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Photo: Patrick Frenette.


It takes more than pliés to lift a ballet company to great heights. From dancers to conductors, teachers to makeup artists, this series features fascinating insight from ABT experts and an intimate look inside America’s National Ballet Company®. Take a spot at the SideBarre to get to know the incredible people behind each bourrée of American Ballet Theatre.

Calvin Royal III in Lifted. Photo: Karolina Kuras.
Posted In
October 25, 2022


ABT presents a post-performance panel on the World Premiere work Lifted on Saturday, October 29, 2022 

Join us for a post-performance panel discussion on Christopher Rudd’s World Premiere work Lifted, created with an all-Black cast and creative team. Free for all audience members, the discussion will follow ABT’s 2:00pm matinee performance of Lifted, Jessica Lang’s Children’s Songs Dance, and Jiří Kylián’s Sinfonietta on Saturday, October 29.

Moderated by author and professor Aimee Meredith Cox, the discussion will feature Lifted creators as panelists: Choreographer Christopher Rudd, ABT Dancers Calvin Royal III and Courtney Lavine, Fashion Designer Carly Cushnie, Kennedy Center Composer-in-Residence Carlos Simon, and Conductor Roderick Cox.

Lifted aims to highlight, amplify, and celebrate Black creative voices. ABT’s panel will create a forum to bring attention to the landmark nature of Rudd’s ballet and what it means for younger generations of dancers of color to see themselves represented on stage in this monumental way.

Buy Performance Tickets
October 29, 2022, 2:00 PM

Learn More!

In July 2022, choreographer Christopher Rudd and Principal Dancer Calvin Royal III sat down for a discussion about Lifted.  This conversation was first published in the Fall 2022 issue of ABT’s On Point newsletter.


This Fall, Christopher Rudd, dance-maker and founder of RudduR Dance, brings a historic first to American Ballet Theatre: Lifted. Utilizing an all-Black cast and creative team, this World Premiere highlights, amplifies, and celebrates Black creative voices. Lifted is set to music by Carlos Simon, with costumes by Carly Cushnie, lighting by Alan C. Edwards, and dramaturgy by Phaedra Scott. Roderick Cox will serve as Guest Conductor and Sarah Lozoff will provide Intimacy Direction.

Principal Dancer Calvin Royal III will perform in the World Premiere at ABT’s Fall Gala on Thursday, October 27. Recently, he sat down with Rudd to discuss the upcoming work.

Jose Sebastian, Melvin Lawovi, Courtney Lavine, Erica Lall, and Calvin Royal III in rehearsal for Christopher Rudd’s Lifted. Photo: Rosalie O’Connor.
Jose Sebastian, Melvin Lawovi, Courtney Lavine, Erica Lall, and Calvin Royal III in rehearsal for Christopher Rudd’s Lifted. Photo: Rosalie O’Connor.

Calvin Royal III: What is the concept of your new ballet Lifted?

Christopher Rudd: I asked myself, “what could happen if the DNA of an entire ballet was made from Black people?” I thought about it shortly after George Floyd was murdered. And I realized it was something that the ballet world needed and I wanted, and the country can witness in a way that could make us feel, understand, and empathize with melanated people. At first, it was going to be a protest piece: shock and awe, in your face, a guttural thing. Now it’s been two years, and I feel like what I really need is a celebration of Blackness, a celebration of melanated people, a way to highlight our beauty, our talent, our lives, in a way that shows the evolution of a Black human. When we go into the studio, it’s about creating that picture of what a Black life is like, from before we’re born, into being born into our families, our communities, and the introduction of an interruption in our path to reach our full potential; and our ways of fighting against that, revolting against that, and thriving.

Royal: What do you envision the future of the piece being? Will it, in your mind, live on to be only the Black dancers, the Black creators, the Black conductor?

