American Ballet Theatre's fall season at Lincoln Center's Koch Theater offers a chance to see the company in shorter works and mixed-repertoire programs. This year's October 16–27 run honors principal Herman Cornejo, who's celebrating his 20th anniversary with the company. Cornejo will be featured in a special celebratory program as well as a new work by Twyla Tharp (her 17th for the company), set to Johannes Brahms' String Quartet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 111. The October 26 program will include Cornejo in a pas de deux with his sister, former ABT dancer Erica Cornejo.
If, like us, you're already mourning the end of American Ballet Theatre's marathon Met season, don't fear. The company just announced the lineup for its fall season, and there's a lot to look forward to.
Running October 16-27 at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater, ABT's fall lineup includes world premieres by choreographers Twyla Tharp and Gemma Bond. While Tharp has been creating for ABT since 1976 (the company's Met season included a trio of her works), corps dancer Gemma Bond will be making her choreographic debut for ABT's main company. The season also shines a spotlight on principal Herman Cornejo, who will be celebrating his 20th anniversary with the company.
Last spring American Ballet Theatre artistic director Kevin McKenzie announced the company's Women's Movement, a multi-year initiative to support the creation of new work by female choreographers. ABT's fall season, running October 17–28 at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater, sets the project in full swing. The opening gala features a world premiere by tap extraordinaire Michelle Dorrance. A co-commission with the Vail Dance Festival, this work marks ABT's third collaboration with Dorrance this year: She created Praedicere, a pièce d'occasion for ABT's spring gala, as well as a work on company dancers at Vail last summer. The gala performance also includes past and present works by two female choreographers: Twyla Tharp's 1986 In The Upper Room and Lauren Lovette's 2017 Le Jeune, which will be danced by the ABT Studio Company.
Pacific Northwest Ballet travels to Paris for the first time this summer, and artistic director Peter Boal couldn't be happier.
"I think we have a tremendous reputation, but people outside the greater Seattle area haven't seen this company," Boal says.
That will change after PNB's two-week stay with the French festival Les Étés de la Danse, which hosts a different international company every summer. A PNB residency had been in the works for several years when Les Étés de la Danse decided to produce a larger celebration of choreographer Jerome Robbins this summer, inspired by his centennial. New York City Ballet, Miami City Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet and Russia's Perm Opera Ballet Theatre will join PNB for that one-week tribute.
Admit it: You've considered the various ways you could sneak your favorite costume home with you. We don't blame you. Whether it's a jaw-dropping tutu or the world's most comfortable slip, costumes are made to make dancers look and feel beautiful. Here, we've rounded up some of our favorites, that just happen to be street-style ready.
Justin Peck's Entre Chien et Loup, at the Paris Opéra Ballet, featured stunning dresses by couture designer Mary Katrantzou which wouldn't look out of place on the streets of New York City. Peck and Katrantzou also worked together for his Belles Lettres at New York City Ballet—though those sheer, lace covered costumes are probably best left onstage.
The costumes for Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette were designed by Jérôme Kaplan and the iridescent dresses are utterly 90s-chic. Throw a choker on with Juliette's party-scene dress and you're ready to step out tonight.
The costumes for Twyla Tharp's In the Upper Room are iconic: Bright red, with black and white stripes (not to mention crisp white sneakers and red pointe shoes). The costumes were designed by another famous name in couture: Norma Kamali. Her costumes for Tharp wouldn't be out of place at an art opening or summertime concert.
The new costumes for NYCB ballet master Peter Martins' Thou Swell were designed by Oscar de la Renta's Peter Copping. The results are spectacularly glamorous, and we can't really think of an occasion that would merit wearing something so fabulous. Maybe the Met Gala?
The costumes for Mark Morris' After You were designed by none other than Isaac Mizrahi. The jumpsuits would be so much fun to wear to an early-summer picnic...or maybe jet-setting around the Mediterranean.
The simple color palate of the costumes for Jiří Kylián's Forgotten Land brings to mind twilight and the approaching end of the year. These flattering dresses, designed by Kylián himself, would fit right in at a winter holiday party.
What are your favorite "street-style" costumes?
This fall, New York City Ballet soloist Savannah Lowery took a major risk and chose not to perform in her company’s fall season. Instead, she hit the road for an opportunity of a lifetime: Twyla Tharp’s 50th-annivesary cross-country tour. Lowery traded pointe shoes for slippers and a large troupe of dancers for a more intimate group. She spoke with Pointe about life on tour and the lessons she’s learned from Tharp.
