The Art Of Tragedy: Giselle

Rachel Malehorn, Davit Hovhannisyan, Luz San Miguel

Davit Hovhannisyan and Luz San Miguel in the studio working on Michael Pink’s Giselle. Photo by Rachel Malehorn

by Rachel Malehorn

Dancers who join classical ballet companies will be a part of the centuries-old tradition of the full-length ballet. These evening-long works not only showcase the brilliance of classical ballet technique, but also set this dancing in a dramatic context with the goal of telling a story. Even an audience member who has no background or understanding of dance can get lost in these stories, and can leave the theater transformed. Dancers spend years of their lives endeavoring to perfect their technique, but sometimes their power as actors and actresses can be overlooked or de-emphasized. The stories our ballets tell are magical, fantastic, romantic, tragic, and sometimes difficult. Throughout my career as a dancer, I have come to love and look forward to the dual opportunity to dance with accuracy—and also to convey the drama of these stories.

As Milwaukee Ballet prepares for its upcoming performances, I have been meditating on two important themes: the process wherein dancers and choreographers communicate the story of a full-length ballet, and the importance of telling these stories—even if they don’t always have happy endings. Romeo & Juliet, Manon, Onegin, Madame Butterfly, and even La Bayadere are classic tales of thwarted love, in which the tragic heroines suffer death or disaster as the price of their love.

But perhaps the epitome of the tragic ballet is Giselle, created in Paris at the peak of Romanticism. In this story, Giselle, a peasant girl, is wooed by Albrecht, an aristocrat in peasant disguise, but is driven to madness and death by the discovery that Albrecht is already engaged to be married to Bathilde, also an aristocrat. When Albrecht visits Giselle’s grave to beg for forgiveness, the Wilis – ghosts of other girls who have died of broken hearts – compel Albrecht to dance himself to death, but Giselle (seemingly inexplicably, and most definitely tragically) saves Albrecht from death and forgives him for his betrayal. At its core, Giselle is chilling, heartbreaking, and achingly beautiful.

Michael Pink’s Giselle

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Hubbard Street 2 Hits the Road: European Tour 2015

Hubbard Street 2

Left: Jugendstil-Festhalle, Landau in der Pfalz. Photo by Andrea Thompson. Middle: Hubbard Street 2 dancers in Aschaffenburg, from left: Katie Kozul, Zachary Enquist, Elliot Hammans, Jules Joseph and Adrienne Lipson. Photo by Andrea Thompson. Right: Sketch by audience member of HS2 performance in Heerlen, the Netherlands, signed by the company. Photo by Zachary Enquist.

by Andrea Thompson

After a whirlwind tour of three central European countries in late February and early March, regular 4dancers contributor and Hubbard Street 2 Dancer Andrea Thompson found a quiet spot and answered some questions about the experience.

Where did you go?

We flew into Frankfurt and drove around Germany to perform in Rüsselsheim, Landau, Aschaffenburg, Idar-Oberstein and Essen. After that we drove across the border to Heerlen in the Netherlands, and then flew to our last stop in Treviso, Italy.

How long did you stay in each city?

Just long enough to arrive and sometimes have a workshop that day, then tech and perform the following day. We stayed longer in Rüsselsheim because we had an acclimation day there when we landed, and we had a day off in Landau as well.

What was a typical day on tour like?

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Images From The Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake

There’s nothing quite like watching a performance of Swan Lake, especially when it is danced beautifully. Tonight, The Royal Ballet will perform this historic ballet on cinema screens across the nation. We are delighted to be able to share some of the beautiful imagery with you here as a “sneak preview” of what is to come…

If you are interested in seeing this production, you can find tickets here.

