Tag Archives: Dance

GO PRO TECHNOLOGY MEETS MODERN DANCE

30 Jan
Photo credit: Marisa @Rockpaper

NEON BRAVE – Photo credit: Marisa @Rockpaper

GoPro cameras have been attached to skiers, skydivers, animals, you name it! But finally a choreographer has taken the plunge and has decided to attach GoPros to dancers – the first time the mini cameras will be incorporated into a full-length dance work. white road Dance Media, a modern dance company based in Brooklyn, NY, will premiere Neon Brave on Thursday, Feb. 19  at Triskelion Arts new performance space in Williamsburg/Greenpoint.

GoPros will be a way for the audience to see, “what dancers see.” Projections unique to each of the four performers, including the nude soloist, will allow the audience to experience the feeling of participating, even “existing” in the dancers’ environment. Footage from GoPros will offer a different type of audience immersion, unique to this production.

Photo credit: Marisa @Rockpaper

Photo credit: Marisa @Rockpaper

“The use of GoPro cameras, particularly during the nude solo, will hopefully give the audience the feeling of dancing nude,” said Marisa Gruneberg, company director and choreographer. “And there’s no better way to see the body’s full expression, its vulnerabilities and beauties, its guts, than to see it nude and in motion. Being totally nude onstage is bravery in and of itself. Now the audience will experience that bravery as well.”

With Brooklyn the cutting edge locale these days for what’s new and innovative, it’s no surprise choreographers there are pushing the envelope!

Adria Rolnik is helping promote white road Dance Media NEON BRAVE at Triskelion Arts in Brooklyn, NY. Visit http://wrdm2015.brownpapertickets.com for tickets.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/117248127″>white road Dance Media perform NEON BRAVE February 19, 27 & March 7</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/whiteroaddancemedia”>white road</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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‘Dance on the Lawn’ – Community Dance Festival Sets Standard

11 Sep
Randy James' "Ten Hairy Legs." Photo: Tony Turner

Randy James’ “Ten Hairy Legs.” Photo: Tony Turner

I had the privilege recently to attend a dance festival a bit different from the norm — not one produced by an established organization, or part of a regional effort, or one of the well known dance festivals found in nearby New York City. This dance festival, billed as “community-based,” took place the first weekend of September in the New York City suburb of Montclair, New Jersey. This “first annual Dance on the Lawn” outdoor dance concert was held in a simple yet perfect setting, the front lawn of the local Episcopal Church.

The key components of the performance space — a festival banner, a marley covered platform stage and a great sound system – were complemented by a backdrop of trees, grass and the beautiful stone church to the rear. Add a warm, sunny day to the mix and the stage was set for a multi-faceted dance program for whomever dropped by to watch, lawn chairs and blankets in tow.

Alvin Ailey scholarship student Christopher Taylor - Photo: Tony Turner

Alvin Ailey scholarship student Christopher Taylor – Photo: Tony Turner

Teachers, students, artists and choreographers participating all generously donated their time, and the program was offered to its audience free of charge, something rare these days. Designed to help support dance and culture and “celebrate the arts in our own communities,” Dance on the Lawn hopes to become an annual event.

A diverse group of artists from New York, statewide from New Jersey, and some of Montclair’s own were among those who performed, including New York’s Seán Curran Company & Brice Mousset’s Oui Danse, and New Jersey’s Maurice Chestnut, Donna Scro’s Freespace Dance, Randy James’ 10 Hairy Legs, Nancy Turano’s New Jersey Dance Theater Ensemble, Sharron Miller’s Academy for the Performing Arts’ Performance Workshop Ensemble, and Kathy Costa’s DanceWorks & Company. Contemporary dance, contemporary ballet, tap dance and modern dance were represented.

Seán Curran Company. Photo: Adria Rolnik

Seán Curran Company. Photo: Adria Rolnik

I was touched by the sight of a group of children, jumping and dancing, attempting to copy what they saw on stage. Job well done… isn’t that what it’s all about, inspiring and exposing the next generation to dance?

