What makes Los Angeles such an elusive place for ballet? The city is a cultural capital when you look at it in terms of music, theater and visual art, not to mention film. But for some reason, concert dance has never been able to set down roots with any permanence or prestige. Even Los Angeles Ballet's name-brand directors and choreographers haven't been able to lift that company out of pick-up troupe status.

 

Benjamin Millepied's the latest intrepid choreographer to give So Cal a shot. His strategy with his much talked-about LA Dance Project is to build less of a dance company, and more of a collective of artists. Composer Nico Muhly, art consultant Matthieu Humery, producer Charles Fabius, film producer Dimitri Chamblas and Millepied all lead the team together. Millepied also throws around the word "accessible" quite a bit, with a number of plans to take concert dance out of the concert hall and into younger arenas such as rooftops and museums and videos.

 

One thing's for sure: Millepied's Hollywood credentials, courtesy of Black Swan and Natalie Portman, have given him a notoriety that has everybody watching, even people outside of the dance world. The latest feature article about his project came out yesterday in the Los Angeles Downtown News. Everyone's looking to see what happens when the company debuts this weekend, if the city will finally find a concert dance troupe that Angelenos can get behind.

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During one of Charlotte Nash's first few weeks with Houston Ballet II, she was thrown into a run-through of Balanchine's Theme and Variations. "I had never really understudied before and I didn't know what I was doing," she says. "I fell right away and was quickly replaced." For Nash, now a dancer with Festival Ballet Providence, the episode was a tough lesson. "I was mortified, but then I said to myself, 'Okay, I need to figure out how to learn things more quickly.'"

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Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

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The Joffrey Ballet's Amanda Assucena and Greig Matthews in Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre. Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've rounded up some highlights.

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Herman Cornejo in Don Quixote. Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT.

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.

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