The group is currently performing a program of two premieres at its last stop on tour, the David H. Koch Theater in New York City, now through Sunday, November 22.
How did you become involved with Twyla Tharp’s 50th-anniversary tour?
I’ve known Twyla for several years now, and whenever I was free or available, she’d bring me into a studio. We’d fool around and work together, never knowing where anything would lead. She’s always tried to get me to perform for her, and this was just the perfect timing.
What’s it been like working with Tharp and her dancers in the studio?
I keep saying this: It’s one of the healthiest dance environments I’ve ever been a part of. The dancers are amazing. We all get along really well, and I think that’s a testament to Twyla. She’s very picky and has a good eye for personalities and talents and balancing the two.
And Twyla, gosh. There’s no one else like her. Working with her has been unbelievable—challenging and difficult in one aspect and just so pleasant and inspiring in another.
What do you think makes this such a healthy atmosphere?
You know, with dancing there can be so many egos. But for some reason, this group checks all of that at the door. When we’re in the rehearsal room, it’s time to work. It’s time to create something together. It feels much more like a team sport instead of looking out for yourself.
What has the creative process been like?
I feel the most creative when I’m working with Twyla. She gives you movement and steps and then she lets it cook a little bit. Obviously, if she doesn’t like a choice you’re making or a direction you’re going in, she’ll let you know. Sometimes she is more specific about certain things than others. So for me, it’s been challenging to always be on and be more creative. And since it’s new work, it’s a little more daunting. At the ballet, I’m used to stepping into something that’s already been made.
How is Tharp’s work technically different from the rep you’re used to at NYCB?
Well, I’m not in pointe shoes, so that’s been the most difficult thing. Balancing is much easier, but my feet are so sore because different muscles are being used. Also turning, just from a technique point of view. I haven’t turned in flat shoes in forever, so it took me awhile to get used to that.
Since you’re not used to touring with NYCB, I wanted to ask about life on the road. How’s that been?
I was terrified actually to do 10 weeks of touring, but I’ve liked it a lot more than I thought I would. Boulder, Colorado, was a very big surprise. Loved it. Austin, Texas, was great. I thought I would love New Orleans, and it was way too crazy for me.
I’ve had to find different ways to take care of my body on tour. My neck’s probably been out since the last five cities, and I think that’s attributed to hotel beds. It’s about trying to get enough sleep. Trying to wind down and sleep in a place you aren’t comfortable with yet. And the minute you get comfortable, you’re up and moving on to the next city.
When do you return to New York City Ballet?
Next week! [laughs] We finish touring on Sunday and the following week is the opening of Nutcracker. But it all comes full circle, which I think is kind of brilliant, ending at the Koch Theater where I’ve danced with NYCB for so long.
Is there anything from this experience that you’d like to take with you to NYCB?
I’ve learned so much from Twyla. She demands so much from me, but she does it in a way that you don’t feel like you’re being reprimanded or not good enough. She lets you know that she expects things of you because she knows you’re capable of them. And there’s a confidence that comes with that.
I’ve learned how to approach things from a completely different perspective with her, and I hope to bring that back. To not be so wavering in my opinions. She really lets you have your own opinions and asks about them. I’ve never talked so much about dance or a role in my entire life. That was tedious at first, but looking back now, I’m like, Oh, this is very helpful. It helps me learn how I’m approaching something, where I am in approaching it and how to get it to where she’s happy—and where I’m happy and confident. So I’m hoping to bring that approach back to the studio and stage.
As the tour winds down, do you have any words of wisdom you’d like to offer?
I think anything worth trying is always risky and nerve-wracking, and that’s what this experience was from the beginning. And I’m so happy I did it.
American Dance Festival has traditionally showcased great modern companies. But this year ADF is taking a slightly different tack, exploring the symbiotic relationship between ballet and modern dance with its “Where Ballet and Modern Meet” theme. Many of the modern choreographers whose works will be presented during the Durham-based festival—familiar names like Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, Ohad Naharin and Mark Morris—have created works for major ballet companies. ADF will also feature pieces by ballet choreographers like William Forsythe (Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is set to perform his Slingerland Pas de Deux, pictured) who have helped shape the world of modern dance. The festival runs June 11–July 25; www.americandancefestival.org. — MF
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When Deanna Doyle was cast in Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs, the Kansas City Ballet dancer couldn’t find her usual confidence. Her part in “Strangers in the Night” called for an elegant and dramatic persona that just wasn’t her. “I always get the silly, comedienne or ingénue roles,” she explains. “I don’t know if I would have chosen me—I certainly don’t look the part!”
