The American Ballerina: the 21st century prima

The American Ballerina in the 21st century

What truly does it mean to be an American Ballerina? 
The idea of an American Ballerina isn’t far fetched at all, and actually since the cold war, America has become one of greatest manufacturers of ballet dancers.  While up until the Cold War, ballet was dominated by the Russians.  The history of ballet is funny, because as each generation of prima ballerinas comes to the forefront, they are influenced by culture, society, and what is “popular” in ballet. Today, we are blessed with the wonders of youtube and ballet in cinema, so we can see a variety of ballet dancers instantaneously. So, as a reflection of culture, we now have a true generation of American Ballerinas.

So, we have to kind of set up some conditions that define an American Ballerina:

1. Born in the United States.
2. Trained in the United States.
3. Dances with an American Company.
4. Has achieved the rank of principal dancer.
5. Has contributed to the next generation of dancers.

As we are at a time in ballet that celebrates the most innovate choreography, the most brilliant music, and the most technical phase of ballet, there are two extraordinary women that come to mind:

Tiler Peck and Lia Cirio
Ironically, neither dancer has the typical ballet body type. When we say typical we mean Russian girl body type, or Paris Opera Body type.  Additionally, the two women are completely different.  These two women though have created a new space and new ideal for dance.  Tiler Peck has created a generation of a more jazz meets Balanchine dancer making it possible for competitive studio trained dancers transition into ballet companies and schools. While, Lia Cirio has created an athletic provocative archetype of a prima ballerina. The only two things these women really have in common is really good teeth and a really great smile

The Run Down on these women:

Tiler Peck: sporadic training in the greater Los Angeles area, transitioning to School of American Ballet, joined NYCB in 2004, became a principal in 2009. Gorgeous turns, and fills the stage. First was really seen in the welcome to SAB DVD. Balanchine trained. Subtle sensitivity and sweetness in her approach to roles.
lia cirio american ballerina

Lia Cirio: random school, transitioning to CPYB, joined Boston Ballet in 2004, became a soloist in 2007, joined the Trey McIntyre project, came back to BB in 2010 to become promoted to principal. Banging hyperextension, ferocious arabesque. First major appearance in ballet: YAGP 2003. Classically trained. A body articulate conscious approach to a role.

So what makes these two women stand out compared to say… Hee Seo or Maria Kotchekova? Well, besides the fact that both of these women aren’t born and raised in the US, they are both ridiculously Russian trained, which is gorgeous, I’m not saying that they are awful. I am saying that they fit previous archetype of what a prima ballerina is. While Hee Seo was groomed to take Julie Kent’s place, Maria Kotchekova became the standard of SFB’s short girl. While Misty Copeland has made the compelling presence and awareness of race in ballet, I don’t think her actual dancing is ground breaking. (sorry, I know I am going to hear shit for that) Then we have other leading women in the US: Carrie Imler at PNB creating the athletic look at PNB, Isabella Boylston at ABT has reinvented the Paloma Herrera, but with better arms. Maria Kowroski is like the Balanchine version of Sylvie. Wendy Whelan created the skinny fit athletic body archetype.

As these two women expand their repertory, who knows what they will create for the ballet world? It’s exciting.

In other ballet news: ABT: Paloma Herrera is getting a weird farewell with a matinee performance of Giselle, followed by Xiomara Reyes’s farewell at 7:30.  Totally getting gipped, but maybe her name just doesn’t sell seats? ABT’s PBS special AMERICAN MASTER Series was beyond gorgeous.
NYCB & SFB: have a ridiculously amount of talented people in the ranks of soloists and corps but won’t be promoted until others retire. *cough cough* hang up the pointe shoes *cough cough*
Paris Opera: Natalie Portman’s Baby Daddy is making amazing moves and changes at POB.
PNB: Please promote Leta already.
Atlanta Ballet: Had the most beautiful end to their season.
Milwaukee Ballet: Their version of Cinderella was an okay finish for the season.

