TAP DANCE SCHOLARSHIP CHANGES YOUNG LIVES

5 Mar

Sophia Stewart-Chapman’s 14th birthday is on April 13, the same day she will be performing in the American Tap Dance Foundation‘s annual Gala in support of the Gregory Hines Youth Scholarship Fund. “What can be better than tap dancing on my birthday?” said Sophia. “I love to express my feelings through my feet. What better way to celebrate?”

Sophia began tap dancing when she was six years old, and has been a recipient of the Gregory Hines Youth Scholarship since she was nine. She will be performing at the ATDF Gala with her nine-year old brother, Andrei, also a scholarship recipient. He has been tap dancing since he was three, and both are members of the ATDF Junior Ensemble, one of several troupes performing that day.

When I tap, I like the rhythm my shoes make and how that sounds. Before I started I was scared, but then, the more I got into it, the better I felt. I love being in the world of tappers!” said Sophia.

Andrei and Sophia Stewart-Chapman rehearse in-studio

Andrei and Sophia Stewart-Chapman rehearse in-studio

The Gregory Hines Youth Scholarship Fund was created the year after Hines’ death, in 2003. Tony Waag, Artistic/Executive Director of ATDF, and Margaret Morrison, then Education Director to ADTF (now ATDF Education Advisor), discussed creating a scholarship fund in memory of Gregory’s contributions to the art form. According to Ms. Morrison, “Tony and the Board of Directors of the ATDF founded the Scholarship Fund so that young dancers, up to the age of 19, could study and participate in ATDF training programs and perform in events such as ATDF’s Tap City, the NYC Tap Festival. Gregory’s family, including his brother Maurice Hines, Jr., his former wife Pam Koslow Hines, and his son Zachary Hines gave their full support to ATDF around this project.”

The Scholarship Fund ensures that young dancers who want to pursue quality tap dance training have the opportunity to study, awarding scholarships every year to students based on both merit and financial need. The goal of the program is not only to offer training and performance opportunities to ‘under-served’ youth, but also to encourage pre-professional level students to continue their studies with on-stage performing experience. The program brings together students from different socio-economic and racial backgrounds.

Tony Waag - Artistic/Executive Dir. American Tap Dance Foundation

Tony Waag – Artistic/Executive Dir. American Tap Dance Foundation

“Besides being a leader in tap artistry, Gregory Hines had a commitment to access and diversity,” said Ms. Morrison. “He believed tap dance was for everyone. Tap dance fans and audiences come from all walks of life and can be found all over the globe. Gregory believed that tap dance should be inclusive of performers and choreographers of all races, ages, and genders, and from every economic class. Tap dancers come from many different countries and cultural backgrounds, and perform tap dance excellence in a variety of styles,” she said.

For Sophia and Andrei, the Gregory Hines Scholarship has been a way not only to allow them to learn the art form, but to gain confidence in themselves.

According to little Andrei, “I really like my friends and teachers. I feel kind of special, because I’m the youngest in the Junior Ensemble. That means I’m especially good for my age! When my family comes over and they watch me dance, I feel excited to show them what I’ve learned and what I know.”

Margaret Morrison, ATDF Education Advisor

Margaret Morrison, ATDF Education Advisor

Sandra Chapman, Sophia and Andrei’s mother, explained how tap dance has made a difference in her children’s lives. “It’s changed them in so many ways. They used to be hesitant to try new things and worried about failing. Tap dance has given them an outlet – they make mistakes and learn from them. Throughout the year, I watch my kids struggle with a tap step or dance piece, practice at the train station while we wait for the train to school, or watch as my son is helped by his big sister… then twice a year I see how they ‘nail it’ at the ATDF holiday and end-of-year performances. They’ve learned to take risks, yet still have appropriate expectations.”

“Through tap they have learned perseverance, a strong work ethic, and that you can have fun doing something challenging if you have the right support and encouragement. Those seem like life skills to me,” she said.

When Gregory Hines received the first ATDF Hoofer Award in 2001, he noted that tap dance doesn’t exclude anyone: “if you have a pair of tap shoes, you’re in.” The Scholarship Fund aims to sustain that vision.

