ROBERTO BOLLE AT THE PIAZZA SAN MARCO

Roberto Bolle and Friends are performing July 27th at the Piazza San Marco in Venice, as part of a gala to benefit the National Trust for Italy. The way the Italians talk about him, he must be so beloved there. Someday I must go see him dance in his native country…

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NATALIA OSIPOVA NOW ELECTRIFIES COPPELIA AT THE ROYAL OPERA HOUSE

Wow, no summer break for Natalia Osipova. She’s now back dancing with the Bolshoi, who are currently performing at the Royal Opera House in London. The Guardian’s Judith Mackrell is awed by her Coppelia. I can only imagine; this seems like a perfect role for her.

Photo by Tristram Kenton.

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NATALIE PORTMAN'S "BLACK SWAN" WILL PREMIERE AT THE VENICE FILM FESTIVAL SEPTEMBER 1

Visit the Examiner for more details and a slide show including a few more pics from the movie. Photo above looks rather creepy imo … which I guess goes along with the genre.

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JARED MATTHEWS AND YURIKO KAJIYA ON SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE

The fabulous Jade Young has sent me new headshots he took of ABT soloists Jared Matthews and Yuriko Kajiya, who performed a Don Quixote pas de deux last night on So You Think You Can Dance. What did you guys think of them?

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GUEST POST BY BEA LESACA: HOW SALSA MADE ME APPRECIATE HIP HOP MORE

Hey, everyone. Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Bea Lesaca, a b-girl and hip hop dancer who writes for HardKnockRadio. Her guest post is about how salsa made her appreciate her own dance style more. Here’s Bea:

How Salsa Made me Appreciate Hip Hop More

Having been break dancing for a good chunk of my adult life, I couldn’t help but actually take it for granted. It was probably due to years of doing the same thing over and over again, making it as routine as going grocery shopping. I know I’m the only one to blame but going through a rut like that; I would like to think, is a necessary part of a dancer’s growth.

See, aside from bgirling, I never tried other types of dance, even the ones under Hip Hop. Honestly, I was a little too scared to venture off into unchartered territory when I already found a niche that I fit right in. I used to think that it was understandable because why bother learning new tricks when the ones I already got has given me enough props I thought I needed (which is wrong btw).

So years passed (with my mentality like that) until I met a DJ friend that went Salsa dancing. We always saw each other at jams and clubs where she spinned and every time we bumped into one another, she would invite me to hit up a salsa class with her. I always said I would think about it, but in the back of my mind I knew it was a resounding hell no! Aside from thinking how salsa was ballroom, I also couldn’t fathom a break dancer like myself getting jiggy with the old folks.

But after consistent prodding from my friend, I ended up going and actually having a great time. It turned out that the misconceptions I had about salsa were just that, misconceptions. I arrived at the place where the classes were held and saw people with ages that ranged from early 20’s to late 40’s of different nationalities just groovin’ to the music. I didn’t know that salsa appealed to that many people! Salsa classes became part of my weekly ritual and it was great. Not only did salsa boost my confidence but it also allowed me to experiment more with the genre I was already active in: Hip Hop.

Every time I feel like there’s a new kind of Hip Hop dance I want to learn, I now think to myself that if I could pull salsa off, what more with this? The expansion to my dance environment wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for salsa. I learned how to appreciate more the genre I belonged to, making me aware of the different dimensions I am capable of.

Bea spends her free time thinking of freestyle rap lyrics. Check out her latest post on the top 100 rap songs at HardKnockRadio.com.

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NILAS MARTINS QUIETLY RETIRES FROM NYCB

According to the New York Times Arts Beat blog, Nilas Martins, longtime principal with New York City Ballet (and son of Artistic Dir. Peter Martins) has retired. Without a farewell performance, without flowers, without fanfare. The story is that he has a knee injury and suffered continuing problems with that, and ended up getting a job with the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at Kennedy Center and just didn’t feel up to coming back and giving a final performance. I can’t say I blame him. He’d received so much criticism the past couple years he probably just didn’t want to see the onslaught of newspaper articles. I want to write a larger post about this, but I received a recent comment on one of my prior posts on a NYCB retirement (that I now can’t seem to find) about how the critics were too negative with  the retirements, writing about the dancers’ faults toward the end instead of their entire career.