Directed and curated by former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater faculty member, dance performer and historian Charmaine Warren, and hosted by Nasha Thomas-Schmitt, former Ailey principal dancer and now head of national outreach for Ailey’s Arts in Education & Community Programs, Dance on the Lawn has been a heartfelt project long in the making.

I sat down with Charmaine to better understand what it takes to produce a community-based dance festival, and how her model can inspire other towns to do the same.

Here are some excerpts from that conversation:

(L-R) Charmaine Warren and Nasha Thomas-Schmitt. Photo: Tony Turner

(L-R) Charmaine Warren and Nasha Thomas-Schmitt. Photo: Tony Turner

What made you decide to produce Dance on the Lawn?

For more than two years I’ve wanted to share my love of dance with fellow Montclair residents so I began planning this event. There are other arts festivals in Montclair, so it just made sense to bring dance home and offer a dance festival too!

What are some of the difficulties faced in curating this project?

Because I’ve performed with some of the artists (I’m a curator and because no matter what, dance is part of my world), curating was not as difficult as it could have been. That said, I reached out some fabulous artists and asked them to perform without pay, and they said yes! The difficulty came when I, as an artist, knew how difficult it was for them to donate their time, so I set out to get financial assistance.

How did you find sponsors?

I am a Montclair resident, so I simply asked some wonderful people I know in the community for assistance. They signed on and donated their services (Toni’s Kitchen, Studio042, Tony Turner Photography and IMANI, a community-based non-profit that offers educational support programs to promote high achievement for all students in the Montclair Public Schools). One company led me to another, and so on. For example, Donna Scro’s Freespace Dance was an original company member of Seán Curran Company.

How can Dance on the Lawn serve as a role model for dance festivals in other communities?

I’ve been a curator for quite some time now – Harlem Stage‘s Dance Series, EMoves and The Wassaic Project Festival – so the curatorial part for me is not new. Being the producer/artistic director, though, is very new. The challenge was bringing all the pieces together and for the most part I was a one-woman-band. I don’t recommend that route, but I will say that having good friends and supporters is a must. Stick with those in the community that know you and trust you. Talk to friends and supporters who you know will be there for you, no matter what!

Brice Mousset's "Oui Danse"

Brice Mousset’s “Oui Danse”

This story first appeared on the Arts & Culture/Dance page of The Huffington Post, on September 10, 2014.

“BAD BOYS OF BALLET” RETURN AUGUST 26 TO AMERICA’S GOT TALENT

22 Aug

“Bad Boys of Ballet” on America’s Got Talent – August 19, 2014

America’s Got Talent judge Mel B. used her Wild Card to bring back the Baltimore-based “Bad Boys of Ballet,” after they were eliminated from AGT results show on Wednesday, August 20.

“Bad Boys of Ballet” will now return to the semi-final round of America’s Got Talent on Tuesday, August 26, LIVE from Radio City Music Hall, with a second chance at winning the $1 million prize. Adriaballetbeat touched base with Adrienne Canterna, choreographer and lead dancer of “Bad Boys,” to find out more about the troupe.

Here are some excerpts from our conversation:

Where did you study ballet? Tell me about your professional training.

My professional training is from the Kirov Academy of Ballet. I was a full scholarship student at this boarding school in Washington DC. It is a pure Russian-Vaganova school.

AMERICA'S GOT TALENT -- (l-r) Nick Cannon, Bad Boys of Ballet -- (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

AMERICA’S GOT TALENT — (l-r) Nick Cannon, Bad Boys of Ballet — (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

Have the dancers ever been members of a ballet or dance company, other than “Bad Boys”?

Some have been in Broadway and off-Broadway shows, some we got directly out of high school or college and others have danced with national or international tours and done commercial/TV/film work. I myself have danced with ballet and contemporary ballet companies and won the Gold medal at the 1998 USA International Ballet Competition.

What made you decide to choreograph this very different spin on contemporary ballet?

My training growing up was very diverse so I always had to desire to marry my favorite styles of dance together. Ballet is the cornerstone and I build upon that.

Why did you name yourself “Bad Boys?” And why does “Bad Boys” include a female dancer?

