Tag Archives: American Ballet Theater

The Top 10 Gifts From the World of Ballet in 2014

It’s been said that the best gifts can’t be bought– and this was never more true than this past year. 2014 was a huge year of gifts from ballet, with some high-tech breakthroughs and historical firsts. Here’s my list of the Top Ten Gifts from the ballet world.


1. World Ballet Day. This unprecedented, uber-exciting event gave us twenty-four hours straight of livestream ballet from the Australian Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, The Bolshoi Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and the Royal Ballet. More about this event here.

2. Pointe shoes went high tech. Technology brought us a pointe shoe that traces a dancer’s movements and turns them into a new form of art.

3. Ballet West moved into their new home. Sparkly, and brand–spanking new, the company celebrated this new era with an opulent gala.

4. Christopher Stowell returned to San Francisco Ballet. Stowell, a former principal dancer with with San Francisco Ballet,  has already received critical acclaim for his work as ballet master.

5. A new edition of Smuin Ballet’s the Christmas Ballet. A Bay Area favorite, the Christmas Ballet truly is the gift that keeps on giving–an ever-evolving Nutcracker alternative–new kinds of fun every year.

6. The Nutcracker turned 122 this year. Perhaps the best-loved ballet of all time. Read more about it here in this lovely post from Tutus & Tea.

Nutcracker27. 7.Misty Copeland made ballet history. Copeland debuted as American Ballet Theater’s first black Swan Queen, performing Odette/Odile, Swan Lake’s quintessential role.

8. Outstanding dance reads by Misty Copeland, Michael dePrince and Brandy Colbert. Copeland’s Life in Motion and dePrince’s Tking Flight:From War Orphan to Star Ballerina are both memoirs, striking stories of women who go for their dreams despite all odds. Colbert’s Pointe is a dark page-turner set in the ballet world.

9. Australian Ballet wowed the West Coast during their US tour. The company presented Graeme Murphy’s innovative version of Swan Lake–make sure you check out the gorgeous shots in this link.

10. The Bolshoi Ballet’s Nutcracker came to a theater near you. Seeing the Bolshoi was never easier than Solstice Even at cinemas across the globe.

As you open your gifts this holiday season I hope you take a moment to reflect upon the gifts that come without a price tag…the best gifts of all.




Visiting Bethlehem with Miami City Ballet

A few of my favorite dance things

Dance film favorites





School of American Ballet’s Summer Intensive: Week 1

This week is the first week of one the most major events of the summer for young ballet dancers: the School of American Ballet’s Summer Intensive. From now through the end of July, during the five weeks of SAB‘s Summer Intensive, I will share the story of my experience there as it ended up drastically changing the course of my life.


My first ballet teacher took me to SAB to audition one February morning and I began my first Summer Intensive that June, a month after I turned thirteen. At the time I had no idea how difficult it was to be accepted—SAB’s National Audition Tour covers two dozen audition locations around the country at the start of each calendar year and they have also recently begun accepting video applications from students outside the continental U.S. Out of the thousands who audition only 200 students, aged 12 to 18, are chosen to train at SAB with the School’s renowned faculty (many of them danced with New York City Ballet). There is always the hope to be invited to stay on as a permanent student and continue their training in SAB’s Winter Term.

Many dancers come from out of state, some on their own, and some with family (most often their mothers). At the time I attended the School it wasn’t always easy to find an affordable place to sublet for the summer… many students ended up couch-surfing or squeezing into tiny apartments with a flock of other dancers (today the School operates a seven-floor, 191-bed residence hall located in the Samuel B. and David Rose Building, the same building which houses the School’s teaching studios, dining hall, administrative offices and physical therapy room. For these students the commute is now a simple ride on the elevator). I was able to commute from home by train and rode into New York with another older dancer who was living with my ballet teacher. Since classes began at 10am we rode in with a herd of business men in suits who were headed for Wall Street. Instead of following them to the subway we grabbed the 104 bus across town, which was always an educational ride through Times Square, countless seedy X-rated theaters, flashing neon billboards and a freestanding kiosk where young guys signed up for the military.


From the outside, SAB didn’t look particularly impressive. It was housed on the third floor of The Julliard School, a nondescript building located at 66th and Broadway. The front lobby was even less appealing: the dark floors and feeble overhead lighting felt oppressive, but it was air-conditioned and a security guard monitored everyone’s comings and goings.

Once you entered the glass doors of SAB, everything changed. The studios were impeccably clean and bright, with incredibly high ceilings and large windows that flooded the studios with natural light. A glossy black grand piano sat in the corner—a live pianist played for every class. Even the smallest of the four dance studios was several times the size of my ballet studio back home, and the floors were smooth and even… no more hair-raising pirouettes on slippery linoleum marked up with paint spatters (my ballet studio at home hosted artists and painters a couple of nights per week during off hours).

That summer New York (and the rest of the country) hit record highs; every day was a sweltering 100-degrees-plus and the busses weren’t air-conditioned. Heat radiated off the sidewalks in waves, and the asphalt was hot enough to melt the rubber soles of your shoes. Even a trip across two intersections to grab something for lunch at the deli seemed daunting in that heat.


But every morning, a few blocks before we reached SAB, when the bus passed Lincoln Center—home of the Metropolitan Opera House (where American Ballet Theater performs), the David Koch Theater (where New York City Ballet performs) and the famous spraying fountain—my heart grew wings thinking about the future.