It’s a real issue.

I do believe, as Arlene Croce famously said, that a critic’s duty in a democracy is to be critical. But on the other hand, I feel like maybe different standards should apply for the retirement performances. The person is retiring, do their current weaknesses at the end of their long career and the fact that they’re not dancing as well as they did in their twenties and early thirties really need to be focused on? It’s probably easily assumed by the public that they’re not dancing as well as they once did.  And poor Yvonne Borree – the critic assigned to cover her farewell was the youngest on staff; too young to have seen Borree dance in her prime, so all she could say, apart from describing the performance, was that she as a viewer couldn’t ever connect with her. And she should have said what she felt without buttering it up; she’s a journalist not a publicist. But couldn’t they have found someone who’d followed Borree’s career and saw what had been so special about her cover her final performance?

Anyway, more thoughts on this later. For now, I wish Nilas a successful arts management career in DC.

Above photo from the Daily News.

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SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE WEEK 6 – THE SEASON OF INJURIES CONTINUES

Ok, where is Billy?

Cat announces that this is the 150th episode, so they have a giant birthday cake. Wow has the show really been on for five years?

Kenny Ortega is joining as a judge tonight.

Argh! So, Billy has hurt his knee and, though the doctor says he’s okay to dance, he doesn’t feel he can. He’ll be in the bottom three tomorrow night.

First on are Lauren and Twitch in a Tabitha Napoleon hip hop. This was fun. Loved those somersaults – wow, what form she has! She really had the attitude down, and you can tell she worked really really hard. Every movement was right on the beat, was totally sharp. She actually stood out to me more than Twitch, which is saying a lot with a hip hop routine.

Next are Jose and Allison in a contemporary routine by Sonya Tayeh. Wow, Allison! She is really blowing me away. That was SO Sonya Tayeh; she did that perfectly.

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DANCE AND ART IN WILLIAMSBURG THIS WEEKEND

My friend Alyssa is an independent arts curator and she has a show this Friday and Saturday night in Williamsburg that may be of interest to my NY-based dance peeps.

It’s a collaboration between artist Sarah Olson and choreographer  Cori Kresge (who is a member of the Merce Cunningham Repertory Understudy Group and of the Merce Cunningham teaching faculty) called “Galvanic Folklore From the Accelerating Universe: an Evening of Dance and Music Inspired by Scientific Theories and Evolutionary Fantasies.” There will be a reception each evening preceding both of the 8:00 performances and Olson’s art exhibition, “A Two Night Stand: the Birds and the Trees,” which is a response to the choreography, will be on display.

Go here for more details.

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ALVIN AILEY'S DENISE JEFFERSON HAS PASSED AWAY

I received word yesterday that Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Denise Jefferson passed away over the weekend. She was one of the three women (along with Judith Jamison and Sylvia Waters) to whom Mr. Ailey had entrusted the future care of his dance company at the time he passed away. She was currently heading the Alvin Ailey School. She died of ovarian cancer. She was 66. How sad.

Click on the link below to read AAADT’s press release.

(Above photo by Andrew Eccles).

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MARCELO IN FIRE ISLAND

Here’s a photo fabulously informative reader Jonathan sent me of our Marcelo Gomes dancing this past weekend in the Fire Island Dance Festival. I was unable to attend unfortunately. This is the festival Danny Tidwell had danced in last year but I am told he did not dance this year as he is touring with Rasta Thomas’s “Bad Boys.” Other dancers however included Travis Wall and Nick Lazzarini (So You Think You Can Dance winner from season one). Argh. Someday I am going to have to make it out there to this festival. It’s just that it always occurs right after ABT season is over and I’m pooped by then. Plus this year I had book stuff to deal with…

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DAVID HALLBERG ON DANCEPULP!

HERE!!

Above photo by Erin Baiano from The Winger.

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MY FRIEND TAYLOR GORDON IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

There’s an interactive feature with my friend, dancer Taylor Gordon, in the New York Times today. She talks about her career as a freelance ballet dancer – from performing in Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular to taking extra work in ABT Met season productions, to venturing into jazz and contemporary roles. Yay Taylor!

And here is the full article by Claudia La Rocco.