Calvin Royal III, Erica Lall, Christopher Rudd, Courtney Lavine, and Jose Sebastian. Photo: João Menegussi.
Calvin Royal III, Erica Lall, Christopher Rudd, Courtney Lavine, and Jose Sebastian. Photo: João Menegussi.

Rudd: I don’t intend for the work to perpetually and forevermore be Black. However, as the ranks of Black dancers grow within ABT, it’s going to be designed so that the more, the better. But one of the things that I’m curious about with this work is the idea that the DNA of the piece is still, was still, Black. Most of the roles that we do as ballet dancers come from white people. We, as Black dancers, especially in the classical field, have to embody these people who are Eurocentric, “princely” — which I wanted to do because I loved the roles. But I’m curious about the future of a work whose DNA was Black, and was created on ballet dancers, not modern dancers, and we just do it as a ballet company. But what does that do? The reality which I love to mirror in my thought process behind this is, in fact, we all started out as Black. And the DNA of us comes from Black people. And now we have a society. I’m curious what the work would look like, over time, if it followed the science of our species.

Rudd: What are you excited about for the piece, Calvin?

Royal: I am excited to, one, be back in the studio with you. And knowing that it’s the type of work that will evoke something that’s different from experiences that I’ve had at ABT thus far is exciting for me. Like when I found out that Touché [Rudd’s 2020 pas de deux for ABT] was going to be something different than I had ever done at ABT, it was exciting and I went into it with open arms, hoping that it would be something that would allow me to have a new perspective on myself as an artist and work with another creative team.

Royal: Opening night. The ballet is live. The curtain comes down after the dancers finish the piece. What do you hope audience members experience as they leave the theater after having witnessed Lifted?

Rudd: When I watched Touché live, I felt like I was watching the world change.

There’s something about being a part of the journey that you two were on… something about it was unifying for me. We were all breathless and soundless. There is something about that feeling that I’d like to bring back to the way this new work unfolds. It’s going to be a lot — it’s going to be longer, and it’s going to have its peaks and valleys. I’m actually curious about that journey. But I want to evoke that feeling of the world has changed now.

September 20, 2022
Dress Rehearsals: The ABT Miracle is Real!

By Nancy Raffa

For many productions, there is such limited time for stage rehearsals that we have to split the rehearsal up amongst several casts to give enough time to those debuting in a role. In an ideal situation, every artist would have a chance to feel what it will be like to get out onstage in a role, regardless of how many times they have performed it. At ABT, however, we cannot always make that happen.

Due to this lack of time, the Directors of Repertoire and dancers try to get in as much rehearsal time in the studio as possible. This way, the ballet is so ingrained in the dancers’ bodies and minds that when the lights, stage, and live audience hit, they are not completely disoriented or thrown off.

Most of the time, in a dress rehearsal, the audience is witnessing that exact moment of the unknown for the artist, as well as the adjustments that need to be made to dance in a new space. Very often, the dress rehearsal is the first time the dancers hear the music with live orchestra, and that changes things too. Needing a moment to get used to the stage is often why dancers make mistakes, fall off technical details, or are not absolutely in sync during the stage rehearsal.

The good news is that since the dancers know ahead of time that things will be hectic, they come to the dress rehearsal psychologically prepared for imperfections, and they know that it’s a moment for them to acclimate and make adjustments. The Artistic Director, choreographers, and Directors of Repertoire also need to discern what is being revealed and give feedback accordingly. Skill and experience are needed from both dancers and staff.

Sometimes in a dress rehearsal, the production crew is testing lights or fine-tuning set changes, adding more variables for the dancers to take into account as they acclimate to the stage. Again, the physical preparation in the studio is vital, and the psychological preparation can make all the difference.

When the actual performance happens, the dancers are revved up with their adrenaline flowing and their desire to dance their best. This excitement, along with their talent, cooperation, and support of one another, is what makes the ABT miracle happen, despite the obstacles experienced prior to showtime.

