle’s peasant pas de deux, Héloïse Bourdon created a real character in a role that’s all too often used as a show-off divertissement. She looked completely at home in the imaginary village onstage, dancing with a youthful charm and a playful affection for her partner. And underneath her ease and warmth were hard-as-nails technical chops: Her jumps were preternaturally sprightly, her turns dynamically precise. She had the beautiful POB épaulement, but her sunny personality made it enchanting. —Jennifer Stahl


Amber Neumann
Part of what makes Amber Neumann so intriguing is that, while she looks like a 1950s-era girl next door, she fearlessly attacks even the most radically modern choreography. In The Joffrey Ballet debut of Wayne McGregor’s Infra last winter, Neumann brought a palpable warmth, expressiveness and humanity that melted her role’s stylized, automaton-like moves and chilly edges. Blissfully free of classical ballet affectations, Neumann gave us a lonely, anguished character without doing any obvious acting; all the emotion was channeled through her body. A veteran of several major ballet competitions, Neumann has plenty of technique, but in this case it was in the service of an inner emotional fire that was lived rather than demonstrated. —Hedy Weiss




Photo by Katsuyoshi Tanaka via ABT.

What's it like to dance in a company like American Ballet Theatre that has so many excellent men?

Having stars around you is a good thing. It creates an energy that drives you to improve.

What's different for you when you dance a ballet without a plot?

It's a more physical experience. In a certain way it is more difficult because it requires complete physical control. With story ballets, there is a lot of interpretation—which is what I like most.

What was it like to work with Alexei Ratmansky on Seven Sonatas for ABT?

He is a gem—extremely nice, but he needs to see the movement exactly the way it is in his mind. It was hard, but the result was really good.

You made your debut as Siegfried in Swan Lake with the Corella Ballet in February. What was that like?

Dancing the classical roles is my dream. Since the creation of Corella Ballet, I've been able to dance two ballets I haven't yet performed with ABT, La Bayadère and Swan Lake.

How was partnering Natalia Osipova in ABT's La Sylphide last year?

Incredible. She's amazing, and her jump was unbelievable. I was saying to myself, “Oh my God, what do I do now?"

Have you ever seen a ballerina with a jump like that?

Only my sister Erica Cornejo and Osipova.

Have you ever danced with your wife, Carmen Corella?

Yes. We decided we just had to dance something together! An Argentine choreographer, Margarita Fernández, made a piece for us set to Mozart, Amadúo.

Do you have any rituals before a performance?

I try to do everything just as if it were a regular day. Class, rehearsal, and if I need to walk 10 blocks to go somewhere, that's fine. I like to stay pretty calm.

What music do you like to listen to when you're not working?

I love Philip Glass. I listen to his music a lot, when I'm trying to fall asleep or in the dressing room. But sometimes some Michael Jackson slips in there too!

What is your hidden talent?

I draw—I love architecture and design. I've always designed the places where I live, and my wife does the interior decoration.

Has your height affected your career?

It's always been on the table. Argen­tine dancers, and Latin American dancers in general, are on the small side. I think what matters are proportions. It's been hard sometimes to change the way of thinking of com­pany directors or coaches. Despite the fact that I'm small, my movements can be big, slow. That's why I think La Bayadère is one of my favorite ballets—because the movement is adagio. People always see me as a fast mover, and I enjoy it, but I feel much bigger than that.

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