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Three Smaller Summer Dance Festivals to Keep on Your Radar

American Ballet Theatre corps member José Sebastian (center) is launching the Hamptons Dance Project with a cast of fellow ABT dancers this August. Rochelle Brodin, Courtesy Hamptons Dance Project.

From coast to coast, and on the shores of Lake Michigan in-between, professional dancers and choreographers are going one step beyond putting together a summer pickup company. Some are now curating multi-evening festivals in their hometowns and beloved vacation areas, and featuring an impressive range of companies, dancers and dance styles. So get ready to plan your next trip—here are three dance fests in beautiful resort areas to keep on your radar.


Traverse City Dance Project, July 17–18

The setting: Founded seven years ago in northern Michigan, Traverse City Dance Project functions as a creative laboratory for an international roster of choreographers. Each summer, artistic directors Jennifer McQuiston Lott and New York–based dancer Brent Whitney (a Traverse City native) bring a group of 12 dancers and four choreographers together for an intense 20-day incubator. While the end result is celebrated in proscenium style performances at the opera house, the process engages and collaborates with the local audience along the way with open rehearsals and workshops. And this September, TCDP is expanding outside of Michigan, with performances at Triskelian Arts in Brooklyn, New York, and at Lambertville, New Jersey's Music Mountain Theatre.

The program: Top dance professionals from Michigan, New York City, and Los Angeles perform with acclaimed drummer Ian Chang and avant-garde ensemble Tenth Intervention in new dances by Lott, Whitney, guest artist Austin Reynolds (formerly of Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet), and Jakevis Thomason, the first recipient of TCDP's Emerging Choreographer Residency. July 17–18 at City Opera House.

Lake Tahoe Dance Festival, July 24–26

New York City Ballet principal Ashley Bouder performs Red Spotted Purple at the 2018 Lake Tahoe Dance Festival.

Jen Schmidt, Courtesy Lake Tahoe Dance Project.

The setting: Just a few hours from the San Francisco Bay Area, Christin Hanna and Constantine Baecher are one week away from presenting their seventh annual Lake Tahoe Dance Festival in Tahoe City, California. Hanna, who moved back to the lakes' west shore after several years as a freelance artist with New Chamber Ballet in New York City, was originally inspired by her time performing outdoors at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. "The feeling of performing there, the presence of dance history and how that environment makes you feel—that's what I wanted to create," says Hanna. "Two communities benefit: the artists and the audience."

To accomplish that in a vacation area centered around recreation and outdoor sports, where the audience includes both locals and visitors, Hanna programs both rarely seen historical works, as well as newly commissioned contemporary dance. The often sold out shows are outdoors; the stage framed by massive pine trees, a very blue lake, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The program: New York City Ballet principal Abi Stafford and Stephen Hanna (NYCB, Billy Elliot) in Agnes DeMille's The Other, Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company in Jacopo Godani's Al Di La, plus new choreography from Baecher, Roya Carreraa, Katherine Duke, and Traci Finch. July 24–25 at Gatekeeper's Museum, Tahoe City; July 26 at West End Beach, Donner Lake.

Hamptons Dance Project, August 10–11

From left, front row: Carlos Gonzales, James Whiteside, Cassandra Trenary, Tyler Maloney, Erica Lall, Isabella Boylston, Jose Sebastian. Back row: Thomas Forster, Sung Woo Han, Blain Hoven.

Rochelle Brodin, Courtesy Hamptons Dance Project.

The setting: Head to the beaches of East Hampton for the inaugural Hamptons Dance Project, led by American Ballet Theatre corps member José Sebastian. "The Hamptons brought me to dance," said Sebastian, who spent summers vacationing there as a child and learned his love of movement jumping on the sand. "It's been a dream of mine to bring dance to the Hamptons."

Sebastian, who was adopted out of New York CIty's foster care system as a toddler, has a vision for eventually creating a dance camp for foster children, as part of what he hopes will be an annual event. In addition to being the festivals founder and artistic director, he will also be one of its dancers, alongside nine other ABT dancers, including Isabella Boylston, Cassandra Trenary and James Whiteside.

The program: World premieres from Gregory Dolbashian (DASH Ensemble), Joseph Hernandez (Dresden SemperoperBallet) alongside Hamptons' premieres from Gemma Bond, Lynne Taylor-Corbett, and James Whiteside with a cast of notable ABT stars. August 10–11, Guild Hall, East Hampton.

Ballet Careers
Sisters Isabella Shaker and Alexandra Pullen. Photo Courtesy Alexandra Pullen.

This is the second in a series of articles this month about ballet siblings.

My mom was in the corps de ballet at American Ballet Theatre. A generation later, so was I. As if that's not enough for one family, my younger sister Isabella Shaker dreams of following in our dancing footsteps. Her endeavor, and her status as somewhat of a child prodigy, stirs feelings of pride and apprehension within me, since I have lived through the ups and downs of this intense yet rewarding career.

Ballet will always be my first love and the thing that brings me the most joy, and my dance career has opened endless opportunities for me. However, it's a difficult career path that requires a lifelong dedication. It's super competitive and can lead to body image issues, physical injury and stress. Most dancers will face some of these problems; I definitely dealt with all three.

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Ballet Stars
Photo by Gabriel Davalos, Courtesy Valdés

For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.

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Ballet Stars
Photo by Jayme Thornton

It's National Bullying Prevention Month—and Houston Ballet breakout star Harper Watters is exactly the advocate young dancers facing bullying need. Watters is no novice when it comes to slaying on social media, but his Bullying Prevention Month collaboration with Teen Vogue and Instagram is him at his most raw, speaking about his own experiences with bullies, and how his love of dance helped him to overcome adversity. Watters even penned an incredible op-ed for Teen Vogue's website, where he talks candidly about growing up queer. Catch his amazing anti-bullying video here—and, as Watters says, "Stay fabulous, stay flawless, stay flexible, but most importantly, stay fearless."

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News
Alicia Alonso with Igor Youskevitch. Sedge Leblang, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"

At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.

Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.

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