Aug. 12, 2019 05:41PM EST
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."
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.
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."
After all, the newlyweds first met when Mearns, a New York City Ballet star, was being considered for a part on the TV show "Smash," which Bergasse was choreographing. They hit it off, but the role ended up getting cut.
Fast-forward to today, and they're working on their first full-length musical together: I Married an Angel, which opens next week as part of New York City Center's Encores! season, with Bergasse as choreographer and Mearns as the star.
When audience members opened their programs at New York City Ballet's revival of Herman Schmerman a few weeks ago, one name had everyone buzzing: Naomi Corti. Just an apprentice, she was dancing a featured role alongside principals and soloists in William Forsythe's challenging, go-for-broke choreography. How was this going to go down?
Quite well, actually. Despite a nasty fall at the beginning of the ballet, 18-year-old Corti held her own next to castmates Sara Mearns and Unity Phelan—and didn't hold back during her solos and partnering sections. When she stepped forward to take her bow
, the audience cheered wildly ; her reaction was a mix of shock and utter joy. Still, we couldn't help but wonder what kind of pressure she must have been under.
NYCB has a history of giving young apprentices big breaks. Current corps members Miriam Miller (as Titania in Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream) and Alston Macgill (in a featured role in Symphony in C) both had opportunities to shine during their apprentice years. So how does it feel to take on a big role so young? We talked to Corti to find out.
A good personal trainer can coach you through a challenging, safe workout. A great one understands the unique demands dance places on your body and helps you correct specific weaknesses to make you an even stronger performer. Enter Joel Prouty.
Before his passion for fitness took over, he was a member of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Houston Ballet and Boston Ballet, toured with Twyla Tharp and performed in Broadway's Come Fly Away. When he retired from the stage in 2010, he dove into exercise physiology courses at New York University, captivated by the idea of dancers as athletes. "My main focus and obsession was how to train like an athlete—strong, powerful, quick and resilient—while still maintaining the long, lean aesthetic required to be a dancer, and perhaps more specifically a classical ballet dancer."
If you follow New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns on Instagram, you'll have noticed that for the past several months, her feed has included wedding prep pics in addition to her usual performance posts and cross-training clips. This past weekend, the big day finally arrived, and Mearns married Broadway and television choreographer Joshua Bergasse in a dreamy beach ceremony in North Carolina.
And if you were hoping Mearns' wedding day would include a bit of ballet, she didn't disappoint. Not only were some familiar NYCB faces in the bridal party and at the reception, but Mearns made sure to include a nod or two to her career. Luckily, Mearns also spent the day with Brides magazine, letting them in on the ceremony and the reception to exclusively capture all of the best moments.
Imagine The Oscars, but for dance. Sound too good to be true? The New York Dance & Performance Awards, commonly known as The Bessies, are about as close as the dance world gets to award show glamour. October 8 marked the 2018 Bessies, the one night of the year when members of the New York City dance community spanning genres and generations came together to acknowledge outstanding artists in the field. While The Bessies usually focus on independent or downtown dance artists rather than ballet (the last members of the ballet world to win awards were Justin Peck, Alexei Ratmansky and Amar Ramasar in 2015), one of the four 2018 Outstanding Performer awards went to New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns for her sustained achievement with NYCB and accomplishments in works by Isadora Duncan, Jodi Melnick, Wang Ramirez and Matthew Bourne over the past year.
Fall for Dance FestivalWonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.
We'll admit it: As excited as we are for fall performance season to start, we are in deep, deep denial that the end of summer is in sight. And we're also experiencing some serious FOMO looking at the vacation photos flooding our Instagram feeds from some of our favorite dancers and choreographers. So where in the world do they go to unwind before gifting us with yet another season of incredible dance?
As dancers, we know why we love ballet—but for a new audience member, our beautiful, silent art form may seem like a mystery. Enter Celestial Bodies: How to Look at Ballet. Written by celebrated dance critic Laura Jacobs, this new book (available May 8 from Basic Books) offers insights on how burgeoning ballet fans can better understand and appreciate the choreographic language they're watching onstage. But it's also a compelling read for dancers and experienced dance lovers.