The Power of "Under"-Performing

When it comes down to it, there are two basic types of performers who make great dancers: Those who demand attention onstage, and those who inconspicuously draw it in without outwardly trying.

 

In many ways, it's much simpler to be that first type of dancer. You just have to hit it, hit it hard and give the steps everything you've got all the time. Not to say that's an easy thing to do, but audience members can't help but notice the "wow" factor of extreme technique or a fierce stage presence. This performance quality often comes in handy, winning dancers medals at competitions and helping them stand out from the crowd at cattle calls.

 

But personally, I always prefer to watch more subtle performers. I found one of them Saturday night when I saw The Washington Ballet perform a triple bill of bare-legged leotard ballets by Edwaard Liang, Karole Armitage and Nicolo Fonte. Morgann Frederick shone through the corps of each of the three pieces with an understated, but committed focus.

 

In each piece, she was never the first dancer my eye was drawn to (save for when she was showing off those runway-diva struts in Fonte's Bolero). But once I spotted her, she was captivating. Every move she made—whether it was a big developpé a la seconde or a simple turn of her head—had an intention behind it. Her eyes, her face, her very being seemed to be fully "in the present," focused on each step of the choreography. It was very internal. Yet despite eye-popping tricks or look-at-me projection, it was exhilirating. She seemed to be dancing for her, not anyone else—and throroughly enjoying it.

 

 

 

 

Latest Posts


Left to right: Dance Theatre of Harlem's Daphne Lee, Amanda Smith, Lindsey Donnell and Alexandra Hutchinson in a scene from Dancing Through Harlem. Derek Brockington, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dancers Share Their Key Takeaways After a Year of Dancing on Film

Creating dances specifically for film has become one of the most effective ways that ballet companies have connected with audiences and kept dancers employed during the pandemic. Around the world, dance organizations are finding opportunities through digital seasons, whether conceiving cinematic, site-specific pieces or filming works within a traditional theater. And while there is a consistent sentiment that nothing will ever substitute the thrill of a live show, dancers are embracing this new way of performing.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Fancy Free" (1981)

In Jerome Robbins's 1944 ballet Fancy Free, three sailors on leave spend the day at a bar, attempting to woo two young women by out-dancing and out-charming one another. In this clip from 1981, Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was then both the artistic director of American Ballet Theatre and a leading performer with the company, pulls out all the stops to win the ladies' affections.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Bethany Kirby, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet

An Infectious-Disease Physician on What Vaccines Mean for Ballet

As the coronavirus pandemic grinds into its second year, the toll on ballet companies—and dancers—has been steep. How long before dancers can rehearse and perform as they once did?

Like most things, the return to normal for ballet seems to hinge on vaccinations. Just over 22 percent of people in the U.S. are now vaccinated, a way from the estimated 70 to 85 percent experts believe can bring back something similar to pre-pandemic life.

But what would it mean for 100 percent of a ballet company to be vaccinated? Tulsa Ballet artistic director Marcello Angelini is about to find out—and hopes it brings the return of big ballets on the big stage.

"I don't think companies like ours can survive doing work for eight dancers in masks," Angelini says. "If we want to work, dance, and be in front of an audience consistently and with the large works that pay the bills, immunization is the only road that leads there."

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks