News

Bolshoi-trained dancers Anastasia Babayeva and Denis Gronostayskiy are the new co-principals of the Pennsylvania Ballet School. The former school director, beloved PAB ballerina Arantxa Ochoa, left in June to join Miami City Ballet School as director of faculty and curriculum.

Babayeva and Gronostayskiy are also the co-founders of Academy of International Ballet in Media, PA. It's not yet known whether their Bolshoi training will be brought to bear on the PAB curriculum, though in a statement artistic director Angel Corella said he was looking forward to their "fresh ideas." The pair will oversee this year's auditions for the PAB School.

Pennsylvania Ballet School summer intensive students (Photo by Alexander Iziliaev)

It's not surprising that Ochoa would head to Miami, one of the top Balanchine companies in the nation. Casting and programming under Corella's leadership has clearly favored a more classical approach, counter to the company's legacy as a regional expositor of Balanchine. Corella is making a clear statement with the appointment of Babayeva and Gronostayskiy, and their Vaganova approach to ballet education.

Auditions for the PAB school will be held August 3 and August 20. More information can be found here.

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

 

Ballet Stars
Mayara Pineiro photographed by Nathan Sayers for Pointe.

This is Pointe's April/May 2016 Cover Story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

After Pennsylvania Ballet's Mayara Pineiro and Arian Molina Soca run their Nutcracker pas de deux in rehearsal, ballet master Charles Askegard asks for just one correction. Pineiro—who is thrilling as she plunges headlong into penché, whips into crisp turns and hurls herself backward into Soca's arms—is asked to emphasize taffy-like stretches into lengthened holds. Askegard is right. Counterbalancing the lightning-quick and the sensual brings even more dimension to this riveting dancer.

In just her second season with Pennsylvania Ballet, where she started in the corps, the Cuban-born Pineiro has danced leading roles in Balanchine's Allegro Brillante and Matthew Neenan's Shift to Minor. Elevated to soloist in March 2015 following her performance as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, she continues to be given choice principal roles.

“It was like fire onstage," says Pennsylvania Ballet artistic director Angel Corella of her performance in Allegro Brillante. “She's one of those dancers that comes only every once in a while." The path leading to this moment was long and challenging, including Pineiro's rigorous training in Havana, her brave defection to the U.S. and a period of uncertainty about whether she could continue dancing at all. Now, she has landed right where she wants to be.


Pineiro in "Don Quixote." Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet.

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News
Maya Pineiro and Arián Molina Soca preview a scene from Don Quixote. Photo by Alexander Izilaev, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet.

When Pennsylvania Ballet premieres artistic director Angel Corella's Don Quixote on March 3 at Philadelphia's Academy of Music, it will be the company's first time performing the audience favorite. With his artistic tenure well underway, and his own experiences to draw from, Corella's vision is clear.

According to Corella, PAB's production is all about authenticity—something he strived for during his own iconic interpretations of the role of Basilio. He plans to keep the classic Petipa choreography but refine the characters, including the gypsies in Act II. “I want to make people's reactions real," he says, “instead of, 'Oh, hi, let's dance together.' "

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Health & Body
Fusco in William Forsythe's The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude. Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy PAB.

It's not uncommon for a dancer to be dedicated to her cross-training routine, but Pennsylvania Ballet corps member Holly Lynn Fusco goes the extra mile—or two. During layoffs and summer breaks she takes a train to New York City for Gyrotonic classes. And when PAB is in season, she taps her Gyrotonic training to keep her body supple yet strong.

​Gyro Guru

Fusco started intensive training in Gyrotonic when she was a student at Miami City Ballet School. "Since the movements are circular, it helps me utilize all my back muscles," she says. Now, Gyrokinesis exercises are part of her daily pre-class routine.

Upper-Body Allure

Since Fusco's back tends to be tight, she builds flexibility and strength with this exercise: Lie facedown on the floor with your hands underneath your forehead, and legs and feet together. Slowly lift your head and arms up as far as you can and hold for 10 counts. Repeat 15 times. "A lot of dancers are concerned with warming up their legs, but your upper body is almost more important. It's how you carry yourself," she says.

New Heights

To prepare to dance at the high elevation of Vail, CO, where the company toured this summer, Fusco used the elliptical or a stationary bike for hour-long cardio workouts three times a week. "Russian Girl in Serenade is very strenuous—even right here in Philly."

Turnout Tune-Up

"I just overcame a hip injury, so my rotating discs are my best friend." Fusco stands in parallel with one foot on each disc and slowly lowers into a plié, rotates into turnout and then straightens her knees. "The goal is not to let the discs move when you straighten. This activates the front of the hips and glutes.

A Strong Start

Every morning begins with a bagel with cream cheese and homemade juice. "I'm obsessed with juicing and try to stick to solid colors," says Fusco. "Anything that's green can go in at the same time." The result: "It gives me the energy I need to get through class rather than just having coffee and crashing in an hour." Fusco also brings her juice to work, so she can sip on it all day.

Favorite Rehearsal Fuel

She loves pumpkin seeds for a midday snack. "Sometimes I roast them with garlic and salt."

News
Julie Diana in rehearsal for John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Pete Checchia.

There has been tremendous turnover at Pennsylvania Ballet in the last few months, starting in May with the resignation of long-time artistic director Roy Kaiser. Executive director Michael Scolamiero soon followed, moving on to Miami City Ballet.

In July, the company announced that former American Ballet Theatre star and former artistic director of Barcelona Ballet, Ángel Corella, would step in as the new artistic director.

Now, the Philadelphia Inquirer has reported that the PAB board of directors has let go of most of the company's senior artistic staff. Recently retired principal Julie Diana and her husband Zachary Hench have replaced ballet master Jeffrey Gribler and ballet mistress Tamara Hadley.

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You probably remember filmmaker and former Miami City Ballet dancer Ezra Hurwitz's mini-documentary In a Day's Work: It trailed New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns throughout her day, and gave viewers a sense of the mental and physical stamina required of a ballerina at the top of her game.

For his latest work, On the Sound, Hurwitz went in a new direction. Rather than another documentary, he created a one-off, site-specific ballet, made for the camera. New York City Ballet principal Gonzalo Garcia and Pennsylvania Ballet soloist Evelyn Kocak dance on a sandbar as the tide comes in and the sun goes down, creating moments where they appear to be dancing on water. 

Despite Hurwitz insisting that the film was shot quickly and that it was difficult to coordinate all the elements (tide, sunset, dancers), the result is quite lovely. And in addition to featuring original music by Aaron Severini, the film is also Hurwitz's choreographic debut!

Like Day's Work, Sound feels a little bit lonely—perhaps Garcia and Kocak are reconciling after a fight, or saying goodbye to each other. Regardless of whether Hurwitz intended a specific narrative, he has successfully set a tone for all of his films, indicating a clear artistic vision. 

 

Woodmont Waltz from Ezra Hurwitz on Vimeo.

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