Little Jessy is prepping for LA BALLET. Her go fund me is still up, any donations will go towards pointe shoes, leotards etc. http://www.gofundme.com/jessylaballet

Don’t forget to use the code SCIE15 for 15% off Eros Sportswear for Men.

The Guide to FiercenessMy guide to fierceness is almost done. Holla for a dolla!

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Sugar Plums Fairies: The Women of NYCB

With Nutcracker in a frenzy and taking up my Facebook feed, I am always surprised by the wondrous NYCB, headed by Peter Martins. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t agree with everything Artistic Directors do, but Peter, if I can call him that, or Petie would be better, does a pretty good job at making dancers mature. While other people are against putting such young dancers on the stage, NYCB has a record of it. And because of that, we are able to watch dances mature and watch the entire span of a career. As we recently said goodbye to Wendy Whelan, we are left with a roster of principal women who are beyond stunning. So, as they are dying in a million shows of Nutcracker here is my ode to the current women of NYCB, and then some. (All of them in the same role…)

Ashley Bouder and Amar Ramasar
Ashley Bouder and Amar Ramasar

While Ashley Bouder hails as a CPYB alumna and has had praise for a bazillion different things, I think the thing I admire most, is she doesn’t fit the typical NYCB body type. In fact, if you look at the principal women of NYCB, they couldn’t be more different. But Ashley Bouder is like an American muscle car. Shiny, fast, flashy, and sleek. While she is short, and muscular and has usually been cast in power house roles, as she has matured she has developed into this soft leaf floating in the wind… Her in Emeralds was like … well, amazeballs.

tn-1000_06_nutcracker_astafford_c23066-11

Then there is another CPYB alumna, Abi Stafford, who is like the epitome of technical perfection. With her extended lines, her perfect positions, I think she is like the textbook for turnout and lines.

Tiler Peck
Tiler Peck

Tiler Peck, has become like America’s Ballerina. She is jazzy, fun, free spirited, but most of all relentless when tackling a role. While she sometimes irritates me with her facial expressions, she is the most fun to watch of the women of NYCB. She brings this light hearted energy that is quite charming. And I think as her career has progressed, she is the most changed dancer. From when she started, at SAB and we all got the welcome to SAB dvd with her on it… I mean come on… what a change!

Teresa Reichlen
Teresa Reichlen

Teresa Reichlen, is long, and leggy. Compared to Maria Kowroski, she uniquely stands out on her own. Watching her on stage is timeless. I feel like when people refer to our generation of American Ballet dancers she will be one to remember. Though it is sad because I think Kaitlyn Gilliland could have been a lot like her at NYCB.

Sara Mearns
Sara Mearns

Sara Mearns is a beast. I’m like is there anything she can’t do? As she has changed over the past three years, I wonder if her dancing will evolve, or plateau. It is a scary thing watching careers like hers… They boom so fast, and then kind of plateau. I mean I think Ashley Bouder went through the same thing, and then reinvented her dancing. Since her injury, she is more cautious on stage, and definitely more careful, versus when we first saw her premier as this fearless beast.

Sterling Hyltin and Andrew Veyette
Sterling Hyltin and Andrew Veyette

Sterling Hyltin has had to grow on me… At first, I wasn’t a really big fan. And then I saw her in Romeo and Juliet, and if you took away the awful costuming, you realized that she is a superb actress, which sometimes Balanchine ballerinas lack. Then I saw her as Sugar Plum in middle of no where Michigan while visiting a friend and that was pretty much off the chain. She is charming and dazzling, and I really like the way she uses her knees. Not just her plie, but the way she uses her knees to punctuate extensions is really nice.

Rebecca Krohn
Rebecca Krohn

Krohn, is basically the ballet dancer fashion loves. She is everything a model is, uniquely beautiful, and everything a ballerina is: legs, feet, musicality. I have only seen her dance once in person and she wasn’t a principal… so I don’t have that much to say.

Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz
Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz

Megan Fairchild is like this ball of yarn that is kind of wound a little tight, but once she lets go and unravels it is like she becomes someone completely different. While a lot of the time I am not her biggest fan, she is definitely gorgeous on stage. Vulnerability is a good thing for primas an I think she is more of a, I have to take control kind of a dancer.

tumblr craze.
tumblr craze.

Jennie Somogyi is the darker side of ballet. There is something super mysterious about her dancing, fluid and deep. I do think as beautiful as she is a ballet dancer, contemporary definitely suits her better.

Ana Sophia Scheller and Tyler Angle
Ana Sophia Scheller and Tyler Angle

The girl can turn, the girl can balance, the girl has everything. I think though it is time for her to move into a classical company because she was kind of born to do full length ballets, like she is amazing in Kitri and in Esmerelda.

Maria Kowroski and Charles Askegard
Maria Kowroski and Charles Askegard

And then there was Maria Kowroski. As the longest leading lady at NYCB, she is everything. The feet, the flexibility, the musicality, the legs, the flexibility, the face, the dancing, the flexibility, the back, the knees that bend and are soft, those long fingers, the flexibility… haha, yes, I am obsessed with her flexibility, and growing up she was one of the women of NYCB I looked up to. Now, most have retired, and most of the principals at NYCB are my age. She will forever live on as Barbie, and she will be immortalized for her dark angel in Serenade, and because of Chaccone she will always be this little slice of heaven that was given to us.

Now… beware ladies as a new crop of women in the ranks of soloist are bound to become principals very soon: Lauren Lovette, Savannah, Lowery, Lauren King, and  Ashley Laracey are all probably bound for stardom, but I do think CPYB alumna Alexa Maxwell is going to be one as well.

Lexi at CPYB
Lexi at CPYB
And now.
And now.

Leading Ladies of ABT… 2014-2015

American Ballet Theatre is celebrating their 75th Season, and as they are preparing to come to come take residency in NYC, their rosters are set and the casting has been published. As ballet has made a shift towards women again, American Ballet Theatre seems to be a little late on the train. ABT has always been known for their men, but as the trend has transitioned now to fundamentally interesting ballerinas… ABT is just now slowly shifting… Their principal women can be grouped into their classics, their randoms, their guest stars, and new blood, while waiting in the wings are stars in the makings. Their soloist rankings and corps is full of star women waiting to take the limelight… So Kevin needs to start changing things up, or he needs to be replaced. #justsayin

THE CLASSICS:

Paloma Herrera Bloch

Paloma Herrera, At the age of 20, she graced the world as a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre. Her double fouettes where rare, and her tenacity was charming. Her Kitri was so young, naive and flirty. Remember how everyone used to oogle and gawk over her feet? No one cared if she had some crazy velociraptor arms. Then the reviews piled in, and the world fell in love with her. But then, she was almost forgotten. If you didn’t know, this is going to be her last season with American Ballet Theatre, literally 20 seasons later. So, what happened to her? Some say, that as you get older you transition from technician to artist. But for her, I think she just never left that mark. For a while, she had left an impression as Kitri (from the ABT’s Variety and Virtuosity video with Angel, that foot, and those fouettes), but now it has been replaced with Natalia Osipova’s take.

Julie Kent in Apollo ABT

Julie Kent, The legend of Julie Kent goes something along the lines like this: You change your name to sound better. You win the Prix de Lausanne, and other competitions, you rise to fame, star in a series of bad acting movies, and marry ABT’s Associate Director. 29 years later, you still have it. If any of the women at American Ballet Theatre can claim artistry, you are the one. Of her roles I have seen live, by far Terpsichore has been your most charming. There is something to appreciate about Julie Kent, and I feel no one gives her enough credit. She isn’t like others who has a bazillion turns, or extension behind her ear. Her feet aren’t crazy amazing, and she isn’t hyper mobile. Instead she is stunning, artistic and musical. There is something very charming about everything she does, and with a solid technical base, she is the representation of what I think most dancers are. Yes, she has won numerous competitions, but not because she had crazy fouettes, but because she was clean, precise and clever with her musicality.

