Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. Yes, it’s exactly halfway through February, and 12.5% of the way through the year, but its also still a great day to get a New Year’s resolution up and running. So, here we are. While it took a little bit longer than anticipated to get into action this year, “Continuing the Conversation” is back. During the absence some exciting new discussions have been coming up the pipeline, and you can look forward to new articles throughout the coming year.
Our fearless podcast leaders Rebecca and Michael have taken us down memory lane with 2018’s top 5 convos, and already captured some exciting new chats to get this year started. This encapsulation of dance moments and today’s top artists has me reminiscing on the beauty and emotion that dance helps illuminate. What kind of ideas, controversy, and breakthroughs will dance have in store this year, I wonder.
I have been talking with people in the dance industry a lot about the many challenges and controversies that arose within the art form in 2018. As expected, I’ve heard many varying points of view on dance and gender roles, sexuality, harassment, tradition and modernization, and more. The intimacy of the dance community can create beautiful work and collaboration, but it can also blur the lines between professional and personal. And, while this can bring about great art, it can also raise some intense ethical questions.
It’s a lot to digest, so to help, guest contributors will be sharing their experiences through their own words right here. I have some thoughts I’ll be sharing as well. Right now, I’m finding my way back to ballet three years post-retirement, and I’ve got some things to say about it. *Relationship Spoiler: It’s complicated and it hurts.* Visit us each week to read about this, listen to the pod, and catch up on all things dance.
We hope you’ll spread the love today and everyday by SUBSCRIBING below to see all new articles as soon as they go live!
It’s World Ballet Day 2018! As the internet springs to life with dance from around the world, i’m featuring an artist who captures and shares ballet’s beauty every day of the year. paulio sovari’s appreciation for the oft unseen moment is distinct throughout his images. He often features intimate studies of dancers’ limbs, sinewy muscles, or post-performance fatigue. Paulio manages to show us his unique perception of dance in every snapshot. i hope you enjoy exploring his work as much as i do. –AMy
Paulio Sovari was born in Romania and grew up in the United States. He studied at the Interlochen Arts Academy for piano and dance and graduated from the Juilliard School with a BFA in dance. Before he became a member of the Ballett der Oper Graz in Austria for the 2018/19 season, he danced professionally with Aspen Santa Fé Ballet and Staatsballett Berlin. He was also the official photographer of the Staatsballett Berlin and worked with refugee children in workshop presentations.
“Photographing dancers has reminded me of a universal truth that we are the perfect us as we will never be again. We must be open to criticism and becoming better or closer to a technique but never throw away the person, as how they specifically do something can never be recreated by another.”
“My favorite parts to photograph in “dancing life” are the in-between moments that should be secret. It’s the small gestures that people do, which usually go unnoticed and are never celebrated or brought to light…something as simple as a gesture or focus, fastening a tutu, sweating after a performance, a smile or laugh.”
“I document as a photographer. I do my best to capture someone’s essence, their energy, their rarity. I happen to do it in a ‘dance context’ but really, I am simply showing (sometimes even to the subject themselves) that they are enough: valid, interesting, and inspiring.”
See more of paulio and his work by following him on instagram @pauliosovari
I most recently worked with Peter Frame when he staged the Paul Taylor solo from George Balanchine’s Episodes at Miami City Ballet (MCB) in 2014. Learning the solo from Peter was an invigorating process and unlike anything I had worked on before or had previously seen choreographed by Balanchine. I immediately recognized a freedom in this solo that existed outside the parameters of ballet technique. Danced in bare feet, the solo is a series of intricate poses and steps that seem to grow in desperation as the music becomes more and more obscure. The first day in the studio with Peter, he had us gather around and just listen to the strange Webern score. As there were no counts, he wanted us to become incredibly familiar with the music because certain instrumental cues would be the only way to understand the pacing of the piece.
