Peter Boal coaching PNB dancers in Opus 19/The Dreamer. Photo by Lindsay Thomas, courtesy of PNB

In a windowless subterranean studio under the New York State Theater, I pulled back an imaginary arrow and let it fly.

"Good!" said ballet master Tommy Abbott. "I think you're ready. Tomorrow you rehearse with Mr. Robbins."

I was slated to play Cupid in Jerome Robbins' compilation of fairy tales called Mother Goose. It was a role given to the tiniest boy who could follow directions at the School of American Ballet. In 1976, that was me.

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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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Last night at The Joyce Theater, the New York City Dance Alliance Foundation hosted “Destiny Rising,” an evening of dance to benefit the organization’s college scholarship fund. Collegiate dancers, professional guest performers and future stars united onstage for two hours of fantastic dancing. Here are a few of the highlights.

Students from Inspire School of Dance in Naperville, Illinois, danced an impeccably rehearsed Love with Urgency to music by Mumford & Sons. The dancers, ranging in age from 13 to 18, blew me away with their full-bodied abandon, flawless technique and the unmatched cleanliness of their performance. If these dancers represent the future, things are looking extremely bright.

Ida Saki and Austin Goodwin in Alexandra Damiani's Animus

Former Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet artistic director Alexandra Damiani presented a hilariously quirky duet Animus, danced by Sleep No More cast members Ida Saki and Austin Goodwin. Filled with funny facial expressions, choppy gestures and serpentine partnering, the duet was a dose of nostalgia for Cedar Lake and an exciting glimpse into Damiani’s current choreographic undertakings.

Robert Fairchild performed a solo by Gene Kelly.

New York City Ballet superstars (and former NYCDA kids) Robert Fairchild and Tiler Peck were set to perform a duet by Liam Scarlett. However due to injury, the duet was changed to a solo. Fairchild whipped out a Gene Kelly solo, complete with hat, “jazz fingers” and his signature An American in Paris showmanship.

The best moment of the evening came when Mattie Love, NYCDA scholarship recipient and soon-to-be Marymount Manhattan College graduate, came onstage and talked about her experience. Nearly bursting into tears, she talked about the opportunities the scholarships provided her and how she was embraced by director Joe Lanteri and the whole NYCDA family. It just goes to show that at NYCDA, dreams do come true.

Since 2010, the NYCDA Foundation has raised roughly $17 million in college scholarships. Dance Magazine is privileged to support NYCDAF as a Gold Sponsor (donations of $25,000–$49,999).

Photos (from top): by Eduardo Patino; by Nina Wurtzel Photography (2), all courtesy of NYCDA

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Chloé and Maud Arnold pose with NYCDAF Ambassador for the Arts, Debbie Allen.

Last night, the NYC Dance Alliance Foundation awarded Debbie Allen the 2015 NYCDAF Ambassador for the Arts Award at the annual “Bright Lights Shining Stars” gala. Held at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, the event paid tribute to Allen through song, dance and celebration.

Highlights from the evening:

Chloé Arnold’s Syncopated Ladies opened the show with a bang! With ear-to-ear grins, their fierce quintet, set to music by Beyoncé, created a celebratory tone for the entire evening.

Kolton Krouse performs Andy Pellick's Path of Enlightenment.

NYCDA student Kolton Krouse performed a gravity-defying solo choreographed by NYCDA faculty member Andy Pellick. Krouse was later awarded the Adele Astaire College Scholarship by An American in Paris star Robert Fairchild.

Jessica Lee Goldyn and dancers perform "I'm a Brass Band" from Sweet Charity.

Broadway star Jessica Lee Goldyn and a chorus of male dancers performed “I’m a Brass Band” from Sweet Charity. With original choreography by Bob Fosse, this was hands-down my personal favorite from the evening.

Allen's daughter Vivian Nixon performed the role of Anita from West Side Story.

Allen’s daughter Vivian Nichole Nixon made a surprise appearance, reprising Allen’s Tony-nominated role, Anita from Jerome Robbins' West Side Story. Nixon's lively rendition of “America” proved that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Dancesanity Stars' Karla Choko and Josen Torres showed that salsa can be enjoyed at any age, when they were joined onstage by their young students Nathalie Huiracocha and Felix Monge. The petite duet impressed—they held their own next to the professional duo.

Joe Lanteri stands with 2013 NYCDAF Ambassador for the Arts Catherine Zeta-Jones and her husband Michael Douglas. Zeta-Jones gave the welcome remarks at the top of the show.

Over the past five years, the NYCDA Foundation has awarded more than $17 million in college scholarships to hundreds of young dancers nationwide. Founded in 1993 by executive director Joe Lanteri, the NYCDA convention currently travels to 23 cities each season. Faculty includes Andy Blankenbuehler, Jared Grimes, Suzi Taylor and Melinda Sullivan. Many NYCDA alumni have gone on to have successful careers in dance including, Travis Wall, Derek Hough and Nick Lazzarini.