Photo above by Rosalie O’Connor, taken from Explore Dance.

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SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE WEEK 5, OR POST ALEX, SOB!

Photo from Jonathan (which Alex posted on Twitter).

Uh-oh, where’s Ashley? Oh, another injury – a rib problem. So, she’ll be in the bottom three tomorrow night, could suffer same fate as Alex.

First on is Lauren dancing a Tahitian dance with Mark Kanemura. Wow, fun costumes. And music! At first I couldn’t take my eyes off of him, and then I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. It was repetitive movement — knees shaking for the man, hip shaking both side to side and front to back for her. It looked simple but that kind of movement takes precision and concentration to pull off because it is so repetitive and so fast. It’s the type of movement that could look really sloppy if you lose your concentration, you know? Mia says Lauren looked like a “duck in heat.” Hmmm.

Next, Adechike and Anya dance salsa. Wow, some really difficult lifts – I think this is the first overhead one we’ve seen this season, and perhaps even on the show? I mean that was a full-out overhead lift, like you see in classical ballet. And that opening throw and catch with a double twist in the air. It was really exciting to me, but I think the tricks kind of took over and made it difficult for Adechike to concentrate on getting his basic movement right. He was fine and he did all of those crazy tricks right and well, but the hips weren’t all there. It just wasn’t the sexy salsa I’m used to in competitions and in clubs.

Next, Jose and Courtney do a Broadway routine. Well, he did a jump in the air with a multiple turn that was exciting. But that was all to me, unfortunately. He just didn’t have the polish, there was no pizzazz with those jazz hands, the line wasn’t there – his barrel turn was just not a proper barrel turn at all. I mean, he looked like a regular person dancing that. As the judges said, it just showed how little dance training he has.

Now, Robert and Allison do a contemporary routine. Wow, well that’s the first time Allison has really blown me away.

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SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE TOUR DATES ANNOUNCED

I don’t know what I’d do without my Facebook friend and longtime reader Jonathan! He sent me this link announcing the schedule for the upcoming SYTYCD tour. (Thank you, as always, Jonathan, and so nice to meet you the other night at ABT!)

So looks like they’ll be at Radio City Music Hall for one night, which good because if I decide to go I don’t have to schlepp all the way out to Nassau Coliseum again.

UPDATE: Here’s another website where you can keep updated on tour dates.

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IS SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE "CULTURALLY RADICAL"?

Here’s an interesting perspective from the Huffington Post’s Miles Mogulescu on So You Think You Can Dance:

“Here, the culture wars of the past 30 years appear over, at least for an hour or two, and the progressive side–which has stood for racial equality, gender equality, and gay rights–is the undisputed winner, without the need even to overtly comment about it. I’m not sure what Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, or the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal would have to say if they were watching. But then, Rupert Murdoch has never been known to let his conservative political views get in the way of making a buck.”

I’m not sure that I agree with him that the show represents a huge but unspoken triumph for women’s or gay rights but I find the race issue interesting because I’ve had several people comment on my own Huffington Post pieces on the show saying how great it is that blacks and whites and Asians and Latinos are all dancing together without issue. I guess I never even noticed because it’s so ridiculous to think that it should be any other way. And it’s not, in New York. Is it still in other parts of the country??? I mean, really, both on the concert dance stage and in social dance clubs there just doesn’t seem to be a race issue, unless I really have my head up my butt…

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I WRITE LIKE … NABOKOV?!

I write like
Vladimir Nabokov

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Okay, I’m having a bit too much fun with this, which I just saw on Galley Cat. When I put in a couple paragraphs from the opening pages of my novel, I got Nabokov. Which was kind of funny – thought for sure I’d get Nick Hornby or Helen Fielding or perhaps Martin Amis. But Nabokov?! But then when I put in an excerpt from one of my blog posts I got J.K. Rowling. Hmmmmm.

I write like
J. K. Rowling

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Try it, it’s ridiculous fun!

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MORE PHOTOS OF OSIPOVA AND HALLBERG IN ROMEO AND JULIET

Some more photos of Natalia Osipova and David Hallberg in Osipova’s Romeo and Juliet debut at ABT Saturday. Both photos by Gene Schiavone. The second one shows one of the moments I wrote about loving in my review. So sweet!