Dance in May: What to Watch, Read and See

May is a month of celebrations… think May Day, Cinco de Mayo, Mothers’ Day… it’s also my birthday month, so I feel extra celebratory. With that attitude in mind I put together a few of my favorite dance things for you to watch, read and enjoy for May.

WATCH: Photographer Jordan Matter has put dancers in the public eye by, well, putting them in public. As often as possible. Maybe you have already seen his book, Dancers Among Us, a photographic masterpiece that weaves dance into everyday life, where professional dancers are photographed on the beach, at a construction site, in a library, a restaurant, a park. Matter started his Dancers Among Us project by asking a member of the Paul Taylor Dance Company to dance for him in a place where dance is unexpected. So, dressed in a commuter’s suit and tie, the dancer flew across a Times Square subway platform.

One of the first questions anyone has about these incredible dance images is how does he do it? Followed by what kind of equipment does he use? (Nikon D3S with a 14 to 24 2.8 lens, 85 millimeter and 28 millimeter 1.4 lenses and the 70 to 200 2.8 lens for you shutterbugs).

Here Dancers Among Us goes around the US in 90 seconds:

Here’s a fun video of Matter’s trip to Paris with Houston Ballet, including the first glimpse of many new photos. French photographer Gin Pineau (ginibee.fr) saw is post on Facebook last fall and asked if she could bring her camera and observe the shoot, and then she put together this awesome video.

FYI, Matter is hard at work on a cool, new project, Circus Among Us. Check out his new site for more info


READ: Life in Motion by Misty Copeland. As the only African American soloist dancing with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre, Copeland has made history in the dance world and beyond. When she discovered ballet, Misty was living in a shabby motel room, sleeping on the floor with her five siblings. Her entry into the world of ballet was miraculous: she danced en pointe within three months of taking her first dance class and performed professionally in just over a year: a feat unheard of for any classical dancer. But when Misty became caught between the control and comfort she found in the world of ballet and the harsh realities of her own life (culmi­nating in a highly publicized custody battle), she had to choose to embrace both her identity and her dreams, and find the courage to be one of a kind.

With an insider’s unique point of view, Misty opens a window into the life of a professional bal­lerina who lives life center stage: from behind the scenes at her first auditions to her triumphant roles in some of the most iconic ballets. But in this beautifully written memoir, she also delves deeper to reveal the desire and drive that made her dreams reality.

In this interview, Misty speaks about her past and her present star status:

SEE LIVE: Alonzo King LINES Ballet Spring Home Season, MAY 21-25, 2014


Breaking the mold of what ballet can be, Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet is like no other ballet company I’ve ever seen. I am not a dance critic (and don’t pretend to be) so let’s leave it this way: If you have never seen them you are doing yourself a disservice. This season, King presents a world premiere, combining sophisticated modernist choreography with the physical elegance of the LINES Ballet dancers to stunning effect. The Spring Season also features a trilogy of iconic sections from King’s body of work.

This season’s events include an Opening night performance and after party and post performance talks with Alonzo King.

May your month of May be filled with many good things.

 More Incredible Dance Photography books

Further reading on San Francisco ballet companies


Dance Film Favorites











The world has recently been blessed with several truly great dance films. Being a visual person I love nothing better than to feel swept away by a captivating film (or photo). Since time does not permit attending every performance I’d like to see, watching dance on screen keeps my options open and gives me the chance to see things I might not otherwise be exposed to.  Here are a few of my favorites; if you haven’t seen them yet you should!

1. First Position. Follow a handful of dancers through their trial by fire during the Prix de Lausanne, one of the most prestigious dance competitions in the world. Many dancers who participate in the Prix de Lausanne are later offered apprenticeships or company contracts. Michaela DePrince, one of the dancers featured in First Position, has since gone on to become the youngest member of American Ballet Theater.

2. Pina. German choreographer Pina Bausch was a sensation in her time and this film is a stunning tribute. Every aspect from sets and costumes to soundtrack and choreography echoes the colorful and ethereal world that she created. Directed by Wim Wenders, Pina was nominated for an Oscar and won several European awards for Best Documentary.

3. Le Vent. This one only runs for a few minutes and is well worth the watch. Marina Kanno and Giacomo Bevilaqua from Staatsballett Berlin perform several jumps captured in slow motion at 1000 frames per second. Gorgeous… and the music is, too.

4. Lost in Motion. Guillaume Côté, a principal with the National Ballet of Canada put his own money and lots of fund-raising effort into creating this two-minute video.
 Côté wanted to portray a dancer in ‘the zone’ – to show what it really feels like to dance.
 “I wanted to get the tights off and I wanted to get the costumes off, and just show the sheer physicality of classical dance,” he said in an interview with CBC’s Metro Morning.
 The prolonged jumps were captured with a high-definition, high-speed Phantom camera. Let me know if you don’t agree that it is brilliantly awesome.

5. Pas de DeuxGalen Summer’s documentary shows New York City Ballet dancers Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette – from a perspective that is so up close and personal – the viewer feels like one of the dancers. For her part of a behind-the-scenes series for the New York City Ballet, Summer and her team figured out how to attach cameras to vests the dancers wore while performing the wedding pas de deux from Tschaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty.” You can watch Summer’s other NYC Ballet documentaries ‘Pointe Shoes,’  and “Tutu” here.

I’ll be back on Thursday with more great film picks. Happy viewing!