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What to Watch: Debra Austin in Conversation with Keith Saunders

Debra Austin and Keith Saunders. Courtesy TCU.

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

The Conversation
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Brittany Cavaco in Until Midnight. Claire Morris, Courtesy Cavaco.

A white tulle dress, time travel, the Eiffel Tower at night... these elements come together in Until Midnight, a new dance film by Christopher Alexander of Zen Film Works. This eight-minute long vignette opens with Louise (played by Louise Schirmer), a former ballerina now living alone in old age. Through the delivery of a mysterious letter and a wristwatch from her past, she returns briefly to her youthful self, danced by former Washington Ballet dancer Brittany Cavaco. In a Cinderella-like twist, Louise has until midnight to find her beloved Jean Pierre (Sebastien Thill, former dancer with Paris Opera Ballet and Hamburg Ballet) for one last dance. According to Cavaco, all of the movement was improvised, created by herself and Alexander in each location.

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Still via YouTube

American Ballet Theatre principal James Whiteside is known for more than just his uber-charismatic presence on the ballet stage; He doubles as both the drag queen Ühu Betch and the pop star JbDubs. Whiteside's newest musical release, titled WTF, came out last week, and is for sure his most ballet-filled song to date. Both the lyrics and the choreography are jam-packed with bunhead references, from the Rose Adagio to Haglund's Heel to a framed portrait of George Balanchine. Not to mention the fact that he and his four backup dancers (Matthew Poppe, Douane Gosa, Maxfield Haynes and Gianni Goffredo) absolutely kill it in pointe shoes.

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Still Courtesy Design Army

Hong Kong Ballet is celebrating its 40th anniversary in style. Today, the company released the new phase of its yearlong ad campaign, which includes the below film, a Wes Anderson-esque romp through the city fusing ballet with pop culture, filled with ferry boats, pom pom-wielding grannies and dim sum served in hot pink containers.

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