Following the next generation of ballet: BAE performs this week in Midtown

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With the release of Bess Kargman’s new documentary First Position, an expose of the competitive ballet circuit, I’ve noticed an interesting influx of conversation around the future direction of this crazy art form we all know and love too well. While I still haven’t seen the film, and therefore cannot comment on how it represents the future of ballet, the snippets of dialogue I’ve picked up does make me curious about how the next generation of eager, young dancers are nurtured and the means they take to transition into the professional realm. Is ballet becoming a display of pyrotechnics, in which the only way to join the ranks of company life is to be able to do bravura tricks?

I don’t know if I could compete with what some of the budding ballerinas are doing these days because I was never a trickster–except for hopping on point, go figure. While the physical challenge of ballet was always a source of enjoyment, my true motivation for pursuing this career was a sheer love of it. If we try to define dance merely by the technique of it can the artistry still exist?

All of this internal dialogue took me back to last June when I had the chance to see the workshop performance of the School of American Ballet (SAB). The students showcased impressive technique: spot on balances, fearless pirouettes, and effortless ballon–but I sensed a lack of joy. Were these teenagers exposed only to the physicality of dance? What about the rich history and an appreciation for the art form?

I promise I am going somewhere with all of this rhetoric.

As professionals, it’s important for us to take note of these aspiring dancers. This week, Ballet Academy East (BAE), a prominent ballet school on the Upper East Side, holds its annual Pre-Professional division spring performances from Thursday, May 18 to Saturday, May 20 at the John Jay College’s Gerald W. Lynch Theater. BAE’s bright pupils will show New Yorkers their passon and dedication, performing in Balanchine’s Walpurgisnacht Ballet, the pas de trios from Paquita, and original works by Laszlo Berdo, Stacy Caddell, Richard Cook, and Jenna Lavin. It’s rare that I take the opportunity to see student productions, but I am starting to see the value in stepping outside my typical show repertoire and supporting these youngsters…after all, I was in their position once upon a time.

For more information on BAE’s Pre-Professional Spring Show or information on tickets, check out our Dd NYC Performance Calendar.

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  • Heather

    I saw First Position last week and really enjoyed it, though I agree with your point about bravura tricks. There does seem to be a lot of that…So much more than I remember (and I’m not THAT old after all.) While there is a good deal of exceptional artistry displayed, particularly from the youngest dancers, there does seem to be a different set of standards arising in ballet – more and more contortionist, flashy, circus-esque tricks that are incredibly impressive. But no way in hell were the kids doing all that in my day!

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