New York City Ballet principal Lauren Lovette tries hard to focus on wellness despite her busy schedule. Her Hydro Flask water bottle—a gift from colleague Indiana Woodward—is emblazoned with the words "Be Here Now," a daily reminder to stay present. Lovette also keeps two doTERRA essential oils in her bag, and starts each day with Citrus Bliss. "I put it on my wrist at barre, and smell it," she says. "It just keeps me in a positive mood." Another scent, Balance, is reserved for days when she's feeling particularly frazzled.
Autumn in the Big Apple means one thing: New York City Ballet's Fall Fashion Gala. Since its inception in 2012 by Sarah Jessica Parker, the gala has produced dozens of new ballets, complete with original costumes designed by the fashion industry's biggest names. Ahead of this year's gala—which takes place September 26th and features new works by Lauren Lovette and Edwaard Liang, with costumes designed by Zac Posen and Anna Sui—NYCB joined forces with INTERSECT by Lexus on an exhibition showcasing the many stunning gala costumes from years past. We met up with Marc Happel, NYCB's Director of Costumes, to talk about the retrospective, the biggest lessons he's learned over the years, and the designers he'd love to work with in the future.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
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."
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.
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.