Friday, June 25, 2010

Farewell to Balanchine's Last Ballerina

This weekend marks the end of an era in the ballet world.

Darci Kistler was George Balanchine's last ballerina and perhaps the last person to see the ballet legend alive. After being handpicked by Balanchine, Kistler became the New York City Ballet's (NYCB) youngest ever principal dancer at age 17. A WSJ article about her career likens Kistler's position to "being the last actress chosen by Shakespeare to be his Juliet, his Titania, his Ophelia."

After 30 years, Kistler will dance her final performance on Sunday afternoon. She's in four of the performance's five pieces, which were all choreographed by either Balanchine or Peter Martin, the Artistic Director of NYCB and Kistler's husband.

Kistler takes her final bow on Sunday at age 46. In an industry where most people retire in their 30s, she managed to have a career that spans three decades. In retirement, Kistler will continue to teach at the School of American Ballet, sharing her secrets and expertise with future prima ballerinas.

The New York Post has a good article about Kistler's final performance and the New York Social Diary has a beautiful photo essay of Kistler as a young ballerina.
Merde, Darci!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Weekend Pick- June 26/27

New goal: to highlight an area dance performance once a week. So welcome to my first "weekend pick."

My weekend pick is Word Dance Theater at Dance Place in Northeast, DC. According to the website, Word Dance Theater is a multi-media production about the life of Isadora Duncan. For the less dance-savvy, Duncan is considered the founder of modern dance. She insisted on natural movement, unrestricted costumes and the use of emotion in performances. Her revolutionary style has influenced many dancers and choreographers after her.

In Word Dance Theater, which is at 8pm on Saturday and 7pm on Sunday, "the events of Duncan's life are woven together with eleven of her dances which run the gamut from joy to love to patriotism to mourning and to communism."

General admission is $22, but student tickets are $17 and children are $8.

Lady Gaga: The Ballet!

I was in the car for more than 18 hours last weekend driving to and from Rhode Island. And I lost count of the number of times a Lady Gaga song came on the radio. Now I like "Poker Face" and "Alejandro" as much as the next person, but I think "Bad Romance" is really where it's at.

I stumbled upon this YouTube video a couple of months ago, but am still as enthralled with it today. It's a fun studio performance by the Royal New Zealand Ballet and it's downright fierce! Enjoy!

Monday, June 21, 2010

DC Metro Dancer

This video is blowing up the DC blogosphere today. And it's no wonder why. Check out those dance moves!!

Update: We Love DC figured out who the Metro dancer is. His name is Bob Grannan and you can read a full interview with him here. Come to find out, he was listening to the Hairspray perfect?!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Review: Ballet Across America

Last night, I went to see Ballet Across America at the Kennedy Center. If you're in town this weekend and looking for something to do, I highly recommend trying to get rush tickets or just treating yourself because, let's face it, you're worth it. And so is the show.

I saw Ballet Memphis, Ballet Arizona and Pacific Northwest Ballet perform.

Ballet Memphis was first with a piece called In Dreams that premiered in 2007. What I loved most about their performance and what made it arguably my favorite of the night, was that it made me feel like I was smack dab in the middle of Beale Street. The piece was set to music by Roy Orbison, Sam Phillips and Cindy Walker, giving the piece a true southern, Memphis feel. The choreography was very contemporary, even crossing the line into modern at times. But the dancers' movements perfectly mimicked the rhythm of the music and even the inflection of the vocalists. Another really effective element of In Dreams, which was about breaking up with a lover, was the dancers' upper bodies. When dancing alone, the dancers' upper bodies were stiff, erect and almost robot-like. But when the dancers embraced, one dancer would seem to melt, fall back and be supported by the other, losing the stiffness and independence of the earlier movements.