Natalia Osipova as Odette, Matthew Golding as Prince Siegfried, Swan Lake, ROH, Photo by Alice Pennefather

Natalia Osipova as Odette, Matthew Golding as Prince Siegfried, ROH Swan Lake, Photo by Alice Pennefather

Swan Lake 2012 ROH

Photo courtesy of ROH

Swan Lake 2012 ROH Approved

Photo courtesy of ROH

Natalia Osipova-Odette; Matthew Golding-Prince Siegfried; Gary Avis-Von Rothbart, ROH Swan Lake, Photo by Alice Pennefather

Natalia Osipova-Odette; Matthew Golding-Prince Siegfried; Gary Avis-Von Rothbart, ROH Swan Lake, Photo by Alice Pennefather

SWAN LAKE; The Royal Ballet, Approved

The Royal Ballet, Swan Lake, Photo by ROH Bill Cooper

SWAN LAKE; The Royal Ballet, Approved

The Royal Ballet, Swan Lake, Photo by ROH Bill Cooper

Natalia Osipova as Odette, Matthew Golding as Prince Siegfried, Swan Lake, Photo by Alice Pennefather

Natalia Osipova as Odette, Matthew Golding as Prince Siegfried, Swan Lake, Photo by Alice Pennefather

Disclosure: 4dancers accepts compensation to promote this series.


Dancing With The Stars – No Excuses!


by Catherine L. Tully

I typically don’t write too many personalized posts on this site, but today will be an exception–because today I’d like to share an inspiring story that has to do with dance. Today I’d like to talk about the upcoming season of Dancing With The Stars, but more specifically, about Noah Galloway.

Noah first came to my attention in November of 2014 when he won the Men’s Health magazine contest for the “Ultimate Men’s Health Guy” and graced the cover. This marked the first time an amputee had ever done so. You see, Noah is a US Army veteran that lost part of his left arm and left leg in a Humvee accident in Iraq.

And now he’s going to dance.

I think that his story is remarkable, not just because he rose above his injuries, but because he battled through a dark time first. He somehow dug deep and found the strength to go on after it seemed he had given up. He had been discouraged and depressed, and yet here he is…on television…dancing.

Noah has served as an inspiration to many people, including me. I have an autographed copy of Men’s Health in my office with the words “No Excuses!” scrawled across the cover in silver–a message that reminds me to steel my reserve and keep going when things get tough.

After all, if he can do it–I certainly can.

We reached out to Noah and asked him a few questions about his upcoming dancing debut. He was kind enough to share a few thoughts with us here…

When you were contacted by Dancing With The Stars, how did you feel about signing on?

My first thought was why not? I like challenging myself. This is nothing I would have considered if it wasn’t brought to my attention. It’s definitely going to be a challenge worth accepting.

Did you have any prior dance experience?

None. At all.

Tell us about your partner and what she brings to the partnership…

An open mind. In the short time I’ve known her, I see in her the same mentality I have. Here’s an obstacle, how are we going to get around it – instead of being intimidated by it.

What has it been like to rehearse for this show?

Interesting, new and fun.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced during this process?

Everything I’ve done in the past has been physical challenges. I’ve never had to perform and that has been the greatest struggle.

Do you view dancers any differently now because of your experience with DWTS?

No, I’ve always had respect for dancers and how hard they work and how dedicated they are. I’ve always been impressed with what dancers have always been able to do, but never saw myself as being able to do the same.

What has been the most rewarding part about this process?

I’m actually learning how to dance. I’m also hoping to make my kids proud.

You can see Noah Galloway and his partner Sharna compete on ABC Monday nights at 8/7 C. Follow them online or tweet about the performance using the hashtag #TeamShway.

You can also follow Noah on Facebook.


The Bolshoi’s Anna Nikulina – On Dancing Juliet

The Bolshoi's Romeo & Juliet, Photo by Damir Yusupov.

The Bolshoi’s Romeo & Juliet, Photo by Damir Yusupov.

Today we have something special for you – the Bolshoi Ballet’s Anna Nikulina talks about what it’s like to dance the role of Juliet…

What are the challenges in preparing for the role of Juliet?

For me most likely the biggest challenge in preparing for Juliet was that the actual ballet goes by too quickly. The performance is only two hours and it is hard to live through this role for such a short period of time, beginning with Juliet as a young girl, only 14 years old and to go through such a difficult journey in love, suffering, and death. And because there are so many different sides and emotions and to have to release all this in one performance was probably the most difficult thing.