Balanchine was said to describe the solo to Taylor as “like a fly stuck in a glass of milk.” In rehearsals, Peter would expand on that metaphor giving us beautiful imagery as inspiration. In one pose where we faced our palms to our body he described each hand as if we were holding a reflective mirror to our souls. Later in the piece, we scavenged the room as if searching for a lost treasure. In an iconic pose kneeling on the floor with one hand to the sky, Peter would describe how we were meant to be blocking out the sunlight. The solo happens essentially in three parts: the first section repeats itself, the body becoming increasingly desperate to escape it’s torment by the second time the passage is danced. Then, in the third section the dancer thrashes around, at one point completely giving up and sprawling on the floor until he is able to move again with what little energy he has left.
Originally, Balanchine choreographed this eight minute solo on Paul Taylor, a dancer with the Martha Graham company, in 1959. Twenty five years later, Taylor revived his role by selecting Peter Frame from company class to be the first to dance the part since Taylor himself. Peter debuted the role on May 30, 1986 while at New York City Ballet and continued to perform the work for several seasons. The New York Times described his performance: “Mr. Frame- in long white leotard and bare feet – sauntered in, dropped to the floor – emphasizing the volume of his arms – and then jiggled a bit. He seemed here to capture Mr. Taylor’s personal style.” Peter’s restaging of the solo at Miami City Ballet was the first time it was performed since he last danced the role.
Like so many of my colleagues, I was shocked and heartbroken by the passing of Peter Frame last month. As I read the many loving tributes to Peter on social media, it was incredibly moving to see how many people were affected by his loving spirit and soothing guidance. Many stories reflected on Peter’s ability to nurture students, allowing them to feel valued and seen. Others had only met Peter briefly, but he had spoken a phrase or given a comforting word that had stuck with them for years. I was so incredibly fortunate to learn from Peter not only at Miami City Ballet but also as a student at the School of American Ballet (SAB) years ago.
Peter taught the weight training class at SAB twice a week and always had a way of knowing which students needed a little extra guidance and love in his classroom. Coming to SAB, I often felt swallowed in self-doubt and insecurity. Peter picked up on this and would often pull me aside to work on a step he saw me struggling with or give me a word of encouragement while passing in the hallway. In the competitive atmosphere of the school, Peter was a comfort and light to so many of us. At the end of each class, he would ask us to give one word to set as an intention to lead with for the rest of the day. Peter would look straight into your eyes and just nod his head quietly after you spoke. In a moment, you felt more prepared and at ease to tackle whatever came your way. He always thanked the class for sharing with him.
When Peter came down to Miami to set the solo, having someone who was so supportive of me in my adolescent years guide me through the process was incredibly special. Peter encouraged each dancer to find their own unique path and wanted us to show our individual personalities in the solo. He described performing the Episodes solo as an experience that was one of the most “exciting of his career.” As we dug deeper into the part, it was easy to understand why it meant so much to soulful Peter. During the months of working on the piece, the intrinsic struggle and ‘push and pull’ of the piece became almost like a meditation for me. Peter could sense that the solo resonated with me deeply and knew that it was a very rare and exciting opportunity for me in my career. In the years since, I would often run into Peter in New York and he would always bring up our time spent at MCB, telling me how proud he was of me, and happy that I got to experience something that was so special to him.
In a New York Times interview with Peter at the time of his debut, he is quoted as saying ”I’m so happy with this…I love it. I finally feel as if I’ve got all my vitamins. There comes a time when you have to grow. I’ve been doing a lot of searching in the last year. This has given me the freedom to let things go.” Watching the solo now, it strikes me why Peter related to this work so deeply. He breathed his real life struggles into a piece about torment and wrestling with the darkness. After his performance, the Times said “it was fascinating to see Mr. Frame moving from position to position without linkage – crouch to foot-grabbing or tumbling, finally shielding himself from the unknown and jumping up, palms out as he came to rest.” I hope Peter has found his rest now. He is sorely missed by all who knew him and like so many, I will carry his lessons with me always.
Eric Trope is a dancer and choreographer currently with miami city ballet. He has previously danced with Pennsylvania Ballet.
American Ballet Theatre’s promotional video for their upcoming Fall Season was released on Monday, and it has a quintessential New York quality that makes you want to savor the last bit of summer in the city. The film takes ballet to new heights by featuring many of ABT’s rising stars performing on a rooftop with the skyline aglow in the background. In the approaching dusk, the dancers embody the spirit of the seasonal transition that is just around the corner. Watch their radiant energy in the film below.
