Houston Ballet principal Yuriko Kajiya wowed audiences in her first go in Stanton Welch's Giselle in 2016. But her performance at the company's season opener this September revealed even deeper levels of meaning. All boundless joy and bounce as the smitten village girl (her Albrecht was played by Connor Walsh), Kajiya radiated pure innocence until the mad scene. Her fits and starts took on an unpredictable and macabre essence, which was both thrilling and a presage for what was to come.
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."
Summer means promotions announcements, and dancers transitioning from one company to another. And while we've already shared some updates with you (see San Francisco Ballet here and here, American Ballet Theatre here), more news is being released each day. Below, we've rounded up recent updates from seven companies. Read on to find out whose names you'll be seeing in playbills across the country (and Canada!) in the year to come.
Some dancers call them "fake" ballerinas. Some resent their lack of serious stage credentials to back up their success. Some feel their accounts are deceitful, since regular people don't know the difference between a great dancer and a great dance model.
But most ballet influencers aren't out to trick anyone. They're simply finding a new way to keep ballet in their lives.
You spend countless hours in fifth position. But there's another position you might be just as familiar with: neck craned down, shoulders hunched and eyes on your phone. Researchers estimate that the average person spends two to four hours per day on smart devices, and this slumped posture can place up to 60 pounds of pressure on your spine.
From rehearsal bloopers to tour shots, Instagram gives us an unprecedented glimpse into the lives of the dancers we love. Now, three pros are taking it to the next level. American Ballet Theatre soloist Cassandra Trenary, Royal Ballet first soloist Marcelino Sambé and New York City Ballet corps dancer Devin Alberda have created Instagram accounts dedicated to highlighting their more serious interest in photography, while giving viewers an intimate peak at the candid moments that make up company life.
With nearly 43,000 followers on Instagram, Elisabeth Beyer is a social media sensation. The 16-year-old Ellison Ballet student came in first place in the senior women's category at the Youth America Grand Prix's New York City Finals this year and has been medaling all over the ballet competition circuit since she was 11 years old. But despite the thousands of likes she gets on each post, she also receives criticism. "It happens a lot," says Beyer. "I get accused of being too skinny or being anorexic, and it just isn't true."
The rise of social media has given dancers more visibility than ever before. The Pew Research Center reports that 71 percent of Americans 18 to 24 years old are on Instagram. And in ballet, which strives for the pinnacle of visual perfection in both execution and physicality, it can be deflating to see perfect penchés fill your feed on #whackedoutwednesday. But there are also great benefits for dancers connected on social media: Instagram can broaden your worldview and open up doors to opportunities you never imagined. The following five rules of Instagram will help you to focus on the positives and develop a healthy relationship with your favorite app.
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Dance Theatre of Harlem's vivacious Ingrid Silva is extending her efforts beyond the borders of the dance world. Last winter she founded EmpowHerNY, a platform that allows women from all over the world to connect and support one another by sharing their day-to-day lives. We touched base with Silva to learn all about her new initiative.
How did you come up with the idea for EmpowHerNY?
It started last December when I met my partner, Helya Mohammadian. She is the founder of Slick Chicks, a line of underwear for women with disabilities. We met while walking our Frenchies and we became very close friends. We both wanted to do something that would make an impact by giving voices to women and helping them achieve their goals. One day we were sitting at a beer garden with our dogs, and came up with the name and created the Instagram, and then all of these people found our account. As women, we haven't had space to have our voices heard for so long, and finally now everyone is breaking their shell and speaking out, so I'm very proud to be part of this movement, giving a voice to other women.
The entrancing power of Instagram can't be denied. I've lost hours of my life scrolling the platform looking at other people documenting theirs. What starts as a "quick" fill-the-moment check-in can easily lead to a good 10-15 minute session, especially if I enter the nebulous realm of "suggested videos."
My algorithm usually shows me professional ballet dancers in performances, rehearsals, class, backstage and on tour, which I quite enjoy. But there are the other dance feeds that I find myself simultaneously intrigued and horrified by: the hyper-elastic, hyper-extended, gumby-footed girls always at the barre doing developpés to six o'clock. There are the multiple turners, the avid stretchers and we can't forget the endless balancers.
This parade of tricksters always makes me wonder, What else can they do? Can they actually dance?
Ever wonder what life is like on the road? Well, thanks to social media, you can see for yourself. Next week, while Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet makes an East Coast tour of the U.S., apprentice Philippe Larouche will be taking over the company’s Instagram account to provide behind-the-scenes footage. And it should be fun, seeing as the ballet RWB is bringing is Mark Godden’s Dracula. (I’m hoping there will be some hair and makeup videos in the mix.) Set to Gustav Mahler’s Symphony Nos. 1, 2 and 9, the production closely follows Bram Stoker’s 1897 horror novel, complete with flying bats and gargoyles.
The company, which will tour four cities in New York and Massachusetts, gets going Saturday morning with a 7 am airport call in Manitoba. Here’s is a rundown of the performance schedule:
Bronx, NY: Sunday, November 13, Lehman Center for the Performing Arts
Worcester, MA: Tuesday, November 15, The Hanover Theatre
Buffalo, NY: Thursday, November 17, University at Buffalo Center for the Arts
Stony Brook, NY: Saturday, November 19, Stony Brook University - Staller Center for the Arts
While RWB regularly tours Canada, it comes to the U.S. less frequently. For those of you who live near a tour stop, take advantage while you can.
New York City Ballet principal dancer Lauren Lovette, a prolific user of
Instagram, discovered she had an eager following of aspiring ballerinas while guest teaching at Manhattan Youth Ballet and other summer intensives. “They would come up to me and say, 'I follow you,' " she says. “I realized early on the kind of influence I have on younger girls. Now I like to cater my Instagram that way."
Almost by accident, Lovette had built a "brand"—a successful ballerina whose lively photos, sparkling personality and keen fashion sense speak directly to a target audience. While "dancer as brand" may sound strange or distasteful, it has permeated the ballet world: Think of how American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland has built her empire through social media, a shrewd publicist, television appearances, film and touring with rock star Prince. Now, more dancers are finding ways to market themselves by finding and promoting their unique qualities.