Sooner or later, most dancers will face a challenge in a role. With any big (or little) break comes big and little hurdles, which run the gamut from fleshing out a character to finding the physical or technical wherewithal to get through a role. But what’s inspiring is how dancers can take those challenges and use them to become better performers. Whether it’s working harder in the studio, exploring the character or keeping an open mind, most dancers agree that initial discomfort can result in growth. “The great thing about dance,” says BalletMet Columbus dancer Jackson Sarver, “is to be challenged.”
To feel comfortable in the “Strangers” role, Doyle channeled movie star and Fred Astaire partner Ginger Rogers. “I watched her movies as I was in the process of convincing myself,” Doyle says. She took Swing Time and a portable DVD player on the tour bus. “Imagining I’m Ginger Rogers helped me not so much physically but with what was going on in my head. If I can feel how I’m supposed to feel, I dance better.”
At the other end of the spectrum is the role that calls for physical might. Even dancers with all the technique in the world are sometimes asked to perform feats beyond their body’s capabilities. During his first season playing the lead in Dracula, Jackson Sarver felt battered. Wearing a 12-pound cape, he danced in almost every scene of the two-and-a-half-hour marathon. Each performance also required slithering headfirst down a 35-foot castle wall. By the end of the season, Sarver had lost over 12 pounds.
To build stamina, Sarver ran on a treadmill and churned out push-ups and pull-ups four or five times a week. He also learned to pace himself. “It was really important to keep running the ballet,” he says, “to find out where I got tired so I could prepare mentally and physically.” By his second go-round in fall 2008, he knew where to focus his energy. He says, “You have to find ways to make it work and get through it.”
For Richmond Ballet’s Lauren Fagone, it wasn’t a particular role that was challenging—it was shifting gears to dancing the modern and dramatic ballets required in a company with such a diverse repertoire. Now in her sixth season, Fagone arrived with little modern training, “nothing which really prepared me for the modern works I’m performing now,” she says. She’d done summer programs at the School of American Ballet, studied at Indiana University, apprenticed at North Carolina Dance Theater and was an accomplished dancer. But her style was very “Balanchinesque,” says Richmond’s ballet master, Malcolm Burn. Suddenly she was being asked to perform modern movement in flat shoes—or no shoes at all.
Luckily, Burn’s company class includes modern technique, such as contraction and release at the barre and use of the breath. “How many ballet dancers, who are always pulling up, have been told to breathe?” aks Burns. But he credits Fagone’s success to her determination and guts. She got over her challenge simply by pushing herself so hard that Artistic Director Stoner Winslett couldn’t help but notice. “She works on her own,” says Winslett, “she works with other people, she works, works, works!”
Two years after Fagone joined the company, Winslett was so impressed she cast Fagone as the lead in her Echoing Past, performed at The Joyce Theater during the company’s 2005 New York City debut. “I thought there was a great depth to her and that this would be a good challenge,” Winslett recalls. “She’s a good technician, but I thought ‘There’s more expressiveness there.’ ” Winslett’s instincts were correct: “Lauren has morphed into something very exciting. That was a big journey.”
Fagone thinks her transition was all about opening up to learning, although she also mentions the nurturing tips she got from senior dancers on how to be more grounded and less posed and let movements flow. What helped her was relinquishing the idea of dance as “pink shoes and tights,” she explains. “It was about letting go of what I thought a dancer was, that you have to be so controlled all the time, you can’t throw your head around or slide on the floor. You have to let your hair down and try it. The worst that can happen is falling down. So you dust yourself off, and you get up. I’m known for falling now.”
Former dancer Susan Chitwood has an MS in journalism from Columbia University.
If we saw Mikhail Baryshnikov dressed in a suit and chewing gum, we wouldn’t expect to be watching from the seats of a theater. But as he moves across the stage with his arms swaying in a confident swagger, he captures our attention as a different sort of character. As in many classical ballets, he and his partner, former American Ballet Theatre soloist Elaine Kudo, are telling a story. Except now, Baryshnikov is a foil to Princes Siegfried or Charmant—he almost cares less about his partner. But don’t be fooled! Despite his apathetic body language, he's still the best partner around, never letting Kudo fall.
Here, Baryshnikov is dancing Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs, which originally premiered in 1982. While it seems like ballet’s opposite, Tharp’s technique requires a strong core and articulation of the feet. This grounds the body to be able to move expansively through space and command changes of direction. From what we can see, Baryshnikov is a true artist who can can mold to any choreographer's work. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!