Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based ThePointeShop chats with American Ballet Theatre soloist Skylar Brandt to hear about how she prepares her pointe shoes. We think Brandt might win an award for how long she makes her shoes last; watch the below video for the staggering number of days (or weeks!), and to hear about all of her unique customizations and pro tips.
Being coached by a treasure like former Kirov prima Irina Kolpakova is an experience most dancers only dream of. But company members at American Ballet Theatre have been the lucky beneficiaries of her wisdom since 1990. Thanks to Instagram, where pros like Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside share snippets of their sessions with Kolpakova, any ballet lover can be a fly on the wall during rehearsals with the famed ballet mistress.
Story ballets that debut during American Ballet Theatre's spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House are always the subject of much curiosity—and, sometimes, much debate. Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre was no different. The ballet follows the eponymous heroine of Charlotte Brönte's novel as she grows from a willful orphan to a self-possessed governess, charting her romance with the haughty Mr. Rochester and the social forces that threaten to tear them apart.
While the ballet was warmly received in the UK when Northern Ballet premiered it in 2016, its reception from New York City–based critics has been far less welcoming. A group of editors from Dance Magazine and two of our sister publications, Dance Spirit and Pointe, sat down to discuss our own reactions.
The Youth America Grand Prix New York Finals are starting up again this week, running April 12-19. This year, YAGP is celebrating its 20th anniversary. April 18-19 marks the competition's annual Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow gala, featuring 13 pros who are also YAGP alumni. We've rounded up photos and videos from those stars' YAGP years and shared them with you here.
When American Ballet Theatre soloist Skylar Brandt's phone lit up with a message from Julian MacKay last summer, she never could have imagined the journey it would set her on. Brandt barely knew the Mikhailovsky Ballet first soloist—they'd met briefly in St. Petersburg a few months earlier—but he wrote that he had a project he thought she'd be perfect for. Brandt was flattered, but assumed she'd be unavailable. She'd just come off an eight-week season with ABT and was in Los Angeles finishing up a tour. But MacKay was insistent. The next morning, Brandt was brushing her teeth when his sister, Maria Sascha Khan, called. "She explained that Julian was in Paris rehearsing for a Russian TV show called 'Big Ballet' and his partner had gotten injured. She asked if I could come to Paris immediately, as the show started filming in Moscow in one week."
Raise your hand if you're excited for competition season! Youth America Grand Prix Regional Semi-Finals are well underway, leading up to the much-awaited New York Finals April 12-19. Even better, they're live-streamed, meaning you now have the perfect excuse to spend your weekend at home, watching ballet (while sewing your pointe shoes and stretching, of course).
This weekend features semi-finals in Seattle, Washington and Tampa, Florida. To see the full schedules and set up streaming, click here. Streaming starts at $13.99. Packages of 2, 4, 6 or 12 total viewing hours are available, and viewers can log in and out as often as they like.
Earlier this year, former American Ballet Theatre principal Cynthia Harvey became the new artistic director of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. Now, she's made her first faculty appointments. The faculty for the 2016-17 school year (Harvey's first season in her new role) was announced yesterday, and the lineup is pretty stellar. Here are a few of the highlights:
—Ethan Stiefel, the former ABT principal, Center Stage star and Flesh and Bone choreographer, will join the faculty as a principal guest instructor, working with the pre-professional division students.
—Robert LaFosse, a former ABT and New York City Ballet principal, will also teach in the pre-professional division.
—Former Hamburg Ballet and Royal Winnipeg Ballet dancer Fabrice Herrault is also joining the faculty. Now a world-renowned teacher, he's worked with dancers like Aran Bell and The Royal Ballet's Beatriz Stix-Brunell.
—A former dancer with Paris Opéra Ballet, Karin Averty has become a well-known New York City-based teacher, and now joins the JKO School's faculty.
This year's students are a lucky bunch. The JKO School is known for producing some of ABT's most exciting rising dancers—artists like Calvin Royal III, Skylar Brandt and our June/July cover star, Cassandra Trenary. And with such a strong group of teachers leading the way, who knows what exciting things we might expect from a new crop of students.
At Pointe, we're always ready to watch a good ballet video, especially one that takes us behind the scenes with some of today's most talented performers. An episode of the series NYC-ARTS, which aired on PBS yesterday, pretty much hits the video jackpot. It profiles not one, but three American Ballet Theatre dancers: corps de ballet member Calvin Royal III, soloist Skylar Brandt and principal Stella Abrera.
The video catches up with the dancers in the midst of ABT's spring season, which opened with a festival celebrating artist-in-residence Alexei Ratmansky, and continues with the much-anticipated U.S. premiere of The Golden Cockerel next week.
There's gorgeous footage of the dancers in class, and rehearsing ballets like Ratmansky's Firebird and Serenade after Plato’s Symposium (which had its world premiere this season). But the best part is hearing the dancers reflect on their personal journeys to ABT, and what being in the company means to them now.
Each is at a different stage in their career, and has a unique perspective. Royal talks about getting a late start in ballet (he didn't take his first class until he was accepted to performing arts high school as a teenager), and what he's learned from being in the corps. Brandt shares what it's like to work with Ratmansky in the studio, and talks about performing her first principal role in his Piano Concerto #1. And Abrera reflects on her long career with the company, from struggles with injury to her triumphant promotion to principal last year.
In one of the video's most moving moments (at 9:15), Abrera describes how, as a corps dancer in Swan Lake, she would glance at the "ABT" stamp on the scenery to remind herself how hard she'd worked to get there. "That euphoric feeling of being in the company I dreamed of being in for my whole childhood—that's still in me now," she says.
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Today, American Ballet Theatre announced that longtime company soloists Misty Copeland and Stella Abrera have been promoted to principal dancer. San Francisco Ballet star Maria Kochetkova and Royal Danish Ballet principal Alban Lendorf will also join ABT next season as principals (though they will remain principals with their respective companies), and Boston Ballet principal Jeffrey Cirio joins as a soloist. Corps de ballet members Skylar Brandt, Thomas Forster, Luciana Paris, Arron Scott and Cassandra Trenary have been promoted to soloist.
The news follows months of speculation after three of ABT's major stars—Julie Kent, Paloma Herrera and Xiomara Reyes—announced their retirements. The promotion has been a long time coming for Abrera, who has been with the company since 1996 and a soloist since 2001. She made a critically acclaimed debut as Giselle last month. Copeland, who made principal debuts in Romeo and Juliet and Swan Lake this season, makes history as the company's first female African American principal dancer. Congratulations to all!
A few years ago, Isabella Boylston told Pointe there's an elite club at American Ballet Theatre: "The Princesses." It's corps member Blaine Hoven's nickname for the dancers like David Hallberg and Gillian Murphy who've been awarded a prestigious Princess Grace Award.