THE RANDOMS:

Gillian Murphy, Veronika Part, and Xiomara Reyes… So, I didn’t know how else to label these three because they are all quite random in their stories, and their styles. Gillian Murphy caught our eye in her diagonal of triple pirouettes in Corsaire. She came to fame for her campaigns for Gaynor Minden, giving hope to all of the girls with bad feet. She became something to talk about in the TV broadcast of Swan Lake with her triple fouettes. When it premiered I was literally at the dorms of San Francisco Ballet’s Summer Program watching it. Her coda was crazy, and that was about it… Her furrowed eyebrows in white swan didn’t do it. In fact, most everything I have seen her do didn’t do it. That is a lie, I liked her A LOT in Fall River Legend… Questionable as well, her husband is former principal dancer Ethan Stiefel… #justsayin

Then we have Veronika Part, during her Aurora… I fell asleep. Good feet and wears gaynors. Russian trained and gorgeous in the face, accent to die for, and appeared on TV with Letterman, her body is actually extremely beautiful on stage. Truthfully, I have only seen her dance in Swan Lake and the Sleeping Beauty and both times, I was not very entertained. But she is pretty to look at.

Then we have Xiomara Reyes, who I have no clue why she is a principal.  Like, I know this entire post seems like I am the Perez Hilton of ballet, but I have no clue why she became a principal…. Everyone else I understand why they were promoted… but then there is her… and I am dumbfounded. I can not even begin to understand Kevin’s choices sometimes…. Unless, she has a huge sponsor.

THE GUEST ARTISTS:

Polina Semionova and Diana Vishneva… Goddesses in their own rights, I feel like these two women can do no wrong in ballet. Even if both women aren’t full time principals with ABT, they are both stunning. Since ABT has been having a revolving roster of principal women, it is great to see that these two are making more frequent appearances… Even if there are plenty of women who would be great principals within the company…

THE NEW BLOOD: 

Thank the Lord for the newest principals of American Ballet Theatre: Isabella Boylston and Hee Seo. The two couldn’t be more different, but both equally poised to be principals. Isabella Boylston is dark, mysterious and sensual. Hee Seo is romantic, charming and airy. While I think Hee Seo is being groomed to replace Julie Kent, Boylston has set her own path at ABT. Both women I think are on the road to become great and lasting ballerinas.

Now the reality… ABT has two types of women… The women who get stuck, and the women who are on the fast track. Kevin McKenzie has obviously shown a track record of promoting women fast through the ranks, and promoting people and then the women get stuck. Misty Copeland and Stella Abrera have been stuck as soloists for a while, where their newly arrived counter parts Christine Schevchenko and Devon Teuscher are fast tracking it…I think Christine and Devon are being groomed to replace Gillian and Paloma. Oh and Sarah Lane, but I don’t really think of her as anything one way or the other. To be honest, I think she was only promoted because of her height and potential, but after the black swan fiasco, I haven’t really heard or seen anything great about her. While Misty Copeland is being pushed publicly to become a principal, new young blood in the corps has already been made a priority for the company. April Giangeruso, Gemma Bond, Luciana Paris, are being used quite a bit in leading roles. And very new to the company Catherine Hurlin and Hannah Marshall are both potential soloists in the makings… In the corps though, there are plenty of women who deserve promotions but I don’t think will ever get their chance Zhong-Jin Fang, a prix winner, Melanie Hamrick, Leann Underwood are three extremely beautiful dancers who should dance more. I honestly thought Underwood was on the fast track when she joined the company, but nothing has come to fruition… It is sad that ABT has tons of potential women to use but has yet to utilize them. (At least NYCB uses tons of their new talents, and has the repertory to showcase their corps.) So, as the season unfolds here’s to hoping for promoting Misty Copeland…