GALA14CoverOn Sunday, April 13, the annual Gregory Hines Youth Scholarship Fund Gala will be hosted by comic actor, dancer and performance artist Bill Irwin, with a special appearance by former Saturday Night Live cast member Ana Gasteyer. Top tappers Max Pollak, Cartier Williams, Randy Skinner and Michela Marino-Lerman will perform, along with members of ATDF’s Junior Tap City Youth Ensemble and the Tap City Youth Ensemble. The afternoon will include a revived piece of choreography, Gregory Hines Boom, re staged by tap dancer/choreographer Barbara Duffy. A live jazz quartet will accompany all.

The Gala afternoon will take place at the Theater at the 14th Street Y (344 East 14th Street, NYC), beginning with a reception and silent auction at 1pm, with performances and live auction beginning at 2pm.

The Gregory Hines Youth Scholarship Fund Gala comes at the heels of the critically lauded Rhythm in Motion (April 8-12), a production featuring new work by New York’s most renowned tappers and choreographers. Tap luminaries Michelle Dorrance, Brenda Bufalino, Derick K. Grant, and Cartier Williams are among those presenting new choreography in ten performances over four days. Rhythm in Motion was overwhelmingly well-received in its March, 2013 run, including Brian Seibert at the New York Times who called it, “a vindication, a triumph, a knockout show.”

Former recipients of the Gregory Hines Youth Scholarship are current members of the professional tap community. They perform, choreograph, teach and continue Gregory Hines’ legacy of excellence in the art form.

“It feels really good to let my feelings out,” says Andrei. “With tap, instead of using words, I use my feet.”

Gregory would be proud.

Adria Rolnik is helping promote the American Tap Dance Foundation.

DOES BALLET CLASS HAVE AN AGE LIMIT?

24 Feb

I take ballet class with a woman who is turning 90-years-old at the end of April. (And she’s not the teacher — she’s a student, like me!)

Clearly, my Saturday morning adult ballet class is host to a diverse group. Some students are local dance teachers; some are yoga or Pilates instructors. Some are former company ballerinas and some are students in their teens. Then there is Nancy, an 89-year-old great-grandmother, in class to take the barre. I guess she’s there for the same reason I am — love for ballet’s discipline and musicality, and, of course, for the great way it helps you stay fit.

Wearing her leotard and nylon warm-up pants, leg warmers and ballet slippers, Nancy begins the barre by facing the mirror and holding on with both hands. Though she needs both hands for support, she is quite competent as she goes through the plié combinations, tendu, rond de jambe and battement.

Nancy’s leg may be low, and she might not bend all the way to the floor, but she works hard, is graceful and is really quite remarkable. (We all adjust our movements for age and capability.)

The master - Antony Tudor at 53 years old, teaching class at the Old Met, 1961

The master – Antony Tudor at 53 years old, teaching class at the Old Met, 1961

I was reminded of prima ballerina Natalia Makarova, who I watched teach class at American Ballet Theatre studios back when I was Event Coordinator for the 2007 ABT Dancer Reunion. (Read Jumping at the Chance on adriaballetbeat.com). I first noticed Makarova while walking past the studio hosting company class – who was that teacher with the gorgeous figure, demonstrating a magnificent grand battement with perfect extension? At first I wasn’t sure, so I asked. It was indeed Makarova, who was 67 at the time.

Well, Nancy is no Makarova, but she does make us realize that continuing to take ballet class, at any level or any age, can be wonderful both mentally and physically.

Nancy's 90th Birthday (Photo added April 22, 2014)

Nancy’s 90th Birthday (Photo: April 22, 2014)

Do we really have to stop dancing when we get older? Does a ballet class have an age limit? I hope not. Nancy makes us realize that at any age or any level, continuing to take class offers the benefit of maintaining flexibility, strength and endurance. Add in the ballet mind-game of combinations and patterns, and there you have it — the full mind/body workout.

Age is just a number, right? On Saturday mornings we take class, and are the better for it.

