Ballet Stars
Roman Mejia in Robbins' Dances at a Gathering. Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB

Roman Mejia is only 19, and he has the energy to prove it; in the studio and onstage at New York City Ballet, this standout corps member bursts with a kind of uncontainable ebullience. Like his idol, Edward Villella, he specializes in extroverted, allegro roles: Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Candy Cane in The Nutcracker, one of the sailors in Jerome Robbins' Fancy Free.

More recently, he has caught the eye of several big-name choreographers: In the last few months he understudied William Forsythe's Hermann Schmermann, and strutted his stuff to Kanye West in Kyle Abraham's The Runaway. Alexei Ratmansky, who prepared him for his debut in Pictures at an Exhibition in the spring, is also a fan: "He's like a reincarnation of Eddie Villella," the choreographer said recently. "Great energy and attack, and fantastic technique."

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Ballet Stars
Behind-the-scenes shot of NYCB dancers on set. Lawrence White, Courtesy Emily Kikta and Peter Walker.

Tonight, New York City Ballet opens its 53 annual summer season at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. But if you're away at a summer intensive or busy rehearsing at your home studio and can't make it to a performance, we have the next best thing: seven new site specific videos made by and featuring NYCB dancers.

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Aarón Sanz, Claire Kretzschmar and Clara Miller with Kretzschmar's grandfather, Leo Theonnes. Courtesy Kretzschmar.

New York City Ballet soloist Claire Kretzschmar has had the chance to perform just about everywhere: New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Shanghai, you name it. But one of her most inspiring performance opportunities came a little less than a month ago, dancing with her friends on the wooden floor of a repurposed exercise room in front of 80 captivated residents at the Village Green Retirement Campus in Seattle.

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Ballet Stars
Antonio Carmena (right) coaches a Barnard College student. Photo by Marcus Salazar, courtesy Carmena.

Some ballet dancers, the lucky ones at least, get to enjoy long, successful careers. Yet their dancing schedule usually allows little time for anything else. At New York City Ballet, for instance, most dancers don't have secondary jobs on the side, although layoffs between seasons provide short opportunities to flex new muscles, like teaching. But performance careers inevitably come to an end, and dancers must then "become" something else.

When former NYCB soloist Antonio Carmena retired from the company in 2017, he realized he wasn't quite prepared for the next step. His retirement uncovered an insecurity buried deep within him—that without dance, he wasn't "good" at anything anymore. It's taken two years for Carmena to develop more work experience as he searches for a new place for himself in the dance world. And while he admits it's an ongoing journey, the pieces are finally starting to come together.

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Ballet Stars
Suzanne Farrell works with Sara Mearns during a rehearsal of George Balanchine's "Diamonds." Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy NYCB.

In a large practice studio inside Lincoln Center's Koch Theater, Suzanne Farrell watches quietly as New York City Ballet principals Sara Mearns and Russell Janzen work through a series of supported poses. As Janzen kneels to face her, Mearns brushes through to croisé arabesque, extending her leg high behind her. "I wouldn't penché there," says Farrell, gently. "You can, but I wouldn't."

"I get so excited here," says Mearns with a laugh. The three are slowly working through the pas de deux of "Diamonds," the ballet George Balanchine created on Farrell and Jacques D'Amboise in 1967 that makes up the third act of his full-length Jewels.

"I know," Farrell says. "But it's more exciting if the arabesque turn afterwards is sustained."

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Ballet Stars
Joseph Gordon in George Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2. Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

Since becoming New York City Ballet's newest and youngest principal dancer in October of last year, Joseph Gordon has been quietly working his way through a series of important roles in the company's repertoire. He's not a flashy dancer, nor was his rise meteoric. The 26-year-old, Arizona-born dancer did his time, spending five years in the corps before being made a soloist in 2017. Many of his earliest featured roles were in ballets by Jerome Robbins, works like Interplay and Glass Pieces in which his clean, unmannered style and boyish, all-American look were a natural fit. But the seasons since his promotion to principal have revealed him to be much more—a dancer with a subtle radiance and unforced gravitas. In the past two seasons alone, he has debuted in, among other things, "Diamonds," Afternoon of a Faun, Sleeping Beauty, Liebeslieder Walzer, and William Forsythe's Herman Schmerman. This spring, he will take on Scotch Symphony and one of the greatest challenges in all of ballet, Theme and Variations. Quietly, and without fanfare, he is coming into his own.

