23 March 2021
By Makhaila Anderson, Queens University News Service
As a dancer, Raven Barkley understands the power of gestures, symbols and movement. All literally guide her life’s journey. She says the poetry of Amanda Gorman and the election of Kamala Harris as vice president show young people of color — all people, really — that they can dream big.
“We still have a lot more work to do as a nation but this is definitely a start,” Barkley, who performs with the Charlotte Ballet, said in a recent interview. “I’ve seen a change in the confidence of our younger generation and how the stars in their eyes light up knowing that they can do that too. They can be in these leadership roles, they can sit at the table, they can discuss the topics that need to be discussed to make a change in our society.”
“I am a firm believer that representation matters,” she said. “If we don’t see women of color or even people of color in these positions, these leadership positions, then we don’t see what the possibility is.”
African-American mentors play a significant role in Barkley’s life. She trained at the Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York City, a company founded by Arthur Mitchell, the first Black principal dancer in the New York City Ballet. The Harlem company is the world’s first Black classical ballet company, and she credits its leaders, Andrea Long, Virginia Johnson, and Robert Garland, for their role in mentoring her.
Read the full article here.
4 March 2021
By Rachel Howard
If a choreographer wants to make the most of this pandemic era, Sarah Van Patten is the woman to put on the screen. Van Patten, who joined the San Francisco Ballet in 2002, is the finest actress-dancer in the company, so it is good to have a beautifully directed record of her theatrical genius in Danielle Rowe’s new dance film, “Wooden Dimes,” the clever Art Deco centerpiece of the Ballet’s digital Program 3, which begins streaming Thursday, March 4.
Rowe, increasingly in demand to choreograph for regional companies and here making her first ensemble work for the Ballet, has carried out “Wooden Dimes” with a shrewd eye for spectacle and a mature choreographer’s skill. There are shiny prop-driven delights throughout the production, particularly a Ziegfield Follies-like sequence with fluffy feather fans shot from above and a clever group rendezvous with a massive table. But the real beauty of the film comes in two long pas de deux, simultaneously swirling and nuanced, for Van Patten and Luke Ingham. Between these little love poems our story, spare as it is, unfolds.
Read the full review of “Wooden Dimes” here.
By Marina Harss
16 February 2021
On January 1, 2021, Uruguayan ballerina María Riccetto officially became the new director of her national ballet company, Ballet Nacional de Sodre. Seldom has the selection of a new leader felt so apt. Riccetto’s career has been a model of hard work, perseverance and attention to craft, rewarded by recognition and responsibility.
Many ballet lovers in New York City remember Riccetto with great fondness. The former American Ballet Theatre soloist, born and raised in Uruguay, had a very particular quality: the ability to transmit a combination of affability and joy, in roles like the young girl in Le Spectre de la Rose, or Twyla Tharp’s Known by Heart, or even as a flower girl in Don Quixote. When she danced, you felt you knew her.
In 2012 she returned to Montevideo, her native city, at the invitation of Julio Bocca, who had just taken the reins at BNS. It was one of the most significant decisions of her career. She became the troupe’s leading ballerina, performing every important role in the repertory. In 2017, she was awarded a Benois de la Danse for her performance of Tatiana in John Cranko’s Onegin.
Along the way, she became a household name in Uruguay, as universally recognized as the country’s soccer champions. Since last year, she has been a fixture on the Uruguayan version of the TV show America’s Got Talent. There is even a line of perfumes named after her. “Floral, with a hint of jasmine,” she told me.
So it makes perfect sense that, after retiring from the stage at the end of 2019 at age 39, she would be tapped for the company’s top job. When I caught up with her in early February, via Zoom, she spoke from her new office, with a photograph taken during one of her performances of Giselle behind her. What follows is an edited version of our conversation, translated from Spanish.
Read the entire article here.
Nearly one year after our last in-person Listening Tour stop at Ballet Hispanico, DDP is sharing an inside look at the vision of Ballet Hispanico Artistic Director and CEO Eduardo Vilaro.
By Lyndsey Winship
12 October 2020
Tamara Rojo may be a great tragic dancer on stage, but in person she is far from the voice of doom. “The performing arts and dance have survived millennia,” she says, sitting in her office looking out onto a floor of empty desks. “They’ve survived pandemics and hundred-year wars and all kind of disasters. Getting together to share stories is intrinsic to humanity. People will gather, live performance will continue to exist.” Just maybe not quite in the way we’re used to, yet.
