Tag Archives: new york city ballet

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.

New Perspectives on Dance

April has long been one of my favorite months because the entire Bay Area celebrates dance with National Dance Week (this year from April 25-May 4th). This month there will be dancing in the streets, tons of free dance classes and performances and open studio rehearsals. It’s a great month to share dance and explore new territory. Meanwhile, in the spirit of exploration, I’ve found some exciting ways dance is being promoted from new and different perspectives.

Recently there has been a flurry of media attention about the plight of aging dancers. There comes a time when all dancers have to ask themselves the big questions: when is it time to move on and how do I start life over? Jayce and Tiffany Bartok’s film Fall To Rise examines these issues as it follows Lauren Drake (Katherine Crockett), a famous principal dancer who is let go of her company after an injury. Feeling domesticity was forced upon her after the birth of her first child, Lauren realizes she must do whatever it takes to reclaim her identity as the company’s star.

The film premieres at the First Time Fest film festival, April 5th in New York City.

 

Hailing from Kansas City, Quixotic Dance Company combines aerial acrobatics, dance, theater, high fashion, film, original music and visual effects, the coolest of which is fusing dance with light.The company was founded in 2005 by renowned graphic designer, percussionist, and artistic director Anthony Magliano and joined a year later by award-winning lighting and theater technology guru Mica Thomas.

The New York TImes branded Quixotic as an “innovative circus [company].” This ultra-modern, multi-sensory experience shatters antiquated notions of “a night at the ballet.” The dancers and choreography blend equally with progressive acts in the burgeoning electronic music scene (Dave Tipper and Shpongle, among others) and the Kansas City Symphony against the surreal environments that are their trademark.

For those of you who love a good series, Sarah Jessica Parker enters the ballet arena as executive director of her new project “city.ballet“, a behind-the-scenes docudrama about performing with New York City Ballet. Parker interviews dancers at all levels of NYCB, from apprentices through principals, up to and including Artistic Director Peter Martins. The series accurately portrays NYCB dancers’ day-to-day life and the thoughts running through their minds as they push themselves to stay ahead of the curve in one of the most notable and competitive ballet companies in the world.

 

How to Grow A Dance Audience

It’s an interesting time in the dance world and today’s dancers are looking to stay afloat in a constantly shifting landscape. Some companies are folding while new companies are being born. It’s a time to think creatively on your feet and find new ways to keep audiences engaged. But how? That’s the million-dollar question. Here are few recent ways that dance companies have tried to answer that question for themselves:

New York City Ballet recently turned to Sir Paul McCartney to create music for the ballet “Ocean’s Kingdom”. Shortly after meeting Sir McCartney at a gala, Artistic Director Peter Martins proposed working together. Martins hoped this new tactic would appeal to a younger audience and grow the numbers attending NYCB performances. As a NY Post article said:

How do you pack the New York City Ballet’s theater to the gills? Ask Paul McCartney to write a ballet about the sea.

Noted Bay Area choreographer/founder Alonzo King’s approach for his company, LINES Ballet, has been collaborations. The choreographer has worked with an ever-growing list of noted composers, musicians, and visual artists from around the world, including Zakir Hussain , Kung Fu Monks of Shaolin Temple , architect Christopher Haas and Mickey Hart. King’s choreography is unique fusion that draws on a diverse set of deeply rooted cultural traditions, imbuing classical ballet with new expressive potential. This is a company that celebrates diversity in all aspects, from music and choreography to the dancers themselves. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more eclectic (and talented!) group.

Choreographer/founder Sean Bovim found a successful formula for his Bovim Ballet by making ballet entertaining and accessible through the choice of choreography, music and fashion. This company has been able to bring in new audiences, many of whom had no prior interest in ballet. In terms of fashion, Bovim has collaborated with international designers such as Klûk CGDT, Craig Port, Ian West and Gavin Rajah. The company’s newest ballet, “Queen at the Ballet” (set to music by Queen) has been wildly popular and recently played to more than 30,000 people with standing ovations at every performance at the Point Theatre in Dublin:

Real Life Love at the Ballet

Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Giselle…. these are some of the most romantic ballets in history. This is the stuff of love come to life on stage in a sweeping pas de deux, full of grand gestures, of love lost or found. While the dancers who put their hearts and souls into these roles might look like the perfect couple onstage, those sentiments are over once the curtain goes down…

Or are they?

Lately there has been an epidemic of real-life love stories at the ballet. On-stage engagements, incredible weddings, it’s all happening. In honor of Valentine’s Day here is a snapshot of some of our favorites:

The marriage of San Francisco Ballet principal dancers Vanessa Zahorian and Davit Karapetyan has been coined the “royal wedding” for many reasons. Karapetyan proposed on stage when the couple took their curtain call after performing “Romeo and Juliet”. Does it get more romantic than that? On their wedding day the bride wore a cream colored strapless gown by Lazarro studded with delicate appliquéd rosettes and crystals. The couple danced a passionate Tango they choreographed themselves to the Pussycat Dolls’ recording of  ’Sway’.

New York City Ballet principals Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild are a couple onstage and off, engaged to be married since Fairchild dropped to his knee at Sacré-Coeur, in Paris, last spring. You may have seen them at Lincoln Center or on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars… either way, they have no boundaries to what they can accomplish, and being being dubbed as the dancers of today.

Pittsburgh Ballet’s ballet mistress Marianna Tcherkasky is married to Artistic Director Terrence Orr. Tcherkasy says dance is such an intimate profession and requires great commitment, sacrifices and dedication, she says, that it is valuable to be with someone who understands that, as well. The intimate nature of ballet work can reinforce offstage feelings, says Christopher Budzynski, who’s married to Alexandra Kochis. They’re both principal dancers with the ballet and often play opposite each other in the leading roles of “The Nutcracker.”

Jenna Lavin-Crabtree describes falling in love while working with her soon-to-be-husband: “My husband (Cornel Crabtree) and I fell in love while doing freelance work here in NYC with a small pickup company who had hired Staton Welch ( now the director of Houston Ballet ) to choreograph a new ballet. Cornel and I were partnered together and Staton was/is incredibly talented and having that ballet created on us was really a magical experience. Every one of the performances was a journey for us and really I think some of my most enjoyable *moments* on stage were spent happily in my soon to be husband’s arms!”

Still not satisfied? Read more about love behind the scenes at the ballet….

More about the San Francisco Ballet royal ballet wedding that tops them all here.

Read Dance Magazine’s story about three married ballet couples here.

A guide to marrying a ballerina from 28 Sherman here.

Josh Charles must have read 28 Sherman’s guide because he married dancer Sophie Flack. Read how here.

For those who would prefer to just date a dancer, Tights and Tiaras tells you how here.

Pointe Magazine’s story on four ballerinas married to normal folk here.