AMERICA'S GOT TALENT -- Bad Boys of Ballet -- (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

AMERICA’S GOT TALENT — Bad Boys of Ballet — (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

We’re BAD because we break the rules sometimes! We push the boundaries and attempt the extraordinary in the ballet world. We want to bring ballet into the 21st century. There’s a girl because I’m the boss and I put myself in the group! These boys make me better, stronger and push me to my full potential as a dancer and choreographer.

Do you see the future of ballet in this more modern interpretation, or do you think there is still a place for the classics (i.e. Swan Lake, Coppélia, The Sleeping Beauty) looking forward?

I hope the classics never die! I absolutely adore and am forever inspired by pure classicism! I just hope there’s a place for us too – something fresh, exciting, masculine, sexy, dynamic and athletic! Ballet is the most beautiful art form and I want more Americans to appreciate it!

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.

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.

“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.

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.

DANCING TO THE RIGHT

13 Nov

Sometimes I feel like I’m crumbling… one day my knees are the problem, another day my back, some days my hips or feet.  Sometimes I feel like I can conquer the world, so bendy and free, and other days just taking the barre feels like a challenge.  As an adult dancer who takes two to three ballet classes a week, I get sick and tired of my never-ending aches and pains, but unfortunately, that’s  the reality when you’re still taking class over the age of 50(!).

Sadly, as a person ages, their body just doesn’t perform the way it used to. In the old days, I would take class and focus on technique; now, my focus often turns to a stiff back, knees that don’t bend deeply enough or shoulders that ache when I move this way or that.

In the “old” days, all “bendy and free…”

Of course, injuries to dancers are common – ligament tears, overuse injuries, ankle sprains and knee pains… it goes with the territory.  (And dancers should always see a doctor if they’re dancing through pain and no one should ever come back to class without clearance. Waiting without treating an injury surely does more harm than good)!

But this musing is not about handling serious dance injuries – it’s about facing the inevitable stiffness and loss of flexibility that comes with age. When a dancer matures, so does the technical difficulty of the dance class.

So, why do we continue to go? Because we take pleasure in ballet’s discipline and enjoy interpreting the beautiful music. We like to work hard and bend our bodies in ways that are unlike any other type of exercise. We feel joy in artistic movement and find satisfaction in that, despite the physical obstacles.

We manage by substituting less flexibility for increased artistry; we use the music differently and phrase our dancing, perhaps, more eloquently; we re-focus on grace and posture. We “mark” when we need to and sometimes alter the combinations to suit.  Regardless of our age, we receive gratification from striving to be our personal best.

If a bad left knee means a grand jeté only to the right, that’s OK. If, because of that knee, you relevé only on the right foot, that’s OK too. So what if your petit allegro isn’t what it used to be?

The important thing is that we’re there, in ballet class, doing what we love and striving to be our best. That’s what I do, and I feel like I still belong.

IN CONVERSATION WITH DAMIAN WOETZEL, ART. DIR. VAIL INTL. DANCE FESTIVAL

28 Jul

Carla Körbes and Eric Underwood rehearsing Agon. Photo: Erin Baiano

The Vail International Dance Festival 2012 kicks off its 24th season, July 29-August 11, with a packed two-week schedule crossing many genres of dance and program formats. This year the annual summer showcase for dance has a diverse line up, including the return of New York City Ballet MOVES, the Vail debut of Martha Graham Dance Company, plus International Evenings of Dance and Dance for $20.12. Additional programming will continue to embrace its original mission of advancing education in the arts through community-based off-stage events such as Celebrate the Beat and Village Vignettes.

Sterling Hyltin from NYC Ballet MOVES rehearses in Vail for the Vail International Dance Festival

Led by Artistic Director Damian Woetzel, VIDF has grown into one of the most renowned summer festivals in the world and has been widely acclaimed for its innovation. The 2012 event will feature ten performances at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater and Vilar Performing Arts Center.

