San Francisco Ballet just announced some major news: longtime Boston Ballet star Misa Kuranaga will be joining the company as a principal dancer for the 2019-20 season, while Dutch National Ballet principal Sasha Mukhamedov has been hired as a soloist. They join a slew of newly promoted SFB principals and soloists, announced earlier this year.
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.
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.
From June 10–23, 119 competitors from 19 countries will gather in Jackson, Mississippi, for the 11th USA International Ballet Competition. Held every four years, the USA IBC has helped launch the careers of dozens of stars, including Daniil Simkin, Misa Kuranaga and Brooklyn Mack. "The 2014 competition was good, but we're making this year better," says jury chairman John Meehan. Changes include broadened age limits for competitors and a larger sum of prize money. This summer's competition also has a special focus on Marius Petipa in honor of his 200th birthday. There will be an emphasis on Petipa repertoire, and choreographer Alexei Ratmansky will give a workshop for competitors on his reconstructions of original Petipa choreography. This edition will also honor the legacy of Robert Joffrey, who was a catalyst in launching the USA IBC with founder Thalia Mara. Dancers from The Joffrey Ballet will perform in the opening ceremony.
What comes naturally to you?
My emotion onstage. I don't have the ideal ballerina body, so I have to move to prove myself. My strength is that I can work hard and I don't think it's hard; I enjoy it.
You went to the School of American Ballet after your apprenticeship at San Francisco Ballet. Did that experience change you?
Hugely. I had coordination and could do some tricks, but no basic technique. I came to the United States from Japan and hit the wall. What do you do? You have to fix it. SAB gave me confidence to be a dancer because I was able to fix myself.
From celebrations of Jerome Robbins' centennial to exciting premieres to old classics, this week is jam packed with ballet. We rounded up highlights from eight companies to give you a sense of what's happening onstage this week.
The Washington Ballet
On March 14, The Washington Ballet will present a triptych of new works. Gemma Bond's premiere ties-in to Women's History Month, and she discusses the connection in this video. Also on the bill are creations by celebrated dancers Clifton Brown and Marcelo Gomes. For video teasers of their works, click here.
Growing up in Hong Kong, Margot Hallac always knew she had a knack for the arts. After training in ballet as a child and teen, she eventually found herself focusing on visual arts and moved to New York City to study at the Parsons School of Design. Now a graphic designer, she's since resumed her dance training—and is melding her talents together.
Outside of her day job, Hallac started creating her own artwork and noticed that the subject matter was gravitating towards ballet. Shortly after, Pointebrush was born. Not only does she frequently share her work on the site and its wildly popular Instagram account (with over 15,000 followers), she also sells her unique designs on phone cases, mugs, t-shirts, and as framed prints. We caught up with Hallac to hear more about her stunning ballerina art and where she draws inspiration for her work.
Last week you might have seen Instagram light up with photos of American Ballet Theatre's James Whiteside and Boston Ballet's Misa Kuranaga dancing a Beauty and the Beast pas de deux for Disney Japan in Tokyo. When we realized that Whiteside had also choreographed the piece, we wanted to know how this Disney/ballet crossover came to be. We caught up with Whiteside to get all the details.
What's this pas de deux for? Where will it be released?
The pas de deux will be a bonus feature on a Japanese exclusive DVD and Blu Ray release of a new series called Disney Ballet Mousercise. It's essentially a ballet lesson series that uses well-loved Disney characters and songs. It will only be available in Japan, but I'm hoping it ends up online at some point!
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A dancer's dressing room is often her "home away from home." In our August/September issue, we went backstage with three ballerinas, including Boston Ballet principal Lia Cirio. Below, she shows us how she personalizes her space and walks us through her pre-performance routine.
Cirio snaps a selfie at her dressing room spot.
The setup: Boston Ballet principal Lia Cirio shares her dressing room with fellow dancers Misa Kuranaga and Kathleen Breen Combes. "We all personalize our spaces," she says. "It's about making it comfortable." Cirio keeps her spot as organized as possible. "But after a full-length, it's a disaster area! Makeup, hairpins, curls everywhere—it's a mess."