The 2018 Vail Dance Festival concluded earlier this month, but Conversations on Dance is still reeling from all of the exciting performances and events. Here dancer Andrea Yorita of BalletX shares how five years performing at the Festival have shaped her as an artist.
As I take my first steps onto the stage, there is a fluttering excitement that starts to bubble up into my chest. The slight breeze and the cold scent of crisp air touch my skin, and I hear the rustling of leaves along back edge of the outdoor stage. Then suddenly, the bubble releases and a rush of adrenaline washes over me leaving a vibration in the air that freezes time as I begin to move. This emotional rush is something I feel often when I perform, but Vail, Colorado in the summer amplifies these feelings. It could be the surrounding lush green nature, the other incredible artists that perform in the festival, or the lack of oxygen to my brain; whatever the reason, performing at the Vail Dance Festival always feels unique.
Under the direction of Damian Woetzel, the Vail Dance Festival brings together the world’s dance superstars from all genres to perform in this magical venue, far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life. The festival has given opportunities to dancers that they wouldn’t get elsewhere: to perform in roles they have never done before, dance with new partners, and collaborate with artists, choreographers and other dance forms they had yet to experience. I first performed at the festival in 2014 with BalletX, and since then the company has returned each summer. Seeing dancers who are a staple at the festival every year makes me realize that this quirky little BalletX family I belong to is part of another special dance family in Vail.
At 8,000 feet above sea level, Vail is the most physically demanding place I have ever performed–the altitude is no joke. My first year in Vail, I had no idea what it was going to be like and was unexpectedly affected by the altitude. One rehearsal after running Matthew Neenan’s Increasing, which was premiering that year on the Now: Premieres program, I remember standing in the Vail Mountain School gym and suddenly feeling very sick as the whole room moved. I ended the day connected to an oxygen tank. Since that first rehearsal I have learned how to handle myself in the high altitude. It is extremely dry in Vail so staying hydrated definitely helps, and I make sure to build my stamina before leaving on tour. Dancing with limited oxygen has become a personal challenge, like beating the Bowser level in Super Mario Bros. It is exciting to get through a hard ballet and think, “Yes! I did it!”
Through the years at the festival, I have been able to challenge myself physically and have found new and different depths to my artistry. Performing on an outdoor stage as big as the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater has been a freeing experience. This venue has the ability to feel larger than life, like dancing out in the vast mountains and sky, yet at the same time it generates an intimacy with the audience. This unusual duality allows me to play with finding moments to dance big and send energy into the universe as well as more subtle moments of personal interactions with the other dancers and/or audience members.
The experience has altered my view of the repertoire that BalletX has brought to the festival over the past five summers. It has made me think: How can I show how special I feel when I get to dance with those I love? How do I share my story with people in the front seats as well as people sitting on the lawn in the back? Finding the ability to project my energy but keep it genuine is something I think about a lot now, and this way of approaching my dancing gives it more depth and texture.
A lot of my emotional and artistic realizations also come from being able to watch all of the other dancers perform. Not just the graceful ballerinas, but the modern dancers, tap dancers, traditional Indian dancers, flamenco dancers, and Memphis Jookers. The range of dancing that my fellow artists bring to the festival every year is something I learn from and look forward to seeing.
Meeting all of these dancers that come to the Vail Dance Festival reminds me how special it is to work in the arts. Especially with the strife and conflict seen in the world today, the arts are so important. I am glad that there are dance festivals where people can come to see a wide range of dance and for that evening immerse themselves into a world that is different than their everyday life. People from all different backgrounds and journeys sit next to each other and quietly feel. While the performances may elicit different feelings for each person, the communal experience is, I think, unifying in itself. The dance world is so small, yet it encompasses the culture and beauty of so many different people. The Vail Dance Festival brings these communities together and fills the theater with love night after night.
Follow Andrea on Instagram @yoandie and check out Conversations on dance for recent podcasts from the festival.