Career
The candied fig and pear variation. Courtesy Reid and Harriet Design.

Last May we covered the new swimwear line that costume designers Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung, otherwise known as Reid & Harriet Design, created based on Justin Peck costumes. The duo, known for their work with top companies including New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and Miami City Ballet, are just as skilled at creating whimsical yet streamlined costumes as they are at rethinking the role that design plays in dance. "Designers are often seen as filling a need verse creating art," says Bartelme, noting that he and Jung often feel that they're at the very bottom of the production totem pole. This fall, the twosome have taken matters into their own hands. As Resident Fellows at New York University's Center for Ballet and the Arts, Bartelme and Jung are taking a different approach to creating a ballet: starting with the designs.

Bartelme and Jung equate this to the early 20th century model used by Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, where the composer, choreographer and designer had equal importance, contributing to the gesamtkunstwerk, or "total work of art." Productions by the Ballets Russes featured designs by Pablo Picasso, Coco Chanel and Henri Matisse.

Last week Bartelme and Jung presented their work in an informal seminar at CBA. They chose to work with The Nutcrackerseasonally appropriate, yes, but also the country's most-performed ballet. In addition to the role of designer and director, Jung and Bartelme acted as dramaturges for their production, delving deep into the storied ballet's history from page to stage. Rather than look at the way that companies interpret The Nutcracker today, they looked to the original story by E.T.A. Hoffmann and the later interpretation by Alexandre Dumas for inspiration. The result? A Nutcracker unlike any we've ever seen.

Courtesy Reid and Harriet Design.

Jung and Bartelme's Nutcracker is set in the 1950s. Why? It has a clear aesthetic as well as strong conservative conventions for Marie to rebel against in the second act. First off we see Marie's family at their Christmas gathering. Smaller than the conventional Nutcracker party scene, this intimate celebration aligns more closely to Hoffmann's tale. Marie is set downstage in a simple blue dress, which the designers compare to the blue dresses worn by Alice in Alice in Wonderland and Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz—two other young, storybook women who feel confined by their respective societies and so escape to magical lands.

Other details to note are the gilded owl clock on the wall, a detail included in Hoffmann's story, as well as the 1950s style cherry jello mold on the center of the table which will soon open up to expose a world within, Bartelme and Jung's replacement for the classic dollhouse.


Courtesy Reid and Harriet Design.

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As Von Rothbart in ABT's "Swan Lake." Photo by Gene Schiavone, courtesy ABT.

Former American Ballet Theatre soloist Sascha Radetsky has been named the director of New York University's master's in ballet pedagogy program, which runs in partnership with ABT. The program, officially titled "Teaching Dance in the Professions with a concentration in ABT Ballet Pedagogy," prepares participants for a career in ballet research, or teaching positions at company schools or in higher education. Dancers who come through ABT's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (JKO) School are often noted for their unaffected, pure technique. Students in NYU's master's program study that same ABT approach to ballet education, but from the perspective of pedagogy rather than performance.

Radetsky had a notable onstage career, and achieved wider visibility than many ballet dancers thanks to his role as Charlie in the dance movie (and cult favorite) Center Stage. He also recently played the sleazy Ross on Starz's TV show "Flesh and Bone." He has written for magazines and websites and was awarded one of NYU's Center for Ballet and the Arts' fellowships for an upcoming writing project. His talent for dancing, acting and writing is obvious—and it's likely he'll be successful as a program director, too.

BalletCollective recently released a teaser for its latest show, Invisible Divide. The company, helmed by New York City Ballet corps member Troy Schumacher, displays its hip, chic aesthetic in the video.

The teaser is shot in a grainy black and white, which causes the dancers to mysteriously blend into the background—a far cry from Common Ground, his colorful fall premiere at NYCB.

BalletCollective is made up of NYCB dancers Harrison Coll, Lauren King, Claire Kretzschmar, Ashley Laracey, Meagan Mann, David Prottas and our August/September cover star Taylor Stanley. Schumacher has always made a point to collaborate with contemporary composers and the teaser for Invisible Divide features music by Ellis Ludwig-Leone (of the band San Fermin). Ludwig-Leon also composed the score to Common Ground.

(NYCB corps member Claire Kretzschmar, photo via BalletCollective)

 

The company will present its fall season, including two world premieres, Dear and Blackbirds and All That We See at the NYU Skirball Center, November 4–5.

 

For more news on all things ballet, don't miss a single issue.

In her book Apollo’s Angels, Jennifer Homans infamously announced that ballet is dying. Though the statement ruffled a lot of feathers in the ballet world, it’s not unreasonable to wonder what direction ballet will take in the 21st century.

Now, Homans will be in charge of a new center for academic and artistic research, focusing specifically on ballet. The organization, the Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University, is designed to create academic inquiry around the future of the art form.

Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the center will offer research fellowships to a variety of artists interrogating the role and future of ballet, including documentary filmmakers and former dancers. The center is not designed to serve students, per se, but will offer public lectures starting in 2015.

Despite the contentious tone of her book, Homans hopes to address questions that should unite dance lovers: Why is dance absent from general arts education? What can we do to tackle its enduring inaccessibility? Hopefully Homans’ organization will help to generate the very ideas that she sees as lacking.

In an effort to support female ballet choreographers, NYU's recently formed Center for Ballet and the Arts will now offer the Virginia B. Toulmin Fellowship for Women Choreographers—a 35,000 stipend, office and studio space, and access to housing in NYC. The fellowship will be awarded to three choreographers and for a three-year period. 

Women in artistic leadership roles are notoriously scarce in the ballet world, and this fellowship aims to help address that lack. Jennifer Homans, the author of Apollo's Angels and the director of the Center for Ballet and the Arts, told the New York Times that she hoped the fellowship would "create a kind of opportunity and staging ground for women [...] to really have a moment where they can do research."

We can't wait to see what kind of great work comes out of this new partnership.

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