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From left: Allegra Kent, Kay Mazzo, Gloria Govrin, Merrill Ashley and Wendy Whelan. Eduard Patino, Courtesy NDI.

On Monday evening, four 20th century New York City Ballet stars joined Wendy Whelan in conversation for an event titled Balanchine's Ballerinas hosted by National Dance Institute, the dance education organization that former NYCB dancer Jacques d'Amboise founded in 1976. D'Amboise introduced the four ballerinas taking the stage as dancers who "graced Balanchine and were graced by him." Hearing the ensuing conversation between Wendy Whelan and Allegra Kent, Kay Mazzo, Gloria Govrin and Merrill Ashley proved just that; the sense of inspiration that George Balanchine gleaned from his muses, and the deep appreciation he had for each individual's unique traits.

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Angle and Kowroski in Christopher Wheeldon's Liturgy. Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy NYCB

When I joined the New York City Ballet, I had a million questions. How soon before a performance should I get ready? When should I eat dinner—before or after the performance? How long should I wear my false eyelashes before I throw them out? Should I practice hard steps onstage before the curtain goes up or save them for the show? How long should my warm-up be? How do I do well in this career?

Before long, I discovered that the older dancers were willing to help us newbies. Wendy Whelan, for instance, took me under her wing and helped me with everything from my hair and makeup to what to eat for energy before a performance.

I wanted to see what questions NYCB's newest batch of corps members Mira Nadon, Kennard Henson and Gabriella Domini had. To answer their questions, I spoke to two of our most senior dancers, Maria Kowroski (who's been with the company 24 years) and Jared Angle (who's danced here 21 years).

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The Royal Ballet's Francesca Hayward and Marcelino Sambé in Tarantella. Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy New York City Center.

In 1948, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein founded New York City Ballet at New York City Center. This year, in honor of its 75th anniversary, City Center is bringing together eight companies—American Ballet Theatre, The Joffrey Ballet, Mariinsky Ballet, Miami City Ballet, NYCB, Paris Opéra Ballet, The Royal Ballet and San Francisco Ballet—to perform 13 Balanchine works over six programs, running October 31–November 4. "I liked the idea of showing different perspectives on how Balanchine is performed internationally," says City Center president and CEO Arlene Shuler. "Bringing together these eight companies is unprecedented."

Balanchine: The City Center Years www.youtube.com

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Tanaquil Le Clercq at the 1967 book signing. Reprinted with permission from Dance Magazine.

Ballerina Tanaquil Le Clercq may have been known for her long-limbed dancing and versatile grace, but it turns out that her renown didn't end there. In 1967 the former New York City Ballet star published The Ballet Cook Book, a mix of ballet history, food stories and the pièce de résistance: recipes collected from over 90 famous NYCB dancers and choreographers including George Balanchine (her then husband), Jacques d'Amboise, Melissa Hayden and Allegra Kent.

Why bring this up now? This year marks the 50th anniversary of her book's publication, and in celebration, food scholar Meryl Rosofsky is curating a program exploring the context of the book. Held on November 5 and 6 at the Guggenheim Museum, the program will include live performance excerpts with roles originated by Ballet Cook Book contributors including Balanchine's The Four Temperaments, Bugaku, Stars and Stripes and Western Symphony as well as a panel conversation with d'Amboise and Kent (both of whom were at the original book signing) and current NYCB principals Jared Angle and Adrian Danchig-Waring, both talented cooks.That certainly seems like plenty of excitement to us, but attendees can also stop into the Guggneheim's Wright Restaurant to taste select dishes from The Ballet Cook Book including Le Clercq's Chicken Vermouth, Balanchine's Slow Beet Borschok, Hayden's Potato Latkes and Kent's Walnut Apple Cake.

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Sara Mearns in Walpurgisnacht Ballet. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

When New York City Ballet went on a three-week tour to Paris last summer, we wished we could tag along. The company presented 20 ballets at the historic Théâtre du Châtelet, including 14 by Balanchine.

Thanks to PBS and their Great Performances series, you can now get a taste of what it was like to be in that audience. The network will air the closing night performance in a two-part broadcast on February 17 (that's tonight!) and February 24, hosted by artistic director Peter Martins.

The lineup features four Balanchine works, all set to the music of French composers—and the casting alone is enough to make you want to tune in.

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Sara Mearns with Raushan Mitchell and Jodi Melnick at Dancespace Project. Photo Courtesy Melncik.

The best artists never stop exploring. Lately, world-class ballet dancers have been pushing their limits with new styles and collaborators from outside the classical ballet world. There was Wendy Whelan's Restless Creature project. There's Natalia Osipova and Sergei Polunin, who are performing a program of contemporary work at New York City Center this week. And there are the many ballet dancers dazzling audiences on Broadway stages, in shows like On the Town, An American in Paris and CATS.

The latest ballerina to embark on an out-of-the-box collaboration is New York City Ballet's Sara Mearns. Last fall, she approached choreographer and dancer Jodi Melnick, a legend of New York's downtown dance scene, about working together. The two had originally met at Dancespace Project's “Platform 2015: Dancers, Buildings and People in the Streets," a project that brought NYCB dancers and downtown contemporary dancers together.

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Ballet Careers
Abi Stafford in Bournonville's Flower Festival in Ganzano. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

New York City Ballet principal Abi Stafford recently performed in Cuba as part of the Havana International Dance Festival. Read her follow-up post here.

DAY 1

Seven of my NYCB colleagues and I are heading to Havana, Cuba for the Festival, joining other prestigious companies, including American Ballet Theatre and the Royal Ballet. It's truly a star-studded event! NYCB principals Jared and Tyler Angle are our bosses: They conceived the program, put together the group of dancers and are in charge of making all the last-minute decisions.

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