What do you enjoy most about dancing this role, and how is it different than other lead roles?

I would say that Juliet is a true role, because in performances there are “parts” and there are “roles.” And I think I enjoy the difficulty in it both physically and emotionally. Juliet is a young girl and then falls in love with Romeo and there are difficult aspects of this role physically, but in reality it is not the most difficult in terms of technique; there are certainly harder roles. But to live through it is hard – you can keep rehearsing this again and again, and with each rehearsal, you discover new things and new sides of Juliet that you can reveal. This is what I enjoy most.

There needs to be a special bond with your partner (Romeo) for this ballet. Is it difficult to create this? Do you do anything specific to make it happen?

Regardless, I try to live through the performance with Romeo and soon you get this feeling, slowly, not right away that occurs between two people, and I remember that once Yuri Nikolaevich Grigorovich said to me during rehearsal that he saw a certain chemistry between us. And I truly started to fall in love during this time, in love with Sascha Volchkov as Romeo. And I felt really as though I loved him. But this was of course during rehearsals (laughs). And I think Sascha had a similar experience. We had a special and unique connection and I actually would not have preferred to dance this ballet with anyone else at the time.

Can you explain the role of the music in this ballet? Do you have any favorite sections?

The role of the music is truly enormous and it is genius. And you can live through all your emotions through this music. My favorite part is probably the balcony scene and the end of Act II, because it is so tragic and when you listen to the music without dancing it is amazing itself but when you are able to move and emote to it, it is truly amazing.

This is an extremely emotional ballet. What specific things do you use to communicate your emotions to the audience clearly?

Your coach is very helpful in this process because when you are rehearsing, you are expressing emotions and it is important for these emotions to be visible, so your coach can really help to determine whether you are delivering those emotions enough to reach the audience. There are times when you think you are expressing everything you can, even through movement, but you realize that what you are trying to express isn’t always clear. To express emotions, the coach’s eye is very important. Also, Zeffirelli’s film really helped me and inspired me in my interpretation of Juliet.

Viewers across the US have the opportunity to see Anna Nikulina perform Juliet at the cinema – the Bolshoi Ballet will be on the big screen for one performance only on March 8th! Search here for a theater near you.

BIO: Anna Nikulina was born in Moscow. In 2002, she completed her training at the Moscow State Academy of Choreography (teacher Elena Vatulya) with distinction and joined the Bolshoi Ballet Company. She rehearsed under the late Yekaterina Maximova. In 2004, at the age of 19, she danced Odette-Odile for the first time. Today her teacher-repetiteur is Nina Semizorova.

She took part in the Bolshoi Theatre Studio of New Choreography project, dancing Aurora in Riccardo Drigo’s Rosary pas de quatre from the ballet The Awakening of Flora (choreography Marius Petipa, reconstruction Yuri Burlaka) and the Carpets pas de quatre from Cesar Pugni’s ballet The Humpbacked Horse (choreography Alexander Gorsky, reconstruction Yuri Burlaka; 2004), and likewise — with Denis Savin — she appeared in the number Acquisition to music by Sergei Rachmaninov, produced by Yuri Klevtsov (2006)

In 2007, she appeared in the ballet Old Ladies Falling Out to music by Leonid Desyatnikov (choreography by Alexei Ratmansky), which was shown first at the Territory Festival, and then under the auspices of the Studio of New Choreography project (workshop).

Disclosure: 4dancers accepts compensation for promoting this series


Language And Motion: An Elegant Relationship


RE|Dance Group, photo by Cole Witter

by Michael Estanich

As a dance artist I strive to build connections—between viewer and dancer, between music and action, between image and feeling. For me, moving is the purest way to do that, though its purity needn’t be exclusive. At RE|Dance Group, I develop work that explores the limitless range of human feeling. In order to accomplish this, I stack a variety of images atop each other in the hopes of crafting a multi-sensational experience for the audience. Because all of my senses so beautifully intertwine allowing me to feel deeply and experience life, I welcome all sensorial images into my work. I rely on the audience’s willingness to dispel tradition and embrace curiosity.

