Four dancers have been selected as 2016 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts, an annual award to 20 National YoungArts Foundation finalists for outstanding achievement in academics, in addition to artistic excellence in dance, theater, music, visual arts and writing. Modern dancers Jared Brown and Kaylin Sturtevant of Dallas, Texas, classical Indian dancer Pavithra Nagarajan of Fremont, California, and tap dancer Dario Natarelli of New York City each received a presidential medallion at a recognition ceremony in Washington, DC. Afterward, they performed in a multidisciplinary showcase directed by Emmy Award–winner Debbie Allen. The honor is the highest level of recognition for YoungArts winners who, in the past, have included Desmond Richardson (DT, January 2016), Camille A. Brown (DT, August 2015) and The Royal Ballet’s Sarah Lamb.

Students ages 15 to 18 or in grades 10 to 12 interested in participating in the YoungArts program can apply through October 14. Youngarts.org/apply

Presidential Scholar Dario Natarelli soars during the 2016 National YoungArts Week showcase.

Photo by Pedro Portal, courtesy of YoungArts

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William Forsythe teaching ballet class to BFA students

It’s a good time to be a USC dance major. The USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance’s inaugural class of BFA students have some exciting opportunities coming their way this spring. Check out the agenda:

- This month, students learned technique and repertory from RUBBERBANDance artistic director Victor Quijada, one of this year’s artists-in-residence.

- Next month, in addition to having artistic advisor and faculty member William Forsythe back in the studios teaching ballet, composition and improvisation, artist-in-residence Fiona Lummis (former Nederlands Dans Theater dancer) will teach repertory by Jiří Kylián.

- Master classes with Bill T. Jones and Hubbard Street 2 will occur in March. Also, Martha Graham Dance Company members will teach a work to students, which they will perform with the company on April 27.

- To cap off their first Spring semester, students will get to take master classes with artist-in-residence Desmond Richardson (DT, January 2016) and Complexions Contemporary Ballet in April.

The USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance was founded in 2012 and is led by vice dean and director Jodie Gates (DT, September 2014). In the fall of this year, classes will be held in the new 54,000-square-foot Glorya Kaufman International Dance Center.

Photo by Rose Eichenbaum, courtesy of USC.

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Al Blackstone's Not For Me

For its 21st annual gathering in July, the Fire Island Dance Festival raised a record-breaking $544,555 for Dancers Responding to AIDS. Complexions Contemporary Ballet co-founder Desmond Richardson hosted the festival this year, which included world premieres by Al Blackstone (winner of the 2011 Capezio A.C.E. Award), Joshua Beamish, Pontus Lidberg, Charlie Williams and Manuel Vignoulle.

The Fire Island Dance Festival is an annual fundraising event for the nonprofit organization Dancers Responding to AIDS. Former Paul Taylor Dance Company members Denise Roberts Hurlin and Hernando Cortez founded DRA in 1991 to raise money and awareness for those with HIV/AIDS. Since its inception, the festival has raised more than $4.3 million for DRA.

Photo by Whitney Browne, courtesy of DRA

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Now in her fourth season with Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Ashley Mayeux values co-artistic director Desmond Richardson's hands-on help with tricky partnering.

“I can always count on Des to come in and try movement with me. Then, I can go back and tell my partner, 'OK he’s doing this, and it really works for me.' Desmond is such a natural at partnering. He’s so intuitive and instinctual with it. He helps me and my partner understand what needs to be done to make the movement easier and clearer.”

Mayeux performs with Complexions Contemporary Ballet at The Joyce Theater in New York City through Sunday, November 29.

Photo by Rachel Neville, courtesy of Complexions Contemporary Ballet

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Sections of Fall to Rise were filmed at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City.

The impending retirement of New York City Ballet’s 46-year-old star Wendy Whelan (who this morning announced her final performance date), has, over the past few months, sparked many discussions about the inevitable impact of age on a dance career. Fall to Rise takes a dark look at similar themes.

In the film directed by Jayce Bartok, Martha Graham Dance Company’s Katherine Crockett (currently thrilling critics in Queen of the Night) plays the established star and new mother who feels forced out of the spotlight and into domesticity when her artistic director, played by Desmond Richardson, forces her to take time off due to her increasingly troublesome injuries. Throw in an emotionally unsound former company member with a vendetta—Daphne Rubin-Vega, who played Mimi in the original Broadway cast of RENT—and you’ve got the makings of a creepy dance thriller that would make Darren Aronofsky proud.

Fall to Rise premieres this weekend in New York City as part of the First Time Fest. Nine other films will compete, including ballet documentary Getting to The Nutcracker. For more information and tickets, visit firsttimefest.com.

As teachers and dancers, we've all fallen victim to needling perfectionism that can derail our confidence, and Desmond Richardson is no exception. Although he's now co-artistic director of the hugely successful Complexions Contemporary Ballet, he was once a freshman at the High School for Performing Arts in New York City, obsessed with comparing himself to others. Richardson's Graham technique teacher, Penny Frank, helped him concentrate on more important things.

"I was such a perfectionist—I would beat myself up because I didn't have what others had. I was seeing all of these kids who had come from the School of American Ballet, and I was a kid from Queens who had grown up on street dance. Penny told me it was a waste of energy to focus on that. She told me to instead concentrate on getting the information--the proper technique for all the styles of dance I was learning—and pay attention to that."

Complexions will perform at The Joyce Theater in New York, November 19-December 1. www.joyce.org

Photo by Jae Man Joo

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