Many a time over my almost 18 years as Director of Repertoire with ABT, I have witnessed an imperfect dress rehearsal in the afternoon and an absolutely brilliant performance danced that evening. It is continuously rewarding and a fascinating process to witness.

Posted In
October 26, 2021

During American Ballet Theatre’s 2021 Fall season, two special Pride Nights will be held on Wednesday, October 27 at 7:30pm and on Saturday, October 30 at 8:00pm in honor of Christopher Rudd’s Touché, a male pas de deux included in ABT’s “Rhythm and Rapture” program.

Spotlight: James Whiteside

On Saturday, October 30, 2021, Principal Dancer James Whiteside joins the Pride Night panel!

Learn more about James in his new book, Center Center, a daring, joyous, and inspiring memoir-in-essays from the ABT Principal Dancer who’s redefining what it means to be a man in ballet. This collection is an exuberant behind-the-scenes tour of James’ life, both on- and offstage.

“James Whiteside is an electrifying performer, an incredible athlete, and an artist, through and through. To know James is to love him; with Center Center, you are about to fall in love.” – Jennifer Garner

Posted In
October 20, 2021

During American Ballet Theatre’s 2021 Fall season, two special Pride Nights will be held on Wednesday, October 27 at 7:30pm and on Saturday, October 30 at 8:00pm in honor of Christopher Rudd’s Touché, a male pas de deux included in ABT’s “Rhythm and Rapture” program.


A notable 1947 photo by bisexual photographer Cecil Beaton captures American Ballet Theatre’s nascent period, documenting five members of the Artistic Committee of Ballet Theatre gathering to inspect future plans for the Company. They include choreographer Agnes de Mille and Ballet Theatre co-director Lucia Chase. The other three are scenic designer and co-director Oliver Smith, choreographer Jerome Robbins, and composer Aaron Copland—all gay men.

From the beginning, ABT’s bloodline has flowed with the artistic enrichment of members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

As has been documented, queer artists throughout history have formidably shaped creativity in all art forms: music, the visual arts, costume and set design, theater, literature, film, television, and dance. What ABT’s LGBTQIA+ artists have bestowed on the troupe is estimable. In 1944, Robbins and the bisexual composer Leonard Bernstein collaborated on the seminal ballet Fancy Free, about randy sailors on shore leave, loosely based on the painting The Fleet’s In! by gay artist Paul Cadmus, with iconic sets designed by Oliver Smith. Their ingenious minds helped to accentuate the “theater” in Ballet Theatre, as it was known then. Adding to a legacy of dramatic ballets, Antony Tudor, whose life partner was ABT dancer Hugh Laing, choreographed ballets, such as Jardin aux Lilas and Dark Elegies, that formed a backbone of complex 20th century works in the repertoire. 

Members of the Artistic Committee of Ballet Theatre in 1947: L-R: Jerome Robbins, Lucia Chase, Agnes de Mille, Oliver Smith and Aaron Copland. Photo by Cecil Beaton.
Members of the Artistic Committee of Ballet Theatre in 1947: L-R: Jerome Robbins, Lucia Chase, Agnes de Mille, Oliver Smith and Aaron Copland. Photo by Cecil Beaton.

Even recently, the early 20th century ballets by bisexual dancer/choreographers Leonide Massine (Gaîté Parisienne) and Vaslav Nijinsky (Afternoon of a Faun) have graced ABT’s repertoire. The homosexual impresario Serge Diaghilev curated a host of ballets for his Ballets Russes that have ennobled ABT’s programs, including Michel Fokine’s Les Sylphides, a signature work for ABT that appeared on the Company’s first program in 1940; and George Balanchine’s meatiest ballets for men, Apollo and Prodigal Son.

The beloved Frederick Ashton’s works have arrived more recently at ABT, including The Dream, Cinderella, and La Fille mal gardée. The latter two works by the late gay choreographer feature juicy drag roles with their respective sassy stepsisters and the clog-stomping Widow Simone. Contrast these to those often en travesti bitter bitches—the wicked fairy Carabosse in The Sleeping Beauty and Madge, the evil witch in La Sylphide.