Ballet Arizona's piece Diversions had extremely dramatic music, coloring and movements. Although the dancers were well-trained (talk about some leggy ballerinas!), I was admittedly disappointed with Ballet Arizona's performance. A difficulty of performing with other companies is that the audience has a point of reference. Unfortunately, Ballet Arizona seemed sloppy at times when compared to the other companies. The music in Diversions was very stop-and-go and jarring so it stood out when a dancer was off the music or not in unison with the rest of the corps. Additionally, the piece featured 20 dancers and half the time I did not know where I was supposed to look. I feel like I missed a number of awesome moments because there were so many different things happening on stage and no focal point. However, the piece did have very intricate lifts and it was fun to watch the male dancers move the ballerinas through the air as if they were weightless. The absolute highlight of Ballet Arizona's performance was a pas de deux by Tzu-Chia Huang and Russell Clark. Huang and Clark were the only two people on stage (no distractions!) and the dark lighting and emotional partnering made for an incredibly special moment. They ended hugging in a spotlight and someone behind me actually gasped.

Pacific Northwest Ballet closed out the evening with a piece called 3 Movements, choreographed in 2008 by New York City Ballet principal dancer Benjamin Millepied. Although this piece had a corps of 16 dancers, they were together, their lines were straight and they had very fluid movements. 3 Movements was monochromatic- everyone was wearing gray, white or black. However, what the piece was lacking in color was made up for by sassy choreography. Millepied incorporated the grapevine, cha cha, and other ballroom dance movements into the choreography. The near-constant movement reminded me of a bustling city street. And the costumes contributed to this effect as well. The men were wearing suit pants, button downs and skinny ties and the women all looked like they had stepped out of an American Apparel catalogue. In fact, I'm pretty sure one of the dancers was actually wearing this.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Performance Preview

Some diehard baseball fans travel the country to see different baseball parks. If I had the time and the funding, I would do the same for ballet companies.

Ballet Across America makes that trip less necessary. The ballet companies are coming to me...and you (if you're in DC).

What is Ballet Across America? It's a festival celebrating the diversity of American ballet. Nine ballet companies from all different regions of the country will share the Kennedy Center stage this week. It's like a ballet convention.

I saw Ballet Across America two summers ago and I absolutely had to splurge on a ticket for this, the second installment. I'm seeing Program B featuring Ballet Memphis, Ballet Arizona and the Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Choosing a program was a really difficult decision for me because the Houston Ballet (in Program A) totally knocked my socks off last time around. They performed "Velocity" by Artistic Director Stanton Welch and left me picking my jaw up off the Opera House's floor. I was SO impressed by the athleticism of the male corps de ballet.

Alas, I doubt you'd see a bad performance this week during Ballet Across America. These companies are some of the best.

Here's a preview of Ballet Memphis in rehearsal:

Making of In Dreams from Trey McIntyre Project on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

DC Cowboys

The DC Pride Parade is one of my favorite events of the year. And the DC Cowboys are always my favorite part of the parade. They're incredibly attractive, they dance and they're always high-energy. What's not to like?

The DC Cowboys (@DCCowboys) dance company is an all-male performing arts organization for gay men in its 16th year. The Cowboys combine "traditional country-western with jazz, musical theater, cabaret dance" and did I mention how they're all in phenomenal shape?

You can book the DC Cowboys for events or be sure to check out the BRODEO on Saturday, June 19th at Town in the U Street neighborhood.

Want to learn how to dance like the DC Cowboys? They offer classes on Thursday nights from 7-8:30 p.m. Classes are held at the Church of the Pilgrims Fellowship Hall at 22nd and P. It's $100 for six classes and you can sign up online. Once you've learned the moves, all you'll need is a pair of cutoff jean shorts, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat. Go get it, par'ner!

Review: Blue Eyed Soul Dance Company

Apologies for not getting this review posted more quickly. The end of my week was crazy.

Luckily, I was able to see the Blue Eyed Soul Dance Company in their Millennium Stage performance last Wednesday (I previewed the performance in an earlier post). The company performed two pieces: 1) TAKE; a dance in the park and 2) Sugar.

