Dance Teacher Tips
Forsythe's in the middle, somewhat elevated uses the battement like an attack. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet

Just before retiring in 2015, Sylvie Guillem appeared on "HARDtalk with Zeinab Badawi," the BBC's hard-hitting interview program. Badawi told Guillem,

"Clement Crisp of the Financial Times, 14 years ago, described your dancing as vulgar."

Guillem responded,

"Yeah, well, he said that. But at the same time, when they asked Margot Fonteyn what she thought about lifting the leg like this she said, 'Well, if I could have done it, I would have done it.' "

They were discussing Guillem's signature stroke—her 180-degree leg extension à la seconde. Ballet legs had often flashed about in the higher zones between 135 and 160 degrees before. But it wasn't until the virtuoso French ballerina regularly extended her leg beside her ear with immaculate poise in the 1980s that leg extensions for ballet dancers in classical roles reached their zenith. Traditionalists like Clement Crisp were not taken with it.

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Dance News
Isabella Boylston and Calvin Royal III in Christopher Wheeldon's This Bitter Earth. Photo by Erin Baiano, courtesy of New York City Center

To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Damian Woetzel's leadership at the Vail International Dance Festival, a new four-day event will be held in New York City, November 3–6. Vail Dance Festival: ReMix NYC brings three programs to New York City Center, along with a special lecture/demonstration focused on footwork, hosted by Woetzel. Featured performers include: Lil Buck, Michelle Dorrance, Wendy Whelan, Robert Fairchild, Matthew Rushing and Yo-Yo Ma. Works by George Balanchine, Alexei Ratmansky, José Limón, Martha Graham, Larry Keigwin and Christopher Wheeldon will be performed. Vvf.org/arts/vail-international-dance-festival

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Dance News

The holidays are here and in the dance world, that typically means one thing: Nutcracker season! As a former bunhead, I’d be remiss not to give a shout-out to some of the Nutcracker productions we all know and love.

Houston Ballet's Jared Matthews and Karina Gonzalez dance the Sugar Plum Fairy pas de deux.

10 Nutcrackers That Rock

  1. George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker(1954) Where to see it: New York City Ballet; Pacific Northwest Ballet, Seattle; Pennsylvania Ballet, Philadelphia.

  1. Kent Stowell’s Nutcracker(1983) Where to see it: PNB retired the production last year, but you can catch it on DVD via Nutcracker: The Motion Picture, filmed in 2011.

  1. Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker(1987) Where to see it: Houston Ballet, Houston, Texas (Catch it now because HB is retiring the production after this year. Artistic director Stanton Welch will present a new version in 2016.)

  1. Mark Morris’ The Hard Nut(1991) Where to see it: Mark Morris Dance Group, Brooklyn, NY.

  1. Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker!(1992) Where to see it: available on DVD.

  1. Helgi Tomasson’s Nutcracker(2004) Where to see it: San Francisco Ballet, San Francisco.

  1. Debbie Allen’s The Hot Chocolate Nutcracker(2010) Where to see it: Debbie Allen Dance Academy, Los Angeles.

  1. Alexei Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker(2010) Where to see it: American Ballet Theatre, Costa Mesa, California.

  1. Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker(2012) Where to see it: Boston Ballet, Boston.

  1. Gelsey Kirkland’s The Nutcracker(2013) Where to see it: Gelsey Kirkland Ballet, Brooklyn, NY.

The snow scene from Alexei Ratmansky's The Nutcracker

5 Reasons Why The Nutcracker Will Never Get Old

  1. The music is iconic—Nothing rings in the holiday season quite like Tschaikovsky’s score.

  1. It’s joyful—In most versions, the unhappiest thing that happens is Clara’s nutcracker getting broken (only temporarily) by her pesky brother Fritz. Not too bad if you ask me!

  1. It’s the perfect blend of narrative and non-narrative ballet—The first act’s party and fight scenes are ballet acting at its finest. The second act’s Land of Sweets offers a buffet of dance delicacies.

  1. It’s a time-honored holiday tradition—If you haven’t danced in it, it’s likely you’ve seen it. Each year, thousands of people attend the show, bringing in roughly 40 percent of ballet companies’ annual revenue.

  1. There’s something in it for everyone—From the humorous antics of the opening party scene to the action-packed fight scene that follows, to the technical feats of the Sugar Plum Fairy, it’s a show everyone can enjoy.

Happy Holidays!

Photos (from top): by Amitava Sarkar, courtesy of Houston Ballet; by Gene Shiavone, courtesy of American Ballet Theatre

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Dance News

American Ballet Theatre loves having Alexei Ratmansky on their team, and they want to shout it from the rooftops. Last weekend, “NYC-ARTS” on New York’s PBS station THIRTEEN showcased the company’s artist in residence as part of a preview of the spring season. In the opening sequence, Kevin McKenzie describes hiring the Russian-born choreographer (and 2011 Dance Magazine Award winner) as his single greatest accomplishment during his 20 years as artistic director. Wow.

The episode highlights Ratmansky’s work with the company, from his brand new, hugely popular version of The Nutcracker to the restaging of 19th century classics like The Firebird. Also appearing in the segment, to describe Ratmansky’s staging process, are cross-continental star David Hallberg, Julie Kent and NYCB darling Sara Mearns. Ratmansky, who describes working with ABT as a “paradise for a choreographer,” doesn’t sound like he plans to relocate any time soon, and I think everyone is pleased to hear that news.

ABT kicks off its spring season tonight with a gala at Lincoln Center.

NYC-ARTS Profile: Alexei Ratmansky, American Ballet Theatre

Watch Profile: Alexei Ratmansky, American Ballet Theatre on PBS. See more from NYC-ARTS.

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