Over the years, ABT hired LGBTQIA+ choreographers to create or restage ballets for the Company.

Among those were Alvin Ailey, John Neumeier, Peter Anastos, Glen Tetley (whose life partner was ABT dancer/ballet master Scott Douglas), Lar Lubovitch, Hans van Manen, and ABT dancer/choreographers Dennis Nahat, Kirk Peterson, John Meehan, and Clark Tippet. In addition to dancing with the Company, pansexual superstar Rudolph Nureyev restaged Paquita and Raymonda for ABT, and the late Frederic Franklin staged historic ballets for ABT over a period of time. During Mikhail Baryshnikov’s directorship, aided by his colorful assistant Charles France, he added quite a roster of formidable queer choreographers: Choo San Goh, Paul Taylor, Merce Cunningham, and Mark Morris. Later came Robert Hill, Ulysses Dove, John Cranko, Nacho Duato, and Christopher Wheeldon.

Ballet wouldn’t exist without inspiring musical scores, and Tchaikovsky’s brilliantly sensitive imagination brought us Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Theme and Variations, and The Nutcracker. Other LGBTQIA+ composers whose stirring scores have uplifted the Company’s ballets are Benjamin Britten, John Cage, Camille Saint-Saëns, John Corigliano, Francis Poulenc, Samuel Barber, Cole Porter, Gian Carlo Menotti, Virgil Thompson, and Nico Muhly. John Lanchbery orchestrated much of ABT’s classical repertoire and conducted the orchestra.

While Christopher Rudd’s Touché is groundbreaking at ABT for its rapturous, gay eroticism, gay-themed ballets have periodically appeared on ABT’s stages.

In the 1950s, director Herbert Ross choreographed The Maids, a ballet based on gay French author Jean Genet’s play, that featured two men as the murderous sisters. In 1973 the Company presented gay choreographer Rudi van Danzig’s Monument for a Dead Boy, which documents the torturous life of a young gay man. In 1982, ABT premiered Kenneth MacMillan’s The Wild Boy with its infamous homoerotic kiss. At the height of the AIDS pandemic, Lar Lubovitch set his duet from Concerto Six Twenty-Two on the Company, a male pas de deux that emphasized the intimate companionship of two men.

ABT suffered unspeakable losses throughout the AIDS crisis. So many dancers were taken by the disease: Peter Fonseca, David Cuevas, Clark Tippet, Charles Ward, Ian Horvath, Gary Cordial, William Carter, Gregory Osborne, Carld Jonassaint, Richard Cragun, and Rudolph Nureyev. The choreographers included Ulysses Dove, Alvin Ailey, and Choo San Goh. In the ABT family, we also lost Company pianist Lynn Stanford, organist Boyd Staplin, teachers and director of repertoire Woytek Lowski, makeup artist Leopold Allen, dresser Larry Ray, stage manager Jerry Rice, and Emile Ardolino, who directed ABT’s Live from Lincoln Center and Dance in America specials on PBS.

It must also be acknowledged that ABT lost an entire audience of fervent LGBTQIA+ fans during the AIDS plague. Replacing the collective wisdom and artistry of those taken by the disease is insurmountable.

In response to Russia’s so-called “gay  propaganda” law, signed by Vladimir Putin in 2013, Mikhail Baryshnikov issued a statement published by the No More Fear Foundation, a U.S.-based non-governmental organization (NGO) for the protection of LGBT rights. “My life has been immensely enriched by gay mentors, colleagues and friends, and any discrimination and persecution of gay people is unacceptable,” he said. “Equal treatment of people is a basic right and it is sad that we still have to even speak about this in the 21st century.”

Posted In
October 20, 2021

During American Ballet Theatre’s 2021 Fall season, two special Pride Nights will be held on Wednesday, October 27 at 7:30pm and on Saturday, October 30 at 8:00pm in honor of Christopher Rudd’s Touché, a male pas de deux included in ABT’s “Rhythm and Rapture” program.