Hollywood may have the Oscars, but ballet has the Benois de la Danse. The glamorous awards ceremony, held each year at Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre, recognizes the year's best dancers and choreographers around the globe. The 2017 nominees were announced yesterday, and they include some of our favorite dancers, including two Pointe cover stars!
Two principal ballerinas from U.S. companies, American Ballet Theatre's Stella Abrera and Boston Ballet's Misa Kuranaga, were nominated for best female dancer. Abrera who graced our December/January cover, was nominated for her debut as Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. It's heartening to see this longtime ABT dancer receive the star treatment she deserves since her promotion to principal in 2015. Kuranaga, who was our August/September 2012 cover star, is being recognized for her performances in not one, but two roles: Tatiana in Onegin and Medora in Ivan Liška's Le Corsaire.
When Boston Ballet announced its partnership with choreographer William Forsythe last year, it named his full-length Artifact as its first new acquisition. Created in 1984, Artifact is considered by many to be Forsythe's greatest masterpiece, yet it has never been performed in its entirety by a U.S. company. Simultaneously abstract and theatrical (two characters—a Person in Historical Costume and a Person with Megaphone—have speaking roles), this large-scale “ballet about ballet" is reverential to the past while taking the boundaries of classical technique into the future.
Boston Ballet dancers have been working closely with Forsythe in preparation for the February 23 premiere. Artistic director Mikko Nissinen talked to me about the production, and why it's so groundbreaking.
Don Quixote's Kitri is one of the feistiest characters in classical ballet. Nowhere is that more clear than in Don Q's gregarious first act. After an exhausting series of dances with her equally temperamental boyfriend, Basilio, she tops everything off with a fast-paced, high-energy variation full of Spanish flavor. Boston Ballet principal Misa Kuranaga shares her advice on mastering the fiery solo.
1. Say Everything with Your Entrance
Set the tone before the dancing even begins. "You have to run onstage like a bullet, full of energy," says Kuranaga, "but it still has to be nicely done." Meanwhile, maintain a strong, Spanish-style épaulement—think flamenco dancer. "Keep your upstage shoulder up and twist your torso open." In Boston Ballet's version, choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev, Kitri uses castanets, clacking them feverishly as she runs in and throughout the variation. However, they can make your hands look awkward and unnatural. "You have to drop your wrists to make it look like you're playing with them."
2. It's All in the Footwork
After an explosive développé and pirouette en dedans, Kitri travels upstage with sprightly runs on pointe. "I try to really overcross my front foot in front of the back foot, stepping diagonally back," says Kuranaga. "Then the back leg has to meet it to cover space."
3. Anticipate Positions
Gene Schiavone, Courtesy Boston Ballet
Midway through the variation, Kitri completes a series of huge sissonnes with the back leg in attitude, as if kicking the head. But try not to throw the moment away—use the assemblé beforehand to gather your energy into a solid fifth position plié. "For the sissonne, I think about finishing the position in the air, and then throw my head back—but not too hard," says Kuranaga.
As you land, anticipate the quick piqué and fouetté attitude that comes next. "After the sissonne, I don't shift my weight onto my front leg too much," says Kuranaga. "I keep my weight in the middle so that I can shift it quickly to my left leg for the next step."
4. Fifth, Fifth, Fifth
For the final passage of traveling pirouettes, try to finish each one in a clean fifth position (especially since you're in effacé, which exposes how far apart your feet are). "I always aim for a perfect fifth—otherwise it looks really sloppy," Kuranaga says. Use the spring up to and down from pointe to propel you forward.
5. Keep It Together
Between the accelerating music, the stage full of enthusiastic villagers and the lineup of matadors waving their capes, it's easy to succumb to an adrenaline rush. "You have so much energy, but you always have to hit the positions," says Kuranaga. "That's the key to not looking messy and out of control."