Ballet is finally putting its pointe shoes back on for a live audience. This month there are performances by the Royal Ballet, Northern Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet – and English National Ballet, where Rojo is artistic director, has just announced two live shows. In November, a live version of their upcoming digital season will feature five new short ballets at Sadler’s Wells, and in December there’s a slimmed-down version of The Nutcracker at the London Coliseum. Christmas isn’t quite cancelled after all.
There will be some drastic differences to pre-Covid shows, with less than half the usual audience (423 at Sadler’s instead of 1,400, and 1,100 at the Coliseum, where ENB usually sell out 2,300 seats). Will it be worth their while financially? “We are trying to find a way to not lose money, that’s all we want to do at this point,” says Rojo. “I passionately believe we need to restart the sector and rehire choreographers and technicians and lighting designers and composers and film-makers so that the engine starts moving, even if it doesn’t make financial sense.”
Making sure there’s still an industry on the other side of this pandemic is Rojo’s main concern. ENB had to furlough 85% of its workforce and many of the staff took pay cuts (20%-25% for most, more for Rojo herself). They haven’t replaced nine dancers who left this year, so the company is reduced in size. But on the upside, ENB’s swanky new Docklands building has seven studios, so there is plenty of room for distancing, and the biggest doubles as a stage, so they can broadcast from there. She thinks the UK’s larger and more established dance companies will be OK in the long term, but it’s the independent artists and freelancers and those working backstage who are in trouble.
“The situation cannot be sustained much longer. The loss of talent and skill breaks my heart,” she says. “The UK’s creative industries are the best in the world, consistently reinventing themselves and at the forefront of everything, it’s the reason for so many of us to be here.” She’s also worried about the ballet world internationally. Talking to directors and dancers in the US, she fears the lack of public subsidy there could mean even big institutions disappearing. “Nobody wants a smaller, less diverse, less interesting ballet world,” says Rojo.
Read the full article here.
By Salamishah Tillet
2 September 2020
Camille A. Brown can’t remember the first time she danced the Electric Slide. She only remembers doing it. “It just was,” she said in a recent Zoom interview. “It’s the same thing with the Running Man or double Dutch. I don’t remember the first time I had a rope in my hand, but I remember the freedom.”
Ms. Brown, 40, a renowned dancer and one of the most sought-after choreographers of her generation, didn’t learn those social dances in school. She picked them up from family and friends — along with a host of other moves with roots in West Africa that African-Americans have passed down, from one generation to another, traded at family reunions and house parties or brought to pop culture and music videos.
Whether the Juba or stepping, social dance has always been a big component of Ms. Brown’s choreography. Her high energy, historically sweeping works are a powerful blend of modern, ballet, hip-hop, West African and African-American vernacular forms.
In recent years, Ms. Brown has expanded beyond the dance world. She was nominated for a Tony Award for her work on “Choir Boy” in 2019, and choreographed “Porgy and Bess” at the Metropolitan Opera. This year would have brought other new challenges: She was slated to make her debut as a theater director with “Ain’t Misbehavin” at the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Mass., in August; and was tapped to direct the Broadway revival of Ntozake Shange’s theater piece, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf,” which would have opened this fall. (It is aiming for a 2021 premiere.)
When the pandemic hit, Ms. Brown was on a career high, but like everyone in the performing arts she had to pivot. And like many other dancers and choreographers, she turned to Instagram, where she has created a virtual version of a school she never attended, one in which social dance is the foundation from which everything else flows.
“When everything stopped and shut down,” Ms. Brown said, “it gave me an opportunity to process everything that I had been doing, particularly in the last two years.”
Read the full article here.
By Geraldine Higginson
16 December 2019
Former Australian Ballet principal is working up a fury in San Francisco.
Some dancers have a set list of goals from a young age, and move through life ticking them off one after the other; others change path and direction as they go, finding new goals along the way.
Readers who have watched the Australian Ballet (AB) for a decade or more might remember a former principal dancer by the name of Danielle Rowe — who danced with the company from 2001 to 2011. Tall and striking, she excelled in both classical and contemporary roles with the AB until a restless nature and a desire to seek new challenges took her overseas.