Pride Night Events

The two Pride Night performances will feature a special guest appearance by drag artist Lypsinka, followed by a panel discussion of ABT’s LGBT works with the creators of the male duet Touché:  choreographer Christopher Rudd, ABT Principal Dancer Calvin Royal III, and ABT corps de ballet member João Menegussi.  Sarah Lozoff, intimacy director for Touché, will join the panel on Wednesday, October 27 and ABT Principal Dancer James Whiteside joins on Saturday evening, October 30. The discussions will be moderated by trans-actress Tommy Dorfman.

Photo: Steven Menendez.
Photo: Steven Menendez.

(Special Appearance)

John Epperson (AKA Lypsinka) was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi.  His film work includes Black Swan, Witch Hunt with Dennis Hopper, Wigstock: The Movie, Angels in America, Kinsey, Vampire’s Kiss, and Another Gay Movie.  His theater work includes Wallace Shawn’s Evening at the Talk House (Off Broadway, 2017), Once Upon A Mattress (Off Broadway, 2015), John Epperson: Show Trash; Lypsinka! The Trilogy (both 2014), I Could Go On Lip-Synching; Now It Can Be Lip-Synched; Lypsinka! A Day In The Life (2 Drama Desk nominations); As I Lay Lip-Synching; Lypsinka Must Be Destroyed!; Lypsinka IS Harriet Craig!; Lypsinka! The Boxed Set  (Washington, D.C. Helen Hayes Award Outstanding Non-Resident Production; L.A. Weekly Theatre Award Best Solo Performance; Drama Desk nomination); The Stepmother in New York City Opera’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella at Lincoln Center; The Passion of the Crawford, a fantasia on the personality of Joan Crawford, and a cabaret show John Epperson: The Artist Principally Known As Lypsinka.  Epperson has written the play My Deah: Medea For Dummies (Obie-winning production); two stage musicals – Ballet of the Dolls, Dial “M” For Model; and half a play: a rewrite of James Kirkwood’s notorious Legends! produced at Studio Theatre in D.CEpperson has also written for The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Interview.  He was the guest curator of the Club 57 film series “You Are Now One Of Us” at the Museum of Modern Art 2017-18.  As a film historian, he has lectured about movies for MoMA, The New School, Anthology Film Archives, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  Epperson and Lypsinka are the subjects of an Emmy-winning television documentary for PBS.

Photo: Gizelle Hernandez for TIME Magazine.
Photo: Gizelle Hernandez for TIME Magazine.

Tommy Dorfman

Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Tommy Dorfman focuses her work on telling stories that give life to a range of interweaving and distinct queer experiences.
After graduating Fordham University in 2015, Tommy booked her first role as Ryan Shaver in the hit Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why. Tommy has since gone on to act in television and film while also shining a light on her experience as a queer person in Hollywood through her work with GLAAD and the Ali Forney Center.

She has spearheaded campaigns focused on bringing queer talent front and center with companies like Calvin Klein, Fendi, ASOS, the Body Shop, Ferragamo, and Balmain. She recently photographed and art-directed Pete Davidson as a Staten Island Ken doll opposite Julia Fox forPaper magazine’s break the internet cover and Zoe Levin for the cover of American Studies.

As an actor, she starred alongside Alan Cumming in Jeremy O. Harris’s Off-Broadway hit “Daddy” in 2019. Most recently she wrapped Lena Dunham’s newest experience, Sharp Stick, and Fracture, a limited series in the UK for Channel 4 out this fall.

As a writer, she’s publishing her first collection of essays with Harper Collins in late 2022.

Posted In
October 19, 2021

During American Ballet Theatre’s 2021 Fall season, two special Pride Nights will be held on Wednesday, October 27 at 7:30pm and on Saturday, October 30 at 8:00pm in honor of Christopher Rudd’s Touché, a male pas de deux included in ABT’s “Rhythm and Rapture” program.

