The Kennedy Center's Ballet Across America festival (May 28–June 2) is celebrating women leadership and creativity this year, kicking off with three evenings of performances by Dance Theatre of Harlem. (Miami City Ballet joins them in a shared program on May 31, followed by their own performances.) Led by artistic director Virginia Johnson and executive director Anna Glass, DTH is a natural programming choice; so is bringing choreographer Claudia Schreier's new ballet for the company, Passage, which has an all-female creative team. The work premiered earlier this month in Norfolk, Virginia, and was originally commissioned by the 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution and the Virginia Arts Festival, which honored the 400th anniversary of the first Africans to English North America. The overarching theme of the ballet celebrates the fortitude of the human spirit and the enduring will to prevail, which is apropos given that this is the 50th anniversary of a company that has seen much tribulation and triumph.
Before Maria Khoreva danced her first performance as a member of the Mariinsky Ballet, she was already a superstar, with devoted Instagram fans following her life as a pupil in the Vaganova Academy (follow her @marachok). Her talent was already obvious—as were her exceptionally long lines, elegant technique and charisma—and when she joined the company's corps de ballet last summer, it was apparent that her artistry was also far beyond her 18 years.
Khoreva didn't last long in the corps: in November artistic director Yuri Fateev promoted her to first soloist, the Mariinsky's second-highest rank. Not even one year into Khoreva's professional career, her repertoire already includes the title role in Paquita, the lead in Balanchine's "Diamonds" and Terpsichore in his Apollo, plus Medora in Le Corsaire, which she is performing this week during the Mariinsky's annual tour to the Kennedy Center. Between performances in Washington, D.C., we spoke to Khoreva via Skype about her life in ballet, overcoming injuries and keeping in touch with 300,000 friends on Instagram.
Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.
Vail Dance Fest Enters Its Second Week
With half a month devoted to creating new art in the midst of stunning nature, Vail Dance Festival seems a dancer's paradise. Last week marked American Ballet Theatre's festival debut. The second week of performances, starting July 30, brings even more amazing ballet, with dancers and choreographers presenting a slew of new collaborations and premieres. Get the scoop on each program below.
Alonzo King LINES Ballet Takes the Vail Stage
July 30-31, Alonzo King LINES Ballet presents two different programs. The first performance, is a free, family-friendly event held in the Avon Performance Pavilion. The second, held at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, presents two works by King: Sand, a piece from 2016 set to jazz music, and Biophony, an exploration of the Earth's diverse ecosystems.
Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.
Ballet Nacional de Cuba Continues U.S. Tour at the Kennedy Center
A few weeks ago we shared that the historic Ballet Nacional de Cuba is back in the U.S. after 40 years. The company has already made stops in Chicago and Tampa, and heads to The Kennedy Center May 29-June 2 as part of the Artes de Cuba festival with performances of Giselle and Don Quixote. The tour will conclude at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center June 6-8. Whether or not the company is heading to a city near you, you can catch a glimpse of Don Q in the below trailer.
This fall, Matthew Bourne's New Adventures presents the U.S. premiere of a fresh take on an old classic. The Red Shoes, based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale and an Academy Award–winning film, tells the story of Victoria Page, a dancer obsessed with passion and ambition who winds up in a triangle involving two men invested in her career.
Misty Copeland's dancing and Justin Peck's choreography have graced stages around the world. Now, these two stars will test themselves as curators. This year, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in Washington, DC, features their respective visions as part of the Ballet Across America program, April 17–23.
During the first half of the run, Copeland's picks take the stage, including Nashville Ballet, Complexions Contemporary Ballet and Jeremy McQueen's Black Iris Project. “I chose these companies because it's a chance to give them a level of exposure on the Kennedy Center stage that's typically reserved for larger companies," Copeland says. “They all perform at a high level of excellence and represent a diverse, inclusive cast of dancers." Peck's curation includes Joffrey Ballet, L.A. Dance Project and Abraham.In.Motion—a departure from typical ballet programming. “I tried to emphasize musical choreography," says Peck. Ballet Across America also includes talk-backs with the curators and artistic directors, and two world premiere Kennedy Center commissions: a piece by McQueen choreographed on American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School students and a film by former Miami City Ballet dancer Ezra Hurwitz.
With digital platforms, cinema screenings and Hollywood-worthy trailers, ballet is rapidly expanding beyond the grainy YouTube clips of yesteryear. These two gorgeous new films by Ezra Hurwitz, a former Miami City Ballet dancer turned director, show two facets of the Ballet Across America program, currently onstage at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
One is a moody dance film, featuring American Ballet Theatre stars whirling through the empty halls of the Kennedy Center, bringing the building to life. The other is a touching mini-documentary, highlighting the work, uncertainty and sacrifice that goes into a ballet career. Check them out below!
George Balanchine's Gounod Symphony is one of those ballets that seems to have fallen through the cracks, for no good reason. This 25-minute work, set to Charles Gounod's lively first symphony, has largely faded from popular repertoire. (It was last performed at New York City Ballet in 1993, and by the School of American Ballet in 2007.) But this fall, The Suzanne Farrell Ballet is bringing Gounod back. It will receive its company premiere October 21–23 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
At its premiere in January 1958 at New York City Center, its cast of 32 was led by Maria Tallchief and Jacques d'Amboise. But the dancer most closely associated with the lead ballerina role was the French-born Violette Verdy. This makes sense, since there is something very French about Gounod, a kind of brilliance and formality associated with the Paris Opéra. (Some have linked it to Symphony in C, also set to French music.) Its choreography overflows with brilliant patterns made up of clean, bright, intercrossing lines. Verdy compared it to the gardens of Versailles, and, in fact, the sets designed by Horace Armistead had a garden theme; they were originally used in NYCB's production of Antony Tudor's Jardin aux Lilas. For The Suzanne Farrell Ballet premiere, however, the ballet is getting a new look. Though she won't reveal any details, Farrell says the concept “will allow us to see the choreography better."
Farrell will be staging it, though she never danced it herself. Her tools are “an old, silent archival video in black-and-white" starring Diana Adams and Jacques d'Amboise, and of course the Gounod score. (She staged the ballet once before, for the School of American Ballet, in 1991.) Since there were no archival videos of the ballet on YouTube for her dancers to study, everyone in the room was seeing the steps for the first time, as if it were a new ballet. As she puts it: “It's almost as if the ballet were being created now by Mr. B."
Not long ago, for World Ballet Day (Oct. 4), the company filmed an open rehearsal:
It turns out that the premiere will also be a kind of farewell. Recently the Kennedy Center, which funds The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, announced that the company will disband after final performances in December, 2017. Farrell's role at the Center hasn't been fully defined, but she will continue to serve as a teaching artist as part of the Center's expansion, which includes new studios, a lecture hall and more. She's not wistful, but, as she recently told The Washington Post: “I'm very proud of my dancers and everything we've done, and I'm grateful for that." —Marina Harss