SOME DANCE WISHES FOR THE NEW YEAR

31 Dec

Happy-New-Year-2014The New Year is upon us, and I’m hoping all dance lovers continue to help support the art form in 2014.  Whether you’re an amateur or a pro, a dance fan, a student, a parent or someone who just loves to dance, your actions count! There are many things we as a community can do. Here is my wish list for 2014:

  • Support your local dance companies.
  • Spread the word and encourage family and friends to see a performance.
  • Voice the need for governmental support of the arts.
  • Support arts education programs in the schools.
  • Enroll your child in dance classes.
  • Bring a child to see dance – and live theater – open their world!
  • Realize that dance in all forms, whether modern, contemporary, classical, dance/theater, Broadway, tap, jazz, ballroom, tango, flamenco, hoofing, classical Indian dance and beyond – count and need your support.
  • Be vocal – demand dance coverage in newspapers and magazines. Space is being cut – critics are disappearing. Raise awareness or we will disappear.
  • Fill a seat. Please, fill a seat.
  • Do what you can to participate in, and encourage, private and corporate giving.

Let’s do what we can to support dance in 2014!

Dance is the hidden language of the soulMartha Graham

I don’t want people who want to dance, I want people who have to danceGeorge Balanchine

I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myselfMikhail Baryshnikov

You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel aliveMerce Cunningham

We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least onceFrederich Nietzsche

American Dance Guild Festival 2013: Modern Dance “Cross-Pollination,” Nov. 8-10

10 Oct

Yung-Li Chen. Photo: Alexandra Vainshtein

Yung-Li Chen. Photo: Alexandra Vainshtein

Contemporary dance fans are in for a treat this November, when the American Dance Guild returns for its annual performance festival in New York City, this year at the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center.

Thirty-three artists/choreographers, from emerging to mid-career, will present their work, reflecting the American Dance Guild’s unique position as both a promoter of the new and preserver of the living history of modern dance as an art form.With four performances over three days, plus videos and archival presentations, ADG Festival ’13 will showcase emerging talent and honor dance history. This year’s Festival will take place Friday November 8 through Sunday, November 10.

I had the opportunity to sit down and chat about the upcoming Festival with Gloria McLean, President of the American Dance Guild. She is excited about the new production, and wants to fill us in. Here are some excerpts from our recent conversation:

The ADG Festival has become a fixture on NYC’s fall dance scene. How did it originate?

The Guild’s been around since 1956, started by dance educators dedicated to the furthering of modern dance in all ways. They would always have an annual conference, usually around timely themes such as “Dance and Social Values” or “Women in Dance” or “Dance and Technology,” with lectures, classes, and one big performance.

Over the years, the Guild adjusted and expanded according to the desires and interests of its members.  In the last five or six years, we’ve morphed into an artist-run organization, recognizing that choreographers are always looking for more opportunities to show their work. So, the performance aspect has expanded to become an annual three to four day Festival.

 You have named this year’s program, “Cross-Pollination.” Can you explain the title, and your relationship with the 92Y?

The 92nd Street Y dance programs, and the Guild, have been intertwined from the beginning. The 92Y Kaufman Hall in the 50’s was one of THE places for modern dance, and all the major artists performed there.  Lucile Brahms Nathanson was head of the 92nd Street Y’s teaching program at the time, and she started having conferences around the teaching of modern dance to children, and from these conferences the Dance Teachers Guild was born.

Jeanne Bresciani in Doris Humphrey's Water Study.  Photo: Lois Greenfield

Jeanne Bresciani in Doris Humphrey’s Water Study. Photo: Lois Greenfield

After a few years, the focus expanded to include professionals in all aspects of the field. There’s always been a connection between the teaching of dance, choreography and performance.  The 92Y gave support to so many artists and teachers –Graham, Humphrey, Limon, Hawkins, Sokolow, their descendants and beyond. “Cross-Pollination” is an image for what we have today – we are all hybrids in some way – pollinated by the ideas of these great artists, whether by acceptance or resistance, through direct contact or a few times removed – and by new ideas as well. So, it’s a way to call attention to the shared legacy of the Guild and the 92Y.

This year the Festival is honoring dance luminaries Lar Lubovitch, Marilyn Wood and the late Remy Charlip. Why did you decide to feature their work in this year’s program?

We try to bring people’s attention to some of the amazing work that has been created by mature, modern dance artists.

Lar Lubovitch is currently celebrating 45 years of his dance company, just finishing a two week run at New York’s Joyce Theater. We felt it was a great time to honor his body of work and lifetime of commitment to making beautiful, humanistic, deeply “dancerly” dances.  He’s a master, yet totally unassuming.  The work he has chosen to present – the male duet from Concerto Six Twenty-Two – could not be timelier.