Photo Exhibit: Quil Lemons

Throughout the 2021 Fall Season, a free exhibit of the works of photographer Quil Lemons, curated by Sarah Hoover, will be displayed on the lobby and promenade level of the David H. Koch Theater.


Quil Lemons.
Quil Lemons.


Quil Lemons’s work is a representation of the community he comes from. The context of his work comes from the internet, queerness, and popular culture, the themes of his work are timeless and ambitious in scope. Subjects such as masculinity, queerness, race, and body positivity are played out in often disruptive images that feel like pure imagination. Lemons dances the line between the fantastic and realistic, drawing influence from our current cultural climate, giving his work an eerily familiar feeling.

GLITTERBOY(2017) introduced Lemons to the world and started a dialogue that would act as a common thread through much of his work to come. In his inaugural series, Lemons dusted black men with glitter to combat the stereotypes and stigmas placed upon their bodies. This concept of challenging what is acceptable for the black male body developed even further in BOY PARTS (2020).

Simultaneously, Lemons began an exploration of the black family portrait with his series PURPLE (2018) and project WELCOME HOME (2018). Images from both projects gave an intimate glimpse into his home life and the modern black American family structure in Philadelphia.

Lemons has previously exhibited at Contact Festival, Toronto ’18, Kuumba Festival, Toronto ’19 and Aperture, NY ’19.

Posted In
October 18, 2021

During American Ballet Theatre’s 2021 Fall season, two special Pride Nights will be held on Wednesday, October 27 at 7:30pm and on Saturday, October 30 at 8:00pm in honor of Christopher Rudd’s Touché, a male pas de deux included in ABT’s “Rhythm and Rapture” program.

LGBTQIA+ Now and Then

American Ballet Theatre’s Pride Nights celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersexed, and Asexual (LGBTQIA+) dignity, equality, and visibility. The LGBTQIA+ ally community demonstrates diversity in its range of expressions of gender and sexual orientation and is diverse in race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, and socioeconomic class. This mix of identities fosters a wide range of perspectives and experiences that bolster a robust sense of pride, tenacity, and resilience.

Here are some facts and statistics about the LGBTQIA+ community:

  • In 2013, 92% of adults who identify as LGBTQIA+ said they believe society has become more accepting of them than in the past 10 years[1]. However, 42% of people who are LGBTQIA+ report living in an unwelcoming environment[2].
  • Today, there are 29 states where LGBTQIA+ Americans are not fully protected against discrimination. This includes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations[3].
  • In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same sex marriage in the United States. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Obergefell v. Hodges, striking down all state bans on same-sex marriage and legalizing it in all fifty states and the District of Columbia[4].
  • Today, ALL members of the Queer Community can serve in the US Military due to the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Act of 2010 and the removal of restrictions for transgender persons in March of 2021[1].
  • Despite the strides taken to normalize queer acceptance in America, 60% of LGBTQIA+ students report feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, and 80% of gay and lesbian youth have reported severe social isolation[5].
  • LGBTQIA+ youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth and are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide[6].
  • Acceptance from at least ONE ADULT can decrease the risk of LGBTQIA+ youth attempting suicide by 40%. Transgender and non-binary youth who have their pronouns respected by most people in their lives are 50% less likely to attempt suicide[6].

We see you, we accept you, and we honor you, because we are you.


Calvin Royal III and João Menegussi in Christopher Rudd’s Touché. Credit: Matador Content.
Posted In
October 18, 2021

ABT Pride Nights

During American Ballet Theatre’s 2021 Fall season, two special Pride Nights will be held on Wednesday, October 27 at 7:30pm and on Saturday, October 30 at 8:00pm in honor of Christopher Rudd’s Touché, a male pas de deux included in ABT’s “Rhythm and Rapture” program.

