Unity Phelan

City.ballet.” is back! And the Season 2 premiere is plenty tantalizing. They promised us more up-close input from dancers, and we’ve already got two very interesting characters to follow.

We meet two corps members, starting with 19-year-old Unity Phelan, who is beginning her first season with New York City Ballet. I really don’t think anyone could manage a more bright-eyed and eager demeanor. All she wants to do is dance—as much as she possibly can. When she faces a long day of classes and rehearsals, she doesn’t think about how grueling it’s going to be. “When pliés start, I’m like OK let’s do this. I am so excited for this day!” Right now, she is grateful for every moment, because she has achieved what she thought was her biggest dream: being in New York City Ballet. But that honeymoon can’t last forever.

Harrison Ball

Enter Harrison Ball, only two years older than Phelan but starting his third year in the corps. His worries already outweigh his enthusiasm. Is he being taken as seriously as he wants to be? He’d prefer soloist parts to the character roles he’s gotten so far. Does he really present himself in the best light? He battles typical 21-year-old habits like constantly running late and going out most nights, while at the same time trying to be a dedicated professional. All he can think about is when and if he’ll be promoted.

The most telling moment in the episode is when both dancers describe how they spend their evenings when they aren’t performing. Phelan sits in the audience. “I go and watch the ballet, because even being there is special.” Ball paces outside on the Lincoln Center Promenade, pondering his career path.

The premiere is the tiniest bit redundant in that, once again, it focuses on the corps de ballet, which we were already introduced to last season. But Sarah Jessica Parker’s narration is noticeably absent—minus an opening line—which helps it feel less like a Ballet 101 lecture and more like a docu-drama.

Click here to watch the full eight-minute episode plus bonus clips.

This episode also features Ball's cat, who doesn't seem worried about much of anything.

Congratulations to Derek Hough, who picked up the 2013 Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography on “Dancing with the Stars,” presented for the first time as part of the event’s live broadcast! (Watch Hough’s acceptance here.) Also a first was the nominated choreographers’ collaborative effort to stage and perform the show’s main dance routine. The result was a SYTYCD-style contemporary interpretation of some of the evening’s nominated shows—from "Mad Men" to "American Horror Story"—anchored by host Neil Patrick Harris and set to a medley of “Lady Luck” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” With the skills of Hough, Allison Holker, Sonya Tayeh, Mandy Moore, Travis Wall, NappyTabs, Warren Carlyle and their friends, the number was sure to be a showstopper! See for yourself. Can you spot all the famous faces?

Derek Hough, Neil Patrick Harris, Napoleon and Tabitha D'umo, Sonya Tayeh, Travis Wall, Kathryn McCormick, and Mandy Moore and others, prepping for the Emmys

It’s one small step for the Emmys, one grand jeté for the commercial dance world: This year, for the first time ever, the Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography will be presented as part of the event’s live broadcast. Furthermore, the eight nominated choreographers have been invited to create the evening’s main dance number, featuring TV’s best host ever, Neil Patrick Harris. (Seriously. Remember the Tonys?) This means Derek Hough, Allison Holker, Sonya Tayeh, Mandy Moore, Travis Wall, Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo and Broadway’s Warren Carlyle (who choreographed Carousel for PBS’ Live From Lincoln Center) have been working together on one epic showstopper. According to TV Guide, the artists have attempted to meet once a week, convening other times by Skype and working alone on their individual sections. Tayeh also mentions “thousands of dancers” will be onstage for the performance. Whether that’s an exaggeration or not, we’ll have to wait to find out.

Are we in the midst of a new golden age for dance on camera? Signs point to yes, and Holker agrees. “The dance world has taken off and grown,” she says. “Just like it used to be in the Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse time. I feel like that is our time now.”

Photo: Primetime Emmys

The Tony Awards must never let Neil Patrick Harris not host ever again. The four-time MC of Broadway’s Biggest Night sang, danced, rapped and did acrobatics, magic tricks and cheerleading stunts all in an opening number that made me want to shut off the TV right then and there because nothing could possibly top it. The rest of the evening wasn’t too shabby, though, with pick-me-up performances from Motown and Bring It On, plus a slew of talented tots from Annie, Matilda and A Christmas Story.

Kinky Boots was the biggest star of the evening, however (after NPH). The feel-good show about a struggling shoe factory that finds a true “niche market” selling sturdy stilettos to drag queens claimed six Tonys, including Best Musical and two technical awards. Pop star Cyndi Lauper was honored for Best Score, while leading man/woman Billy Porter took home the much-deserved win for Best Actor in a Musical. And director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell won for Best Choreography, beating out talented contenders Andy Blankenbuehler, Chet Walker and Peter Darling. Mitchell has worked on Catch Me If You Can, Legally Blonde: The Musical, Hairspray and La Cage Aux Folles, for which he earned a Tony in 2005. Read more here about Mitchell, the busiest man on Broadway, and if you have any questions about his choreography chops, check out Boots’ show-stopping conveyor-belt dance performance from last night:

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