Damian Woetzel is a former ballet star with a storied career in dance. He was a Principal Dancer at New York City Ballet from 1989 until his retirement from the stage in 2008, where he had works created for him by Jerome Robbins, Eliot Feld, Twyla Tharp, Susan Stroman, and Christopher Wheeldon among others. Among his recent projects was directing the first performance of the White House Dance Series in September of 2010, which took place in the East Room of the White House and was hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama. In 2009 and 2010, Woetzel produced and directed the World Science Festival Gala Performances at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. For the 2010 event he created an arts salute to science honoring the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, featuring performances by Yo-Yo Ma, John Lithgow, and Kelli O’Hara among others.

Damian Woetzel. Photo: Erin Baiano

In 2006, Damain was appointed to lead the Vail International Dance Festival. Here are some excerpts from a recent conversation about the 2012 Festival and the performance lineup:

What makes this festival different from other dance festivals?

I try to always present performances that can’t be seen anywhere else, whether it’s a new partnership between dancers from different companies, or new works made especially for the festival or special performances in the UpClose series that explore an aspect of dance in depth. Some examples from this year are the pairing of Carla Korbes the ballerina from Pacific Northwest Ballet with Eric Underwood from the Royal Ballet– they have only ever danced together here in Vail and it is a wonderful partnership, Carla is also dancing with Cory Stearns from American Ballet Theatre, another partnership you won’t see anywhere else. The UpClose performance this year celebrates the incredible repertory of works created by George Balanchine to the music of Igor Stravinsky, and we will look at the works danced rehearsal style by the dancers of New York City Ballet MOVES.

Are any of the pieces or programs new?

Our “NOW” performance presents a number of world premieres this year, among them new works by Brian Brooks who is creating a piece with the great ballerina Wendy Whelan for the first time, and Christopher Wheeldon whose piece uses the incredible modern dancer Fang-Yi Sheu, and then Martha Graham Dance Company is premiering a new Lamentation Variation by Doug Varone–all are new works, but also new collaborations between wonderful artists.

Why Vail? What prompted this location and how does it differ from a festival in New York for example?

The Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail is unlike any other performance venue in the world, set with mountains and trees as a backdrop. One of my favorite memories is Balanchine’s Serenade being performed there as the moon rose in the sky behind the stage – amazing!

Next year will mark the 25th Anniversary of the Dance Festival. In recent years, what changes have you witnessed that make you especially proud?

In 2006, my wife Heather Watts had the idea to bring “Celebrate the Beat” – a dance and music education program – to Vail. This is a life changing program that teaches children how to learn and how to succeed, all through the arts, and now it is had been in the local schools in Vail for six years! I also take a lot of pride in our Dance for $20.12 program, which launched in 2008 and allows people an opportunity to see a world-class performance, all at a price that opens the door wide to new audiences.

If a “dance rookie” who is new to the VIDF and wants to attend a performance wanted advice on what to attend and look out for, what would be your advice?

I would definitely suggest coming to a series of performances to get a sense of what the person likes–to develop a taste for it. But if it were just one performance they could attend I would suggest the Dance for $20.12 performance, or one of the International Evenings as there is a real variety of dance styles to enjoy.

What piece(s) are you most excited to see performed?

I am really looking forward to seeing the new pieces on the NOW evening, and also very interested to see Jerome Robbins Moves on the Monday 7/30 performance by New York City Ballet MOVES–it is a groundbreaking ballet in silence that Robbins created in 1959, it’s a masterpiece, and to see it outside in Vail with the music of nature and life as its score is an incredible and unique opportunity.

To learn more, visit www.vaildance.org.

Video clips from the 2011 Vail Intl Dance Festival:

New York City Ballet MOVES performing an excerpt from Christopher Wheeldon’s After The Rain 8.1.11 – Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail, Colorado

New York City Ballet MOVES performing an excerpt from Jerome Robbins Dances At A Gathering on 7.31.11 – Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail, Colorado.

New York City Ballet MOVES performing excerpts of George Balanchine’s work throughout the century during UpClose: The Male Dancer by Balanchine hosted by New York City Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins and Festival Artistic Director Damian Woetzel on 8.2.11.

This blog first appeared on The Huffington Post Dance Page on July 27, 2012.

Follow Adria Rolnik on Twitter: www.twitter.com/adriaballetbeat

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