First stop was Houston Ballet, until her application for Netherlands Dance Theatre (NDT) — sent on a whim, never expecting to actually get in — was accepted, precipitating a second move to the Netherlands after one season in Houston.
Read the full article here.
17 June 2020
Since Artistic Director Hope Muir took the helm of Charlotte Ballet in 2018 the company has commissioned work into the repertoire from female choreographers each season. Women have long been underrepresented in creative roles with professional dance companies, but thanks to Muir Charlotte Ballet has a renewed commitment to providing opportunities to these intelligent and inspiring choreographers. We are excited about this new social mini-series #WomeninChoreo Wednesday where you will get to hear advice directly from those women, as well as gather insight as to how they are fueling their creative outlets during their time at home.
OUR CHAT WITH STEPHANIE MARTINEZ
1. With theaters closed and schedules disrupted through the crisis of Covid 19, how are you engaging with your art and staying both active and creative?
I’ve been taking class at home, it’s been fun to join classes that I wouldn’t normally be able to attend. I’ve also been reading “True and False” by David Mamet which covers different acting techniques. I’m trying to dig into different art forms and expand my thinking beyond the realm of dance so that I can bring a richer perspective to my work once we’re back in the studio.
2. Every creative process is unique in its own way, can you describe your experience working with Charlotte Ballet and how it may have differed from other companies?
When I create a ballet, especially for the work at Charlotte Ballet, it’s crucial for me to conceptualize and build an environment first. The reality is that an empty space can be a bit paralyzing, so I like to give very clear, specific tasks to the room so that we’re all working collectively towards creating something that feels honest, alive, and satisfying. The dancers at Charlotte Ballet are extremely passionate and have a fascination for exploration that continuously improves their skill level. I’ll be honest, Charlotte Ballet is one of my favorite companies that I’ve had the honor of working with to date. The dancers are open and curious, demanding a lot of themselves and producing an environment that any choreographer would love to work in. I could see the dancers growing day-to-day, trusting their instincts, making new choices, and building characters that were truthful and compelling. It is not a cookie-cutter company, but each individual in the room worked toward a united standard of excellence set by Hope’s leadership.
Read the full Q&A here.
By Laura Cappelle
31 July 2020
“Can you caress the wall?,” Annabelle Lopez Ochoa said, frowning to get a better sense of the dancers’ living room on her screen. It was April, and the contemporary ballet choreographer was trying something new. Together with two dancers from the Norwegian National Ballet, Julie Gardette and François Rousseau, she was creating a piece entirely over Zoom—the first of what she now calls “a video diary of what dancers do inside.”
What was originally a one-off celebration for Rousseau, whose stage farewell was cancelled due to the pandemic, has turned into a larger creative project for Ochoa. Since then, from her house in Amsterdam, she has taken to creating dance films, all three to five minutes in length, with performers around the world. Dancers from Tulsa Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Dutch National Ballet and more have already taken part, with others scheduled in the coming months.
Ochoa had to rush to fly out of Tulsa in March, where she had been re-staging her ballet Vendetta, just before international travel was banned. Being stuck at home instead of going from commission to commission prompted some soul-searching. “We’re all forced to go back to point zero. It made me reflect not just on the pieces that I’ve made, but on the artist that I am,” she says. Working with dancers again proved energizing. “What do I like in choreography? I noticed, being on Zoom, that it’s the interaction.”
The early sessions were bumpy. Gardette and Rousseau had to alternate between leaning in close to their screen to see corrections and dancing from enough distance for Ochoa to see the bigger picture. The music proved the biggest hurdle, however. “It was delayed, so I would hear 1, 2, 3, and they would hear pause… 1, 2, 3,” the choreographer says.
She figured out a way to share music that causes less delay (although Ochoa says synchronization is still an issue). One hour on Zoom is now enough for her to craft one minute of choreography, and the dancers she asked to participate generally jumped at the chance to do more than staying in shape while sheltering in place. “It’s not the same just doing ballet class at home: you don’t have that collaboration energy of learning choreography,” Maine Kawashima, a soloist with Tulsa Ballet, says.
Read the full article here.
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