Both pieces were impressive exercises in teamwork. If you watch the video on the Kennedy Center's website, you'll see that most of the company's performance occurred in the air. In TAKE, the dancers whizzed across the stage in detailed choreographic patterns, narrowly missing each other. My favorite moments were when two dancers worked as partners and began spinning so quickly that it was difficult to determine where one body ended and the other began.

The dancers' movements in TAKE were effortless, but the truth is that maneuvering one's body around the cables requires incredible upper body and core strength. I've gotten flustered trying to dance with props like fans and gift boxes, never mind heavy cables. The aerial movements seemed like something out of Cirque du Soleil and allowed the audience to leave reality behind.

Such fantasy, floating movements in TAKE were juxtaposed by dancer Sally Edwards' performance in Sugar. From my interpretation, Sugar is about overcoming the physical limitations of life. Edwards narrated her performance to help explain the reality of her life with Spina Bifida. I was really moved by how courageous Edwards is, her high level of energy and her ability to dance in her wheelchair. Edwards also had awesomely expressive arms. I hold, and always will, that arms are one of the most emotional, artistic parts of a dancer.

A tourist sitting behind me stumbled upon the performance, but was almost speechless at its end. "I've never seen anything like it," he exclaimed to nobody in particular. I hadn't either.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Performance Preview

I'm crossing my fingers that I can get out of work early tomorrow and go see the Blue Eyed Soul Dance Company at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage. (Side note- if you don't already know, the Millennium Stage has a FREE performance every night of the year. Check it out!)

According to their website, Blue Eyed Soul (@BESdance) is an inclusive dance company with disabled and non-disabled artists of all ages. "The Company aims to create a level playing field where people can step over their threshold of perceived possibility."

The videos of Blue Eyed Soul Dance Company's work are really touching and I think they are important for everyone to see. Dance is not only good exercise. It's an outlet for emotional release and artistic expression.

A passion for dance should not be limited to non-disabled persons. It's refreshing to see that companies like Blue Eyed Soul understand the therapeutic nature of the art and encourage all to get involved.

Tomorrow's performance is part of the 2010 International VSA Festival and begins at 6pm. Can't make it? The video will also be broadcast live and archived on the Millennium Stage website.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ballerina Project

New York City's Ballerina Project is self-described as "a collaborative work of dance, fashion design and photography played out against the city's landscape." In my opinion, the project has produced some of the most breathtaking dance photographs of our time. And more than 34,000 people on Facebook agree with me. I encourage you all to check out the photo albums on Facebook to see the Project's work.

I'd love to see the Ballerina Project do some work here in the District. My top ten DC photo locations (in no particular order) would be:

Do you have any location suggestions?

Old School Music Videos

Last night, I went to a friend's happy hour at Blackfinn downtown. My favorite part about Blackfinn is that they play the music videos for the songs on their playlist. While listening, watching and dancing along, it occurred to me that there's nothing quite like a low budget, old school music video. There was so much more dancing back in the day, while modern music videos resort to the bump and grind.

Case and point: "How Will I Know" by Whitney Houston, which inspired even the most self-conscious of dancers to bust a move last night. Check out the dance sequence at 0:28 seconds.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Wish List

Keep calm and carry on? Try "keep calm and dance on."

This awesome twist on the British World War II propaganda poster is available through the Keep Calm Shop on Etsy for only $14.95. And it's officially also on my wish list.

New Blog

I've been meaning to start a new blog for far too long. But between finishing my undergraduate degree, job hunting and going to rehearsals, the blog just always ended up at the bottom of my 'To Do' list.

And, truth be told, I also struggled with what the topic should be. I kept trying to come up with lofty, impressive topics, but then didn't know where to start. In the end, the answer seemed simple: write about what I'm most passionate about. Dance.

I have a new job, new neighborhood, new apartment and new schedule. It only make sense to add a new blog into the mix. So this is my blog: District Dance. You can expect dance news, industry trends, fun videos and reviews when I'm able to get myself to the theatre. DC has a pretty active dance scene and I look forward to exploring it more.

Let's start things off with an awesome breakdancing video I found a couple of weeks ago, set on DC's infamous Metro system. Enjoy!