What’s up in the dance community
Julie Kent to Head ABT Summer Programs
In a 2013 interview, Lee Woodruff, host of the web series Archetypes, spoke with American Ballet Theatre principal Julie Kent about the benefit of training in such an unforgiving field, stating, “We all can’t be the principal dancer.” Kent’s reply—“But we all can be excellent in what we do”—is a fitting answer for someone who will be encouraging young dancers to reach for their own star.
Kent, who gave her farewell performance last June after 29 years with ABT, has been named artistic director of the company’s Summer Intensive and Collegiate Summer Intensive programs. A release from the company said she succeeds Melissa Allen Bowman, who will run the Young Dancer Summer Workshop along with her duties as director of ABT’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School Children’s Division and advisor to the ABT William J. Gillespie School at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in California.
Kent, the company’s longest-serving dancer, renowned for her elegant strength and dramatic interpretation of classic ballet heroines such as Juliet and Manon, will also serve as a teacher and coach for ABT’s main company, studio company, and JKO School.
This year 4,600 young dancers auditioned for spots in ABT’s three summer intensive programs; 1,375 students attended.
John McFall Takes a Bow in Atlanta
It’s been a very good 21 years for John McFall and Atlanta Ballet. Since 1994, when McFall took over as its third artistic director, Atlanta Ballet has grown into a top-shelf company. Now the organization must continue its upward trajectory without McFall, who, according to a company release, will step down from his post June 1, 2016.
Under his tenure, Atlanta Ballet generated popular interest and critical applause for bold artistic choices such as collaborations with musical artists Indigo Girls and Big Boi (of the hip-hop duo Outkast), a two-week tour to China, the selection of Helen Pickett as resident choreographer, and blockbuster productions including Michael Pink’s Dracula and Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Romeo et Juliette.
McFall was equally committed to education. He was instrumental in the founding of Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education in 1996, which today enrolls more than 1,200 students and reaches an additional 60,000 children and adults annually through community programming.
“John has challenged us all to take risks and be adventurous on our journey to create a distinct artistic profile for the company,” said trustee chairman Allen W. Nelson. “It has been a thrilling and successful ride.”
Artwork Comes Alive in Toledo
When Toledo [OH] Museum of Art patrons stroll through this fall’s exhibit, Degas and the Dance, they will see sculptures and paintings depicting youthful ballerinas created by impressionist artist Edgar Degas. If they visit on select Friday nights, though, they will see those ballerinas “come to life,” as students from Toledo Ballet prepare a Degas-themed ballet and rehearse other ballets in a mid-gallery rehearsal space—complete with barres, mirrors, and marley floor—built for them by the museum.
Museums and the art displayed within often serve as inspiration for Michael Lang, Toledo Ballet’s resident director and choreographer. He said 19 of his dancers, ages 10 to high school, will use the museum space to rehearse Awkward Girl: A Journey Through Degas, a new stand-alone version of a section of his 2011 contemporary ballet, Museum of Dreams, as part of a multi-month collaboration with the Toledo Museum of Art. (It will be performed January 3 in the museum’s Peristyle concert hall.)
Awkward Girl tells of a schoolgirl on a museum field trip who daydreams herself into a Degas painting. Lang, who draws from his dancers’ improvisational movements in creating choreography, is energized by the idea of public rehearsals and wants to use the museum patrons’ input to further shape the ballet.
“Hopefully it will be obvious when I’m working and don’t want to be disturbed, but I’m up for surprising people and saying, ‘What do you think?’ ” he told Dance Studio Life shortly before rehearsals began in October. “Maybe they hear the music differently; have a new idea. It’s exciting when people share in that way.”
Motion Captured by Lois Greenfield
“Greenfield makes visible a reality that is in a sense subliminal.” That’s how William Ewing, curator and photography writer, describes the artistry-frozen-in-time work of acclaimed dance photographer Lois Greenfield.
One hundred and fifty of her distinctive studio shots—of professional dancers, mostly in moments of freestyle movement, often framed in cascading fabric or suspended in air—are featured in her latest book, Lois Greenfield: Moving Still, available this month in the U.S. from Chronicle Books.
Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography is finalizing plans for a three-year traveling exhibition of 55 of the book’s images. Moving Still marks the third book for the New York City–based Greenfield, recipient of the 2015 Dance in Focus award from Dance Films Association.