Remy Charlip died in 2012 at 83, loved by everyone who knew him. He was an utterly creative spirit and made art out of every aspect of

Lar Lubovitch. Photo: Rose Eichenbaum from Masters of Movement; courtesy Lar Lubovich Dance Company.

Lar Lubovitch. Photo: Rose Eichenbaum from Masters of Movement; courtesy Lar Lubovich Dance Company.

life, such as dancing in bed (as Arthur Aviles will show us); David Vaughn will perform his Ten Imaginary Dances; two wonderful dancers from HT Chen’s company will perform Twelve Contra Dances.  Remy also made Airmail Dances, not to mention his totally charming children’s books…

Marilyn Wood took dance into a wider world of connections as she created the category of “Celebration Art” back in 1969. She was an innovator in areas now taken for granted, like taking on an urban center as her “stage.” Her first break-through piece was a City Celebration of the Seagram Building on Park Avenue, with dancers in the windows, on the escalators, dancing with businessmen, totally re-framing our ordinary perceptions of that kind of space.  Her work is always collaborative and interdisciplinary, bringing together all forms of art – lasers projected on the buildings, fire sculptures, dancing in water fountains, rock climbers repelling down buildings, performance art – all by way of her concept of re-inventing the ancient art of “festival” in new contemporary contexts. At 80, she deserves recognition.

What other artists are participating?

Margaret Beals is making a rare appearance – now in her 70’s, Margy is an early exponent of improvisatory performance with an inspired style of her own; Maya Dance Theatre from Singapore will do a fusion of Indian classical and contemporary dance;  there are several reconstructions this year, including Deborah Zall dancing Anna Sokolow’s famous solo Kaddish, Catherine Gallant and Jeanne Bresciani  interpreting Isadora Duncan; Kim Jones will offer Martha Graham’s Imperial Gesture; Nai-Ni Chen’s company of eight terrific dancers will present a rhythmically exhilarating piece; Adriane Fang, Tina Croll and Yung Li Chen, a young and interesting performer, will also join us…

Open Window Dance-Seagram Building. Celebration NYC 1972; Photo courtesy: Marilyn Wood.

Open Window Dance - Seagram Building. Celebration NYC 1972; Photo courtesy: Marilyn Wood.

Can you fill us in on the Guild’s mission?

Our mission continues to be to support and further the understanding of modern dance as an art form with all its hybrid extensions, to honor its legacy, and to continue the creative “cross-pollination” of ideas and activity that has guided us from the beginning.

Adria Rolnik is helping to promote ADG Performance Festival 2013, Nov. 8-10 at the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center, 1395 Lexington Avenue, NYC. Performances are at 8pm Friday and Saturday, and Sunday at 3pm and 7:30pm. Visit 92nd Street Y for tickets.

This blog first appeared on the Huffington Post Dance Page, October 9, 2013.

THE BALLET CLASS GRUMP

23 Sep

I’m dressed in my leotard and tights, bending and stretching at the barre, getting ready for 10 am class to begin. The piano player takes her seat; the teacher enters the studio and gives the opening plié combination.

I start class, but during the first port de bras my mind begins to wander. Instead of focusing on the music and movement, I instead begin to make a mental list of things that make me “buggy” in ballet class. lucy ballet[1]

Ballet is my most favorite of art forms, and class is something I always look forward to – for me it’s like breathing! I feel compelled to be there – it’s a big part of my life. Why can’t I just relax and enjoy myself? Why do I always let things bother me? Is it age? Exhaustion? The weather?

Maybe I’m just a ballet class grump!

Here’s my top ten list of ballet class bug-a-boos:

  1. Teachers who rush the barre – please go slowly until my muscles loosen up.
  2. Dancers who don’t towel off – please don’t fling your sweat at me!
  3. Dancers who don’t move backward or forward – can’t they make room for everyone around them?
  4. Stagnant air – please turn on a fan!
  5. Pianists who never change their music – ever.
  6. Teachers who talk too much – let’s get moving.
  7. Dancers who don’t angle at the barre – don’t put me in mortal danger with your battement!
  8. Show offs – do you really need to do eight pirouettes between combinations?
  9. Classes that start late – and end on time!
  10. Dancers who believe they “own” their spot – read “Whose Spot is it Anyway” on adriaballetbeat.com.

battement-tendu-2[1]There – now I feel better. Sometimes it feels so good to vent. Now I can concentrate, and enjoy my first tendu.

