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.
Ethan Stiefel on the set of Flesh and Bone. Photo by Myles Aronowitz, courtesy Starz.
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.
Stella Abrera as Giselle (photo by MIRA, courtesy ABT)
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.
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.
Skylar Brandt, photo by Nathan Sayers
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.
Misty Copeland in Le Corsaire. Photo by MIRA, Courtesy ABT.
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 Gisellelast 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!