Special programming will accompany each evening’s performance to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community, including a Q&A session with special guests at the conclusion of the evening. Each of these Pride Night elements will come together to recognize and empower members of the LGBTQIA+ community and reflect ABT’s commitment to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Welcome to Pride Nights at ABT!

Navigating one’s journey with a sense of pride is essential,” says Kevin McKenzie, American Ballet Theatre’s Artistic Director since 1992. “Pride of place, pride of purpose, pride of being. Personally, I’m proud that ABT is having what I believe is our first Pride Night as an open celebration, but more proud of the artists who drove our history and were accepted for what they were within our community.”

LGBTQIA+ Pride exists to fortify a sense of self-respect and solidarity expressed by the LGBTQIA+ community and to celebrate gender consciousness and cultural identity. ABT is holding two Pride nights during its 2021 fall Lincoln Center season for the first time in its history. That is worthy of a hearty round of applause and some screams of “Bravi!!” So many of the dancers, choreographers, musicians, repertoire directors, and behind-the-scenes actors of the ABT family have worked to make ABT a finer arts institution. Many of them are no longer with us, so we are honoring the Company’s LGBTQIA+ artists and audience—current, past, and future.

American Ballet Theatre is generously supported
by Bloomberg Philanthropies.
M∙A∙C is a proud sponsor of
American Ballet Theatre’s Pride Nights.
SunMi Park and Tristan Brosnan in Jessica Lang's Children's Songs Dance. Photo: Erin Baiano.
Posted In
Ballet Bubbles
June 28, 2021
ABT Studio Company Spring Festival on YouTube features a special work by Jessica Lang, created in collaboration with the legendary jazz musician Chick Corea.

"My creative process with Chick was magical."

When Chick Corea viewed a rehearsal video of Children’s Songs Dance for the first time, he said “It’s drop-dead gorgeous and so aesthetically pleasing…controlling the body with such beauty and grace is the highest form of anything in the physical universe.”

The ballet is the product of a powerful collaboration between the late composer Corea and choreographer Jessica Lang created for ABT Studio Company, in celebration of Lang’s 20 years choreographing for ABT. Lang and Corea shared a love for music and movement that made Children’s Songs Dance a very intimate and beloved project.

As Lang says, “My creative process with Chick was magical.” While set to premiere in spring of 2020, the debut of Children’s Songs Dance was delayed while life stuttered around it.

“It’s drop-dead gorgeous and so aesthetically pleasing…controlling the body with such beauty and grace is the highest form of anything in the physical universe.”

In February of 2021, Corea unexpectedly passed away from a rare cancer. This unfortunate turn of events, paired with a pandemic that delayed all performances, brought a newfound weight to Children’s Songs Dance. The magical collaboration would now celebrate and honor the musical talents of Corea, awaiting 16 months before its global premiere.

According to Lang, “The ballet draws its inspiration from the transition in life between being a child and becoming an adult, with the goal of never losing the spirit of play.”

Children’s Songs Dance finds a balance between playfulness and maturity through movement, costuming, and brilliant musicality set to selections from Corea’s work Children’s Songs. Corea himself was an artist determined to celebrate the playful spirit even as life’s challenges age us. This passion was fueled by Corea’s exploration of jazz and classical music, finding a balance between the traditional and the youthful. At a vulnerable time of losing Corea and living amidst a global crisis, Children’s Songs Dance would take its audiences to the forgotten place of optimism.

Chick Corea was surrounded by jazz music at an early age, quickly drawing inspiration from his father who played trumpet and led a jazz band in Boston. His love for music and piano brought him to New York City, and through his exploration and experimentation, he continued to follow in his father’s footsteps. From his band, Return to Forever, to his own independent endeavors, Corea’s musical creations touched millions and earned him 25 Grammys and 67 nominations.

“The ballet draws its inspiration from the transition in life between being a child and becoming an adult, with the goal of never losing the spirit of play.”