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News
Ramasar and Catazaro, photos via Instagram

One of the country's top arbitrators has decided to reinstate Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro to New York City Ballet. The former principals were fired last fall for "inappropriate communications," namely graphic text messages.

The dancers' union, American Guild of Musical Artists, fought the termination, arguing that the firings were unjust since they related entirely to non-work activity. After a careful review of the facts, an independent arbitrator determined that the terminations were indeed "wrongful and unjust."

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Ballet Stars

In the early years of professional ballet in the United States, influential American dancers played key roles in changing perspectives of ballet as a strictly European art form. Maria Tallchief and Royes Fernandez were among those dancers who helped establish and define an American ballet aesthetic and identity: she as the original prima ballerina of New York City Ballet and he as American Ballet Theatre's Siegfried in the company's first full-length production of Swan Lake. These two exceptional performers are mesmerizing together in this 1963 excerpt from Fokine's Les Sylphide.

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Ballet Stars
Debra Austin and Jeffrey Gribler in Pennsylvania Ballet's production of Balanchine's "Rubies." Copyright Steven Caras, all rights reserved.

Debra Austin has a special place in dance history: In 1971, at age 16, she was the first African American woman George Balanchine hired into New York City Ballet. After nine years with the company and two years with Zurich Ballet, she joined Pennsylvania Ballet as a principal dancer, making her the first female African American principal hired by a major U.S. ballet company outside of Dance Theatre of Harlem. Famous for her buoyant jump, Austin's vast repertoire ranged from classical roles to Balanchine to Hans Van Manen. Since 1997, she's been passing on her knowledge as ballet master at Carolina Ballet, a company led by her former director at PAB, Robert "Ricky" Weiss.

In honor of her achievements, Texas Christian University's School of Classical and Contemporary Dance has named Austin as this year's Cecil H. and Ida Green Honors Chair. She started at TCU this week, where she's been leading master classes and cross-department collaborations, attending cultural events and giving lectures. We caught up with Austin prior to her residency to talk about her extraordinary career.

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Mearns rehearses Balanchine's Mozartiana, one of her favorite ballets to perform, with ballet master Lisa Jackson. "It's of a higher power," says Mearns. "It's up there with Serenade and 'Diamonds.' " Kyle Froman.

How do principal dancers handle their intense schedules? For New York City Ballet star Sara Mearns, honing her instrument is key. The company's Tuesday-through-Sunday workweeks, lengthy performance seasons and extensive repertoire can make for longs days and late nights. "During performance weeks, I think about what I'm doing that night and make sure I don't have a lot during the day—or if I do, I'm smart about it," says Mearns. "You do one or two things full-out and then take it easy so that you perform your best at night."

To keep her body strong and injury-free, Mearns schedules cross-training sessions with former dancer and personal trainer Joel Prouty. "I've had a few back injuries, so we work a lot on making sure my glutes, back and hamstrings are all working together," she says. "It's really important to my regime—I feel like I can get through a day of rehearsing seven ballets."

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News
Jovani Furlan in George Balanchine's Walpurgisnacht Ballet. Daniel Azoulay, Courtesy NYCB.

New York City Ballet announced on Facebook earlier this week that current Miami City Ballet principal Jovani Furlan will be joining the company as a soloist this fall. Furlan, a native of Joinville, Brazil, left Brazil's Bolshoi Theater School in 2011 to train at the MCB School; he joined the company as an apprentice in 2012 and has quickly made his way through the ranks.

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News
From left: Jonathan Stafford; Photo by Paul Kolnik; Wendy Whelan, Photo by Lindsey Thomas

Well over a year after the retirement of Peter Martins, New York City Ballet has announced that former principal dancer Jonathan Stafford will lead the company and its affiliated School of American Ballet as artistic director. Fellow former principal Wendy Whelan will serve as associate artistic director.

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