Are there things that makes you “buggy” in ballet class?

“BREAKING POINTE” SEASON TWO – A LOOK AHEAD WITH ALLISON DE BONA OF BALLET WEST

14 Jul
Allison DeBona. Photo: Erik Ostling/The CW ©2012 THE CW NETWORK, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Allison DeBona. Photo: Erik Ostling/The CW ©2012 THE CW NETWORK, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The second season of CW Network’s critically acclaimed docu-series Breaking Pointe will premiere on Monday, July 22, (9-10 p.m., ET) and fans are happy. We loved the first season’s inside peek at Salt Lake City’s Ballet West – the exhausting rehearsals, the behind-the-scenes drama, the striking stage productions. Dance fans loved seeing ballet dancers in a different light than what they see in performance, and wanted more. So now… Breaking Pointe is coming back! What’s in store for us balletomanes in Breaking Pointe season two?

Leading the company once again will be Artistic Director Adam Sklute, who will be guiding Ballet West‘s dancers in their largest and most demanding production to date, Cinderella. The competition will be fierce as the dancers audition for the life-changing roles of Cinderella and Price Charming. Featured dancers will include returning favorites Principal Christiana Bennett, Soloist Ronnie Underwood and Demi-Soloists Allison DeBona, Rex Tilton and Beckanne Sisk. New dancers will be joining the group, including Corps Artist Joshua Whitehead and Guest Dancer Silver Barkes.

A year ago I met with Allison DeBona, one of Ballet West‘s rising stars, to discuss Breaking Pointe as we approached the season one finale. She was happy to meet with me once again and chat about breaking ballet stereotypes, the hard work that goes into being a professional dancer, and what we can look forward to in Breaking Pointe season two. Here are some excerpts from our recent conversation:

(L-R): Allison DeBona and Christiana Bennet -- Photo: Erik Ostling/The CW --© 2013 THE CW NETWORK, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

(L-R): Allison DeBona and Christiana Bennet — Photo: Erik Ostling/The CW –© 2013 THE CW NETWORK, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

It’s been said Breaking Pointe has made ballet more accessible, breaking preconceived stereotypes about ballet dancers and the art form. Do you agree?

Breaking Pointe has without a doubt made ballet more accessible. As far as breaking stereotypes, I’m not sure. It seems people still cannot get past the preconceived notions of eating disorders and homosexual male dancers. We really tried to be advocates for healthy, smart, and strong athletes through our actions. We also tried to get people to understand that it doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight or in between. It’s about being an artist and doing what you love. Overall, I feel we got people interested to see live performances of ballet and helped the art form gain more respect. I am proud of that.

When we talked last June you said, “I am hoping for season two because I know there is so much more I can offer.” Season two is finally here! Has your hope been fulfilled?

This season you are going to learn so much more about who the cast is as individuals. You will learn what makes us tick and keeps us motivated. I hope to inspire people with my story. I am very open and honest this year because all of my experiences make me the dancer I am today. I hope people appreciate that.

Last year some fans of the show said they wanted to see more dancing – will there be more studio and performance work featured in the upcoming season?

We dance eight hours a day. We put in the work. I hope to see more dancing on the show just like everyone else.

Will Breaking Pointe continue to emphasize the behind the scenes drama?

Without the “drama” we would not get the amazing artists and products on the stage. You will see it all – personally and professionally. You can’t have one without the other!

So, how are things with Rex?

Hmmm… I don’t know. I’m going to watch Breaking Pointe season two to find out!

Follow Allison DeBona on Twitter @allidebona
Follow Breaking Pointe on Twitter @BreakingPointe

BP_24x36_Poster_Premiere

This story first appeared on the Arts & Culture/Dance page of The Huffington Post, on July 9, 2013.

