Face to Face: The Next Step

Charles Askegard talks about his transition from New York City Ballet to co-directing Ballet Next.

Charles Askegard and Michelle Wiles at Ballet Next's New York City debut.

Charles Askegard may have taken his final bow with New York City Ballet last fall, but he isn't hanging up his slippers. He's joined forces with former ABT principal Michele Wiles to create Ballet Next, a New York City–based company that blends the classics with fresh contemporary work. Askegard's new troupe (including guest artists Drew Jacoby, Misty Copeland, Joaquin De Luz and others) debuted at The Joyce Theater this past November. He is planning a U.S. and international tour this spring.

Renowned for his classicism and stately elegance, Askegard is perhaps most famous for his mindful partnering. With NYCB since 1997, he's performed extensively in Balanchine ballets and has originated roles in works by Eliot Feld, Peter Martins and Chistopher Wheeldon.

Dance Teacher: How did the partnership with Michele Wiles come about?

Charles Askegard: I’ve known her for many years; we had a little overlap at ABT about 14 years ago. She was just coming in and I was heading out to NYCB. We never performed together, but I continued to follow her career because I thought she was very talented.

Then last year, I was putting a performance together for a friend, and I needed to find a dancer who could perform both Who Cares? and Le Corsaire. I asked Michele, because she was someone who could handle very diverse roles. We immediately hit it off, and we continued to do outside performances together. The idea of the company came pretty early on. We decided that it would be an exciting venture to take what we’ve learned over the course of our careers and apply it to something new.

DT: Why keep classical pieces in your company’s lineup?

CA: Both Michele and I are rooted in the tradition of classical ballet and feel it still holds a strong importance today. It would be like a symphony orchestra not playing classical music. But we also love new choreography, and we really are intent on working with great artists—whether they’re creating contemporary pieces or working in a classical sense.

DT: What are the biggest challenges to forming a new company?

CA: Fundraising. And the organization of it all. So much goes into forming a 501(c)3, getting a board together and finding administrative people. There's a lot of paperwork. The business end is so time-consuming and takes a lot of energy and patience—just as much as the work in the studio.

DT: Are you looking forward to experiencing other outlets in dance?

CA: Absolutely. There's a lot out there, from creating work myself, to working with other choreographers, to coaching younger dancers—and I will continue to perform. The funny thing is, the more you work with other dancers, the more you reflect on your own performing. I've coached a few dancers at NYCB, and it was always beneficial to me. I'd say, "Oh yeah, maybe I should try that, too." DT

Photo: Paul B. Goode, courtesy of Ballet Next

Teachers Trending
Courtesy Lovely Leaps

After the birth of her daughter in 2018, engineer Lisa McCabe had reservations about returning to the workforce full-time. And while she wanted to stay home with the new baby, she wasn't ready to stop contributing financially to her family (after all, she'd had a successful career designing cables for government drones). So, when she got a call that September from an area preschool to lead its dance program, she saw an opportunity.

The invitation to teach wasn't completely out of the blue. McCabe had grown up dancing in Southern California and had a great reputation from serving as her church's dance teacher and team coach the previous three years (stopping only to take a break as a new mother). She agreed to teach ballet and jazz at the preschool on Fridays and from there created an age-appropriate class based on her own training in the Cecchetti and RAD methods. It was a success: In three months, class enrollment went from six to 24 students, and just one year later, McCabe's blossoming Lovely Leaps brand had contracts with eight preschools and three additional teachers.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Courtesy Shake the Ground

Dance competitions were among the first events to be shut down when the COVID-19 pandemic exploded in the U.S. in mid-March, and they've been among the last able to restart.

So much of the traditional structure of the competition—large groups of dancers and parents from dozens of different studios; a new city every week—simply won't work in our new pandemic world.

How, then, have competitions been getting by, and what does the future look like?

Keep reading... Show less
News
Getty Images

Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.