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CARLOS ACOSTA TURNING TO MODERN DANCE

I was just about to suggest – to beg rather – Kevin McKenzie to try to lure Carlos Acosta back to ABT since, in light of this season’s slew of principal injuries, we clearly need more big men; plus, I’ve never seen Acosta dance and am really dying to! But then my friend Susan sends me this.

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ALVIN AILEY DANCERS TO PERFORM ON SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE THIS THURSDAY

I’ve just received word that Alvin Ailey dancers Jamar Roberts and Rachael McLaren (photos above by Andrew Eccles) will be appearing on this Thursday’s results show of So You Think You Can Dance. They’ll be performing an excerpt from Ulysses Dove’s Bad Blood. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that dance but have always found Dove’s work very captivating. Plus, Jamar’s one of my favorites. Exciting!

Also, for New York audiences, Alvin Ailey will be performing in Central Park’s free SummerStage series on July 23rd and 24th, both nights at 8pm. By the way, this year marks the 25th anniversary of SummerStage.

Also for NYers, the Ailey Extension is offering a buy five get one free deal on classes through the end of July in celebration of the school’s 5th anniversary. Go here for more info.

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OSIPOVA AND HALLBERG IN ROMEO AND JULIET

Here are a couple of photos of Natalia Osipova and David Hallberg at curtain call yesterday after her debut as Juliet, taken by Len Zernov from The Faster Times. I’m hoping to receive more photos soon and will post them asap! Read Marina Harss’s review of Osipova (she compares Osipova with Paloma Herrera) here.

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THE DUELING JULIETS: NATALIA OSIPOVA VERSUS DIANA VISHNEVA

So Saturday was another double feature for me, as for many ABT fans. And it was a fun double-header with the Russian women – the Bolshoi versus the Kirov, if you will – kind of going at each other :)  Natalia Osipova (top photo) made her debut as Juliet, opposite David Hallberg’s Romeo during the matinee, and in the evening, Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes took the leads.

I can’t say I liked one over the other, though they were very very different. It was Osipova’s debut and Vishneva has performed it many times so the evening Juliet was a bit more sophisticated. But Osipova will grow into it and eventually make it her own. I think Osipova’s Juliet was much more girlish, cuter, particularly at the beginning, than I’ve seen her danced before. She practically ran from Paris when her parents first introduced them. Vishneva was girlish too but not as much; she knew it was time for her to be married and she was trying to be mature and ready herself.

Osipova tried hard to act the part well though, and I love that about her. She always does that. It’s not just about the dancing; she’s an actress too. And one huge thing I love about her is how well she works with David Hallberg.

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SWALLOW RECEIVES A VERY GOOD REVIEW IN THE EXAMINER!

By Maureen Linehan:

“Tonya Plank’s debut novel, Swallow, is as engaging as any book I have read. Although it does seem to be a little long at first (just over 400 pages), the character development is so appealing that once you start reading you find yourself eagerly anticipating what will come next, as you will undoubtedly sympathize with Sophie, and hope that she finds peace.”

Read the rest here!

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A VERY SWEET REVIEW, FROM A MAN, WHO I DON'T KNOW!!!

Hehehe, I was having a crap day, and this completely changed that!

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SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE WEEK 4

Ugh, how heartbroken am I that Alex Wong is injured and may have torn his Achilles tendon. If he’s out permanently I’m going to be so upset; he was the main reason I’m so into the show this season. I guess we’ll find out tonight…

I also can’t believe Nigel basically chastised audiences for putting Robert in the bottom three last week. I understand Nigel was only trying to tell people Robert’s not arrogant, as his internet research has led him to believe is why people aren’t voting for him. I’ve never thought he was arrogant but more that he just doesn’t have the expansiveness and breadth of other contemporary dancers. But people don’t like being told what to think and I think Nigel may have just made it more difficult for Robert.

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ABT TO MAKE HISTORIC CUBA VISIT

According to this online newspaper, ABT is to perform in the Havana Festival in October. And according to this blog post, some members of New York City Ballet will join them. I can’t remember if I’ve heard this news before, but it sounds familiar.  It doesn’t seem to be posted on ABT’s website though. Anyway, ABT hasn’t toured Cuba since 1960. It’s all part of the 90th birthday of Alicia Alonso celebrations. Wow. Lucky dancers – I’m so jealous! I’ve wanted to go to Cuba for a long, long time.