IT’S MY THERAPY

22 Jun

When I was a little girl growing up in Brooklyn, I was very close with my grandmother’s sisters.  I loved my great aunts – they were a colorful group, all with larger than life personalities. They were great cooks, would talk up a storm (mostly gossiping  about the relatives), were always fun but unfortunately, were also big gamblers. GamblingDespite a tight budget, they managed to spend most of their spare time playing  Poker, Canasta, Gin Rummy,  “the horses,” “the numbers” (pre-lottery days), and more. You name it, they were in it. Of course they were always losing, but still, they went back again for more and more. The gambling bug never quit.

My mother, asking why they couldn’t get the habit under control, would always be given the same answer – “it’s my therapy.” The card playing was their therapy, the racetrack, their therapy, Bingo, their therapy. What the heck were they talking about?

Years later, I learned. Life is filled with curves, with lots of bumps in the road. How do you cope with life’s highs and lows? Most people find balance in “a therapy.” pointe shoesWhether it’s yoga, running, reading or a favorite hobby, having “a therapy” helps calm the soul. (Hopefully, that therapy is not gambling)!

So, what’s my therapy? Mmm.. off to ballet class….

Ballet Superstar Roberto Bolle Talks Favorite Dancers, Choreographers, and Katy Perry

13 May

Roberto Bolle - Photo Luciano Romano

Roberto Bolle – Photo: Luciano Romano

How does Roberto Bolle, Italian ballet superstar and one of Italy’s most beloved artists, find a moment to sit down and chat?

As principal dancer for both American Ballet Theatre and Milan’s La Scala Ballet, Bolle splits his time between the two companies, regularly darting between New York and Milan. He will kick off the ABT spring season on May 13 at NYC’s Metropolitan Opera House, after recently touring with the company in Hong Kong and Beijing. He’s danced for the Queen of England at Buckingham Palace and for Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square; he’s performed principal roles for the Royal Ballet, the Tokyo Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada, The Stuttgart Ballet and more. This fall he will be back as dancer and Artistic Director in Roberto Bolle and Friends, a gala of solos and pas de deux presented at NY City Center September 17 celebrating “2013 – The Year of Italian Culture in the United States.”

But luckily, one day, after ABT company class and rehearsals, and before stepping out on the red carpet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s star-studded annual Costume Institute Gala, Roberto took a few minutes to discuss his favorite choreographers and ballerinas, his upcoming Roberto Bolle and Friends, and what the future may have in store.

Here are some excerpts from that conversation:

Roberto Bolle - Photo: Andrea Varani

Roberto Bolle – Photo: Andrea Varani

Who are some of your favorite ballerinas? Who do you love dancing with?

Ah, I love dancing with Svetlana Zakharova (Bolshoi) – she’s so perfect physically and technically – so beautiful. I also love Julie Kent – we’re working on Frederick Ashton’s A Month in the Country at ABT – a debut for us – working in a piece like that is very interpretive and emotional. Julie’s a great artist and I like to share the stage with her. Sometimes I miss Alessandra Ferri – she’s great – we hope to dance together again in the future.

Who are your favorite choreographers?

I will be dancing in ABT’s world premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s Shostakovich Trilogy at the end of May, in Symphony #9. I like the choreography and like working with Alexi – I think he’s one of the best choreographers now and one of the best in the world. He’s smart and fast and very demanding – it’s not easy – it’s very hard work and sometimes we have a short period of rehearsal time to put things together, working with the corps and principals. Everyone’s involved in the movement and it’s good – I love working with him.

I also love dancing Balanchine because I think he was a genius. One of his great masterpieces that I like is Apollo – I’ve loved it every time I’ve danced it. I have to say I also really like Kenneth McMillan – I’ve done Romeo and Juliet and Manon – he’s great because he used the technique to express emotions. It’s beautiful to be on stage and be Romeo and play the character, because you can actually dance and feel so much emotion. His work is a great combination of musicality/choreography /story. Antony Tudor‘s work is also very emotional, but Leaves are Fading is the only piece I’ve danced by him, and it’s a shame. I’d like to do more.

Tell me about Roberto Bolle and Friends

Roberto Bolle and Friends Gala is a performance I’ve been doing in Italy for the last ten years. I am dancer and Artistic Director. I choose the dancers and with them we choose the pieces to perform. The focus is on bringing ballet to the public, and we often do so in dramatic outdoor spaces. We’ve performed in so many beautiful and unique places in Italy – from the Coliseum to biggest square, the Duomo, in Milan. We’ve performed in an outdoor arena in Verona with 10,000 people in attendance. In Milan there were 50,000 people – it was like a pop event!

