Debra Austin and Keith Saunders. Courtesy TCU.

What to Watch: Debra Austin in Conversation with Keith Saunders

When Debra Austin became the first black woman to dance at New York City Ballet, hired by George Balanchine in 1971, there was very little publicity surrounding her appointment. Then, after dancing Zurich Ballet for two years, she was offered a principal contract with Pennsylvania Ballet—becoming the first black principal woman to be hired by a major American ballet company outside of Dance Theatre Harlem.


Last month Austin, now a beloved ballet master at Carolina Ballet, was named the Cecil H. and Ida Green Honors Chair at Texas Christian University's School of Classical and Contemporary Dance. During her residency she taught a series of master classes, gave lectures and participated in cultural events, including a "Conversations on Dance" talk moderated by TCU assistant professor and DTH ballet master Keith Saunders. In it, they discuss everything from her early training to her historic career to her thoughts on diversity in ballet today. And, bonus, TCU has been kind enough to share a video of their discussion—watch their candid discussion below!


TCU Dance Conversation with Debra Austin www.youtube.com

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Roman Mejia Is Carving His Own Path at New York City Ballet

In a brightly lit studio high above the busy Manhattan streets, Roman Mejia rehearses George Balanchine's Allegro Brillante. Though just 20, the New York City Ballet corps dancer exudes an easy confidence. Practicing a tricky sequence of triple pirouettes into double tours his breathing becomes labored, but his focus doesn't waver. He works until he finds the music's inherent rhythm, timing his turns evenly and finally landing them with a satisfied smile.

Since joining NYCB in 2017, Mejia has had the chance to take on ballets ranging from Romeo + Juliet to Fancy Free to Kyle Abraham's hip-hop–infused The Runaway. Though he often finds himself the youngest person in the room, Mejia is rarely intimidated. He's been immersed in ballet since birth. His father, Paul Mejia, danced with NYCB in the 1960s, and his mother, Maria Terezia Balogh, danced for Chicago City Ballet and Fort Worth-Dallas Ballet. Both of Mejia's parents and his grandmother attended the School of American Ballet. Now, Mejia is quickly building on his family's legacy, creating buzz with his shot-from-a-cannon energy, rapid-fire footwork and charismatic charm.

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A Letter from the Editor in Chief

Hi Everyone,

These are challenging times. The social distancing measures brought about by COVID-19 has likely meant that your regular ballet training has been interrupted, while your performances, competitions—even auditions—have been cancelled. You may be feeling anxious about what the future holds, not only for you but for the dance industry. And that's perfectly understandable.

As you adjust to taking virtual ballet class from your living rooms, we here at Pointe are adjusting to working remotely from our living rooms. We've had to get a little creative, especially as we put our Summer Issue together, but like you we're taking full advantage of modern technology. Sure, it's a little inconvenient sometimes, but we're finding our groove.

And we know that you will, too. We've been utterly inspired by how the dance community has rallied together, from ballet stars giving online classes to companies streaming their performances to the flood of artist resources popping up. We've loved watching you dance from your kitchens. And we want to help keep this spirit alive. That's why Pointe and all of our Dance Media sister publications are working nonstop to produce and cross-post stories to help you navigate this crisis. We're all in this together.

We also want to hear from you! Send us a message on social media, or email me directly at abrandt@dancemedia.com. Tell us how you're doing, send us your ideas and show us your dance moves. Let the collective love we share for our beloved art form spark the light at the end of the tunnel—we will come out the other side soon enough.

Best wishes,

Amy

Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy Boston Ballet

Boston Ballet Principal John Lam Opens Up About Leaving Home to Train, and Being a Dancing Dad

Who was a role model for you growing up?

Mikko Nissinen. When I was around 14, he retired from San Francisco Ballet and took over my school, Marin Ballet. He was my first male ballet teacher and role model in the dance world. Then he left to direct Alberta Ballet, and I went to Canada's National Ballet School. He later became artistic director at Boston Ballet, and when I graduated he invited me to join the company.

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