In one of his final collaborations, Corea was able to work with Lang, a seasoned ballet choreographer with over 100 original works for companies worldwide. The ballet was given its digital World Premiere on June 3, 2021 as part of ABT Studio Company Spring Festival.

Seven young dancers took to the stage, honoring Corea’s legacy and celebrating his passion for music. Their performance was filmed at Kaatsbaan Cultural Park in Tivoli, NY, following several weeks of intense “bubble” rehearsals at Kaatsbaan and Silver Bay YMCA on the shore of Lake George. The dancers of ABT Studio Company, all under 22, recognized and connected with the intent of the piece as they too transition into adulthood. Their movement seemed to echo the curiosity and energy that Corea’s music intended to produce.

In a 17-minute piece, Tristan Brosnan, Cy Doherty, Tillie Glatz, Elwince Magbitang, Andrew Robare, SunMi Park, and Yoon Jung Seo executed the vision set by Lang and Corea only a short time ago.

From the moments of unison recognizing each changing note in Corea’s composition, to a meaningful pas de deux sharing moments of struggle emphasized by piano, Children’s Songs Dance captures all that Corea and Lang hoped to achieve through their collaboration. Sadly, we lost this musical legend, but Corea’s brilliant music and powerful spirit remain alive and honored through the joy of dance.

Grace Robinson, Press Intern for Summer of 2021

June 21, 2021
Dancer Diary: Leah Baylin in Green Mountain Falls, CO: Sunday, June 20, 2021

"Dancing outside, especially in these Colorado mountains I know so well, is a special experience that I’ll never forget."

By Leah Baylin

The unanimous opinion as we entered week three in Colorado was, “How has this bubble flown by so quickly?” By the end of this week, we’d be on stage for the first time. It seemed as though we’d spent months together in Green Mountain Falls but it had also flown by so quickly. That’s what happens when you’re having fun, right? We were all working so hard but having such an amazing time.

Just like in previous weeks, we started our mornings sipping coffee and eating breakfast while we laughed and talked. Then one by one we’d trickle over to the studio down the road and begin warming up for the day ahead. During this pod I have had some of the best and most rewarding rehearsal experiences. Working with Silas Farley, as well as his wife Cassia, has been an incredibly fulfilling process. Not only is the choreography a blast to dance, but he also brings such a wonderful energy to the room and is continually reminding us of how much he appreciates us and our individual work – something a dancer doesn’t always hear.

Along with rehearsing for Collage & Creed, Silas Farley’s new 32-minute ballet, Patrick Frenette and I continued to rehearse and dive into White Swan Pas de Deux. This beautiful pas de deux is something that has always intrigued me. Working on it with Director of Repertoire Carlos Lopez and former ABT dancer Valerie Madonia has been incredible. They encourage Patrick and I to create our own interpretation of the movement while also imparting on us endless knowledge from their own past experiences of dancing, watching, and coaching White Swan Pas. I couldn’t be more thankful for the amazing team guiding us through this bubble.

On our day off, a few of us, guided by corps dancer and chef Luigi Crispino yet again, cooked up an Italian dinner for everyone. The menu included Luigi grandmother’s lasagna, butternut squash risotto, a salad, and tiramisu. Our stomachs were all quite happy as we sat outside around the firepit enjoying the feast as the sun went down.

Although most of our time was consumed in rehearsals (since opening day is approaching fast!) we did find some time to return to our favorite local spot – The Blue Moose Tavern. As we sat and ate on plush couches near a woodburning fire we were serenaded by live country music and the buzz of the busy Colorado tavern.

The last day of rehearsals for this third week was spent on stage – for the first time. This beautiful outdoor stage was surrounded by aspen and pine trees as well as beautiful flowers. We spaced and tried out each part of the ballet and as we all assumed our final pose for the ballet a massive gust of wind swept the last notes of the music off into the distance. Dancing outside, especially in these Colorado mountains I know so well, is a special experience that I’ll never forget.

-Leah Baylin, apprentice