What gave you the idea to put this show together?

In the beginning the idea was to be like Pavarotti and Friends and what that did for opera – the idea of putting together friends and artists you admire and go on stage and do a sort of gala performance. Often we could bring together artists I admire who never had a chance to perform together, particularly in Italy.

Roberto Bolle - Photo: Luciano Romano

Roberto Bolle – Photo: Luciano Romano

What brings Roberto Bolle and Friends to New York City Center?

It was already a big achievement to celebrate the “Year of Italian Culture in the United States.” The embassy and the Italian Ministry of Culture wanted to bring the most important kind of events and performances here as part of that celebration. I am honored to be representing the best of Italy. The show will feature 10-11 pieces, almost all solos and pas de deux.

Where do you see yourself in the next few years?

In the future, when I stop dancing, I would like to be Artistic Director of La Scala. It would be great to have a company to work with, and to work with young people and promote and coach them, to be the director and do the artistic part as well.

How do you stay in shape? You actually look like Apollo!

I stay in shape from ballet – there’s no special routine at the gym. I eat well, stay away from junk food, and don’t eat carbohydrates like pasta and bread. But I do eat rice… I come from a part of Italy where they produce rice (Piedmont) – so, I eat lots of rice! Also, I stay away from sweets.

You are on your way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Costume Institute Gala, New York’s party of the year. I hear you’re sitting with Katy Perry. Who else are you going with and, most importantly – what are you wearing?

Actually, I’m a guest of designers Dolce & Gabbana, they’re friends of mine. I’m at their table and so is Katy Perry. What am I wearing? Well, Dolce & Gabbana, of course!

Walking red carpet at Met Gala with Franca Sozzani, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Italia

Roberto Bolle and Friends is presented by Artedanze S.r.l, in association with NY City Center. Acqua di Parma, the leading Italian lifestyle brand, is the Patron of this event. Performance on Tuesday, September 17 at 7pm. For tickets:

This story first appeared in the Huffington Post Arts/Culture page, May 9, 2013.

Addendum – the September 17 GALA was great! Have a look:

Final piece of the evening - Roberto Bolle in Prototype; Photo: xChanges vfx

Final piece of the evening – Roberto Bolle in Prototype; Photo: xChanges vfx

President of Acqua di Parma Gabriella Scarpa, dancer/artistic director Roberto Bolle and actress/producer Trudie Styler attend Acqua di Parma gala event

President of Acqua di Parma Gabriella Scarpa, dancer/artistic director Roberto Bolle and actress/producer Trudie Styler attend Acqua di Parma gala event. Photo: Getty Images for Acqua di Parma

Musician Michael Stipe and actress Toni Collette attend Acqua di Parma gala event with Roberto Bolle; Photo: Getty Images for Acqua di Parma

Musician Michael Stipe and actress Toni Collette attend Acqua di Parma gala event with Roberto Bolle; Photo: Getty Images for Acqua di Parma

TUDOR BALLET “DARK ELEGIES” HAS FINGER ON THE PULSE

20 Apr

I saw Antony Tudor’s Dark Elegies performed last night at New York Theatre Ballet’s “Legends and Visionaries” program at Florence Gould Hall, NYC.

Though created by Mr. Tudor in 1937, the ballet couldn’t have been more current. Tudor described this work as his favorite ballet, and many consider it to be his greatest. “From bursts of rage to tender moments of quiet devastation, Tudor’s ‘ballet requiem’ expresses the raw emotion of a tight-knit community faced with the inexplicable loss of their beloved children,” explains the Antony Tudor Ballet Trust.

"Dark Elegies" - ABT - Fall, 2005. Julie Kent and Grant Delong. Photo courtesy of Sally Brayley Bliss

“Dark Elegies” – ABT – Fall, 2005. Julie Kent and Grant Delong.
Photo courtesy of Sally Brayley Bliss

Newtown, Connecticut grieves for 20 children and six adults gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December. Boston grieves in the wake of Monday’s marathon bombings, with three dead and more than 260 injured. Together, we grieve as a nation.

