NYCB Gets Real
The company’s reality series premieres this fall.
Ballet West tested the waters with “Breaking Pointe,” and now New York City Ballet is also venturing into reality programming. Executive produced and co-developed by Sarah Jessica Parker, “city.ballet” will air beginning this fall on AOL On, the internet company’s online video platform.
Parker, an NYCB board member and former ballet student, has said that the docu-series won’t revolve around backstage drama. Instead, it aims to reveal the day-to-day lives of members of a major ballet company—and to introduce its stars to audiences outside the dance world.
50 Times Three
Boston Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet and Cincinnati Ballet are very different, but all three companies arrive at the same milestone this fall: They’re celebrating their 50th anniversary seasons.
Five years ago, after suffering from budget cuts and being pushed out of its longtime home, the Wang Theatre, Boston Ballet was forced to cut its ranks by nearly 20 percent, dropping to 41 dancers from 50. Today, the company has more than recovered—it’s grown. “By the 2015–16 season, we will stabilize the company size at 58 dancers in the main company,” says artistic director Mikko Nissinen. He also hopes to “tour strategically” in the coming years. “We don’t want to tour for touring’s sake, but it will be an essential part of Boston Ballet.”
Pennsylvania Ballet recently entered a new chapter with the opening of The School of Pennsylvania Ballet. “We’ve been without an affiliated school for many years now, so this is a huge step for us,” says artistic director Roy Kaiser. His goal is to groom a new generation of homegrown PAB dancers. “I can see already in students 8, 9, 10 years old the seeds of our aesthetic,” he says. “We have a diversified rep that places a lot of different demands on the dancers, so our goal in the school is to create a unified group that’s prepared for it. I think it will take the company to a new level.”
Cincinnati Ballet has been experimenting with innovative new programming in recent years, including the company’s collaboration with rocker (and former Cincinnati resident) Peter Frampton last spring. Artistic director Victoria Morgan—one of the few female directors of American ballet companies—says her plans for CB’s future are focused on the Cincinnati community. “In my dream, the company is fully integrated into it,” she says, “through not only our performances, but also our academy and outreach programs.”
The Joyce’s Unconventional Ballet Festival
August is a monthlong ballet celebration at NYC’s Joyce Theater. The Ballet v6.0 festival highlights exciting small troupes working outside the traditional ballet company format—a welcome idea in a world that’s often preoccupied with big-name organizations. Philadelphia’s BalletX, Houston’s Dominic Walsh Dance Theater, San Francisco Bay Area’s Company C Contemporary Ballet, Seattle’s Whim W’Him, New York’s BalletCollective and Jessica Lang Dance will all perform at The Joyce over the course of the month.
Vail Celebrates 25 Years
The Vail International Dance Festival hits the quarter-century mark this year. Its anniversary lineup includes the always star-studded International Evenings of Dance in August, featuring Vail veterans like American Ballet Theatre’s Herman Cornejo and Royal Ballet soloist Beatriz Stix-Brunell, as well as a few new faces—notably ballet bad boy Sergei Polunin.
Natalia Osipova Heads to The Royal
International superstar Natalia Osipova begins her new gig as a principal at The Royal Ballet this fall, and her first partner as an official member of the company will be the ever-charismatic Carlos Acosta. The high-wattage pair will create sparks together in Romeo and Juliet.
Melissa Hough’s Premiere
We know first soloist Melissa Hough as one of Houston Ballet’s most exciting dancers—and a former Pointe cover star. But recently, Hough has been venturing into the world of choreography. And she’s had enough success that HB’s “Four Premieres” program this September will showcase her work alongside ballets by established choreographers James Kudelka and Christopher Bruce (as well as up-and-coming former HB dancer Garrett Smith).
Hough’s new piece, set to music by Gabriel Prokofiev, will be her third for the company. “Because I know all the dancers so well, I enjoy using them in a way that makes them a little uncomfortable,” she says. “Somebody who always does upbeat parts—why not give them a languid pas de deux? I want to stretch people.”
Hough says her works are always “a fusion of styles,” thanks in part to the years she spent competing in jazz and contemporary routines as a student. “Every year, we’d learn a ton of pieces for competitions, all those group numbers,” she says. “It was like doing 15 world premieres, even though each was only three minutes long. Being part of all those creations gave me a certain understanding of how to make things work choreographically—even basic stuff, like how to get dancers from one place to another onstage. It’s a different perspective.”
What else makes a Hough ballet a Hough ballet? Sensuality. “I always want there to be a little sex appeal,” she says. “I think it’s freeing for dancers.”