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SELECTIVE MUTISM AND GLOBUS HYSTERICUS

I just saw this review of my novel. It was posted a month ago, but somehow I’d missed it.

It’s interesting because Rae says she can identify with my protagonist, Sophie, because she had something similar called selective mutism. I hadn’t heard of that before and so looked it up. It’s where a child doesn’t speak in certain situations, although the child can speak and does so at other times. It’s an anxiety disorder, as is Globus. Interesting because I remember having something similar when I was a child. I remember my father thinking I had a speech impediment and having me enrolled in a speech class in … I think it was either kindergarten or first grade. I was in a special ed class with kids who had severe lisps and couldn’t pronounce groups of words properly. The teacher told my parents that wasn’t what was wrong with me and the class wasn’t helping me. I don’t remember what happened, but eventually it must have gone away. I’m just now remembering it.

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WHAT INSPIRES YOU? DANCERS AND CONVICTS OF COURSE!

There’s a short interview with me, about my book, up on Kipp Poe’s blog.

I met Mr. Poe, an author, on the Kindleboards, which I’ve just recently found. If you have a Kindle, or have downloaded a Kindle app onto another kind of e-reader, it’s an excellent message board where you can chat with other Kindle owners and readers, as well as authors of Kindle books. If you don’t have some kind of e-reader – I can’t believe I’m saying this – but I highly recommend one. A lot of e-books are really low-priced compared to physical books (owing to the comparatively low production and distribution costs), and I’ve found reading books digitally surprisingly enjoyable, which I never thought I’d say. They’re easy to fit in your bag, you can read anywhere because of the internal light, and, like I said, you can buy books for a small fraction of the regular price.

About a year and a half ago, when I needed a new cell phone, I bought  an iPhone and downloaded the various e-reader apps to test how I’d like reading books digitally. I didn’t think I would but I needed a new phone and was sick of T-Mobile so I figured what the hell. Now I read so much on my iPhone – not everything but a great deal. You can buy Kindle books (if you have an Amazon account) directly through the phone without having to be connected to a computer. And of course they download right away; no waiting for delivery. Only real drawback of the iPhone is the short battery life… I’ve heard the Kindle and iPad don’t have those problems though.

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HEE SEO PROMOTED TO SOLOIST AT ABT!

According to the Korea Times, Hee Seo has (finally!) been promoted to soloist at ABT! :D

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LAST WEEK AT ABT: ROMEO AND JULIET

So, this is the last week of ABT’s Met season, and they are closing out with my favorite, Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet. My recommended casts are both performances on Saturday – Natalia Osipova is debuting as Juliet in the matinee, dancing opposite David Hallberg, and that evening is the lovely Diana Vishneva (who has really been blowing me away this season), with Marcelo Gomes as her Romeo. (Angel Corella was originally scheduled to be Vishneva’s Romeo but he is injured). Also, the Wednesday afternoon cast is good — Hee Seo, who is one of my current favorite Juliets, dances with Corey Stearns. Tonight is your only chance to see Herman Cornejo as Mercutio — he’s my favorite for that part. The leads are Marcelo and Juliet Kent. Go here for the full schedule.

Here is a recently-added YouTube of various clips of La Scala’s production of the same ballet, starring Corella and Alessandra Ferri (my favorite ballerina ever in that role).

Photo at top of David Hallberg as Romeo and Herman Cornejo as Mercutio, by Fabrizio Ferri.

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MEDALISTS ANNOUNCED IN USA INTERNATIONAL BALLET COMPETITION

Medalists in this year’s USA International Ballet Competition, held in June in Jackson, Mississippi, have recently been announced. This is one of the most prestigious ballet competitions in the world. People from all over the world compete, as you can see by this list of winners and their home countries. It has launched the careers of many current greats, including, probably most famously, Jose Carreno, whom I just blogged about in my last post.

So, congrats to these winners, many of whom I’m sure we’ll be seeing in the future.

Photo above of Cao Shuci, from China, gold medalist in women’s senior division, by Richard Finkelstein.

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