Photos from top: by Rachel Neville; by Eduardo Patino (3); by Rachel Neville, all courtesy of NYCDA.

The cast of On The Town

Dance is always big at the Tonys, but especially this year, with several crossover stars from the dance world occupying major Broadway roles. New York City Ballet principal Robert Fairchild, who stars in An American in Paris, lost best lead actor to Michael Cerveris of Fun Home, but we still enjoyed seeing Fairchild's dreamy lovers’ pas de deux with Leanne Cope. Christopher Wheeldon, making his director-choreographer debut, took home the well-deserved Tony for best choreography for An American in Paris.

Leanne Cope and Robert Fairchild at the 2015 Tony Awards.

Other highlights included a medley from the always energetic On the Town cast (featuring NYCB’s Megan Fairchild and introduced by ballet’s celeb of the moment Misty Copeland), a regal performance by Chita Rivera from The Visit and the news that Tommy Tune received a lifetime achievement award. “My father’s great dream for me was the same as every Texas father’s dream for their first born son: They wanted us all to leave Texas, go to New York and dance in the chorus of a Broadway show,” he said in his acceptance speech. “I did it, and I loved every single time step.”

Lil Buck leads a children's class at the 2011 Vail International Dance Festival

The Vail International Dance Festival has released a tantalizing sample of its 2013 performance schedule.  The biggest surprise is ballet rebel of the moment Sergei Polunin. (He blew the dance world's collective mind with his departure from The Royal Ballet last year.) The Ukrainian-born dancer is slated to appear at one of the program's International Evenings celebrating talents from around the world.

Other highlights of the festival's 25th anniversary season (July 28–August 10) include appearances by Pacific Northwest Ballet, Argentinian tango icon Gabriel Misséand and New York City Ballet principals Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild as artists in residence. World premieres by Paul Taylor, Lil Buck, Larry Keigwin and Brian Brooks will also grace the Vail stages. There will even be a performance devoted to recognizing virtuosic footwork in different dance genres. We can't wait until the full schedule comes out next month!

Tickets for the VIDF go on sale March 13. More info here

Photo by Erin Baiano

While the rest of the world follows the ups and downs of "Brangelina" and "Kimye," we can't get enough of these dance stars' real-life love stories. Luckily, Valentine's Day gives us an excuse to talk about them (while eating tons of chocolate). We've rounded up DT's five favorite  dance-world couples of the moment.

#5. Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild

These New York City Ballet principals' chemistry is electric. Just look at their fierce freestyle partnering at the Vail International Dance Festival:

 

#4. Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo

We have to congratulate this husband-and-wife power couple on their new baby, London Riley! The D'umo duo graced the cover of DT in 2008 and has choreographed for So You Think You Can Dance and five seasons of America's Best Dance Crew. They even found time to create their own dancewear and clothing line, Nappytabs! Now they're taking on parenthood with the same enthusiasm they bring to the dance floor.

Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo welcomed their son, London Riley, on August 10, 2012.

#3. Olivier Wevers and Lucien Postlewaite

These former Pacific Northwest Ballet principals met when Lucien joined the company in 2003. They got married five years later. Olivier credits his partner for motivating him to take the plunge and leave PNB to start his own company, Whim W’Him, in 2011. "Lucien...pushed me for a year to do it," he told Dance Magazine. "He understands the vision." Lucien has performed with Whim W’Him and currently dances with Les Ballets de Monte Carlo.

Olivier Wevers (in white shirt) and Lucien Postlewaite in Whim W’Him rehearsal

 

#2. Stephen “tWitch” Boss and Allison Holker

They met on So You Think You Can Dance Season 2, but the romance didn't heat up until the end of Season 7. At that point, Allison tells Dance Spirit, she not only made the first move, but closer to ten moves before tWitch caught on! (Read the full Q&A here.) Good thing tWitch got the message, since clearly this love is meant to be: The couple announced their engagement in January.

Allison Holker and Stephen “tWitch” Boss in their Dance Spirit August 2012 cover shoot

 

#1. Ethan Stiefel and Gillian Murphy

These two are the original ballet love birds. We swoon over their classic "he was a principal, she was a young corps member" fairytale match-up that happened nearly 15 years ago at American Ballet Theatre. Now the pair is based in New Zealand, where Ethan directs the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Before they departed, however, Gillian got an onstage surprise proposal at the Metropolitan Opera House last spring. Ethan recalls the moment to The New York Times: “She said, ‘We have to get off the stage.’ I just went, ‘Gillian, refocus.’ And she said, ‘I do, I do!'" How adorable is that? We wish them all the best!

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Photos: via FOX.com, by Kim and Adam Bamberg, Courtesy Whim W’Him, by Joe Toreno, by Rosalie O'Conner, by James Whitehill/The New York Times

 

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