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Evelyn Cisneros-Legate. Photo by Beau Pearson, Courtesy Ballet West

Evelyn Cisneros-Legate is bringing her hard-earned expertise to Ballet West. The former San Francisco Ballet star is taking over all four campuses of The Frederick Quinney Lawson Ballet West Academy as the school's new director.

Cisneros-Legate, whose mother put her in ballet classes in an attempt to help her overcome her shyness, trained at the San Francisco Ballet School and School of American Ballet before joining San Francisco Ballet as a full company member in 1977. She danced with the company for 23 years, breaking barriers as the first Mexican American to become a principal dancer in the U.S., and has graced the cover of Dance Magazine no fewer than three times.

As an educator, Cisneros-Legate has served as ballet coordinator at San Francisco Ballet, principal of Boston Ballet School's North Shore Studio and artistic director of after-school programming at the National Dance Institute (NDI). Dance Teacher spoke with her about her new position, her plans for the academy and leading in the time of COVID-19.


Congratulations on your recent appointment! What does this hiring mean to you?

For me, it's kind of the pinnacle of my after-dancing career. To join a wonderful, large organization with such a fantastic reputation in the industry is really rewarding. To have used all my experience with San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet and NDI—all of that comes together to give me the experience I need for this.

Evelyn Cisneros-Legate demonstrates first arabesque arms, limbs stretching beyond the edge of the photo, as a male and female dancer in rehearsal clothes watch from the back of the studio.

Courtesy Ballet West

What drew you to this particular opportunity?

Ballet West feels like completing a circle. I started at San Francisco Ballet as a student at the end of the Harold Christensen regime. I was hired into the company by Lew Christensen, and Ballet West founder Willam Christensen would come out and visit his brothers often. I had the chance to meet him, and was even able to come to Utah to stage Michael Smuin's The Tempest at one point. It feels like family.

What are your goals for the school?

I'm particularly excited about building up our youth—the future generation. It's important that the base of our company pyramid is broad. These dancers are more than just our future company members, they're our future audience, musicians, donors, staff. There is something for everyone. The things these young dancers learn will give them the ability to focus, to understand spatial awareness, to recognize their own physical capabilities, self-confidence, work ethic and critical thinking. These skills will allow them to become the best workers in any discipline.

Evelyn Cisneros-Legate extends a leg crois\u00e9 front at 90 degrees in center, upstage arm in fifth. Behind her, masked students in pink tights and black leotards watch or imitate. All wear face masks.

Beau Pearson, Courtesy Ballet West

What challenges are you anticipating?

The climate of our country is our biggest hurdle. We have students in the studios and they are beautiful and so happy to be back dancing outside of their bedroom, but they are still masked. I can feel their trepidation moving forward into the unknown. Our youth are facing things we have never experienced before. The challenge is keeping them inspired and in the dream so we don't lose dancers, who could have otherwise had wonderful careers, to the pandemic.

You’ve been a trailblazer for women of color in the industry. What advice would you give to the next generation of dancers looking to break barriers?

I feel this generation has an extraordinary opportunity because barriers have been mostly broken down. There may be a few obstacles, but I would challenge this generation to see them not as hurdles to jump over, but opportunities to take hold of. Use who you are as a strength to benefit ballet.

What advice do you have for dance teachers looking to lead in this difficult time?

It is essential you be more sensitive to the youth right now. Have an open door for them so you can stop casualties of the pandemic. I've already had one student quit due to hopelessness. Teach your students that all their dreams can still happen, even if they look a little different than they thought. Help them view this as something empowering, rather than something that will squash them. Ask them to step forward honestly before their concerns overwhelm them.

Teaching Tips
Photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy of SFB

In February, San Francisco Ballet principal Dores André will originate the 11th role of her 15-year professional career with Trey McIntyre's highly anticipated new work, The Big Hunger. The work is inspired by the big hunger/little hunger philosophies of the bushmen in the Kalahari desert. "Little hunger" represents the superficial desires we focus on during day-to-day life, while "big hunger" represents what remains beyond the little hunger. "It's about the deeper meaning we are all looking for in life," André says. "It's not about our careers or a new pair of shoes or any other robotic human want, it's about the search for something bigger than all of us."

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Site Network
Photo credits, clockwise from bottom left: Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet; Jayme Thornton; Jochen Viehoff, Courtesy Stephanie Troyak; Karolina Kuras, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada; Natasha Razina, Courtesy State Academic Mariinsky Theatre; Kim Kenney, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet; Jim Lafferty; Arian Molina Soca, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet; Altin Kaftira, Courtesy Dutch National Ballet; Scott Shaw, Courtesy Shamar Wayne Watt

Every year we love to see Dance Magazine's coveted list of the dancers, choreographers and companies that are on the verge of skyrocketing in the field of dance. This year's picks are nothing short of exceptional.

Congratulations to these 25 up-and-coming artists!

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Teaching Tips
SFB corps de ballet dancer Miranda Silveira in Athleta. Photo Courtesy Athleta.

Just in time for Nutcracker season (and the cold weather that has us layering on our coziest warmups), fitness brand Athleta teamed up with San Francisco Ballet for their first Athleta Dance collection. Available beginning November 27, the capsule collection will include designs in women's and girl's sizes inspired by and created in collaboration with the dancers of SFB.

Of course, this isn't the first time a major athletic wear brand has teamed up with professional ballerinas. Under Armour has now launched two collections with American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland, and most recently, Royal Ballet principal Francesca Hayward created limited-edition designs with Lululemon.

SFB's Miranda Silveira in the Athleta Dance En Pointe leotard, $79, available in black.

Photo via Athleta
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Yuan Yuan Tan and Vitor Luiz in Unbound LIVE. Photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy of San Francisco Ballet

Have you ever wanted to know what goes into the making of a world premiere for a top-tier ballet company? Well, tomorrow you can find out, when San Francisco Ballet streams rehearsals and interviews live on Facebook for their third installment of Unbound LIVE.

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Who: American Ballet Theatre
principal James Whiteside
Followers: 96.6K
What you'll see: a lot of muscles and humor, with a healthy dose of cat photos
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William Forsythe

University of Southern California Glorya Kaufman School of Dance hosts a series of events in honor of William Forsythe this month. Kaufman.usc.edu

The series kicks off September 29–30 with a look at his creative process and presentation of his current work-in-progress, danced by USC students.

October 14–16 events include a discussion with Forsythe’s collaborator Norah Zuniga Shaw and a look at two of his site-specific works.

A costume exhibit will be open October 1–23 at various Los Angeles locations, showcasing Forsythe’s original designs and collaborations with designers.

The series concludes October 21–23 with a performance of three of his works by Houston Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet and San Francisco Ballet.

Houston Ballet performs Forsythe’s Artifact Suite.

Photos (from top): by Dominik Mentzos; by Amitava Sarkar, courtesy of USC (2)

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Atlanta Ballet has a new artistic director: San Francisco Ballet principal Gennadi Nedvigin. In recent years, Nedvigin has cultivated a reputation as an adept teacher, coach and répétiteur. His relationship with Atlanta Ballet began in 2014 when he staged Yuri Possokhov’s Classical Symphony. His retirement from SFB this month concludes 19 years with the company. He will take his post in August for Atlanta Ballet’s 2016–17 season.

Current director John McFall ends his tenure this month after leading Atlanta Ballet for more than 20 years. During his time as artistic director, he founded the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education. The Centre provides dance education to more than 1,200 students and has become a central fixture in Atlanta’s arts scene through its community-outreach programs.

Gennadi Nedvigin in John Cranko’s Onegin

Photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy of San Francisco Ballet

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