Text and visual design collide with movement in all of RE|Dance Group’s work. I create fully realized worlds where every action, sound, and visual carries important information in understanding the whole. I find that these multiple entry points invite the viewer to lean forward and feel.

I enjoy memories and remembering. There is visceral pleasure in retelling something from the past. To me, words and action are undeniably linked. I enjoy how memories translate in my body—through action and in words. I enjoy the process of connecting what I hear to what I see. It is remarkable how willingly the mind catches on and constructs truth and understanding when we engage with all of our senses.

RE|Dance Group, photo by Robert Roser

RE|Dance Group, photo by Robert Roser

There is comfort in language. We rely on it to let others know how we feel and what we need. To use language to share a part of myself seems so natural. To juxtapose language with motion excites me. Both together enrich the possibility to understand and to feel. This notion is important to me. I want the audience to know that we are complex, that we are moving, hearing, speaking, smelling, tasting, feeling beings and that they can recognize a part of themselves in a singular, special moment inside my work.

With that goal in my mind, I use whatever medium most potently communicates the idea—be it a sly, organic dancing trio, a cacophony of sound, a massive large-scale visual sculpture, or a simple connection through language. Each on their own is powerful art, but combined they produce a complex aural and visual landscape where, as an artist, I get lost in the beauty of my imagination.

See RE|Dance Group perform “It’s About Love Again This Year” at Links Hall, March 6-8 2015. Learn more about the company on the website.

Michael HeadshotMichael Estanich (Artistic Director, RE|Dance Group) is an Associate Professor of Dance at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He teaches modern dance, composition, dance pedagogy, movement analysis and dance history. He earned his MFA from The Ohio State University and his BFA from Denison University. His creative research currently examines ideas of space, architecture, landscape and habitation often resulting in dances supported by sculptural environments. He and Lucy formed RE|Dance Group in 2009 as a means to explore long distance collaboration. Michael’s performance credits include Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak, Cerulean Dance Theatre, Rebecca Rosen, Melanie Bales, Bebe Miller and a reconstruction of Mark Morris’ acclaimed choreography All Fours. He teaches annually at the Trollwood Performing Arts School in Moorhead, MN and at the American College Dance Association (ACDA). He is the North Central Regional Director of ACDA.


The Bliss & Pitfalls Of Making The Ultimate Solo: A Group Therapy Session For Choreographers

by Jamie Benson

Lights come up on a lone figure, the one burdened with putting a trance over a packed house of smart phones. It’s a tall order to be sure. You don’t just have to dazzle, you have to captivate, ooze an indisputable it-factor that dares an audience of TV brains to look away, as if they could. The best/worst part is that you probably put yourself in the position to be this dance mystic. It’s your fault.

It’s your solo after all.

In an attempt to simplify my life as a choreographer (Ha!), I recently dove headfirst into the idea of making new solos. This was after previously doing a lot of ensemble pieces. It’s more freeing and more terrifying than ever. You’ve been there right? (Or will be.) Let’s have some group therapy real quick and see if we can come out the other end a little wiser, a little more capable of entrancing our next packed house. Game? Good.


Photo by Stacey Adams.

Potential Pitfall: How Does It “Read” (a.k.a Do I look nuts?)

It can be tricky to clearly represent the source of whatever emotion one is exploring as a soloist and harder to suss out how it might “read” to an innocent audience-goer. There’s a more immediate response when working with other performers. They laugh when it’s funny, look at you cross-eyed when it’s too complicated or unintentionally awkward, and so on and so forth. As audience members, we’ve all experienced that performance where a soloist goes from poised dancer to insane person in seconds flat. As choreographers we think we know how something looks from the outside because we feel it so deeply. But as an audience member, one can become perplexed and feel alienated really fast if there’s no immediate access point, such as a topical reference, a common emotional gesture, something. Even if we deliberately create space for the audience to make their own choices about what we’re doing, our job is still ultimately to communicate something through movement.

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