It has been 76 years since Tudor choreographed Dark Elegies. Everything has changed, yet nothing has changed. The ballet’s subject matter and emotional content feel raw. Dark Elegies has its finger on the pulse. Perhaps it always will.

Dark Elegies is danced to the Song Cycle Kindertotenlieder (“Songs on the Death of Children”) by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911). The work consists of five songs to lyrics by Friedrich Rückert. It was first performed in London by Ballet Rambert on Feb. 19, 1937. First cast included Peggy van Praagh, Maude Lloyd, and Agnes de Mille. First US Performance was by American Ballet Theater (Ballet Theatre) at New York’s City Center, January 24, 1940.

NY Theatre Ballet performs chamber ballet masterpieces and new works by emerging choreographers, and innovative one hour ballets for children. By pairing the ballets of legendary creators with those of new visionaries, NYTB helps audiences to rediscover the old and be thrilled by the new.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: “SUMMER DANCE”

2 Mar

Imagine – a sleep away camp where you dance, morning, noon and night. Where you stage performances, learn from the masters, excerpt the great ballets and learn folk and modern dance too. Ah, to live in the mountains during the hot summer months, on a lake with an outdoor stage, with piles of pointe shoes, costumes, and new friends and cool mountain air. What I wouldn’t have given to go to a dance camp like the one in Summer Dance. The pre-teen novel struck a chord.

"Summer Dance" by Lynn Swanson

“Summer Dance” by Lynn Swanson

All at dance camp was not perfect for 13-year old Sara – finances were tight at home and a scholarship was needed to come back next year.  Dance was Sara’s passion, and her dream was to dance professionally some day. Could the training at “Lakewood Dance Camp” hold the key?

“Young dancers should be easily drawn into the passions and frustrations of Sara and her friends and the nicely evoked upper Michigan setting,” says Publishers Weekly.  I agree.

If you have a daughter who loves to dance, Summer Dance is a perfect choice for the young reader.  The challenges of learning and perfecting your craft, the motivation for scholarship, and changing relationships with friends over a memorable summer in the northern Michigan woods create a passionate story filled with surprises.

Lynn Swanson, author of Summer Dance, is a dance educator and member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She holds a BFA in dance from the University of Michigan and an MA in Creative Writing from Michigan State University.  Here are some excerpts from a recent conversation:

Author Lynn Swanson

Author Lynn Swanson

They always say, “Write what you know” – why do I have a feeling you spent summers at dance camp?

Yes, it’s true! Two summers in Michigan at Interlochen Summer Arts Camp as a student, and two summers there assisting in the prestigious ballet department.

Summer intensives are commonplace for dance students on the professional track. Do you think a dance camp is an effective alternative?

It depends on what the dancer’s technical and emotional needs are at the time.  A camp environment is ideal as long as the instructors are top-notch.  No sense wasting a summer or developing bad dance habits if you are a serious dancer.

I love that you introduce the reader to some of the great classical ballets – Swan Lake, Les Sylphides, Romeo & Juliet… what made you choose those ballets for the story?

I danced in Les Sylphides and in Les Patineurs, which is also in the book, so I knew the choreography in detail and the artistic expression required to dance them. I love the music from both ballets.  I chose Swan Lake and Romeo & Juliet for their romantic appeal.

How does a young girl become passionate about dance? Do you think it’s learned or innate?

Lynn Swanson presenting Summer Dance to students last summer at Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan.

Author Lynn Swanson presenting “Summer Dance” to students last summer at Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan.

I think all little girls are passionate about some form of movement and do it very naturally if you watch them. Not all sustain the commitment needed to move through every stage of training to become a professional dancer.  It’s the passion that fuels a dancer to keep going.

A scholarship is necessary for Sara to continue her studies. Financing for arts education is always a struggle. Can you tell me something about the importance of scholarship for young dancers with potential, like Sara?

It is highly important that we financially support our dancers through scholarships, especially in this country where there are no government supported boarding schools for dance. It is sometimes up to individual dance teachers at private studios or at the local community center or YMCA to not only identify gifted and passionate dancers, but to help them find a way to get the financial support they need to pursue their dance training. I honor and praise all those who continue to find ways to keep talented dancers moving!

Find Summer Dance on Amazon.com.

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